Friday, September 6, 2019

Local American Legion shares update of national convention

Members of the American Legion Post 148 of Windham recently returned from a week in Indianapolis, Indiana at the American Legion National Convention. After a week of commissions, committees, caucus, and convention floor activities from August 23rd to 29th, Lin and Dave Tanguay, delegates to the Legion’s 101st and the Legion Auxiliary’s 99th conventions will now spend some time presenting the work of the convention to their respective department, district, post and unit organizations. Dave was a Maine delegate and assigned to the Convention National Security Commission and Lin was an Auxiliary delegate from Maine and sat on the history and upcoming Auxiliary’s 100th Anniversary Committees. Lin also sat in on the constitution and by-laws committee. All these meetings make for a very busy weekend prior to convention.

David and Lin Tanguay at the convention
This 100th year of the Legion and its 101st convention celebrated several major national events in support of veterans. Noteworthy that have both national and local implications to our veterans are as follows: 

The Blue Water Navy Act signed into law this year allows those Naval and Marine Corps personel attached to ships working off the coast of Vietnam during the conflict to be compensated for and treated by the VA for their exposure to Agent Orange.  Post 148 has one individual who, as a Marine Corp, was assigned to a helicopter carrier and was exposed to the chemical. He and thousands of other veterans will now be added to the support structure for agent orange.

The Legion Act, signed by President Trump on July 3, 2019 now makes 420,000 veterans eligible for membership in the Legion as well as their qualifying family members in the Legion Family. The Act strongly supported for years by the Legion recognizes the service of those veterans placed in harm’s way not during times of official armed conflict.

Over 1200 veterans lost their lives during these periods of “non-conflict”. The Act reads: “Any veteran serving after December 7, 1941 with at least one day of active military service and honorably discharged is eligible for membership in this country’s largest veterans’ organization, The American Legion. There are over 19,000 local veterans in Cumberland County eligible to join the American Legion.”

When the National Government shut down last year, many critical groups continued to be paid including our armed forces. Not so, the U.S. Coast Guard who falls under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime. The American Legion stepped up and provided over a million dollars in grants to the enlisted personnel of the Coast Guard during this crisis. In Maine, well over 60 families were supported out of the Legion Department of Maine.

Another milestone this year was the implementation of the Mission Act that allows veterans to use local medical support when VA support is too far away or not reasonably available. The other important factor is that veteran’s medical records are being digitized for use by both VA and civilian doctors. This program when fully implemented for all veterans will allow any doctor to see what other doctors have prescribed or recommended.

Each and every one of these laws and programs were instituted and/or endorsed by the American Legion. Like the GI Bill or the Veterans Administration Acts before them, these bills were the product of The American Legion and any member can be justifiably proud of their involvement in the Legion.

There were also many briefings and discussions on two major veterans’ issues:  Homeless veterans and veterans’ drug and suicide crisis.  In these areas much has been done, but much still needs to be done. 

On the local level, developing veteran camaraderie with the Field-Allen Post Veteran Coffee program (Every Wednesday from 9  a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Windham Veteran Center) and the very much appreciated, collection of non-perishable food items on Wednesdays at the WVC by the Legion Post 148 and delivered to the Homeless Vet Food Pantry at the Portland Veteran Center has made an impact in the local area. 

There is an open invitation to all veterans to drop in for coffee each Wednesday for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m at the Windham Veteran’s Center behind Hannaford’s North Windham. The Legion will also gladly accept any non-perishable food items for fellow vets with food insecurity issues. 
The American Legion: Veterans Serving Veterans for 100 years and looking to the next 100 years.

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