For nearly 100 years, members of The American Legion have upheld the organization's devotion to its fellow servicemembers and veterans. Stories come across my desk daily about the ways a Legionnaire or a post has helped a veteran in need, and they are a good reminder of the positive impact The American Legion can have on a veteran and a community.
Larry Molitor of Cordova, Ill., was walking by the local post office when he saw a man in front of him who looked "dejected." "I just walked up to him and asked how he was," said Molitor, a Vietnam War veteran and a member of Post 33. "I sensed a problem from the moment I saw him (Vietnam War Navy veteran John Bosten); essentially, he was starving to death and was contemplating suicide."
Molitor and other community members rallied around Bosten and watched him change from "being a recluse to being one of the most beautiful people you would know," Molitor said.
Molitor worked with the local food pantry to provide Bosten daily meals, he helped him receive 100 percent VA disability, he paid his membership dues at Post 33, and he encouraged him to join a church. Bosten became an active and valuable member of Post 33, helping with homeless veteran stand down events and serving on the honor guard and as the adjutant officer and finance officer. He also became a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cordova.
Bosten passed away a few years ago and in his memory Post 33 donated a flag pole and plaque that's placed at River's Edge Park in Cordova. "He told me that the day I approached him was the best day of his life," Molitor said. "I think of him every day."
John Shelton, a legally blind retired Marine, experienced severe flood damage to his Phoenix-area condo in December 2012 when rainwater flowed in from his neighbors' roofs. Shelton was too proud to ask for help. Instead, he kept himself under blankets as the winter air turned his living room into 40-degree misery. American Legion Post 58 in Fountain Hills, Ariz., stepped in, fixing Shelton's roof and floor in his main living area. They also started checking in on him regularly, helping him with his VA benefits and buying him a small indoor grill to cook his meals.
"If there is any veteran that is out there, like John, we need to help," said Judi Beischel, Department of Arizona commander and Post 58 member. "It's a Legion Family thing. It's what we're supposed to be doing."
Shelton is grateful for the Legion's unwavering support.
"There's good in the world," Shelton said. "You just have to run into it once in awhile, and sometimes it takes adversity to find it. Without it, I never would have met (Beischel) and the guys at the Legion that showed genuine concern about my situation. That was very humbling since I didn't want help from anybody in my life."
The housing care that Shelton received from the Legion enabled him to take another step forward – he was able to secure a seeing-eye dog named Yolo from another nonprofit agency. "Without their (The American Legion's) help, absolutely none of this would have happened - getting my home back to a living condition and this beautiful creature (Yolo). I am truly blessed."