BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — One of the oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts in Kern County has closed its doors, but hopefully not for good. Officials say it is in transition to a new location that will give it new life.
VFW Post 97 on South Union Avenue has outlived its location. The 1.25-acre lot has a bar, bandstand, banquet hall, and a big yard where they hosted weekly gatherings of veterans and their families for 50 years. Hundreds of people called that site home, but the years were not kind to membership or the community and younger vets live farther away.
"Young veterans are all kind of living central Rosedale area, a lot of that. It was too far to come down and party," said Bill Potter, a retired member of the United States Navy. "The Marine Corps unit, they were a huge supporter when they were active, so we lost all of that spirit when they closed that down."
Potter is the Post Chaplain and one of about six members that still attend their meetings. Post 97 needs to find a new building, but more than that, a new battalion of younger veterans to build it around. Those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have started new organizations and Potter hopes they'll consider joining the VFW.
"Be part of VFW. That's their voice back there in congress, protecting their benefits," said Potter. "And that when we do sell this and have a big paycheck that we can say 'hey, let's go out, find a post that you guys want. What's good for you? What's good for your family?' and things like that. They're the kid that I use to be."
The post is hoping to work with the California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) Veterans Services Center to hold its monthly meetings at the facility on campus while it searches for a new headquarters.