We are pleased to report that our current membership rate stands at about 75% of our goal of 70 for the year. That may not seem very good, but please note this: our goal for many years was between 50-55 per year.
In member year 2013, we had a big jump in membership to around 70 members, but in that same year, several passed away. Rather than follow its tradition of using the prior year’s goal plus one, our Department decided to use the higher number.
We are fortunate that we’ve had several members transfer in from Post 1000 in recent months, but they do not count on our rolls until member year 2016.
The meaning of membership
With that being said, what does being a member of the American Legion mean to you?
For posts that have a physical location, veterans have a place to go, where they can have their meetings and help with ongoing events and activities like social nights and monthly breakfasts and/or dinners.
Our post does not have a building, so we have to be creative in our efforts. We host annual ceremonies for Memorial Day, Patriot Day (9/11), and Veterans Day at the downtown park. We sponsor a boy for Boys State every spring. These are things we’ve done for years. We are starting to branch out and do new things as well, like School Awards, Environmental Youth Leadership Camp, VA Mobile Medical Clinics for local veterans, and care packages for deployed troops, to name a few. We’d like to have more social functions, besides our annual Christmas dinner in December, but it takes an interested population to be able to put these on.
Perhaps the most important part of Legion membership, I believe, is that portion of our dues which goes to support lobbying efforts at our state and national levels. It was the American Legion that fought for and won additional compensation for World War I veterans in 1924, strongly advocated for the creation of the Veterans’ Bureau (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) in 1930, and campaigned for the passage of the GI Bill of Rights, which was signed in June 1944. There have been many other efforts over the years that I can’t name off the top of my head.
As a younger veteran who is disabled from military service, I worry about the erosion of benefits that may occur over time if I don’t have someone fighting on my behalf. This is what I tell anyone contemplating membership, as well as anyone else who wants to know more about what we do and why.
We need to go into this with the understanding that membership is not about meetings; in fact, meeting attendance is not a condition of membership. We need to understand that there may be personality conflicts, as we have members of all eras who experienced very different situations that affect them in very different ways. What we have to remember is that for the common good, we have to put all that aside. We are losing veterans every day at an alarming rate, particularly among the Vietnam generation. The more people we lose, the weaker our collective voice becomes.
In the end, it’s up to individual veterans to determine if the goals of the American Legion match with theirs. And remember this, especially for the men and women who served outside of our periods of eligibility: the American Legion serves all veterans. You are still a comrade, no matter when you served, and you are welcome at all of our events.