By: Frank McCurdy, National Executive Committeeman – As Published in the August 2015 Internet Observer
Today is July 17th and we have successfully completed another Department Convention. I would like to personally thank the Legionnaires of Colorado for allowing me to serve the next two years as your National Executive Committeeman. Be assured I take this responsibility very seriously.
I cannot remember a time when we had as many security threats and fiscal fiascos that can have a very negative impact on our active-duty and retired military personnel. Twenty-nine years ago, I joined the American Legion (TAL) because I was aware of the success TAL enjoyed in the Halls of Congress. Without the voice of TAL, the special interests and politicians surely would degrade the earned benefits of veterans and their families.
National Security, a pillar of TAL, is being strained by the reduction of military forces and equipment. For example, if sequestration repeats itself, the U.S. Army will reduce troop strength from 490,000 today to 420,000 or a 70,000 troop reduction in personnel. The other services are all experiencing similar reductions.
I was elated when National Commander Mike Helm spoke out against the reduction in forces. TAL should advocate for vigorous National Security debates during the upcoming presidential campaign. Once you consider the current threats in the world to include Russia, China, North Korea, the Middle East, and North Africa, we should be increasing our forces not reducing our forces. I guess the reasons I joined TAL twenty-nine years ago are as valid today as they were in 1987. Somehow, we need to educate younger veterans that, TAL is not your local bar, but instead an effective voice on their behalf. That, of course, brings up the subject of membership.
TAL seems to be slow to adapt modern technology. If TAL is not in the forefront of modern technology and social media, our younger vets will seek out other solutions. To be successful, our younger vets must view TAL as their source of veteran news and advocacy. A trend toward high tech must happen soon. There is no new VAMC news. The next important VAMC issue is accurate cost figures.
Hopefully, by late July, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will provide accurate construction costs to complete the VAMC. You need to know, that the entire Colorado Congressional Delegation supports funding the VAMC. Our most notable hurdle is House Speaker John Boehner. Without his approval, the funding legislation will not go forward. The USACE’s cost figures should suffice. Boehner continues to demand accountability. Frankly, the accountability issue should be treated as a separate issue.
The PTSD clinic and the Short Term Rehab Nursing Home are not included in the current plan. We are advocating for their inclusion, but we do not want to jeopardize the $625 million needed to complete the VAMC. We will stay on top of this project until it is complete.