The American Legion exists to help veterans, and recent budget debates have made that mission more difficult, the organization’s national commander said.
Dan Dellinger, the top officer of the American Legion, spoke at Post 17 in Manhattan Wednesday morning. Dellinger said the organization offers crucial services to veterans and they need help from Congress to continue those services.
“We’re going to have 1.2 million men and women reintegrating into civilian life,” Dellinger said. “And we need to be there for them.”
Dellinger, who is visiting several posts throughout Kansas, said it was frustrating to watch the events leading up to and including the federal government shutdown earlier this recently. Dellinger traveled near the Grand Canyon during the shutdown and noted that the hotels near the park had few guests.
“People are suffering, but Congress doesn’t get it,” he said.
Dellinger also was at the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. during the shutdown when a veteran came to the memorial in a wheelchair. He said he watched a member of a camera crew and a Legionnaire cut the lines blocking the memorial and let the veteran into the memorial.
Dellinger said this is only one way the Legion helps vets. The signature wounds of veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, and he said the Legion advocates alternative treatment such as companion dogs or other methods instead of immediately treating with pills.
“It’s more than bullets,” he said. “It’s the 50 years after that.”
Dellinger also encouraged Legion members to continue their involvement in the community, such as with the Legion baseball program. He said sponsors of Boy Scout troops in some areas have cut ties following the decision to allow for openly gay scouts, and this leaves a hole that the Legion may be able to fill.
“When you look at the founders, it was all about God and country,” Dellinger said. “And that’s what we will continue to do.”