Published Sunday, January 27, 2013
By JOHN A. WINTERS
The national commander of the American Legion was in Newnan Saturday promoting Operation Comfort Warriors.
It is the first time a national commander has visited the local American Legion Post 57, and dignitaries from across the state were on hand.
Operation Comfort Warriors is a program pushed by National Commander James Koutz dedicated to providing wounded, injured or ill military personnel with comfort items not usually supplied by the government. Items range from clothes to iPods for individuals, to large items like ping pong tables and drum sets for common areas.
“We cannot do it without your help,” Koutz told the packed audience. “And that means donations. Every cent out of your pocket goes to these soldiers.”
Earlier this month, the Legion’s project donated more than $4,500 in electronic equipment to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. More than $30,000 has been given out in January alone throughout the country.
“Our goal is to provide our wounded soldiers with whatever they need,” Koutz said. “The American Legion is there to help.”
The commander also pushed for the Legion to work on increasing membership, saying that has declined in the last few years. Currently, the Legion has 2.4 million members, and is holding to reach its 100th anniversary goal — in 2019 — of 3.3 million.
“We need to knock on doors. We need to advertise in the media about the incredible things we are doing,” he said.
One way to help is the “Adopt A Vet” program, where current members pay the dues for other veterans who are in nursing homes or hospitals or just can’t afford it.
“I ask you to do that,” Koutz said. “We need to adopt them and pay their dues for a year. Maybe they can save up and pay the next year, but if not, then pay it for another year.
Another topic the commander touched on was the backlog — nearly 1 million — of Veteran Affairs claims.
“If I owned a grocery story and people were standing outside every day waiting for help, I’d hire more people,” he said, and then asked members to write their congressmen about getting more funding for the VA.
He also discussed the GI Bill, saying Congress is looking “hard” at it. The bill helps cover education costs for veterans.
“We can’t have veterans drop out of school,” he said. “We need to get them to stay in and get that education.”
Koutz closed with the slogan he selected for the traditional one-year term national commanders serve: “Every day is Veterans Day.”
“This is a real honor for us to host our national commander and we want it to be a visit he will long remember,” said Newnan Post Commander Dick Dennis. “He will learn that we are a part of a caring community of patriotic citizens.”