By: C. Pat Smith, Department Adjutant

Happy New Year! The American Legion begins another year of service. Service to this nation’s veterans, to their families and to our great country and as our slogan says, We Are Still Serving America.

What do we have to look forward to? Our economy is still struggling. Unemployment rate is at about 10% for the nation, and by some estimates over 20% for veterans. Veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are faced with medical problems that seem insurmountable to them. The PTSD rate for these newest veterans is high. In addition they are faced with a new monster called TBI. Combine TBI and PTSD into one veteran and you have an explosion waiting to happen.  Relationships with spouses deteriorate real fast. Children are caught in the middle with no ability to understand what is happening around them. All of this leads to the need for increased service by our medical professions for health care, counseling and family support.

The American Legion cannot provide the essential medical services required by these veterans and their families. But what we can do is see to it that they have the best medical care possible through the Veterans Administration complex of medical facilities. As for the last 92 years the American Legion has been the voice for veterans. That function will not change in the coming year. We need to keep on top of congress and the President to assure our voice is heard. Right here in our own back yard is the proposal by the VA to replace the aging VA Medical Center on Clermont St with a brand new state of the art facility on the Fitzsimons campus. Our battle is not done here. Although Congress has approved the facility they have not approved all of the funds to build it. We must redouble our efforts in the coming year to make sure the facility is built.

Another challenge for the New Year is increasing our membership and our volunteer base. The largest group of veterans in our organization now is the Vietnam era vet. Many are approaching retirement age and will have time on their hands. This is the year for those veterans to step forward one more time and volunteer to become the mentors and supporters of this next generation of veterans. As a Vietnam era veteran you now have the knowledge and skills to help guide these new veterans through life.  You have made mistakes in life; you can relate those life experiences that have not gone well for you to these “youngsters” so they don’t make the same mistakes. An arm around their shoulder telling them you care can go a long way to their recovery. So if you are a Vietnam era veteran and you know another veteran who is not a member make this the year of the Bull. Get bullish on the American Legion, get bullish on service to our veterans and get bullish with our politicians. Don’t let anyone stand in your way when it comes to keeping American strong. To my Vietnam area veterans and friends, you are now in charge, so take charge.

PS, don’t tell the Chinese I made this the Year of the Bull. Rabbits just did not seem to fit into this message.

Have a great year!