Legionnaires urged to ‘spread the word’|[02/22/08]
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008
American Legion posts need to “spread the word of their many great contributions and services for our nation’s soldiers,” the organization’s national commander told a room of Legionnaires at Tyner-Ford Post 213 on Main Street Thursday.
Martin Conatser, the second national commander to visit the River City, stressed to the 50 people attending that making people aware of their efforts, locally and nationally, is essential to efforts of the 89-year-old organization to get action from Congress. Issues include repealing the Disabled Veterans Tax and achieving mandatory funding for VA medical care.
“I highly doubt those in Washington care a whole lot about what I think,” said Conatser, who mentioned he has met with President Bush five times since taking over his current post in August. “But they do care about what 2.7 million Legionnaires in this country think and the services and support they provide our troops.”
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Conatser, an Illinois native whose Army service included Vietnam, said the organization’s emergency fund for veterans, its American Legion Family Support Group, scholarships and other programs are not widely recognized.
“Many people are unaware of all the good that we do,” Conatser said. “This is our challenge. We’ve got to start saying these things out loud.”
While he reiterated the importance of awareness, Conatser also briefly mentioned the American Legion’s success in 2007, noting that the organization achieved a $3.7 billion increase in funds that will go toward health care.
Before his election in Reno, Nev., at the American Legion’s 89th national convention, Conatser served in many capacities, including chairing legislative efforts in 2004 and 2005. He is a member of the Lincoln American Legion Post No. 102 in DeLand, Ill.
At the event’s end, Charles Scott Sr., commander for the Mississippi Legion’s sixth district and adjutant for Post 213, presented Conatser with a tapestry featuring Vicksburg history and a $200 donation to the National Emergency Relief Fund.
Before Conatser’s speech, the local American Legion presented Mayor Laurence Leyens and Warren County Supervisor Richard George with Outstanding Service and Support awards.
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, mutual-help, wartime veterans organization. Men and women now serve in about 15,000 American Legion Posts worldwide, covering 55 departments in the United States, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines. National headquarters is in Indianapolis.