I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Evan Thompson who is not only the district commander for the American Legion but also our Post 82 commander at the local region chapter in Shelby North Carolina. I have the honor of being the judge advocate general and Evan is also my father-in-law.
It was the American Legions 98th birthday on the 15th of March 2017.
ET: We had our American Legion meeting to celebrate the 98th birthday of the Legion, and we also honored our women’s veterans as it is women’s veteran’s month.
GM: Women can now serve in combat on the front lines and in any area of the service.
ET: Many people do not know that women served in the revolutionary war and in the civil war. How they did it was they cut off their hair and dressed up as men because they were so passionate about what was going on. They ended up serving and fooled people for a while I’m sure, but today we’re talking about the American Legion and the many programs available because people need to know that we are not an organization that just sits around in our blue caps and does nothing.
First, I’d like to talk about our American Legion auxiliary. That’s not a program of the American Legion but they are a part of the American Legion family. The American Legion auxiliary consists of all the ladies who have ties to veterans. It can be through their husbands, fathers, or grandfathers and that will make them eligible to be part of the auxiliary.
GM: I wonder with so many women veterans, can their husband be a member of the auxiliary?
ET: No. Maybe one day, but not now. The auxiliary does a lot to help our post and also to help veterans on their own. Another part of the American Legion family are the American Legion Riders and we are currently in the process of creating an American Legion Riders chapter.
GM: That will be a biker’s club within the American Legion which will do fundraising.
ET: They raise millions of dollars every year, and they fund the legacy scholarship and a nursing scholarship.
The very first American Legion program that everyone in this area is familiar with is baseball. That is one of the biggest programs in the American Legion and serves the youth of the community and the nation. We are fortunate to host the American Legion World Series in Shelby North Carolina and we will have it for some time to come.
GM: It is a nice stadium too.
ET: The baseball program started in 1926 and since that time it has grown and grown. It promotes citizenship and sportsmanship throughout the nation and applies to these young men and boys. Before every ball game they recite an oath of sportsmanship and citizenship. Many professional baseball players played American Legion baseball. You’ve got to be good to play legion ball.
Another program that we’re really proud of is Boys State. In fact, your son, my grandson is going to be a delegate to the North Carolina Boys State which takes place June 18th through June 25th in Salisbury North Carolina at Catawba College.
So, what is Boys State? It is a program that teaches young men about government and how democracy works. During that week they are immersed in studying the government. They elect senators, they elect a governor and mayors of various cities because they are broken down into cities and the cities compete against each other.
This is not a political thing. Some people think this is political but it’s not. American Legion is apolitical which means we don’t support any particular candidate or party. Boys State is a tremendous program. If you go to a military academy it can really help you in your entrance to that academy, and looks good on any college application.
GM: My wife told me Michael Jordan went to Boys State.
ET: Michael Jordan did go to Boys State.
GM: Are you kidding me?
ET: I’m not kidding you. Michael Jordan went to Boys State, George Bush went to Boys State.
GM: It teaches how to run a government, the functioning of government and regardless of your politics you have to able to function within government, how to govern people and procedure.
ET: That’s right, they select a supreme court as well and have mock court. It is a great experience for a young man. At the end of the Boys State program, they select two young men to go to Boys Nation, and they will go to Washington D.C and spend another week immersed in federal government. They have to be at the top of their class in State but it is a really great experience. I wish I could have gone to something like that but I didn’t even know about it, however, one of my class mates who went to the Naval academy went to Boys State and he said it helped him tremendously and was one of the best experiences he ever had.
GM: Regardless if you want to go into politics, join the working government or become an attorney, it is a great experience.
ET: It helps you become a much better informed citizen.
GM: If you want to learn more you can go to ncboysstate.org.
ET: Another American Legion program is Operation Comfort Warriors. This is a program designed by the American Legion to assist soldiers who were either hurt in combat or have had some kind of medical issue. When they go into a hospital, usually they are away from home and the hospital doesn’t have the finances to provide everything that soldier needs, such as comfort items, recreation items, so the American Legion put together this program. Throughout the year they constantly put together comfort and recreational items for soldiers experiencing a medical difficulty, and that is nationwide. It is a great program and a lot of money has been put into it. Every dollar that is donated to Operation Comfort Warriors goes to those soldiers, there are no administrative costs associated with it, the Legion takes out nothing. So if you have a fund raiser and donate the money to Operation Comfort Warriors, all the money goes to the soldiers.
That brings me to a program called the National Emergency Fund. That was used quite recently on the coast of North Carolina when the hurricane came through and devastated all those houses, and helped in hurricane Katrina.
The American Legion provides funds to veterans and even to the American Legion Posts who got flooded out in a recent hurricane. All the funds donated to a fund go directly to the fund intended and are used to assist in times of disaster.
The current department Chaplain said that when he first became a Legion member, his house got flooded from a hurricane and someone told him he should apply for aid, and he said he had only been in the Legion a couple of months and had given nothing to them except a twenty dollar membership fee, but he was encouraged to apply and right away got a check for fifteen hundred dollars. He said afterwards he felt he wanted to pay back the Legion and is now the department Chaplain of the North Carolina American Legion.
A program our post really pushes is the High School Oratorical Contest. This is what that consists of; any high school student who prepares an eight to ten-minute oration about the constitution or some area of the constitution, and gives this presentation in front of the American Legion Post in their area and win the competition there, go forward to a district contest where all the post winners from the district compete and a district winner is selected. That winner then goes to the division level. If you win the division level, you go to the state competition. In the state competition there are five divisions in the state, so five individuals competing to win the North Carolina Oratorical Contest. If you win that level, you go to the national contest. Last year we had a young man called Gabe Turner go all the way to the national competition level.
You have to prepare those orations and then you do a three to five minute presentation on one of the amendments to the constitution. That is a fine program and is very competitive but the winner of the national competition gets an eighteen thousand dollar scholarship ($18,000). If you come in second, I believe it is a sixteen thousand dollar scholarship ($16,000), and third place gets a fourteen thousand dollar scholarship ($14,000).
It is well worth doing and we need a lot more people to get involved in it.
GM: I have been lucky enough to be a judge at the local level a couple of times.
ET: That’s right. We have another program which is not very well known, it’s called Temporary Financial Assistance. There is a lot of requirements in order to qualify for this program. Let’s say a veteran gets in a real financial bind, and it does have to be a veteran, maybe they can’t pay the rent or electric bills or whatever, they can apply to the American Legion for Temporary Financial Assistance. The qualifications are: 1- there must be a child in the house, because it is geared around the idea that we are trying to take care of youth. 2- You must have tried every other avenue for financial assistance before the American Legion will qualify you for any financial assistance.
Other programs that you as an American Legion member can be involved in, quite often when people join the American Legion, they say what’s in it for me? When you join the American Legion, you should have the attitude of, what can I do for another veteran. We really need to push that concept because it is so important.
What do members get for paying their Legion dues? They get the opportunity to give back to other veterans, to the community and to the youth.
One really good program is a discount program for Legion members. Another part of the American Legion family is called Sons of the American Legion. We don’t have a Sons of the American Legion chapter associated with our post but many posts do. Some of these benefits are available to the auxiliary as well.
GM: You can get discounts on travel and lodging, Best Westerns.
ET: Moving and relocation and veteran’s holidays. What that means for you is, you have to search for availability, if you don’t do that it can cost you a little more but typically you can go to a resort for seven days and nights for a total of $349 to $369 dollars. If you don’t use it, that same resort can cost anywhere from $700 to $2000 depending upon the amenities available.
GM: The Wyndham Hotel Group is part of that too.
ET: Wyndham has beautiful facilities. There is another program called the Legion Insurance Trust where every member of the American Legion is given a free one thousand dollar ($1000) accidental death policy.
That is most of the programs that we associate ourselves with.
GM: So there is a ton of advantages to joining the American Legion, and they do a lot of charitable work.
ET: Absolutely. We also have members who are in nursing homes who we visit and get them Christmas gifts every year and we participate in the local Christmas parade to get people to be aware that we exist. On April 9th there is a military extravaganza at Shelby high school from 1pm and go through out the rest of the day and into the night, everyone should be aware of that if you are a veteran. There is a free concert, speakers, a celebration and a multitude of activities. There will be a big escort by the Sheriff’s Department of veterans from downtown to Shelby high.
GM: If people are interested in joining the American Legion what do they do?
ET: There are all kinds of ways to do that. If you have questions you can call me, my number is 704-600-6075 and I will be glad to help with membership or with your questions. You can also visit our post on meeting nights and have an idea of what we do. We meet on the second Monday night of each month and our post is located at 1628 South Lafayette Street in Shelby.
There is a post in Kings Mountain, Henrietta, Forest City and that post is up nearer Rutherfordton, and in Chimney Rock. I believe Cleveland County has over eight thousand veterans and currently our post membership is around two hundred and forty, so we would love to have you a part of American Legion Post 82, and at every meeting we have a meal for five dollars.
GM: I would love to see the younger guys joining the Legion.
ET: That’s right, we need the younger veterans because the American Legion members are slowly dying out. It is not being rejuvenated at the pace it ought to be. The last information I had was we may drop below two million members this year.
GM: If you are coming out of the military and trying to figure out civilian work, come to the American Legion and figure it out. Thank you Evan talking with me about the American Legion.
ET: You are welcome.
If you have any questions you can contact my office at 704–259–7040.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150