Following is an excerpt from the acceptance speech delivered by Jimmie Foster of Alaska after he was elected national commander of The American Legion on Sept. 2:
I firmly believe in the Four Pillars of The American Legion.
First, that this country has an adequate national defense to protect those who live within our country. This not only means that all service members have the proper training and equipment needed to accomplish their missions, but the elected officials ensure that they all properly funded to accomplish their tasks at hand.
Second, that after we have served our country, that those whom have borne the battle are properly taken care of. I personally believe that no matter what war or conflict you served in, if you acquired a disability during your period of service, this country has an obligation to take care of you for that disability, until you die or this country goes broke.
Third, that we continue to promote Americanism within our country. We can do this in many ways. Ceremonies on Flag Day, Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, Labor Day, American Legion Day, Veterans Day and many other ways. But when we do this, we need to toot our own horn. Don't just go to the Legion post for the function and back home. Call some media or public-relations personnel and inform them of your accomplishments.
Fourth, that we continue to enhance the children of our country to ensure they have a better life than we had. We do this in many ways, such as Boys and Girls Scouts, Boys and Girls State, the Oratorical Contest, Junior Shooting Sports, Sons of The American Legion and Junior American Legion Auxiliary.
Technology continues to be a major part of everyday life, and our organization is no different. If your post is not wired for Wifi, I suggest you invest the best $19.95 that you can spend and get up to date. You may not be interested, but some prospective young new member may be. Please think beyond yourself.
For those states that have military installations nearby should consider going on a Reconnect trip. Don't talk about how you did it in 1945, 1965 or 1985. Go see what the servicemembers are doing in 2010. I am sure you will be amazed at the new technology and innovation that exists in all branches of the military today.
Don't forget the Reserves and National Guard members. Never before have they been deployed on multiple rotations as they are now. Make sure you invite them into The American Legion and show them you care by having a Heroes to Hometowns function upon their return.
Over 15 percent of the total force is a female. We should be seeing one in five females with a Legion cap on at Legion functions.
Approximately one third of the force meets a minority status. Females are included in that number. We need to become more diversified. Look around and involve every former servicemember in our organization.
One of the greatest programs to come along in awhile is the Legion Riders. If the numbers hold true with this National Convention they will have raised over $2.3 million with their Legacy Runs to the last five National Conventions. I have heard them referred to as "Another Renegade Biker Group." With those numbers, I think they are a bunch of veterans who like riding their bikes for a good cause, and the American Legion Legacy Scholarship meets the bill.
You may have heard VA Secretary Eric Shinseki state that the V.A. adjudicated over 900,000 claims this past year, but they took in over 1.1 million. They ended the year over 200,000 in the hole. We have to continue to push for a better way to adjudicate and monitor the claims process. As a former Department Service Officer, you can bet I will advocate on a daily basis to make this happen.
We must continue to require advance funding for the VA budget and insist on a quick passage of all other budgetary bills that affect American veterans, the military and their dependents. They need our support to keep Congress accountable for their actions.
The Flag Amendment bill has been introduced in the 111th Congress by Jo Ann Emerson from Missouri and Jim Marshall from Georgia on the House side and David Vitter from Louisiana on the Senate side. It is high time that this proposed legislation passes.
My membership incentive award is going to be called "The Lucky 7 Award." You have to sign up two new members and five renewals to attain this pin. We have a limited number of these pins, but I want you to force us to purchase more pins because that means we are signing up more members in The American Legion.
My motto or slogan, is the word SAVED, meaning "Serving America's Veterans Every Day." I don't care how you do it, but I want you to ensure that you take care of our veterans in any way possible. It does not have to be something momentual. Just say, "Thank you for serving our country." That will work.
The year starts here, but the success of a term of office will be determined in the end, not the beginning. I ask for your support now and during the year. It is an honor and a privilege to represent you and The American Legion for the next year.
And finally, most of the time a simple "thank you" will be sufficient to most members for their participation in any event or situation. Remember, never have your members do anything that you haven't done, or wouldn't do, yourself. Lead by example, not by position.
May God Bless this great organization, and may God bless America!