Dignitaries of the American Legion descended on Little Falls for their yearly visit to Herkimer County last Thursday.

by Dave Warner

On Thursday, the Little Falls American Legion hosted state-wide Legion dignitaries, first at a luncheon event, and then an evening dinner at the Travelodge for over 90 members during their yearly visit to Herkimer County.

Linda S. Tome, American Legion Auxiliary Department of New York said, “We’ve already gone to 1st, 2nd 4th and 10th district.” There are ten total districts in the state.

While here, the group was given tours of the Vietnam Veteran’s Display at the Little Falls Historical Society and other locations in Little Falls. “Tonight we’ll talk about what’s been going on this year and the projects that we’re involved in.”

“I love going to all the different posts and meeting all the Veterans and hearing what they do,” said Tome.

Michael H. McDermott, Commander of The American Legion, Department of New York said, “We have to visit all 62 counties. You talk to people and you hear different stories and the important thing is that you are getting information directly from the people. It’s not a piece of paper you are reading in Albany.”

“It’s a wonderful experience and I never thought it would happen to me. It’s once in a lifetime, for sure,” he said.

The information that is gathered on the trip, is then brought back to Albany to be analyzed. “We have a big convention in mid-winter in Albany and we discuss these things,” said McDermott.

Enrollment in the American Legion has been declining in recent years because of the deaths of the millions of World War II Veterans that were members of the organization. “Even the Korean Vets, and now the Vietnam Veterans, are leaving us too soon.”

Congress sets the rules as to who can belong to the American Legion, and an act was just passed called the Legion Act. It says that anyone from World War II up through the war in Afghanistan is now eligible for membership in the American Legion. “For a while there, it was only World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. Now we’re reaching out to all the others who have been included,” McDermott said.

“Ones who went into the first Gulf War are starting to join now because the first thing that happened when they came back was that they needed a job, then they were raising a family, going to college and joining the American Legion wasn’t a priority for them,” he said.

McDermott says that the camaraderie that you experience in the Legion is one of the important aspects for Veterans to know about. “People don’t realize that once you are in the service, those guys are your brothers and sisters and your own blood because they had your back and you had theirs.”

He says that after all those commitments, you start to miss that kind of spirit. “It’s not all war stories,” he said. “We’re trying to make it a family experience and bring the kids back in. My six kids are all in the Legion.”

He says a lot of the things that the Legion does are not known in the community, from youth programs to scholarships. “There are programs everywhere and I wish we could get the word out about that,” McDermott said.

Dennis A. George, who is Commandeer of the Sons of The Amerian Legion said, “We have 30,000 members in The Sons of The American Legion in the state and it’s important for them to know what we think should be done for our Veterans and their families.”

“I also want to hear from them. This is their time to brag to me and it’s my time to brag about them. We have a hard-working organization and I really want them to know that we appreciate them,” said George.