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ADVICE FROM A YOUTHFUL POST COMMANDER

By Margaret Moen

Magazine Feature

The 30-year-old commander of Post 6208, in Prior Lake, Minn., is Eric Satersmoen. He remembers that “growing up here, I was involved in VFW activities,” such as the pancake breakfasts, “and it kind of made an impression on me.

“I knew from a young age I was going into the military, and hoped that I would be able to earn eligibility to join VFW one day.”

He did so after serving two tours in Iraq with F Co., 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Div., as a machine gunner.

The first tour got under way in late 2002 and ended when he left Iraq in the spring of 2003. The second tour lasted about six months in 2004. During that latter stint, he became a VFW member.

He fought at Nasiriyah and Kut, and was later based at Camp Fallujah. Also during that second deployment, Satersmoen was wounded by an IED, earning a Purple Heart. He departed from Iraq in October 2004 and left the Marine Corps as a sergeant. He was later diagnosed with PTSD and TBI.

Satersmoen didn’t immediately get active with VFW. But while at Camp Fallujah, he coincidentally met another young Marine from Prior Lake named Jonathan Schulze.

“When I got back, we linked back up,” says Satersmoen. Schulze “started bringing me in … That’s how I got actively involved. And then after he died [in 2007], I stayed active.”

Later, some older members asked Satersmoen if he’d be interested in a Post leadership role.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” says Satersmoen, “but I moved up the chairs and here I am, Commander for a second term.”

REWARDS FOR ALL

Being a young commander is rewarding for the person and for the Post. But as Satersmoen observes, it’s demanding. However, “all the older guys have really taken me under their wings. That’s been a huge thing,” he says.

It’s not easy, though. “With a young child, school and working full-time, it’s been tough coming out as much as they would like me to,” says Satersmoen, a business consultant who just graduated from Rasmussen College.

He attends Post and Minnesota House Committee meetings, however, and supports weekly events like Monday Burger Nights.

His Post enjoys the active participation of seven or eight young members, with many more still serving or holding a membership but being inactive. Total membership is about 350.

To attract more young members to his Post, Satersmoen relies on “word of mouth” and getting “younger bands, younger music, younger themes, like Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest.” But the Post maintains events aimed at older members, too, like a catfish fry with a polka band.

“Let everyone know it’s geared toward everyone,” he says. “It’s not a secluded old-timers’ club.”

Former Post 6208 Commander Lyaman McPherson works with Satersmoen to involve young vets.

McPherson, a 1991 Persian Gulf War Navy veteran, says the Post meets the needs of the young by connecting them with VA and groups like Wounded Warriors. Also, by telling them about employment and educational opportunities for vets and about relevant legislation. The Post often gets the word out via the local newspaper.

McPherson warns against getting young vets involved too quickly with Post leadership roles, though.

“You have to try to respect their time,” he says, “as they build their lives.”

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