If anyone knows me, they know that I am a veteran of the U.S. Army. I am proud to tell anyone that asks. I also suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I am one of the lucky ones. I found someone who understands and recognizes when I am down and holds me when I need to be held. I am also blessed to live in Gonzales, where we have an American Legion Hall where other veterans gather to talk to each other, which helps because they understand.
Not everyone who has served has such support and love. Every day of the year 22 veterans commit suicide — 22 every single day of the year. This statistic includes all veterans of any war or armed conflict. That’s exactly why the American Legion was formed back in 1919. And that is exactly why we have in Gonzales a chapter of the American Legion.
It is very appropriate that the hall sits next to the high school and across the street from a grammar school. You see, the Legion is not only for the veterans who serve, but it is also dedicated to the youth that live within Gonzales. It’s not well known that there are many programs dedicated to the youth.
All male descendants, adopted sons and stepsons of members of the American Legion, and such male descendants of veterans who died in service during World War I or since Dec. 7, 1941, are welcome to become members. This is Sons of the American Legion. If there is any child that feels that they would enjoy the camaraderie of the Legion, you are welcome to call me any time and I or someone from the Gonzales Chapter will gladly assist you in your endeavor.
I don’t have enough room in this column to explain all the programs for the youth, but you are welcome to call me at home for more information. Or even better, ask for the date of the next meeting, and you will be welcome to attend.
When I joined the American Legion, I felt that I had made new friends who shared the trauma of battle. I can’t tell you how many members there were when I joined in 1991, but there are less today. I am a Vietnam vet. My beautiful wife encouraged me to join, and when she encourages, I usually do whatever she says.
My wife has joined the American Legion Auxiliary. Membership in the Auxiliary is limited to grandmothers, mothers, sisters, spouses, daughters, granddaughters and adopted daughters of either members of the American Legion or of all men and women who served in either of the following periods, April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and any time after Dec. 7, 1941, who served on active duty in the Armed Forces and died in the line of duty or after honorable discharge.
A woman who is eligible for American Legion membership is eligible to join the American Legion Auxiliary regardless of whether or not she is a member of the American Legion. However, eligibility of her female relatives (sister, mother, direct descendants) and/or spouse depends upon her membership in the American Legion.
I can tell you that our Auxiliary is very busy making up gift packages for serving military and their families, donating their time for the benefit of the Legion. Yesterday I was asked by Linda Guzman to assist the Auxiliary in filling boxes for Blue Star Moms. A Blue Star Mom is a mother of a serving member of the Armed Forces. Linda and her husband Paul Guzman, who is the commandant of the Tri-County American Legion Chapters, dedicate many hours each week to helping service members and our Legion. We are blessed to have them in our lives.
I was able to assist the effort yesterday. As I helped fill the boxes, I was suddenly struck with a very powerful memory of receiving such a package in the jungle of Vietnam. I can’t describe how it felt to know that someone would feel that they are remembered. I got pretty emotional remembering but felt like my help might make a person feel they are noticed.
One of the other benefits of having an American Legion chapter is that we have a wonderful hall that is used for meetings on a regular basis and for activities that do not always have to be Legion activities. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries or quinceañeras, whatever the occasion, you may rent the hall. My wife is poised to be the contact person if you are planning such an affair. I will tell you that the sooner you make contact, the better your chances are that the date will be available.
Don’t forget to wave the next time you drive by. You will almost always see the American Flag flying just outside the hall. When you bow your head to thank God for all His bounty during Thanksgiving, please don’t forget the ever vigilant soldiers and sailors that protect us also.