The need for a growing membership

I recently had the opportunity to testify before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees. In doing so, I learned what national commanders before me have learned, which is that it’s common for one or more senators or representatives to praise the commander – either during the hearing or afterward – for his input. Those members of Congress appreciate hearing the Legion’s System Worth Saving (SWS) reports, our suggestions for improvements to the
GI Bill, and more.

It just makes sense for Congress to listen to us and value our opinion. The Legion is the largest organization of wartime veterans, representing patriotic Americans from all backgrounds and eras. We’re a group capable of speaking on behalf of many. With millions of members, The American Legion is a force in Washington.

The same is true at the state level. When a Legionnaire phones his local state representative and announces that he’s a member of The American Legion, he’s not just one veteran. He’s one veteran capable of rallying the support of hundreds, even thousands, of Legionnaires.

Clearly, a strong and diverse membership is essential to our success as an organization. It gives us more boots on the ground to lobby local representatives and provide help for recovering warriors in our communities. Membership makes our voice louder on Capitol Hill, and it gives us more influence in congressional circles.

Simply put, membership is our lifeblood. The hard work of our dedicated volunteers and employees makes efforts like SWS a success, but our membership numbers are what demand the attention of Congress and the White House.

Membership not only ensures our continued success as an organization, but also enhances our ability to protect the interests of all veterans, servicemembers and their families. A strong and diverse membership helps us serve as a better and more vocal advocate on their behalf.

We must reach our membership goal. The stakes are high not only for our organization to continue thriving, but for the nation’s military community as a whole. Veterans and their families cannot afford to lose The American Legion as their advocate.

Imagine a world where Congress doesn’t hear about access problems at VA hospitals, doesn’t receive testimony about the need to allow military training to count for certification in civilian trades, and doesn’t have American Legion expertise to call upon for help improving the GI Bill. Such a world would fail our founders’ vision. Most of all, it would fail veterans and their families, who need us now more than ever, in record numbers.


  1. I was blessed by the chairman at the Southington, CT American Legion and he paid my annual dues and said Merry Christmas and I am now a member. I think it is wonderful so far

  2. You have my e-mail address because I joined the Legion a couple of years ago, then transferred to a local post in my home town. I received the Legion magazine for a while. The only time I went to the local AL post was to sign some paperwork to transfer my membership from the state organization to the local one. After that, the only time I heard from the local post was when they wanted me to renew my membership! No information on what the post was doing, no monthly calendar (even by e-mail), no telephone calls, inviting me to attend, or anything else. It gave me an attitude that was: "Now we've got your money, we don't care anymore!"
    Needless to say, this does not encourage expansion of membership or induce present members to stay members (which I did not). I stopped paying membership dues after the first year. The local post acted as if they were a private clique and all they wanted was my MONEY. I did this because all I could see I got from the local post was a place to have a drink, play pool and tell war stories.
    Your need for more membership may have something to do with a lot of the local posts doing similar things. If you want to increase membership, it has to be done at the local level. I suggest you do the following:
    (1) Require all local posts to publish a calendar of events EVERY month that is sent to all members, either by e-mail or regular post, or put it on a web site.
    (2) Encourage local posts to reach out to former members to try to have them "re-up" their membership, with emphasis on what the LOCAL post is DOING.
    (3) Require ALL local posts to extend invitations to ALL American Legion members who are members of the state to come by and see what the local post is doing. (Note: The Legion can just sort their mailing address list by ZIP code and send a list of state members to the local posts.)
    (4) Encourage local posts to be active in volunteering in the community, doing something - perhaps helping our veterans (both American Legion members and not) solve problems: medical, financial, personal, etc. This means more than just marching in the local Christmas parade!
    Please note: If the local post here in Greenville, Texas does ANY of the above 4 items listed, they never told me ANYTHING about it, but then, they hardly communicated with me at all!

    Good Luck on your membership drive - I think you are going to need it!
    Lawrence E. Jennings
    USAF, former Captain

  3. You will forever have trouble with your (our) membership because you can't be trusted anymore to take care of our needs. A couple of huge problems that you have alienated us with is Tricare increase and discriminating practices called Post 9/11. You will see a steady decline in membership until you correct these two problems.

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