More than 70 people showed up at the American Legion Post 21 in McMinnville to welcome the organization’s National Commander. Brett Reistad took the time to reflect on the 100 year anniversary of the Legion. Among it’s achievements, the organization was instrumental in promoting legislation to begin the federal government department that later became the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Reistad says one of today’s challenge is retaining and recruiting new members. Due to their advanced ages, World War Two era Legionaries are passing away. That group represented a third of the membership, so the Legion is on a quest to shore up their numbers.
The National Organization is encouraging local chapters to both retain and recruit new members. The Legion has created “Team 100”, an effort to recruit new members. At one point this year, The American Legion was 80-thousand members less than a year before. The legion has started some efforts to push recruiting.
For each state organization that achieves 100 percent of their retention goal, the national American Legion will pay 2500 dollars. If they make 105 percent of goal, there is an additional five thousand dollar payment. A special commemorative hat pin is given to the member who brings in three new members or helps retain six members.
Reistad is encouraging local chapters to reach out to their local communities, possibly holding open houses and better telling the story of the Legion in local communities. He says one of the challenges is that the organization does not have the word “veteran” in their name, so most people don’t know it’s a veterans organization.
Congress has approved “first strike” precious metal commemorative coins to be publicly sold for five dollars each, and the money going to the American Legion operations and charities. Reistad estimates the Legion could make up to nine million dollars through coin sales. There will be three separate designed coins.
Reistad says the American Legion supports 3600 veterans services officers to help veterans around the world, more than any other veterans organization.
Reistad hopes to see the Blue Water Navy act to be passed in this session of Congress. It was passed by the House of Representatives in the 115 session of Congress, but died in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. It would allow Vietnam veterans who served off the coast of southeast Asia to be eligible for Agent Orange benefits. Many veterans believe off shore navy members were exposed to the defoliant as well as ground troops, and are also suffering medical challenges.
Today, the American Legion is providing financial assistance to Coast Guard members rank E5 and below who are having trouble because of the government shutdown. Reistad is asking for financial support. The Legion has received a thousand applications for support. In fact, the Virginia American Legion Department shut down for regular business so they could help Coast Guard workers struggling to make ends meet.
Reistad spent an hour and a half touring the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, said he was impressed by the Spruce Goose and all the exhibits and hopes to return for another visit.
FIRST STRIKE COINS
information provided by the American Legion
U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder, the son of two veterans, unveiled before thousands of American Legion members Wednesday the designs of three commemorative coins that go on sale next March to honor the organization’s 100th anniversary.
“Every day across the nation, the Mint connects America through coins,” Ryder said. “And next year, it will be our great privilege to connect America to the legacy of the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.”
Sales of a $5 gold piece, a silver dollar and a clad half-dollar honoring The American Legion’s legacy stand to raise up to $9.5 million for the organization’s programs and services, Ryder said.
The coin required congressional action. On Oct. 6, 2017, Congress passed Public Law 115-65 allowing the Mint to strike and issue 50,000 of the gold coins, 400,000 of the silver dollars and 750,000 of the half-dollars.
The gold pieces feature on the heads side the Eiffel Tower, a V for victory in World War I, the engraved word LIBERTY and the years 1919 – 2019 encircled by the outer ring of an American Legion emblem, recognizing the organization’s founding in Paris after the armistice that ended the Great War. On the tails side of the $5 coin, a soaring bald eagle is depicted, along with a sculpted American Legion emblem.
The silver dollar shows on the heads side the Legion emblem surrounded by oak leaves and a lily, commemorating the Legion’s founding in Paris. The reverse side has crossed U.S. and American Legion flags under a fleur-de-lis and the dates 1919 and 2019 and the inscription 100 YEARS OF SERVICE.
The half-dollar has on its heads side two children, one of whom is wearing her dad’s Legion cap, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The reverse continues the pledge with …OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA with a billowing U.S. flag and Legion emblem above the inscription.
The coins are scheduled to go on sale around the time of the Legion’s birthday in March 2019. To be added to the mailing list for updates, visit www.legion.org/coin. For ordering information, prices and other information as it becomes available from the Mint, visit www.usmint.gov.
“Since the beginning of the commemorative coin program in 1992, the U.S. Mint has raised more than $506 million to help preserve or enhance museums, preserve historical sites and support important national programs,” Ryder said. “If we sell this program out, it should raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $9.5 million for the organization.”
Ryder said that over 36 percent of the U.S. Mint’s 1,700 employees are military veterans. “Since our institution’s founding in 1792, the men and women of the United States Mint have taken great pride in rendering the story of our nation in enduring examples of numismatic art,” he said. “To hold a coin or medal produced by the U.S. Mint is to connect to the founding principles of our nation and the making of our economy.”
The commemorative coins were designed through the Artist Infusion program and U.S. Mint sculptors and engravers, in consultation with The American Legion, the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts.