Training Tuesday: Recorded Buddy Check session now available
The American Legion’s virtual Training Tuesday March 28 was on Buddy Checks – why the program is important to the organization and examples of how to conduct them. The training was presented by Americanism Division Director Ron Neff. Listen to the Training Tuesday session here.
“It's the fundamentals of leadership and that performing the Buddy Check is a demonstration of our good nature to always care for our nation's heroes and their communities,” he said. “While the selfless and bold decision to serve our country sets us apart and bans us together, it is also apparent that 99% of our fellow Americans cannot empathize with us, don't understand us and aren't really sure how to help us, no matter how genuine they are and wanting to. This is the space that The American Legion exists, in that space between life after honorable and faithful service and the population who admires and respects us, but without understanding us. Buddy Checks allow us to communicate in tongue only understood by those whose blood runs thick with the selfless selflessness of serving their nation in uniform.”
Neff shared the video of 2019 National Legion College graduate and Maryland Legionnaire John Kilgallon whose daughter, Mary, helped him create a how-to Buddy Check message with a white board as part of his Legion College homework. The result is a 6-minute video that provides useful tips for posts planning to do Buddy Checks.
He also reminded attendees of the training that Buddy Checks are not about renewing members, collecting dues or asking for participation in events. “This is the one thing that has to absolutely have no agenda attached to it,” he said. “Because we're not trying to gain something from them, we're asking them if they can gain something from us. Sometimes that's a handshake or a hug or to listen to their story or to just thank them for their service.”
The American Legion Consolidated Post Report for 2022-203 asks for results of Buddy Checks to be documented “so that further collaboration with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs and others can occur to address veteran needs,” Neff said. “It gives us the ammunition to go in the room with the leadership of these departments and say, ‘Hey, this is how we can help, or this is what we are doing to help’ and they may even be able to reciprocate that help. Reporting also quantifies and validates our commitment to looking out for the welfare and health of our American Legion Family.”
Neff, a retired Marine veteran whose two sons are on active duty and currently deployed with the Marines and Navy, shared that between the three of them they know many servicemembers who have died by suicide. “I say this not to incite sympathy, but to highlight the reality of what our servicemen and women are dealing with today and how the gap between veterans and society is growing wider. The American Legion and the other veteran service organizations need to fill that critical gap.”
Through Buddy Checks, it’s an opportunity for American Legion members to implement the Legion’s suicide prevention initiative of “Be the One” and save the life of a veteran. “As Legionnaires, our daily and continuous mission is to take care of other veterans,” Neff said.
A Buddy Check Toolkit is available for members and posts. It explains the program, provides steps to conducting a successful Buddy Check, gives sample scripts and more. Download it here.