As a retired Navy captain, Clarence Hill knows what it is like to lead. As its national commander, he will spend the next 10 months leading The American Legion. And during the organization's National Executive Committee Fall Meetings in Indianapolis this week, Hill recalled his Navy days in laying out the challenges that the Legion, America's veterans and its military are facing.
"I can sum up what's ahead for The American Legion in three words: full speed ahead. We need to go full speed because we have some battles ahead of us in Washington, D.C.," Hill said. "We just learned last week that the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act conference committee report dropped the provision that would have phased out concurrent receipt for Chapter 61 – service-connected, disabled military retirees. It also drops House-passed language that addresses the elimination on the offset in the Survivors Benefit Program. These provisions are supported by The American Legion.
"I've already taken action to address these issues by contacting the chairmen of the Armed Services committees to reemphasize The American Legion's support for these provisions. I'm requesting a hearing on these quality-of-life issues and reintroduction of legislation that contains these provisions for consideration in both chambers," he said.
Hill praised the 49 American Legion departments that have attained their 55-percent target-date goal. "But," Hill said, "(membership efforts) must be a little hard, because we're not at 55 departments. I believe it's easy to talk people into joining The American Legion once they find out what we're all about and if you just ask them."
The Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors program has raised nearly $200,000 to provide comfort items for injured servicemembers recovering in military hospitals. "But this ship has not yet anchored. When I became national commander, I set a goal to raise an additional $100,000 by the end of this year," Hill said. "While we have already raised a few thousand dollars toward that goal, we won't meet it without your help. Go back to your departments and publicize this great program in your newspapers and newsletters."
Hill also urged Legionnaires to continue supporting U.S. troops in the war on terror.
"There is no doubt that war fatigue is starting to set into the American public, but we must always remember that we did not declare war on the terrorists; they declared war on us," he said. "The 9/11 attacks happened before we went to Iraq or Afghanistan, and let's not forget the terrorist attacks that would have happened if not for our brave men and women in law enforcement. There is no telling how many Americans would have died if al Qaeda had been successful in its recent plot to set bombs off in American mass-transit systems.
We must stand behind our men and women in uniform – especially when they are in harm's way. We must give them the tools to succeed. It seems to me that if the general in charge of the war in Afghanistan says he needs an additional 40,000 American troops, we should send him what he needs. Do not separate the war from the warrior. You cannot support our warriors without letting them do their jobs."