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State American Legion Commander visits north country

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LISBON — State American Legion officers traveled from Albany on Friday to meet St. Lawrence County legionnaires to discuss the future of the 94-year-old veterans’ organization.

New York State Commander Kenneth F. Governor said the organization, open to men and women who have served in the armed forces, is more relevant today with more veterans returning home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“When veterans come home they are first concerned about getting a job and their family,” Mr. Governor said. “But we want them to know we are here to help with benefits and job placement. These are things we do for free because we’ve been there, and we speak the same language.”

Mr. Governor said the Legion, which worked to establish the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act — or G.I. Bill — of 1944, still has more work to do. A current goal of the organization, Mr. Governor said, is making sure that skills and experience acquired on the battlefield are transferable to civilian life.

“If you are trained in heavy equipment and have experience doing that in war zones you are more than qualified to do that in the States,” Mr. Governor said. “Soldiers should not have to retrain and apply for more licenses, which further delays employment.”

The American Legion was the first to call attention to the backlog of close to a million veterans benefits claims with the Veterans Affairs Office, Mr. Governor said.

“Many people do not know that,” he said. “It’s not just medical issues we are working towards but also education benefits. We’re continuing to put pressure on state and federal officials to make sure the backlog is taken care of.”

Mr. Governor said the Legion also supports a Flag Desecration Amendment and stopping illegal immigration.

“We believe that the flag should be protected so that children can learn to respect it,” Mr. Governor said.

The organizations latest success is has been to secure benefits for veterans’ spouses.

“We believe it eases the burden on our soldiers,” Mr. Governor said.

Mr. Governor said the American Legion is the largest veterans’ organization in the country, made up of more than 2.5 million members nationally. In New York State, there are more than 130,000 legionnaires in more than 950 local posts, and doesn’t show signs of dissipating almost a century after it was formed.

“This is our way of continuing our service to our country,” Mr. Governor said.

Information about veterans’ benefits can be found on the state’s American Legion website: www.ny.legion.org.

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