The state commander of the American Legion visited the borough during a tour of the state.
Three representatives of the American Legion’s New York State leadership visited the Throggs Neck American Legion Post #1456 and Fort Schuyler at SUNY Maritime College, and attended the Bronx Military Ball, on Friday, November 4.
John Sampson, a U.S. Navy veteran who is serving a one-year tour as the state American Legion commander, came with Jonathan Bruce Ruthvan, statewide commander of the Sons of the American Legion and Deborah Kryczkowski, the statewide legion auxiliary president.
Local legionaries had a positive reaction to the ideas of the state officials they helped to select on how best to grow and promote the organization.
Sampson said that his goals during his one-year term that began in July are to improve public relations efforts to highlight the many fundraising and volunteer efforts 880 active chapters in the state work on to the benefit of their communities.
“What they do in their communities surprised me,” said Sampson about visiting American Legion groups, adding “They seem to be the first ones to jump up and volunteer.”
He believes that better communication and public relations highlighting the work legionnaires do would bolster membership.
The state commander said he also wants to reach out to younger people and to communicate with them in ways that they are comfortable with.
Kryczkowski said that the auxiliary statewide is working on a peer-to-peer grief-consulting program called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors for the families of veterans or military personnel who have committed suicide. She said that about 22 veterans or military members are suicide victims every day.
Ruthven said he is committed to increasing membership in the Sons of American Legion, a group for the descendants of veterans.
Henry Pang with Riverdale Memorial Post #1525 said that he recently helped Irwin Post #774 in Kingsbridge to better report their good work – from community lunches and volunteering at the VA – to the NYS American Legion’s consolidated report.
Such reporting is key for public relations efforts that support membership, particularly among younger Iraq and Afgan war veterans that the legion needs to attract, he said.
Bringing in younger service members can be challenging because many are focused on their careers and starting families, and feel that they don’t have time to volunteer.
“The bottom line is the younger people have children to raise, so their time is limited,” said Pang.
Joe Goonan of the City Island’s Hawkins American Legion Post #156, a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Reserve, said he believes that communications has been an issue for years, even on the national level.
The American Legion has initiatives underway to increase brand awareness, he said.
He also said the number of veteran suicides is unacceptable, and if these vets were members of the American Legion, they would have had the organizatons’ support services available.