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Setting Goals for Membership

This is the season for FRA branches to nominate and elect new officers and host installation ceremonies. After the elections and installations are concluded, your next priority is to set goals for membership recruiting and retention during the year. Membership is the lifeline of branch development. With that in mind, here are some tips to consider in order to be successful with member recruitment in your branch.

First, always review your monthly reports, which list current members as well as those who are ready to renew, past due on their dues and have been terminated for nonpayment of dues. Any shipmate who is in danger of leaving the FRA must be contacted before it is too late. If your branch does not have one, form a membership committee to strategize about maintaining and growing membership. The most important thing to consider is how to keep in contact with members through communications such as newsletters, e-mails, letters, phone calls and personal visits. Set a goal for recruiting new members as well as for retaining your current members. Plan activities in which branch members can participate along with their families.

Second, plan or participate in local outreach events to attract potential members. Successful branches think big — consider contacting your local public television or radio station to schedule a date to participate in a discussion about the FRA and veterans’ issues. Generally, these discussions are free and the viewers will include veterans in the local community — you can see some examples on FRA’s Facebook page. If you have a branch home, plan a Veteran’s Open House and invite local veterans to stop by to see the facility and to interact with other FRA members who can explain the history of the FRA and our purpose. Invite their spouses to visit to obtain information about Auxiliary membership as well. Looking into your community, take the time to plan periodic visits to veterans’ assisted living facilities to give joy to a veteran who looks forward to the company of other veterans. Follow local and national legislation that affects sea service veterans and share it with the membership. Think about including these activities in your regional public relations report.

Third, if you plan fundraising activities, such as social or entertainment events or raffles, consider allocating the proceeds for charitable giving to local youth groups such as the Boy Scouts, little league, and NJROTC. In addition, when the national Americanism Essay Contest is announced, plan to visit local middle and high schools to discuss the program and encourage student participation. If your branch is located near a military facility where sea service personnel may be stationed, consider participating in the Sailor or Marine of the Quarter ceremony and offer a complimentary membership to the top awardee.

Fourth, acknowledge new members who attend their first meeting by holding the initiation ceremonies to welcome them formally to the branch. Establish a mentoring program to keep in touch with new members with an eye toward training them for leadership roles in the future. Encourage new members to regularly attend branch meetings as well as regional and national conventions.

Last, remember that the branch is only as good as its membership. Maintaining a solid and growing membership base means your branch will be successful and thrive in the future.

2014–2015 Recruiting Awards

At the end of the membership year, we draw the names of 10 active recruiters to receive awards. The winners receive extended memberships (or cash if they are Life Members). For the 2014–15 membership year, the winners were:

First Place: John W. Fosen III, Branch 093 — Cash equivalent of a five-year membership

Second Place: Richard L. Nelson, Branch 264 — Cash equivalent of a three-year membership

Third Place: Jessica Bond, Branch 097 — Two-year membership extension

Fourth Place: Dana L. Wallace, Branch 024 — One-year membership extension

Fifth Place: Mark Dernovsek, Branch 222 — Cash equivalent for one-year membership

Sixth Place: Maria A. Behm, Branch 113 — One-year membership extension

Seventh Place: R. Gene Jarnagin, Branch 136 — Cash equivalent of one-year membership

Eighth Place: Thomas E. Kerbs, Branch 183 — One-year membership extension

Ninth Place: Robert A. Johnson, Branch 124 — Cash equivalent of one-year membership

Tenth Place: Jackie Jenkins, Branch 029 — One-year membership extension

Thanks to all of the shipmates who recruited or sponsored 1,449 new or reinstated members during the 2014–15 membership year.

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Penny Collins is FRA’s Director of Membership Development and a member of FRA Branch 24 in Annapolis, Md. She can be reached at

History & Heritage

The Battle of Midway

A Shipmate Survives the Sinking of the USS Yorktown: Part 1

By Keith Kaider

In May 1941, 17-year-old Duane E. Robertson from Carbondale, Illinois, hitchhiked with a friend to Marion, Illinois intending to join the Army. Rejected by the Army due to his age, he was recruited by the Navy and agreed to report for duty in July. He took his boot camp training at the Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois as a member of Company 115. He remembers, “Contrary to most, I enjoyed boot camp and was interested in learning everything they were teaching me. I was good at marching, so I was made squad leader and given a “square knot” petty officer badge. Boy, was I proud of it.”

Robertson had been a HAM radio operator for two years and was looking forward to going to Aviation Radioman School after boot camp. But, he recalls, “That fell through when an order was received for a lot of men for the USS Yorktown. About two thirds of our company were sent and no one got to attend school.” On Sunday, September 14, he boarded the Yorktown in Norfolk, Va. “I was assigned to the ‘third division’ in the deck force,” he related, “and I was immediately assigned as a sight setter on one of the 5" guns aft on the starboard side.” The Yorktown operated with a battleship, two heavy cruisers and eight destroyers in North Atlantic operations with port visits to Argentina, Newfoundland and Casco Bay, Maine. He recalled that, on Friday October 10, “When we were at sea for about six hours we hit the worst storm the ship had ever weathered. The waves were tremendous and shook the ship all over with their relentless pounding. Many of the crew were suffering from sea sickness. This never bothered me … I never missed a meal.” It was about this time that Robertson was transferred to ‘K’ division as a Radioman striker “…due to being proficient in Morse Code and having a background in radio.” On November 6, he copied his first distress signal on 500KCS. “That was a thrill for me. It was from a Greek ship that was too far away for any assistance from the convoy.” Robertson doesn’t remember the exact date that the Yorktown returned to Norfolk, but relates the following about the day of December 7: “I had an aunt and uncle residing in Washington, D.C. at that time. They had sent me an airline ticket to visit them. I flew up there on December 6th. On December 7th, we were riding around seeing the sights of Washington, D.C. We had the radio on and first received word that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. I was well aware of where Pearl Harbor was and knew of its strategic importance to the United States. I had a sick feeling and a great wave of sympathy for those that lost their lives in that sneak attack. In my mind, I had no doubt but that the United States would eventually be victorious. I felt sympathy for my parents who I knew were in for a long siege of worrying. I returned to the ship late Sunday afternoon.”

The Yorktown departed Norfolk soon after, transited the Panama Canal and stopped in San Diego for provisions and fuel. Robertson recalls, “I remember making a liberty trip to Los Angeles to visit another aunt and uncle of mine.” Then it was on to Hawaii for the Yorktown. Robertson has vivid memories of this time. “…We entered Pearl Harbor on February 7, 1942. This was exactly two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Entering Pearl Harbor was a sickening experience. It looked as if nothing had been done since December 7th. It looked like every ship in the Navy was submerged. The water was still covered with crude oil. It was a sight that would give you encouragement to be part of anything that would atone for this sneak attack.”

Part 2 of Shipmate Robertson’s story will be featured in next month’s issue of FRA Today.

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