When elected a year ago, American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster announced that his motto for the year would be S.A.V.E.D. - Serving America's Veterans Every Day.
On Tuesday in Minneapolis, Foster told national convention delegates that their efforts made it possible to live up to that mantra during his year-long tenure.
"You, the Legion family members in this audience - and those in posts, units and squadrons around the world - are indeed, Serving America's Veterans Every Day," Foster told convention delegates. "Through programs like Operation Comfort Warriors, Heroes to Hometowns, the Legacy Fund, the Family Support Network, the National Emergency Fund and countless others, you are ensuring that America does not forget the debt that we owe our heroes.
"No debt is greater than that which America owes her veterans. George Washington was absolutely correct when he said, ‘The willingness with which young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceived veterans were treated and appreciated by our nation.'"
In serving America's veterans, Foster pointed to the Legion's groundbreaking survey on women veterans and the care they are receiving through the Department of Veterans Affairs. "We believe that VA is becoming more serious about providing responsive, reliable and competent treatment to this important segment of our veterans' community," he said. "The American Legion has long believed in a VA that serves all veterans, not just a select few who are fortunate enough to get in.
"This also means allowing veterans to use Medicare as the health-care system that was created specifically for them. It means funding VA with enough resources so they can accept all categories of veterans - all of whom answered our nation's call. It also means finding jobs for those who through their service to their nation have proven that they have what it takes to contribute in the workplace. Hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do; it's a smart business decision."
The Legion has helped in this endeavor by sponsoring veteran job fairs throughout the country. He also called on Legionnaires to continue lobbying their representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., for passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the flag.
"To the families who have shed tears over a flag-draped coffin containing a hero who paid the ultimate price - that flag means sacrifice," he said. "Desecrating the flag is simply wrong, and The American Legion wholeheartedly supports a flag-protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Please call on your congressional delegation to support House Joint Resolution 13 and Senate Joint Resolution 19, so we can give Old Glory the respect and protection that she deserves."
Foster visited 53 of 55 Legion departments this year and also spent countless hours visiting wounded servicemembers recovering in military or VA hospitals. It made an impact on him.
"We often tell ourselves that we are visiting VA and military hospitals to lift the patients' spirits, but it is usually the other way around," he said. "These young men and women usually inspire us. It is the same warrior spirit that Americans displayed in the aftermath of that deadly attack 70 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941. We saw it again in Vietnam, Korea and in another war that ended 20 years ago - the Gulf War in 1991.
"Ten years ago was another pivotal moment in American history, as we suffered the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. It was a blow - to be sure - but the enemy made a fatal error by failing to get a knockout."