Air waves, TV help send Puerto Rico over 103% membership

Air waves, TV help send Puerto Rico over 103% membership

For the 2022 membership year, the American Legion Department of Puerto Rico reached over 104% membership with over 3,100 members and a 98% renewal rate. They achieved this from making Buddy Checks. Now, for the second year, the department has surpassed its membership goal for 2023 at over 103% with 3,324 members and a 94% renewal rate.

How did they do it?

Buddy Checks but also community outreach on the radio and television.

Hitting the airwaves

The American Legion Department of Puerto Rico has a radio show every Saturday from 2-3 p.m. called Heroes of Puerto Rico: Veterans We Are One. The show is sponsored by the department and Veteranos con Puerto Rico, a program for veteran housekeeping and home care. Department Commander Carmen Rosario appears on the radio show, along with Legionnaire Jose Irizarry with the home care program and other Legionnaires from the district and post level.  

“We keep the veteran community and the community informed of everything going on in The American Legion and (Veteranos con Puerto Rico),” Rosario said. The radio show focuses a lot on mental health, especially the Legion’s Be the One suicide prevention awareness initiative. To help with mental health, a psychologist comes on the radio show monthly. A mental health topic recently discussed was loneliness. “There are a lot of veterans that feel that loneliness and we want to let them know that they are not alone,” Rosario added. “That there’s people here to help them. We’re here to just listen to them. It’s a wonderful program.”

Morning news

Every third Friday of the month, the Department of Puerto Rico has a five to 8-minute segment on WAPA-TV to discuss programs and activities of the Legion. “That’s giving us a lot of exposure. We get the message out there,” Rosario said. “And the next thing you know the phones (at department headquarters) are ringing off the hook; people want to know more information about The American Legion. That has helped us increase our numbers. It has opened a lot of doors, especially with the younger generation.”

The phone calls include questions on filing a claim, especially under the PACT Act, membership and what benefits they are entitled to through the VA.”

The relationship with WAPA-TV was a result of the department making Puerto Rico veteran friendly. For veteran-friendly media outlets and business they created a certificate that they give them.

“We reached out to WAPA-TV and asked if they wanted to be veteran-friendly, that we were having a job fair at Fort Buchanan and if they had any openings that they would want to hire a veteran for,” Rosario said. “They hired a couple veterans at the job fair we had. We gave them a certificate for being veteran friendly and that opened the doors to the program that we have on the station called From Combat to the Streets.

“We come on (the news) at 6:30 a.m. and I’m telling you, we haven’t even opened the office when those phones are ringing off the hook that day.”

Building relationships

Rosario said membership success has also come through building relationships and volunteer efforts with other veteran organizations such as Team Rubicon, Mission Continues and Irreverent Warriors.

“We have to start giving exposure to this younger generation so we can step down and they can step in,” Rosario said.  

“I had one veteran ask ‘Why should I join The American Legion? What is in it for me?’ I said, ‘What is it that you want from The American Legion? Or what can you give to The American Legion? If you want to go back, our ancestors left us a legacy, and we have to continue with that legacy. And all these benefits (like the GI Bill) that you have right now is thanks to our ancestors that fought for all those benefits. We have to continue with that legacy. Do you want to lose all that? What about those coming behind you … what about your children, what about your grandkids. Now it’s up to you to continue that legacy.’”