September 16 is American Legion Day and if you don’t know much about this veterans’ service organization, there’s no better time to learn.
The American Legion was formed in 1919 as servicemen and women were returning home from the First World War. What began as a support group for veterans has evolved into an organization with over 2 million members devoted to supporting veterans and their families, mentoring youth, building strong communities and promoting the principles of honor and patriotism.
Anyone who has served federal active duty in the United States Armed Services is eligible to join the American Legion. Since its inception, the American Legion has participated in the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service program and members contribute over 900,000 hours a year to VA medical centers throughout the nation. If you want to help out, here are some of the ways you can get involved:
- Adopt a National Guard or Reserve Unit
- In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, volunteers are always needed for military and veterans’ housing projects
- The Honor Flight program helps veterans get to Washington to tour the memorials and are accompanied by D.C. American Legion volunteers
- Become a Red Cross volunteer
- Get involved in the United We Serve Network that helps American Legion members find service opportunities in their communities
- Become a USO volunteer and help raise the morale of members of the U.S. military
Even if you’re not a veteran, there are a whole host of ways you can volunteer to help our returned and active servicemen and women.
- Join the Veterans Affairs Transportation Network and drive veterans to their medical appointments
- Raise a service dog. It takes a great deal of patience, time and money to train service dogs, but they are incredibly valuable to veterans with physical limitations and those living with PTSD. Many organizations need volunteers to help socialize and care for puppies for a few hours a week and don’t require you to have any specialized skills.
- Help out with Operation Gratitude. This service sends care packages to troops around the world and you can write a thank you letter, donate items, knit scarves and hats or even help assemble the boxes.
- Become a regular at your local VA hospital. You can help out with various recreational programs, read to patients, or just spend a few hours chatting with veterans who may not get too many other visitors.
- Many veterans have difficulty doing daily chores, either due to their age or disability. Your local Veterans Assistance Program can put you in touch with someone close by who could really use a few hours of your time.
We hope you take a few minutes this American Legion Day to think about our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made for their country. And if you’ve got a few hours a week to spare, consider volunteering for the numerous services, programs and organizations that help make transitioning back to civilian life a little easier.
The American Legion is headquartered in Indianapolis but has 12,000 posts throughout the United States. You can find more information at https://www.legion.org/