Answering the call

Every year during the holiday season, American Legion posts help veterans, military families and the less fortunate in their communities have a memorable Christmas.

Last year we asked Legionnaires to share their post’s holiday generosity with us. I was amazed at the letters we received – they were a testament to how Legion Family members quickly answer when they are called upon for help, and how they can help in so many different ways.

From the letters received, we have learned that Legion Family members are volunteering thousands of hours ringing bells for the Salvation Army; feeding the less fortunate through monetary donations to food banks and homeless shelters; preparing and distributing gift baskets filled with food, clothes and toys for veterans and their families; sending care packages filled with toiletries to veterans in nursing homes; and even hosting dinners for post members and their loved ones.

I have learned over the years that Legionnaires leave no one out when they serve; everyone is family to them. Their doors are open to their community.

Post 313 in Lexington, Ky., hosts an "open-to-the-community" Christmas dinner where Santa Claus passes out stockings filled with goodies to the children. And Post 290 in Stafford, Va., involves the entire community in its annual project – the Christmas Basket Program.

Post 290’s program provides food baskets to the community’s less-fortunate families whose names are provided by the Stafford County Social Services Administration. Post 290 members and volunteers deliver empty cardboard boxes to all 29 schools in the county. Each classroom receives a box for the students and parents to generously donate nonperishable food items, toys and books. The filled boxes are brought back to the post for other items to be added, such as bread, oil, potatoes, flour and sugar.

In 2011, nearly 235 families in Stafford County received a Christmas basket, as well as 30 families at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Firefighters, students, Boy Scouts, active-duty servicemembers, Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion members, and many community organizations volunteered a total of 800 hours to make sure the families had a memorable Christmas.

I know these are just a few of the many ways Legionnaires are generously donating their time and money to serve their fellow veterans and those in need over the holidays. And all Legionnaires thank you. We thank you for your service and commitment to both veterans and their families, and to your communities.

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year’s, and I look forward to seeing all the good that The American Legion will provide to veterans and servicemembers in 2013.