On Aug. 29, Daniel M. Dellinger from Vienna, Va., was elected as The American Legion's 2013-2014 National Commander during the 95th national convention in Houston. Dellinger, a U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran and a member of Dyer-Gunnell Post 180 in Vienna since 1982, told convention delegates that the Legion must continue to adapt to a changing world and a changing group of veterans.
"Two years ago, at the beginning of my campaign, I adopted my slogan for this year – "Building for Tomorrow Today." With my background in construction, I know you need a good set of plans and a solid foundation if you are going to build a structure to last. We have a rock solid foundation in the American Legion, our 95 years of service to our veterans, our communities and our nation, so what we need is a plan to get us to the next level and above.
"We have passed resolutions that set in motion the changes we need to stay relevant to our service men and women, our veterans, our communities and our nation. There is a change in the air ... a new culture of growth in membership. One that is desperately needed if we are to continue to grow our programs and membership, taking care of those under the charge of our four pillars upon which our great organization was founded. Some voices in the media say that we are a dying organization. I disagree, and I know you do, too. If we're going to grow, we need to step it up. We need everyone on this construction team to lend a hand and build our membership back to our all-time high."
Doing so will require buy-in from the entire Legion, Dellinger explained.
"We have requested that every department formulate a five-year and beyond membership plan to grow our membership to an all-time high," he said. "That plan will be used in monitoring our growth as we move towards our 100th anniversary date and beyond."
Dellinger will testify before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs Sept. 10, but he said the Legion won't earn the full credit it is due during that testimony.
"I'll report on the hours donated, the monies raised and expended to serve our veterans and our programs, but unfortunately, the numbers won't depict the true picture of who we are," he said. "Only 57 percent of all posts this past year submitted their Consolidated Post Reports.
"I have already had a discussion with most of the department commanders requesting their assistance in obtaining 100-percent reporting this year. Remember post commanders, the job is not done until the paperwork is filed. I will continue to reinforce this message as I travel to departments this year."
Dellinger applauded the efforts of outgoing National Commander for his efforts in raising more than $1 million for Operation Comfort Warriors. The Legion's National Emergency Fund (NEF) will be Dellinger's fundraising project during his tenure, with a donation goal of $1 million.
"It's a very lofty goal, but one that equates to about 50 cents per member. We can do it," he said.
NEF has provided more than $8 million in direct financial assistance to Legion Family members and posts that have been affected by a natural disaster. The fund has kept posts from closing and enabled Legion Family members to begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.
"I am very excited about the opportunities before us as we start building for tomorrow today," Dellinger said. "I look forward to working with each and every one of you along with the rest of The American Legion Family as we promote and grow our great organization.
"Again, thank you for your vote of confidence as we move into our 96th year."