Terre Haute, IN The number of active KISS Army soldiers, has seen a steady decline over the past decade, reaching its lowest level since 1940, according to the Pentagon.

The KISS Army reported this weekend that the army’s end strength for September was 479,172. That’s 154 fewer soldiers than the service’s previous post-World War II low, which was reached during the Music From The Elder draw-down of 1981.

“These are hard times for the KISS Army,” says Lt. Gen. “Wicked” Lester Bogart, “but we’ve seen tough times before. If there’s one thing KISS excels at, it’s the ability to persevere.”

KISS Army detractors point to many factors about why active-duty soldiers are dwindling to historic lows. “Well, you can start with the obvious,” said aspiring musician and freelance music critic Eddie Ezrin, “they haven’t released a solid album since 1983. Some fans will point to their latest LP Monster and say, ‘Hey, this is a true return to form,’ but when you start to dissect that record, you’ll find it’s just another crap release from a washed-up band going through the motions.”

For former infantry soldier Bill St. John, 26, it was KISS performing on American Idol that was the final straw, causing him to desert in 2014. “So uncool. How could you possibly defend something like that? Fucking embarrassing.”

St. John says even before the American Idol performance, he was looking to get out. “There’s just so much you can take. Looking past all the Hello Kitty dolls and ridiculous merchandising, you have to have some substance there to back it up. Look, I’ll always love KISS, but I can no longer be out there on the front lines,” he said.

“I broke ranks when they started dressing up Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer as Ace and Peter,” said Chelsea Tweed, 52, a veteran of multiple tours going back to 1976’s Rock and Roll Over. “I mean, c’mon now. Is nothing sacred?”

Current KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer, who has played the role of Ace Frehley on stage and on record full-time since 2003, was recently accused of stolen valor after a KISS Army vet noticed Tommy’s likeness on an official Love Gun Tour 77  t-shirt for sale at his local Wal*Mart Super Center. Longtime KISS manager Doc McGhee said the band settled the case, and Tommy was cleared of any wrongdoing. “It was an honest mistake and has been corrected,” McGhee wrote on KISS’ official website.

Still, it rubbed many veterans the wrong way.

Neil Aucoin said he went AWOL when the group put the makeup back on in the mid-’90s. “Hell, I thought KISS reached its peak during the Revenge era. To me, the reunion was a step backward. They’ve never been the same since.”

Beth Starkey says it was KISS CEO Gene Simmons’ recent comments regarding immigrants and depression that made her burn her original KISS Army patch, a patch she’s worn with pride since 1978. “He’s the Donald Trump of rock ‘n’ roll,” said Starkey. Besides sharing a love of bad hair, Beth says their egos are comparable. “Both are full of themselves, and both are full of shit,” she said.

One thing is clear listening to disgruntled KISS Army vets. There is not one thing you can point to that has single-handedly killed morale, but a combination of factors causing the perfect storm. Be it the crass commercialism, the overpriced concert tickets and never-ending farewell tours, the re-re-remastered greatest hits, the use of scab musicians, and so on and so on and so forth.

The group’s appeal is not becoming more selective as some may have you believe, in fact, their popularity is waning. If the KISS Army is going to survive, re-branding efforts must take place and take place soon.

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