Legion Family members: ‘You change lives’

Legion Family members: ‘You change lives’

Denise H. Rohan has been traveling across the country and world since taking office as national commander of The American Legion last September. As her time leading the organization closes, the question she often hears is, “Are you tired?” She admitted to attendees of the organization’s National Membership Workshop in Indianapolis Aug. 10 that while she is tired, it’s the American Legion Family that energizes her to keep going. Additionally, there are several things about The American Legion that she will never get tired of.

They include:

Viewing weekly membership reports. And seeing numbers rise thanks to “our Family across the nation working to process membership and recruit new members,” Rohan said. For 2018, nine departments achieved 100 percent membership using traditional methods: West Virginia, Mexico, France, Oklahoma, Montana, Wisconsin, Idaho, South Carolina and the District of Columbia. Three departments increased their membership numbers over the previous year: Alabama (252 over), Idaho (534 over) and South Carolina (218 over).

Seeing an increase in early renewals. Last July during the National Membership Workshop, Rohan shared that more than 239,000 members traditionally pay their membership dues after the first of the year. She challenged members to contact those who pay after Dec. 31 and encourage them to renew by Veterans Day to save time and money on the mailing of renewal notices. Rohan shared Friday that 42 departments were successful in getting more than 40 percent of those traditional late payers to renew early. “I imagine, to get those early payments, it required personal contact earlier rather than later. Making those contacts and letting your members know you care about them made a difference,” she said.

Reconnecting with deploying or returning military personnel. Rohan said that 24 departments reported reconnecting efforts this year. That number is up by 15 over last year. Between 100 and 5,000 points are awarded to departments for each reconnect effort until the May target date; this certification is found the National Membership Awards Points Manual. The departments of Georgia, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin all received the maximum 5,000 points.

Recruiting. Rohan said that while she was getting a little tired of people asking how to recruit younger members, she will never get tired of “explaining how important it is to recruit all eligible members, and be there for our active-duty and deployed troops and their families. I believe that is the best way to show them who we are and what we do.”

Promoting the Basic Training course. Another challenge Rohan put forth during last year's workshop was to see a 10 percent increase in those who take The American Legion’s Basic Training course, the official training program for those who want to expand their knowledge of the organization. She shared that over the past year, 2,113 Legion Family members have taken the course. The Department of Tennessee had over a 59 percent increase in the number of members who took the course, while the departments of Arkansas and Texas had over a 41 percent increase.

Interacting with America’s youth. During her travels to Washington, D.C., in late July, Rohan met with the 100 American Legion Boys Nation senators. “As I got out of the car at the Greenbelt (Md.) Post 136 (for a dinner) and walked a gantlet of 100 boys, the staff and volunteers, I was rejuvenated. I shook every one of those young man’s hands,” Rohan said. “Thanks to their interaction with you and our Americanism program, they already knew they wanted to give back and serve the nation in some way.” She then met the Auxiliary Girls Nation delegates, and followed along in her week of Americanism programs by meeting the participants of The American Legion’s Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“How could I possibly be tired as they shared story after story about how the opportunities that their American Legion gave them has changed their lives?” Rohan said. "As we take care of our children and youth and teach them what it means to be an American, they will pay it forward by offering their service to this nation.

“You see, that is what we do – that is who we are. We change lives each and every day. The American Legion Family is there making a difference – not just in the veteran’s life but their entire family’s lives.

“Our service officers across the nation continue to get our veterans the benefits they earned and deserve. They are changing families' lives also. We are making sure that as our heroes transition out of the military their training converts to jobs and college credits. We are keeping the GI Bill relevant.

“There are so many lives we are changing and saving.”

Rohan ended her remarks with a word that was heard throughout Day 1 of the National Membership Workshop: engage.

“I know it’s difficult to do all the work with the few people who attend the monthly meetings,” she said. “That is why it is so important to engage all our members, find out their interests and get them involved and connected. Make them feel needed. Make them feel like part of our family. Because we are a family!”