Buddy Checks let veterans know ‘somebody cares’
American Legion Post 64 Service Officer Craig Annis. Photo by Steve Smull

Buddy Checks let veterans know ‘somebody cares’

Craig Annis, a service officer for American Legion Post 64 in Phoenix, was reading an article in The American Legion Magazine about Buddy Checks. With a large population of older veterans in the post, Annis thought it was a great opportunity to call and check in on them.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do, and to get in contact with a lot of our members who don't necessarily come to the meetings,” he said.

Post 64 has 139 members. And over the course of two months, Annis made over 100 phone calls. For those with no phone number listed, he sent emails and mailed letters.  

“I have to tell you, I'm 78 years old. I was a salesman all my life. I owned my own company for 20 years and retired, and I don't know that I've ever in my lifespan had such a rewarding experience in terms of talking to men and women who have served and are now on the latter stages of their life. They were so appreciative to just be contacted,” Annis said.

The phone calls resulted in members coming to Post 64’s November meeting who have never been before, helping a few with burial information in a national cemetery, answering questions abut the PACT Act, helping with other service benefits and sharing when post meeting days and times were, along with upcoming events. The phone calls also led Annis to learn that several members lived alone or that they were no longer able to drive. The post is now discussing about picking up members who want to come to meetings but can’t drive or getting a 10-12 passenger van.

“The vast majority were just thankful to have had somebody call from our post,” Annis said. “A couple of members that are way younger than I am, were like, ‘Craig, that's really nice of you to take the time to call me. I really appreciate that.’”

Before making the calls, Annis broke the membership list down by date of birth, calling the older members first. Between October and November, he spent over 100 hours connecting with post members.

“I know that sounds like a lot of hours, but if you break that out, I would typically work maybe two to three, at the most five hours a day, and had many days that I just took a break or had other things going on in my life. The rewarding part of it is it’s never, ‘Oh darn, I have to sit and make calls.’ It was exciting to look forward to who you might get to meet and what you might find with needs, and that's sort of what a service officer does.

“It’s just a wonderful sense of accomplishment after you've talked to, you know, older members, middle-aged members, younger members, and when they all get back to you say, ‘Hey, thanks for taking the time.’”

Other Post 64 members have expressed interest in making Buddy Checks as the plan moving forward for Post 64 is to conduct them at least quarterly. Annis hopes other posts see the value of calling their members and start their own Buddy Checks.

“I think if we keep getting the word out there about what the value is with Buddy Checks, hopefully more and more posts will realize it's a simple process and easy to do,” he said. “We all like to know that somebody's thinking about us. You know, that's a natural need that I think we all have. We want to know somebody cares.”