This is the story of why I became a life member of The American Legion. My story of membership is just like the majority of most Legionnaires. I had a membership but was not active whatsoever. My post activities included a quick glance at the monthly emailed newsletter before I clicked delete. That was the extent of my involvement.
This all changed on July 3, 2017. I strolled into a career center in Madison, Fla., broke, homeless and looking for a job. The career counselor asked me a series of questions including my address. I told her I didn't have an address. She asked me where I was living and I told her my car. She then proceeded to make some phone calls. She stated there were additional resources at her disposal to help me.
Within an hour a man by the name of Jerry Chandler, who is the veterans representative for the career center, shows up. He asked me some questions, one of which was if I was a member of The American Legion. I said yes and he asked to see my card. Among the myriad organizations to which I belong, I find it interesting that the only membership card in my wallet was my American Legion card.
He looked at it and said, "Good, you paid your dues." It turns out Jerry was the local commander of the American Legion post. I was a member of a post in another city. He said there were great resources to help me get back on my feet. Jerry called another Legionnaire from his post to come and assist me. They put me up in a hotel for three days until I could meet with counselors and advisors who offered temporary housing while I found a job.
I never knew that The American Legion, the very organization which my grandfather was a member his entire life, did so much for veterans. Stuart contacted me the day after my first night in the hotel and told me to call the Vet Center in Tallahassee so they could get housing arranged for me. After our phone call Stuart sent me a text saying, "Just remember it's a hand up, not a handout. Remember your training and always move forward." I will remember Stuart and will pay it forward.
Stuart and Jerry are both Air Force veterans and exemplify the very definition of being a wingman. They should be commended for going above and beyond for veterans in their local community. I look forward to being a staunch advocate every day for this organization. In closing I just want to say to all the Legionnaires reading this article, PAY YOUR DUES. You may be saving the life of a fellow vet.