I asked, and you responded.
In my September Commander’s Message, I asked American Legion Family members and friends to journey 100 miles for veterans and children. I say “journey” because it really wasn’t important to me whether you walked, ran, biked, swam, rowed or surfed. It was the why, not the how, that mattered.
By late October, more than 4,700 had registered for our 100 Miles for Hope challenge. The campaign, which ran through Veterans Day, raised funds for The American Legion’s Veterans & Children Foundation.
There is never a bad time to support two of our organization’s founding pillars: veterans and children. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, both groups are facing tremendous hardships.
The V&CF provides Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) grants to eligible veterans and military members with minor children at home. It also funds valuable training for American Legion service officers, who work tirelessly to help veterans obtain the benefits they have earned.
The veterans unemployment rate is nearly double what it was a year ago. Those who worked for, or own, small businesses have been hit especially hard. Yet the need to provide food, health care and shelter for their children continues even if those veterans’ income is cut off. This is where The American Legion can demonstrate “our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”
The pandemic isn’t the only recent emergency to tax TFA’s resources. During the prolonged government shutdown in 2019, the Legion’s Veterans & Children Foundation provided more than $1 million in grants to Coast Guard families who were affected by interruptions in their pay. Requests for TFA grants also increase when hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters devastate communities.
I have been inspired by the hundreds of stories I’ve heard from dedicated participants of our 100 Miles for Hope campaign. One message that stands out was posted by Legionnaire Michael Klasno of Kingwood, Texas, on Aug. 22.
“I am a Gold Star Dad running in honor of my son, Army Sgt. Rhys W. Klasno, killed in action 13 May 2007 in Haditha, Iraq. I’m a 69-year-old Marine veteran who just had open-heart surgery on June 13. I am just starting a walking regimen, with two miles per day. This 100-mile commitment may take me a while, but I will make the Veterans Day deadline. Semper Fi.”
The 100 Miles for Hope challenge ended on Veterans Day, but there’s always a need for the help provided by the Veterans & Children Foundation. I recently appointed Past National Commander Denise Rohan to chair a steering committee with a mission to raise $25 million to ensure a robust and sustaining Veterans & Children Foundation capable of responding to future emergencies.
The generosity of the American Legion Family continues to amaze me. You can support this important mission by visiting legion.org/donate.