By Raymond S Leventhal
2012-2015 Commander, Sons of the American Legion 323
2014-2015 Commander, Sons of the American Legion District 13
Assistant Adjutant, Sons of the American Legion Detachment of Florida
When you think about the American Legion, what comes to mind? The image of ‘that place where old veterans go to get drunk’ is a prevalent and misleading representation of what the American Legion Family as a whole does, and not at all an example of what the local organizations, especially Post 323 in Lehigh Acres, does for the community, state and nation.
What is the American Legion?
Made up of the American Legion (veterans), the American Legion Auxiliary (female family members and female veterans) the Sons of the American Legion (male descendants of veterans) and the American Legion Riders (motorcycle enthusiast members of the other three organizations), the American Legion Family is responsible for the care of our active and discharged veterans, their families and the upkeep of Americanism throughout the nation.
There are events at the Post home nearly every day of the week, all year long. All of these events raise money for charities such as the Child Welfare Foundation, the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), Breast Cancer Awareness and many others.
Educating Our Youth
As part of the world wide American Legion, Post 323 engages in many programs that teach our youth about the foundations and inner workings of our government. Three of these programs are the American Legion Oratorical, Boys State and Girls State programs.
The American Legion Oratorical program, described as “A constitutional speech contest”, gives high school students an opportunity to learn about and provide insights into the US Constitution. This program begins at the Post level, with children from local high schools competing at the Post for a chance to proceed upwards to District, State and National Competitions. For a glimpse of the future of our nation, search on youtube.com for American Legion Oratorical. The results will amaze and captivate most viewers. At the state level, winners receive from $500 to $1,250 for their efforts. At the national level, winners are eligible for prizes up to $18,000 in addition to the wealth of knowledge and public speaking experience they receive just for participating.
The Boy’s and Girls’ State programs provide high school kids with the chance to participate in government, from campaigns to elections to the running of the ‘city’ in which they’ve been elected. Leaders are built from these programs, including Neil Armstrong, Tom Brokaw, Garth Brooks, Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee, E. Lynn Harris, Phil Jackson, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle D. Johnson, Michael Jordan, Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, George Pataki, Jane Pauley, Nancy Redd, Harry Reid, Brian Lamb, Scott Bakula, Dick Cheney, Michael Dukakis, Roger Ebert, Jon Bon Jovi, Chris Christie, Tom Daschle and Trent Lott to name just a few.
Helping the Homeless
The Post family is actively involved in helping the homeless, including the Auxiliary Unit’s weaving of plastic grocery bags into mats which can be used for sleeping by those living outdoors. Over 700 grocery bags are used in the creation of just one of these mats – Unit 323 is hoping to provide three such mats on November 1st to the American Legion Post 110 (Port Charlotte) for their veteran’s Stand-Down, an annual event to help clean, feed and support homeless veterans in our community.
From Auxiliary Poppy days (November 15th and 16th this year), which celebrate and commemorate the overwhelming sacrifice of our veterans in the great wars to standing in flag lines to honor our WWII veterans as they’re transported to the WWII memorial in Washington DC (Honor Flights) to ceremonies which teach the history of sacrifice by our veterans which provides this nation with the freedoms we enjoy, the American Legion Family is at the center of patriotism in our communities.
Veterans who have benefited from the GI Bill are all beneficiaries of the American Legion’s dedication. The GI Bill is a product of the American Legion, as is the ongoing drive to maintain the strength of our military.
For more information on what the American Legion really is and does, visit the National Organization’s site at http://www.legion.org, and the Department of Florida’s site at http://www.floridalegion.org.