This is an open invitation to any veteran who is a member of the American Legion Potter Post 192 to come to a regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month. We are not asking for you to do anything out of the ordinary. We’re just asking you to come to a meeting and observe. While you are there, take note of the ages of the officers that are there. We have nine elected post positions, but very rarely do we ever have all the officers there. Incidentally, in the past six months we were lucky if we had nine members total at the meeting; we have 338 members on the roster.

During the meeting, you should notice that all the staff members are “older.” The average age of the current staff is 68. The youngest staff member is our commander and he is 54. Most of these positions have been filled by the same persons for many years. Why? No one wants to step up and “fill their shoes.” No one wants to take on the responsibility.

We have a separate board of directors, made up of seven American Legion members. Guess what? All seven of these members are currently holding positions as a staff member in the American Legion. Why? No one wants to step up and “fill their shoes.” No one wants to take on the responsibility.

So what is this all about? We would like the younger veterans to step up, “fill our shoes,” get involved and help keep this Legion alive. By doing this, we also help keep the Department and National American Legion alive. In 2018, 25 of our comrades passed away at our Post alone. We also had another 26 members fail to pay their dues and were dropped from the rolls. We only enrolled 15 new members. And if 2019 follows along the same line, our number are going to decrease about the same. As you can see, if we don’t keep our membership enrollment up, it will not take long for this Post to close its doors.

Robert John is now our Department Commander and has hit the ground running. Commander John has adopted the motto for the 2020 membership year of “Back To The Basics” and that calling is what we intend to do.

Because together we make a difference. We served side by side in times of war; brothers and sisters in arms. Today we continue to serve our military, fellow veterans and their families. Membership in the American Legion offers many benefits that include involvement in community programs, a voice in Washington, D.C., investment in children’s activities, education and camaraderie. Of course, our main focus is for veteran’s rights and their families; which is why we continue to lobby in Washington for veterans, current service men and women, and Americanism. We might have said this before but it’s worth repeating, “The American Legion is the largest veteran’s organization.”

The American Legion provides life-changing assistance and guidance for veterans, military personnel, their families and communities in thousands of ways every day around the world. Help to those who need it come in the form of personal assistance, cash grants, donated goods, disaster relief, labor, networking, volunteerism and advocacy.

All we ask is that you try to get involved. We are always looking to make things better and that takes members with new insights and a willingness to step up and “fill our shoes.” If you can’t make a meeting, pitch in with recruitment of new members. The Legion Act was just passed and makes recruiting much easier. There are no more war eras. If a veteran has served honorably from Dec. 7, 1941 until present day, they they eligible to belong to the American Legion. You will be very surprised when you ask a veteran if they would like to join the American Legion and they respond with “nobody ever asked me!”

Won’t you please consider what we are asking here? This American Legion Post has done many wonderful things in this community and continues to do the same today and hopefully well into tomorrow. But it can only be accomplished if we all work together as comrades.

Ted Parsell, MCPO, USN, Retired is a member of the America Legion Potter Post 192 in Coudersport.