The American Legion is committed to the welfare of all veterans and their families when a disaster like a tornado, snowstorm, hurricane or flood strikes. A natural disaster can strike at any time, as we just witnessed in Moore, Okla., devastating the lives of men and women who honorably served and protected our country. While we can't stop a disaster from occurring, the Legion can and does provide relief to veterans and their families affected by devastation through its National Emergency Fund (NEF) program.
The Legion's National Executive Committee created NEF immediately after Hurricane Hugo struck Florida in 1989, leaving nearly 100,000 people homeless. The program helps with out-of-pocket expenses, including, but not limited to, temporary housing, food, water and clothing. Since its inception, NEF has provided nearly $8 million in direct financial assistance to American Legion posts, Legionnaires and their family members.
I've been a member of The American Legion for 42 years, and I'm still in awe of the donations given toward the NEF program and the donations disbursed to disaster victims.
When Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, Legionnaires were on-site to process NEF grants — 2,512 grants were processed totaling more than $2.1 million. When Superstorm Sandy hit the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine last October, 450 Legion Family members and posts received NEF grants totaling $426,087. And now, we are faced with the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore, Okla., on May 20, killing 24 people, destroying or damaging nearly 13,000 homes, and affecting more than 33,000 people's lives. Again, the Legion was on-site to provide veterans and their families with financial emergency assistance — 200 grants have been processed totaling $200,000, and applications for assistance are still arriving at national headquarters.
Through the NEF program, we can't take away all the pain caused from a natural disaster, but I believe we can and do give a fresh start to many posts, veterans and their families. We help posts keep their doors open, and we rebuild the homes and lives of Legionnaires. It's the least we can do for those who have already endured so much.
Like many Legion programs, 100 percent of all NEF donations go directly toward helping a fellow Legionnaire or post. Administrative costs are covered by national headquarters.
Visit www.legion.org/emergency  to download an NEF application or to donate to the program. Remember, The American Legion is here to help veterans in their time of need. I encourage those in need to apply and those who can donate to do so. Thank you American Legion Family members for your continuous generosity.