As U.S. military veterans, we know the value of service.
Unfortunately, too many young people today do not. Worse yet, they are getting crossed signals from their peers, and even some adults.
Recruitment numbers are alarmingly down across the branches of service. Army Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis told The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Commission last August that a variety of reasons can be blamed. One that stands out to me is a term we are hearing often today – “propensity to serve.”
That means young people simply are not aware of enough good reasons to take the oath. And at a time when industry, academia and government are all in competition for the best and brightest – a “war for talent,” it has been called – we need to work harder to promote those good reasons.
At the Washington Conference in late February, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Lightfoot asked Legionnaires to “provide that spark” to future generations and encourage them to start their journeys with military service. The benefits cannot be overstated – tuition assistance, industry-specific training for those about to discharge through such programs as DoD SkillBridge, GI Bill education, VA Home Loans, high-quality health care and superior insurance and banking through USAA, The American Legion’s preferred provider of financial services, to name just a few.
Beyond those tangible advantages, we must also recognize the power and meaning of discipline unattainable in any other sector of society, along with lifelong camaraderie, the opportunity to see the world, help others in need and to protect those we love from enemies both foreign and domestic.
How can we help?
More than 6,200 American Legion posts conducted Veterans in the Classroom sessions last year. More than 33,000 young people participate annually in American Legion-sponsored Scouting units. Hundreds of Junior ROTC programs are backed by local Legion support. Schools have career events, and we must encourage them to welcome recruiters. More casually, consider the neighborhood barbecue, community picnic or church event as an opportunity to share with young people the value of military service.
Wherever we make contact with young people deciding their future paths, let’s commit to serve as ambassadors of the nation we swore with our lives to protect and defend. Let’s answer the call Brig. Gen. Lightfoot made for us at the Washington Conference: “I need you to go on the offensive and share your service story. National service is powerful. We need to get the word out and share, at the local level, the power of service.”
As I continue traveling our great nation this year, I want to hear how my fellow Legionnaires are answering that call and converting “propensity to serve” into a reason to join, rather than the alternate.
Thank you for helping us strengthen America every day.
To fulfill this and all of The American Legion’s missions, it is vital to stay up to date on membership. If you have not already done so, I strongly urge you to renew now – as we celebrate the organization’s 104th year of service to community, state and nation.
Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola