Year after year, I am always proud of how supportive The American Legion family is to veterans and their family members. The support is provided in many ways, two of them being the Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program and Family Support Network (FSN).
TFA is funded through The American Legion Endowment Fund, which was established in the 1920s. Through TFA, a local post can request cash assistance to help maintain the basic needs of veterans' children. The fund helps families meet the costs of shelter, food, utilities and health expenses when parents are unable, thereby keeping the minor child or children in a more stable home environment. In 2012, TFA disbursed grants totaling more than $847,000, benefiting 776 families with 1,711 children. The impact the Legion made was significant. Compared to 2011, our financial grant distribution was up by more than $330,000 — our veterans and their families need us.
In one instance, a servicemember was on his second deployment to Afghanistan when his spouse was diagnosed with breast cancer, for the second time, requiring a double mastectomy. Due to the mounting medical bills and expenses related to emergency leave and travel to the hospital, which was more than 500 miles away, the family was not able to keep up with rent and utilities. TFA assisted with keeping the rent and utilities current.
In another instance, a father returned home from deployment and found a new job, but it paid considerably less, causing the family to lose their home. In an effort to keep the family intact and ensure the three children had shelter, TFA provided a deposit and first month's rent on an apartment the family could afford. These are just a few of the many heartfelt stories out there.
Meanwhile, Family Support Network aided more than 1,600 families of servicemembers during 2012. Like many Legion programs, the real work of FSN is done at the post level. And many FSN stories never reach the eyes or ears of National Headquarters because many families in need know to contact their local Legion post first. Those posts have already laid the network's groundwork by establishing strong relationships with surrounding military families.
Our men and women in uniform need our support, as do their families. And when they come home and hang up their uniforms, they need to know that we are there for them.
For TFA eligibility information: www.legion.org/financialassistance 
Apply for FSN assistance: www.legion.org/familysupport 
To donate to TFA: www.legion.org/donate