Florida Legionnaire Jim Ramos talks about troop-support ideas during the district commanders breakout session of the National Membership Workshop. Photo By Steve B. Brooks

Still a learning experience

Michigan Legionnaire Don Meskill has attended several National Membership Workshops. But even after his latest trip to the event, held in Indianapolis July 28-29, Meskill still finds himself picking up new information every time he attends.

"I get ideas, tidbits, things like that," said Meskill, a member of Sanford Post 443 and the Department of Michigan's Direct Mail Solicitation coordinator. "I learn something new every time I come here, and I try to use it back home."

Meskill was one of more than 350 Legionnaires who attended the two-day session. He and his fellow attendees heard from leadership and other Legionnaires, and also broke out into smaller sessions to receive basic and advanced training. Breakout sessions were also conducted for district commanders and 2011-2012 department membership chairmen.

Meskill said the workshop is beneficial in that it provides a broader look at membership issues and strategies. "If you listen to different people, you either hear their problems or get their ideas," Meskill said. "It's very helpful from that respect."

During the larger group session that kicked off the day's workshop, Fang Wong, the leading candidate for 2011-2012 national commander, unveiled the membership program he'll implement if elected: "We Serve for PRIDE." Wong broke the program down into five areas:

• P - People. "Select the best people," Wong said. "People are the key."• R - Research. "We need to go back and research all the data, all the information. If we go from year to year not knowing what happened with membership the year before ... what do you expect from tomorrow?"• I -Ideas. "How do we change this? Brainstorm. Come up with different ways of taking on a problem." • D - Develop. "You want to develop milestones and checkpoints along the way. Whatever plan you have, check it at certain intervals to see whether or not you're going in the right direction."• E - Execute. "Execute a plan. Monitor it. By doing that (at) a certain point, you pick up more information."

But Wong continued that a post's membership is only as strong as the Legion program it conducts. "We have something we call the four pillars, and we have something we call our programs within those four pillars," he said. "Until posts are actively in those types of activities successfully, you may have 150 percent in membership, but you're not a true American Legion organization."

Wong urged the workshop attendees to not stay silent after they return to their departments. "Everyone here is a leader now," he said. "It's you that has to go back and carry the message. You have to go back and start talking to your post commanders and say, ‘What are we doing? Are we doing the right thing, or are we doing the wrong thing?'"

Jim Koutz, liaison to the National Legislative Commission, called for special outreach to bring women veterans into the organization, and suggested the use of technology, such as Wi-Fi installed into Legion posts, as a way to appeal to younger veterans.