By Pat Smith Department Adjutant

The world enters the New Year with hope and expectations. Expectations for a year better than last! Expectations for peace and harmony in the world! And, expectations for positive results for our efforts, in both our professional and family lives.

The American Legion enters this New Year with many expectations. Since 1919 we have worked tirelessly to improve the life of our nation’s veterans and their families. The year 2013 will be no different. We expect positive outcomes from our President and our Congress when it comes to taking care of our warriors after they return to civilian life. The cost of war does not end when the war ends.

As we apparently wind down from our involvement in Afghanistan we can expect returning veterans to face a staggering economy, high unemployment rates, readjustment issues and lifelong medical issues for many resulting from their service. And many of these veterans expect help, but most have no idea where to turn.

On a daily basis we see and hear from veterans attempting to understand the complex system of government assistance programs. Many of those veterans are immediately enrolled into the VA system upon their discharge and expect the VA to solve their problems. Many expect a caring government to reach out to them and say, “come, enter into the house of the VA, my brothers and sisters, and we will forever take care of you.” Guess what? It doesn’t happen that way!

Veterans need to be proactive when it comes to their medical issues with the VA. They need to be proactive when it comes to their continuing education and their employment. They need to be proactive when it comes to their family matters. They expect a lot, but expectations will not be fulfilled without careful thought and subsequent action.

In their structured military environment they had someone to look to for direction. They took orders without hesitation. They completed their task as assigned, all which goes away when they take off the uniform.

For 94 years The American Legion has been the one that steps in to assist these veterans achieve what they expect. We are the guiding light. We have been there, done that. Our experience is valuable and must be shared. We have the resources to guide them through the maze of government. We know the right people, we know the right words to say, we know the right words to write on those pesky government forms, we just know!

For The American Legion to achieve positive results in this New Year, we, as an organization, must be proactive. We must seek out these veterans and be with them when they need us. We must connect the dots for them. We must be a teacher, a counselor, a mentor and most of all a friend.

So I expect The American Legion to continue to be the voice for veterans in this New Year. I expect The American Legion to do what we have done for 94 years, for we have been successful, so why change. We just need to look for new solutions for old problems.

Seek out the veterans in your communities. Offer them the gentle had of The American Legion. Do this and our expectations for 2013 will be fulfilled.

Welcome 2013, The American Legion is still here.