It’s time to Expose The American Legion
Posted on April 21st, 2017
A message from National Commander Charles E. Schmidt
Dear Legion Family Members and Friends,
Time is of the essence. So much so that you may wish to skip ahead to the final paragraph and start saving the legacy of The American Legion.
According to our membership report of Feb. 10, 45 of our 55 departments met their 85 percent goal by the target date. Fast forward to this week, and the April 16 report shows only the Departments of France, South Carolina and Mexico meeting their 95 percent target date goal. That means 52 of 55 have not. Nationally, we are 163,753 members short of our traditional membership goal for this year.
This translates to $3,029,430.50 less in national membership revenue, just for this year alone. Twenty-five years ago, The American Legion had more than 3.1 million members. If current trends continue, we will fall below 2 million members in 2017, which would mean more than $22 million less revenue.
Think of how many veterans could be assisted with that $22 million each year. How many more young people could be mentored through our outstanding programs? How many additional schools could learn the importance of Americanism and how the men and women of the U.S. military have always answered freedom’s call?
Moreover, that $22 million just represents what is lost at the national level each year. Multiply department dues by 55 and what each of our 13,000 posts receives on an annual basis and the deleterious impact on The American Legion’s ability to operate is astronomical.
It is time to expose The American Legion for what we are. Let everybody in the public know that there is no program called “Boys State” but there is one that is called “The American Legion Boys State.” Set up membership booths at every American Legion Baseball game. Remind military members past and present that if there were no American Legion there would be no GI Bill. In fact, there would be no Department of Veterans Affairs or previous federal agencies dedicated solely to providing care for disabled vets.
One hundred years ago, America entered a war of unprecedented destruction. The silver lining of the war was the creation of the greatest veterans organization that the world has seen. By the end of its first year of existence, The American Legion had 843,016 dues-paying members.
The returning doughboys were determined that no veteran, widow or orphan would do without the care and comfort of a grateful nation because of the sacrifice that they had made. Early Legionnaires had a missionary zeal to make sure no veteran was left behind. To make sure that no veterans lacked medical care. No veteran’s widow was to go without food or shelter. And no veteran’s orphan would be denied clothing and education.
The American Legion grew to become the nation’s largest veterans organization during an era when there were no telephones, radios, televisions or Internet. The Interstate Highway System was not yet built and, except for military service, most veterans stayed within 100 miles of their birthplaces. With modern technology, there is no reason that we cannot penetrate a greater share of the pool of eligible veterans.
If you are not a registered user of Mylegion.org, I implore you to do so immediately. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800.433.3318. Once there, search for unpaid renewals and bring them back to the organization. This is where I often say “Carry the Legacy Forward.” But if we do not recruit, renew and revitalize, who will be left to continue that legacy and ensure that The American Legion remains as great in its second century as it was in the first? I’ll say it again because it’s important. It’s time to expose The American Legion.