By: Robert Irving – October, 2011
September has been a busy month with the American Legion. On September 1, we had a new National Commander, Fang Wong of New York elected and installed at the National Convention in Minneapolis. He is the first Chinese-American to be National American Legion Commander. Past Hampden County Commander Louis Brault and I had the privilege of delivering a check for $3,380.00 to then National Commander Jimmie Foster for the Legacy Scholarship Fund. This was raised by Post 338 Legion Riders in Southwick. We had one rider on the Legacy Run, Jerry Bennett from Hamilton Post 194.
On Labor Day, several of us marched in the Marlboro parade. This is another great event to participate in. On October 2nd some of us will be in North Adams for the Fall Foliage Parade. These are large parades, similar to the Haverhill Santa Parade. It is too bad more don’t turn out for Memorial Day and Veterans Day!
There are some that feel membership numbers don’t count. Well, I had the honor to visit Washington, DC for the Legion Fall Conference along with others from Massachusetts and around the nation. On September 20th, the Legion Washington office briefed members from all the Departments about Legion legislative priorities for this session of Congress. This list is listed on the Legion national website.
The next day, September 21, we were at a breakfast meeting where one of the speakers was US Senator Max Baucus. This was followed by all of us going to the Senate’s Dirksen building. Commander Fang Wong gave testimony to the joint House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. The House Chairman is Rep. Jeff Miller. He also spoke at our national convention in Minneapolis. The Senate Chairperson is Senator Patty Murray who is also on the Super Committee along with Senator Baucus. And they were interested in what the Legion priorities are and what the National Commander had to say! The room was filled with about 200 Legionnaires and the National Auxiliary President, Kris Nelson.
We then went to the offices of our elected officials to present the priority list. Representatives Keating and McGovern were available to talk with us. In the other offices, we spoke with legislative aides who work on DoD and Veterans issues.
The Legion has 2.4 million members, along with the Auxiliary and SAL, the total is about 4.2 million. That is a lot of VOTES. And that does not include friends and family who are not members. Our elected officials can count! That is why membership and your voice count. I hope you will look at the priority list and get your opinions known to our Congressional officials.
If you are eligible to join the American Legion or one of the other veteran service organizations I hope you will do so. And yes, we are SERVICE organizations. That is what we do, what we are all about. Yes, those that have a member’s lounge and function hall have the ability to raise money and do more but it is about the programs. Andover, Groveland, Ipswich and Topsfield are examples of Legion Posts that do not have a home but still manage to raise money and do good work in their community. Check out our website (www.legion.org or www. Masslegion.org) and you may be surprised.
In conclusion, I have one tip from a congressional staffer: The best ways to contact their offices are email or mail to the local office. Mail to the Capitol is still delayed in processing due to the anthrax issue a few years ago.
I hope you will join me in getting your voice heard!