Chasing Pins & Caps

I think a really important question each and every Legionnaire, rather, every person who volunteers, needs to ask themselves right at this moment is “why?” Why are you here? Why are you volunteering?

At some point, regardless of where you sit now or how long you have been sitting there, you had a reason to act. Something pulled at your heart strings or lit a fire in your belly that made you raise your hand and say, “I’ll do it,” whether it was joining the American Legion (or any other group) or deciding to become active a group you were already a part of.

You were possibly some version of me, passionate and fired up. I picture you sitting in a Legion Meeting, ideas racing around in your head, trying to make sense of them, barely noticing that your feet have started bouncing, almost like they’re ready to propel you out of your chair into action right then and there. Can you see it? That was me. Heck, who am I kidding, that IS me. Right now. I think even as I was sitting here trying to gather my thoughts for this post, I was doing that exact thing.

The American Legion FIRES ME UP! Ask any of my fellow Legionnaires: Right, Karl, Paul, David, Jim?Now that you have that picture, think about why. Why were you so fired up? What was it that lit that fire? Can you think of it? Mine is there, every day. There is work to do and a lot of it. Work that I wasn’t able to do because I couldn’t stay in the service, so I’m doing it now. Our fellow veterans, our shipmates, our brothers and sisters need us. It is my duty to do my part. Do you feel that too?

So now I ask, is that still you? Do you still get fired up thinking about all of the good we, as a post, a district, a department or organization can do? If you don’t, remember that feeling you had when you first got involved. Harness that feeling and carry it with you each and every day.

It’s not about the pins or the caps. Pins and caps, to me, represent knowledge. Knowledge that I try to absorb each time I interact with a Legionnaire. So much knowledge, information, and experience are held with those pins and caps, it is our duty, especially that of a “green” Legionnaire, to seek it, to learn the history and traditions, to understand it. (I say green Legionnaire because it’s not about age, it’s about experience within the Legion). And it is the job of the pins and caps to seek out the Legionnaire like me with so little Legion experience and TEACH ME! Show me the ropes, explain to me why things are done this way, educate me!

Think about this, if we all took off our pins and caps, what’s left? You and me. And what are we? We’re veterans. We swore an oath to service this great nation. We finished our time in service. We chose to continue to serve by joining The American Legion. We’re not so different. Someday, Legionnaires like me will be the Legionnaires with pins and caps. We’ll be the ones with the knowledge and experience. And there will be another group of “green” Legionnaires like me who are fired up and want to make a difference. This is cycle of how our organization will continue. Teaching, guiding, molding, shaping.

Don’t chase the pins and caps. Chase the information and experience and then make a point to share it.

Remember why you’re here. Remember that we are all veterans who want to do more because there is a hell of a lot of work to be done.

Whew… I will now remove myself from the soap box!


An Introduction

I’m not done yet.

Service is a gift that each of us gives to the world, one that makes us human and gives our lives true meaning. Every one of us who serves has a WHY, a deep-seated purpose, cause, or belief that is the source of our passion and inspiration. So why do I continue to serve?

I am both an American Legion & American Legion Auxiliary Member. I serve as the Commander of my Legion Post as well as the Communications Chair for the Wisconsin American Legion.  After only two short years in the Navy, I was medically discharged for injuring my back. For someone who planned to make a career out of my military service, I live with the feeling that I did not do enough, that I was “not done yet.” Becoming involved in The American Legion has given me the chance to do more, to keep going, to make a difference, even with things as small as a five minute conversation with a fellow Veteran, spending a day in Milwaukee helping Veterans get free testing for Hepatitis C, or driving an hour to help a short-handed Post out with a funeral detail.

A few months ago, I spent the day at a volunteer event with an American Legion member, who has had a rough time as of late. We spent our time talking, sharing stories and, at the end of our day, he thanked me for talking to him, allowing him to get his mind off of everything going on in his life. A simple conversation to me meant the world to him. This is why I serve and why I will continue to do so. I’m not done yet.

As much as I feel I need to continue to serve, I know that I need the Legion just as much, if not more than it needs me. The struggles I have encountered trying to find where I fit ended the moment I walked into my very first Legion event. I’m surrounded by my fellow veterans, those who just “get it” without explanation, without question. This is more than just an organization to me. It’s my family and each and every time I am surrounded by my fellow legionnaires, I’m home.

For those of you who did not serve in the military, the support you provide to veterans throughout your communities is immeasurable.  Whether it’s volunteering at an event, buying a poppy, or taking a few minutes to chat with a veteran, your efforts do not go unnoticed and truly do make a significant impact.

If you are an eligible veteran, consider joining our American Legion Post, or any Veteran Service Organization.  You can be active or inactive.  Help with one event or none.  Simply being a member of The American Legion helps our collective voice to be heard. Never think that your inability to participate discounts the value of your membership.  Each and every member within each and every Veterans Service Organization counts no matter of the level of participation.