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The American Legion is celebrating its 95th birthday. I would just like to remind everyone that principles not politics is what the American Legion has always been about, and it is why we are the most respected and successful veterans’ service organization in the country.
While many Democrats, Republicans and independents have been active in the Legion during its 95-year history, the organization was beholden only to God and country. It is respected for what it does every day in communities across America. The American Legion serves the youth of America with outstanding programs such as American Legion Baseball, Junior Shooting Sports, Boys State and Boys Nation. The American Legion has supported the Boy Scouts of America since 1919 and today charters more than 2,500 Scouting units involving roughly 70,000 young people.
Moreover, The American Legion High School Oratorical Program presents scholarships to young men and women who can most effectively communicate the ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
By offering temporary financial assistance to veterans facing extreme economic hardship, the Legion helps provide food, shelter, clothing and medical necessities for their young children. Our support has made a difference to the recipients of Child Welfare Foundation grants, which are used to educate the public about diseases such as juvenile diabetes, Marfan syndrome and autism. We also support the Children’s Miracle Network, and that support has undoubtedly saved countless lives.
We have not forgotten the young people whose parents have made the ultimate sacrifice during the war on terrorism. The American Legion’s Legacy Scholarship Fund was created to help pay for the college educations of those who lost a military parent serving since 9/11. The American Legion does these things not because it can, but because it’s who we are.
The author of America’s greatest legislation, Past National Commander Harry Colmery, knew that it was right for America to remember returning war veterans by making it possible for them to obtain formal educations and purchase homes. While others scoffed that such a benefit would break the treasury, the American Legion held firm and ensured the passage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill of Rights.
But the American Legion did not rest on its laurels even after that significant and historical accomplishment. Today we are still serving and still fighting. We are fighting to improve post-9/11 GI Bill benefits so the current generation of veterans can pursue the educational opportunities needed to succeed in the 21st century.
We are fighting to remind Congress and the White House of their frequent promises not to balance the budget on the backs of veterans. The veterans did not cause this deficit and they should not see their retirement benefits cut, disability compensation reduced or health care diminished because our elected leaders fail to do their jobs. Military benefits are available to anyone who visits local recruiters and signs the dotted line.
Thousands of American Legion service officers nationwide help veterans access high-quality VA health care and disability compensation. We are the nation’s leading advocates for enhanced treatment of traumatic brain injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other medical conditions associated with military service.
Again, it is the American Legion’s presence in the community that makes a difference. It is the true value of our memberships.
It’s displayed on an American Legion baseball field, in a recently renovated VA hospital wing, a new bus to transport veterans from a nursing home or at a veterans’ memorial that was built with American Legion financial support. We are not in this for ourselves. We are in this for our brothers- and sisters-in-arms. We are in this for the husbands, wives and parents of those who served.
As it has been since our founding, citizens of this great nation know that when America calls, American Legionnaires will continue to say “At your service!” The American Legion will always be an organization of principles, not politics.
Commander Bob Salvini
Bergen County American Legion Organization