Service organizations in need of veterans

Veterans Day is around the corner and Randolph County never disappoints in showing its patriotic spirit to those who served and those who gave it all for the defense of the USA.

In a county of 2,400 veterans, it would seem that on these days it’s as if the whole county served. However, if a trend continues, the county will have to look into who will run the patriotic ceremonies.

The height of the American Legions membership in Randolph County was 1,400 in 1947 when future Governor W.W. Barron was the Post Commander. Even 18 years ago the membership was over 1,000.

However, since becoming a member of the American Legion Post 29, membership has declined to the 460 it currently sits at. Of the 460 members, 12 are active in holding offices and attending to the duties in the Honor Guard, and most of them are not young anymore. If the trend continues, there will not be a veterans organization left in this county within the next few years.

To many, the Post is just a bar and clubroom. To them I say, “Here, use my glasses, because you really don’t see all the good the American Legion does for Randolph County.”

Besides the donations we make every quarter to the Humane Society, Special Olympics, 4-H, Randolph County Cancer Support Group, Boy Scouts, Hillbilly Hardball Classic and other community organizations, the American Legion holds contests for those who wish to become public speakers, sending upward of 20 juniors in high school to Boys State to learn about government and Americanism, we donate flags to schools that request them and members go to these schools and teach flag folding.

On many patriotic holidays, dedicated Legionnaires wake up early and put out flags on Davis Avenue and Third Street. The mayor’s office has called out on social media multiple times about how he has received many compliments about how great it makes downtown Elkins look.

During the holidays, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the American Legion put together Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for families in need.

The Veterans Day parade that the American Legion and V.F.W. help plan and participate in, by not only marching in the parade but also finding veterans in the nursing homes and having them ride through the parade, is something else that veterans spend many hours planning and help put together. But most importantly, the ceremonies at the All Veterans Memorial.

But let’s picture if you will, membership in the veteran’s organizations in the county dropping to the point the organizations have to fold and close their doors. This would have dire consequences not only for the community, but for the state and nation. If the military doesn’t send one, no more honor guards to be able to perform the final salute for veterans and give closure to the families. No flags out on the streets for the patriotic holidays. No longer would we have those to honor for their service and have the parade through Elkins that has become popular these last few years.

If younger veterans in Randolph County and this country do not pick up the torch to continue the fight, not only to honor themselves and those who came before us, but also those who will come after us, looking up to a past generation for guidance and help, then I truly worry for the future of veterans and those who support us.

I write this because at 22, I’m the youngest commander of an American Legion Post and I enjoy the company of veterans. But I understand that without the American Legion, V.F.W., and D.A.V., it’s a lot harder for veteran concerns to be heard nationally.

While having smaller veteran service organizations are great for the community, they do not have the influence that larger groups have.

That’s why I believe this generation of veterans need to join the American Legion, because the Vietnam-era veterans have fought Congress to get their benefits, they want to teach us what they know so we can continue the fight for those veterans that commit suicide every day, for the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the continuing fight for the VA improvement and for the GI Bill benefits.

Donnie Lambert

Commander, American Legion Post 29