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2013-06-13 / News

Legion serves veterans, community, country

BY PAULA BARBEE
810-452-2647 • pbarbee@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC — Larry Nelson wants people to know that the American Legion is not just a bunch of old guys sitting around swapping war stories and having a beer.

And the website for The American Legion, proclaims on its home page “We Serve: Veterans, Community, Country.”

Tucked away off Grand Blanc Road behind NY NY Pizza, a lot of residents might not even know they are there. But like a lot of veteran’s organizations, the Legion has incorporated their post-service lives to the art of continuing to give.

The Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 and is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization. As a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness it mentors youth and sponsors various community programs, advocates patriotism and honor, promotes strong national security, and continued service to fellow service members and veterans.

According to Nelson, who is the adjutant of the local Post #413, they support many charities, including Relay For Life, the Special Olympics, and Toys-for-Tots. Additionally they also sponsor GBHS students in the Boys/Girls State American Legion Programs as well as students interested in a career in Law Enforcement thru the Student Trooper Program.

Like other veteran organizations, Nelson stated the Legion is facing the problem of declining membership and is very interested in reaching out to the younger veterans which are abundant from recent conflicts in the Middle East.

He said he hopes not only will they reach out to the Legion for support, but to enjoy some of it newer features they are using to connect with another generation.

“We’re the best kept secret in Grand Blanc,” Nelson jokes, more about their location than their activities. Some of the newer things they are introducing are Karaoke (in Sept.), and are currently experimenting with what is known as a ‘virtual jukebox’, which lets users with a smart phone, download an application and choose the music that is played wherever they are. Patrons can choose songs to add to the music line-up and up-vote or down-vote songs as they play — like being your own personal DJ.

Even though Nelson said there seems to be a cultural difference between the generations, he still feels they can “be there for each other” and encourages young veterans to check the Legion out. There are multiple benefits to members and their families, including scholarships and many other programs.

One example of this is the participation of Jon Bon Jovi, world reknown rock star and an American Legion New Jersey Boys State alumnus, who helped the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Innovation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launch Project REACH (real-time electronic access for caregivers and homeless) — which is a free, user-friendly web and smartphone app that would connect available resources, such as shelters, health clinics, employment, counseling services and food banks, to those experiencing homelessness.

One of the other programs that is very popular is Boys and Girls State which is touted as “Aweek that shapes a lifetime”, where high school juniors gather on a local campus for an education in municipal government.

The course helps students hone public speaking skills, have fun with sports and music as well as a working on the unique opportunity to construct local, county and state governments. Students learn how to run for office amd develop skills in leadership, public service and political experience overseen by local staff.

Beginning in September, The Legion will once again be running their weekly fish fry every Friday through April. If you feel you might find a home among likeminded veterans, Nelson hopes younger vetarans inclined to join will contact him at 810-348-7964 or golfnazi@comcast.net.

Details: Visit www.legion.org/.

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