From the first day of military training, veterans are taught to look after one another. Whether it’s promising that we have their “six” or conducting a health and welfare check, our comrades need to know we care about their well-being.
More and more American Legion posts are conducting Buddy Checks for this reason. Membership is our lifeblood, but it is our camaraderie that makes us an organization worth joining.
How can we truly serve veterans if we are unaware of their most urgent needs? How can we call ourselves a family if we don’t provide a welcoming environment? Most of all, how can we pledge to “sanctify our comradeship” at every American Legion meeting while ignoring veterans living in our own neighborhoods?
Few people have the time to personally reach out to all veterans in their communities, but teamwork makes it possible. For instance, if a group of 10 Legionnaires commits to calling or visiting 10 other members or former members, you can reach 100 veterans.
National Headquarters offers some tools to help you succeed. At mylegion.org, you can download the names of current members and those whose memberships may have lapsed.
Turn Buddy Check calls into a post event, and magnify your message by inviting local media. While our primary concern is the well-being of veterans in our communities, an increase in membership usually results. Veterans tend to enjoy the company of other veterans. There is no bad time to conduct a Buddy Check, but I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate The American Legion’s birthday, March 15-17, than by reconecting with our fellow veterans.
Thanks to the LEGION Act, anybody currently serving or who has served honorably under federal orders since Dec. 7, 1941, is eligible to join our organization. That includes the many reservists and National Guard members who were deployed or went through basic and military occupational training. An estimated 4.2 million veterans are eligible to join The American Legion who were not eligible a year ago. Early indications are that membership is up this year, so let’s keep that momentum by sharing our mission and passion with those who were previously ineligible.
The LEGION Act has also expanded membership opportunities in the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion. The Auxiliary, by the way, is no longer the nation’s largest patriotic women’s organization, but the largest veterans auxiliary of women and men.
Let me say again that membership is not the purpose of the Buddy Check. Through personal contact, though, you may be helping a veteran battling suicidal thoughts, a single parent looking for temporary financial assistance or a transitioning servicemember struggling to obtain VA benefits. Let them know they have a friend in The American Legion and that you are willing to assist them or connect them to someone who can. Be sure to follow up.
To be an effective Buddy Checker, just remember two things: Call because you can, and listen because you want to.