Friday, May 11, 2018

American Legion, recognizing the past - looking to the future by Dave Tanguay

Over the past few weeks The Windham Eagle has run a series of article in honor of the Field-Allen Post’s 80th Anniversary (April 6th, 1938) and the beginning of the National Legion’s 100th Anniversary year (March 15th, 1919). The articles covered the background on our namesakes, Lt Charlies W.W. Field and Sgt. James Allen as well as the early years of the Post from 1938 until 1999; and the revitalization of the Post since 1999. This last chapter in the series is a reflection and a look to the future. 

As Legion members, most veterans join a Post for personal reasons. Most don’t think about the good the Legion does on a national level to support Veterans Affairs in Congress or the GI Bill; however, the American Legion is the largest advocate and contributor of laws relating to Veterans in the Nation.

Tolling of the bell
Most may not be aware of or even think about the organization and how it contributes to veterans support issues, youth programs or the training of our fellow veterans to support each other.  Most have joined for the comradeship or out of a sense of patriotism or the desire to give back to the community.

Some join for the like-minded sense of belonging or maybe the benefits. As an American Legion member, you are more than just a number. You become an example of service for the entire community.

The community sees you when you place flags around town or on the graves of the fallen and they see you placing wreaths on the graves of veterans. They see you marching proudly in the Memorial Day Parade. People see you as helping veterans, or youth and the community. They see you as role models for our youth as we support Boys State or the Youth Air Rifle Program or Legion Baseball.
The Legion Post is more than programs, it has membership that supports other veterans and its membership is vital to make the Post work and live its mission.

On a personal note; I joined the Field-Allen Post after a 23-year career in the Navy and was in my 50s. The WWII veterans in the Post at the time were in their 70s. Today I’m in my 70s and the WWII vets that remain are in their 90s. I am looking back to see who is stepping up to fill the void.
As noted above, and in previous articles, the community sees Legion members as leaders and that has been the case since the Field-Allen Post was first charted in 1938.

At the national level the most pressing issue is future membership for the Legion. The demographics have changed. Gone are the days when the legion and other veteran organizations had millions of veterans to draw from. The national military commitment is now much smaller and so is the pool of potential membership.

What will the American Legion look like in the next 100 years? That is difficult to say. What the national leadership is proposing is a more diversified organization, (more women), more legion family oriented, and still able to support the motto “Veterans Serving Veterans.”

With this 100th Anniversary of the American Legion before us, there is an opportunity to reflect on our past and to look to the future.  Will you be part of that future? On the occasion of the 100th Anniversary, I’d like nothing better than to see the next revitalization of the Legion and the Field-Allen Post with the vitality of a new era of veterans.

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