There are a number critical issues faced by veterans and their families today. The most critical ones being: mental health problems, homelessness and joblessness. The fact that they face such issues is simply sad. Our brave men and women fought in order for us to live freely in our homeland and yet when they return, many among them end up being homeless. Unemployment is a problem due to the fact that many companies do not seek to employ vets because of lack of prior civilian job experience. The traumatic events they witnessed or experienced firsthand while in service often lead to mental health issues like PTSD and TBI. In 2012, the VA released a report that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day! This number is simply unacceptable! How is it that our brave ones survive war torn places only to come home to die?
Everyone’s always talking about the importance of recognizing our veterans’ sacrifices for our nation and of how grateful we are for their service. Yet, millions of veterans are suffering from these serious challenges. It makes one think, is something being done?
The good news is, yes. There are many organizations big and small that are working to ease the burden many of our veterans carry. Among these groups is the American Legion. They are the largest veterans’ service organization in the United States and they have been around quite a long time. Chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans’ organization, they now have more than 2.4 million active members in 14,000 posts around the world.
The American Legion has been dedicated to all who have served our country in the U.S. Armed Forces, providing free assistance for veterans and their families when applying for VA benefits, relentlessly calling for stronger VA health-care system, representing veterans appealing claims decisions free of charge, helping homeless veterans and organizing job fairs and career events.
The life-changing assistance and guidance provided by the American Legion comes in the form of personal assistance, cash grants, donated goods, disaster relief, labor, networking, volunteerism and advocacy.
Some of their services that make a lot of difference:
- Providing comfort items for hospitalized military personnel recovering from wounds and illnesses.
- Spending millions of volunteer hours at VA medical facilities at an estimated annual value of $20 million.
- Supporting veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI.
- Assisting during natural disasters, from converting local posts into clinics after hurricanes and tornadoes, to providing food, relief items and other needs to displaced citizens.
- Providing financial assistance to needy military and veteran families with young children at home.
- Awarding grants to organizations that provide support for children in need.
- Awarding college scholarships to children of U.S. service-members killed while on active duty since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
- Running hundreds of youth programs, including more than 3,000 Scouting units, nearly 4,000 American Legion Baseball teams, dozens of Junior Shooting Sports clubs, Junior ROTC and Junior Law Cadet programs.
- Educating school children on such topics as flag respect, military service, history and patriotism.
- Providing and distributing U.S. flags for the graves of American military personnel laid to rest at overseas cemeteries.
- Demanding full accounting and repatriation, when possible, of all U.S. military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.
- Handling honor guard services and memorial tributes for fallen military personnel and veterans, from individual funerals to memorial dedications.
Aside from veterans, the American Legion is also focused on the Nation’s youths, national security, Americanism and communities.
The organization welcomes anyone who has served on federal active duty in the Armed Forces during any of the following war eras:
- Persian Gulf/War on Terrorism – Aug 2nd 1990 – Today
- Operation Just Cause (Panama) – Dec. 20th 1989 – Jan 31st 1990
- Lebanon/Grenada – Aug. 24th 1982 – July 31st 1984
- Vietnam – Feb. 28th 1961 – May 7th 1975
- Korea –June 25th 1950 – Jan 31st 1955
- World War II – Dec. 7th 1941 – Dec. 31st 1946 (United States Merchant Marines from this era are eligible as well)
Family members of Legion-eligible veterans are also welcome to get involved. Sons of The American Legion offer membership opportunities to male descendants of U.S. wartime veterans. The American Legion Auxiliary which is the nation’s largest patriotic women’s association in the U.S., also encourage female family members to join.
It takes a unique form of dedication and unwavering desire to help to really make a difference in other people’s lives. The American Legion is driven by love of country, remembrance of the fallen, hope for the future and a great sense of duty before self. Their success depends solely on volunteer leadership, active membership, participation.
Find out more about the American Legion and how you can help them help others here.