HANNIBAL — “There is a change in the air.”
That’s a message that New York State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor brought to the local Legion Family in his visit to Oswego County on Oct. 5.
It’s about “Service First,” he said during dinner at Prior-Stock American Legion Post 1552 in Hannibal.
The American Legion’s Department of New York is reinvigorating the core mission to serve men and women in uniform, veterans and families, community and nation, he said.
“Just as our country has evolved since 1776,” he said, “we, too, must continue to evolve if we expect to be relevant for today’s returning veterans whose focus” is on “getting their jobs back, keeping their mainly two-earner families together, and furthering the education of themselves, their spouses and their children.”
On both the national and state levels, Governor pointed out as an example, The American Legion is pushing for recognition and credentialing of a host of skills learned in the military that are transferable to the private sector; thus, making it easier for returning veterans to get jobs.
The Legion is the organization that brought the issue of the VA backlog to the front burner, he said, and “we’ll continue to monitor the situation” to help ensure that veterans get the care and benefits they deserve for “protecting our nation’s freedom.”
That change in the air, he noted, involves the entire Legion Family – members of the Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion.
He has designed a Department Commander’s Pin to recognize everyone who recruits three members. Simply “ask those who served their country if they would continue to serve their community with The American Legion,” he said.
A strong membership, he added, guarantees the success of such “great American Legion programs” as Boys State, which immerses youth in the constitution and how the government operates; Legion Baseball, recognized as a top athletic program for youth that attracts college recruiters to games; Oratorical Scholarship Contests for college-bound high schoolers; Legacy Scholarships for children of service members who don’t return home from the battlefield; the National Emergency Fund, which provides financial assistance to Legion Family members hard-hit by natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy; and Operation Comfort Warriors, which provides rehab and recreational equipment and supplies to injured service members.
Another sign that the Department of New York is on the right track in putting “service first,” he noted, is the Americanism trophy that New York walked away with at the Legion’s national convention this past summer. “We were honored for having the best Children and Youth, and Family Assistance Programs in the entire American Legion.”
Governor also appealed to the audience to contact their congressional representatives to protect “our men and women in uniform” from the effects of the government shutdown.
The commander’s visit was a joint visitation with New York Auxiliary President Barbara Corker and New York Sons of the American Legion Detachment Commander John Chang. Accompanying them were Department Vice Commander Joseph Barilla and 5th District Commander James Ellis.
They all were welcomed to Oswego County by County Commander Grover Britton, County Auxiliary President Elaine Johnson and County SAL Commander Charles Rhodes.
Chang, a dual Legion and SAL member, said he became “one of the 28,500 Sons organized in New York State” to honor his World War II veteran father. He pointed to SAL’s sense of teamwork across the state that supports veterans and their causes, noting in particular that “the Sons are the largest contributor” to the Legion-founded Child Welfare Fund, which provides grants to organizations that help children. He also noted that, like the department commander, his personal project this year is to collect donations for the National Emergency Fund, especially since the fund helped so many New York families in the devastating wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Corker got involved in the Legion Auxiliary through her veteran father, and now has a daughter who is a veteran of military service.
Like the Legion, she said, the Auxiliary is focused on serving the military, veterans and families, and community.
Her personal project is to support Operation Comfort Warriors, and for two reasons. First, unlike other charities, 100 percent of donations go directly to helping wounded warriors. Second, it’s important to “show our warriors our love.”