- Special Sections
- Public Notices
By Elsa Bonstein
Membership in Veterans of Underage Military Service (VUMS) requires a person to have served in the U.S. military while under the age of 17.
World War II Merchant Marine vets need to be younger than 16, and women vets of World War II need to have served while under the age of 20.
The VUMS website invites veterans who fit this category to join, stating: “Our members have experienced many of the same problems and joys as you did in the military but at an age when most kids were still dreaming of high school proms. Indeed some of our members joined too young even to have attended high school.”
There are several missions of this group. They are assuring all underage veterans that they will suffer no retribution from the federal government for their fraudulent enlistment; establishing and maintaining contact with underage vets; promoting social activities, meetings and reunions; and recording the history of yesterday’s youngsters as underage veterans.
Assuring that underage vets do not face retribution is a very important function of VUMS. There are several recorded cases where underage vets suffered bad conduct discharges and even suffered jail time after a court-marshal because they had lied about their ages to get in to the military.
A few served bravely in battle, then were stripped of their medals and thrown in the brig or the stockade because they were underage. Through the efforts of VUMS, these young warriors have been able to obtain their discharges and to have benefits and medals restored.
A bimonthly newsletter called America’s Young Warriors keeps everyone in touch and apprised of various activities on the local, regional and national level.
In the newsletter are personal stories of VUMS and their service to our country, a list of new members, a section called “Taps” that salutes fallen comrades, and announcements of upcoming events.
Open any newsletter and you’ll find stories of kids who parachuted into Belgium, kids who fought in Bataan, others were prisoners of war in Japan, still other had their ships bombed out from under them in the Pacific. The stories are riveting and heart-wrenching.
Arizona Congressman Bob Stump, who served in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 2003, was a member of VUMS.
Gene Hackman, Rod Steiger, Tony Curtis and Flip Wilson all served in the military when they were underage.
VUMS has published two books about those who served in the military while underage, called “America’s Youngest Warriors”, Volumes I & II.
For more information, please go to www.oldvums.org.