The Nation’s Largest Veterans Organization Looks Ahead to Community Coronavirus Recovery Efforts, New Congress & Family Assistance
The American Legion was founded during a global pandemic and has responded to the current COVID-19 crisis in a manner that would have made the original Legionnaires of 1919 proud. Throughout the national emergency, American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford has continued to lead the nation’s largest veterans organization as many American Legion posts have endured shutdowns while stepping up their responses to the needs of veterans and their local communities.
“It was hard for a close-knit family such as The American Legion to socially distance but veterans know how to adapt and overcome,” Oxford said. “Early on we had posts provide personal protective equipment to frontine workers when it was still in short supply. Other posts organized food and relief drives in their parking lots. We have held virtual job fairs for veterans and spouses, along with blood donation drives. We have continued to testify before congressional committees, meet with the Department of Veterans Affairs and communicate with the White House on the pressing issues facing our nation’s veterans. We are committed to improving the lives of those who already sacrificed so much for this nation. America has endured wars and depression during our history. I firmly believe we will come out of this challenging period stronger than ever.”
Among issues that The American Legion has focused on:
- Suicide Prevention. It is estimated that more than 20 veterans a day take their own lives. The American Legion has stepped up its “Buddy Check” program and encourages all American Legion Family members to reach out to veterans that may feel isolated – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Recovery. Since its founding, The American Legion has been nonpartisan while encouraging all veterans to exercise their right to vote. The American Legion is committed to a strong and productive working relationship with the 117th Congress and the executive branch as America recovers from the harm inflicted by the coronavirus.
- Transition. The economic downtown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made this a particularly challenging time for transitioning military veterans to enter the job market. The American Legion will continue to assist veterans who are seeking employment, business loans or other career opportunities.
- Families. The American Legion Veterans & Children’s Foundation provides financial grants to Legionnaires and other eligible active-duty veterans with young children at home who need assistance paying for shelter, food, utilities and health care due to temporary economic hardships.
- Education. The American Legion created the original GI Bill and continues to advocate for the educational needs of veterans and their families. The American Legion Family raises funds and awards millions of dollars annually in scholarships so young people can achieve their educational goals.
- Benefits for veterans. The pandemic has stretched VA resources. Moreover, many veterans have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to other illnesses or conditions incurred as a result of military service. The implementation of the MISSION Act would be a monumental challenge in the best of times. Through tele-health and other innovations, The American Legion is committed to ensuring that VA delivers the best health care possible for America’s veterans.
- Remembering the Forgotten. Seventy years ago Americans were engaged in a bloody war on the Korean peninsula. Nearly 34,000 U.S. servicemembers died in combat. Many of the surviving veterans believe the war was not given the historical recognition that it was due. The American Legion will never forget their sacrifice and encourages all Americans to reflect on the freedom that was brought to millions of people and the price that was paid.
- Membership. Recent legislation has made it possible for more than 4 million additional veterans to join The American Legion.
- Our Four Pillars. For 101 years, The American Legion has focused on service to America through the organization’s four founding pillars of a strong national defense, the wellbeing of veterans, patriotic youth programs and Americanism. This was true before the current national emergency and continues to be true during the emergency. The American Legion is committed to continuing that service long after the emergency ends.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization with nearly two million members and more than 12,000 posts worldwide. Legionnaires are involved in community-based support of veterans, servicemembers and their families. The American Legion is strongly committed to helping veterans and military families with its outreach programs and lobbying efforts, as a new generation of returning veterans reintegrate into the community.
For more information go to: www.legion.org
ABOUT BILL OXFORD
Vietnam War veteran James W. “Bill” Oxford was elected national commander of the nearly 2 million-member American Legion on August 29, 2019 in Indianapolis, during the organization’s 101st national convention. He has been a member of the nation’s largest veterans organization since 1986.
A native of Lenoir, N.C., Oxford is a paid-up-for- life member and past commander of Post 29 in Lenoir. He served as department (state) commander of the North Carolina American Legion from 2010 to 2011. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Oxford was an aviation electronic technician for the A-6 Intruder and served in Vietnam during his initial enlistment. After being discharged as a sergeant in 1970, Oxford joined the North Carolina National Guard. He subsequently attended officer’s candidate school and transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve, where he ultimately retired as a colonel after more than 34 years of military service.
An active volunteer with several organizations, Oxford is a member of Masonic lodge-York and Scottish Rite. His theme as national commander of The American Legion is “a foundation for the future,” as the organization advances through its second century of service.