The American Legion Magazine arrived in my mailbox today. As I looked at the cover, I briefly took pause, realizing that I have been a part of the Legion for 3 months now. This isn’t a long time, but in 3 months a lot has changed in my life, directly affected by my membership.
I became a part of a post that resides inside an amazing building, and somehow in this brief time I can state unequivocally that I’ve found a home. I’ve found a social home, starting friendships with whom I expect lifelong connections. I’ve found a service home, where creating positive experiences for other people is part of the mission. I’ve stumbled upon a networking home, collaborating with people who also have a history of getting things done.
They tell me that the Legion is in a membership decline, and this baffles me on two fronts. First, it is a very large organization, of which I have barely scratched the surface of understanding. Secondly, I’m not sure why anyone eligible wouldn’t want to join such a dynamic organization. I’d be shocked to learn that a person who has been introduced to the same experience that I was wouldn’t jump at joining.
To be fair, I was introduced to what I’m learning is a unique post. The building is amazing and the membership spans generations, not dominated by young or seasoned. There is a sense of tradition and history balanced by new ideas and energy. The combination seems to be working.
As I further reflect on my one-quarter-year membership, I think one testimony I’d give if asked “Why join?” would be the list of things I’ve done since joining.
• I attended an orientation before inducting and made some connections there.
• I was inducted with some people with whom I have continued to remain friends.
• I have been to (more than one) bar nights. Where comradery and networking happen.
• I joined the Media & Communications Committee.
• I started live streaming our meetings.
• A group of us represented the post on Fox Sports’ "College Football Show."
• I’ve attended comedy night, live music nights and karaoke night.
• I have proposed and was approved to start a new initiative.
• I helped do demo work in support of the construction.
• I walked with my post in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.
• I spent New Year's dressed up with new friends.
• I’ve worked with someone I met at the post on a non-Legion project.
• I’ve taken the online Basic Training course and earned my first pin.
• I’ve mentioned the bar, right??
• I’ve recruited for the Legion and Auxiliary and Sons to get new members.
• I wrote this article you’re reading!
I certainly don’t say any of this to brag, but rather to show that a LOT can be done in a short time at the post. My participation pales in comparison to the multitude of opportunities I was not able to participate in. People have started working to reach out to homeless veterans or cleaning up military monument sites. They plan all the activities I mentioned attending above. They work tirelessly planning, plotting and preparing for the future of the post. These opportunities will always outnumber a person’s ambitions.
The first step, in my opinion, for any new member to the American Legion family of organizations would be to do themselves a favor and get thee to the bar. Not only will you enjoy ridiculously affordable libations, but you’ll have an audience with people of similar experience. You can also learn things from people who have been around. Find members with the most jingly stuff on their hats, and introduce yourself. This is where I’ve done the most networking and learning about other’s people’s experiences. I’ve learned neat tricks, like how to get into the building with the access code. You could say that this is where I found the keys to my new home.