The American Legion's support for U.S. servicemembers goes well beyond lobbying for better quality of life and higher pay, as well as fair benefits once those men and women leave the military. Since the organization's inception, that support has been extended to the families of those serving in harm's way.
Two programs that are perfect examples of that support are Temporary Financial Assistance and the Family Support Network. Temporary Financial Assistance (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.
The Family Support Network (FSN) is a grass roots-based program that puts local Legion posts in touch with the families of activated or deployed servicemembers, providing assistance and referrals to those families facing undue hardships with minor tasks such as grocery shopping, child care, mowing the grass or fixing the family car.
In 2010, TFA disbursed grants totaling more than $515,000, benefiting 530 families with 1,408 children. In one instance, a husband and wife, both veterans, had exhausted their unemployment benefits. They applied for extensions, but the decision could have taken weeks. TFA assisted with keeping the rent current and purchasing groceries to ensure the well-being of the four minor children. In another instance, a veteran returned from his third deployment to not only find out his civilian job was no longer in existence, but that his wife was leaving him and his two children. TFA assisted with the rent and utilities, while local Legionnaires are currently working with him to secure employment.
For more information about TFA eligibility, click here . To donate to The American Legion Endowment Fund, mail checks or money orders, made out to The American Legion Endowment Fund, to The American Legion Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206, or click here  to donate online.
Meanwhile, the Family Support Network aided thousands of families of servicemembers during 2010. Like many Legion programs, the real work of the Family Support Network is done at the post level, and many of the best FSN stories never even reach the eyes and 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.
To contact the Family Support network, click here  or call (800) 504-4098. Calls are referred to The American Legion department in which the call originated. Departments relay the collected information to a local American Legion post, which then contacts the servicemember or family to see how assistance can be provided locally.