American Legion National Commander visits Pipestone post

Pipestone County Star

By Sirrina Martinez on April 20, 2022 

The Pipestone American Legion Post 6 welcomed a distinguished visitor on Thursday, April 14. Paul E. Dillard, the National Commander for the American Legion, made a stop here on his national tour of posts that is scheduled to wrap up in September after about 330 days on the road, he said. The tour has been focused on sharing what the American Legion as a national organization has been doing, including community work and a legislative agenda. Dillard, a Texas native, addressed around 60 Legionnaires, visitors from neighboring posts and Sons of the American Legion members and their families, citing their work as the reason he was able to be in his position and tour the nation.

“Folks it has been a pleasure being your National Commander and going around getting to visit different departments and Legionnaires,” Dillard said. “What do ya’ll do? Ya’ll allow us to get up here on this stage and be praised and recognized because without you, this wouldn’t happen.”

Dillard went on to talk about some of his personal projects as the National Commander, including one involving the American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation, which was created in 1925 by the National Commander in Washington state, with a focus on serving veterans and their families.

“They (the 1925 National Commander) raised $5 million that year,” Dillard said. “In today’s money that’s maybe $71 million or more. It’s amazing. We’ve got to build that fund back up and so seven years ago we started a seven year plan to raise $25 million. My goal this year was to raise $2 million, and the Sons of the American Legion already committed $500,000.”

Dillard discussed several topics that resonated with the audience. Brad Carson, the current Commander of Post 6, said the topic that really hit home with him was finding new ways to reach out and take care of veterans in the community.

“It was probably the topic of taking care of veterans,” Carson said. “At Post 6, we have ways of making money through our pull tabs and other things, and since I’ve been active in the post we have done a lot to help support the local veterans home in Luverne.”

Carson said Post 6 has worked to help veterans from the home through the holidays by ensuring those who may not get a Christmas gift get one, or by paying membership dues for those who cannot afford to so that they can remain members.

As to what it was like having his post chosen as a stop on the National Commander’s tour, Carson said it was a little daunting at first due to the high profile nature of his guest, but that having the event finished and behind him has helped him to enjoy the honor of having hosted the official party at his post.

“After it was all said in done, it was an honor having him here,” he said. “It was great to have as many people as we did here for it and it really turned out to be a great evening.”

Carson said he had many people to thank for the help in getting ready for the high profile visitor, and that he was happy that they pulled it off. To wrap up the evening, Carson and fellow Legion members from Post 6 presented Dillard with a peace pipe in honor of his visit during the national tour.

For a more in-depth look at the American Legion’s national legislative agenda, below is a brief description of the 11 major topics discussed by Dillard:

VA healthcare modernization 

Ensuring that the Veterans Administration (VA) is equipped to provide inpatient and out-patient services using modern technology and a hybrid system to an “increasingly diverse veteran population.” Also, updating health-care modalities and records access in a veteran-centric way. Other areas of consideration are appointment setting systems and community care access.

Suicide prevention & peer support 

The American Legion is urging congress to pass legislation requiring the VA to establish a national Buddy Check Week, to encourage veterans to reach out to those with whom they served. They are also encouraging legislation to establish a peer support program that would offer grants to place peer-support specialists in local posts of veterans service organizations.

Citizenship for honorable service 

Addressing the issue of veteran immigrants being deported after having been honorably discharged, because they failed to acquire U.S. citizenship while serving in the armed forces. The organization supports measures that will ensure that those serving will have the process of naturalization completed before being discharged. Other areas that they are addressing in Congress, are the reinstitution of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, and the training of military recruiters and commands about how the process works, expedited  citizenship applications and resources for those nearing discharge and the reopening of all USCIS field offices abroad to help those currently serving overseas.

Address the foreign wars & restore congressional war powers 

The American Legion is urging Congress to renew its war-making oversight roll, and to repeal the “outdated” Authorizations for the Use of Military Force and reforming the 1973 War Powers Resolution and to use resources for solutions rooted in diplomacy.

Address toxic exposure and burn pits 

According to the American Legion, a high percentage of veterans have been exposed to airborne toxic contaminates during their service. The organization is urging congress to pass legislation that creates a list of presumptive illnesses that are potentially connected, through scientific evidence, to a veteran’s exposure. They are also asking for legislation that requires the VA to presume exposure for veterans deployed to areas with known environmental hazards, and for legislation that mandates the VA to conduct toxic exposure studies.

Improve health care for women veterans 

Urging Congress to oversee the implementation of pilot programs, policy revisions and research initiatives at the VA, that are intended to address a perceived lack of gender specific issues and healthcare for women. They are also encouraging the expansion of child and newborn care services in the VA.

Concurrent receipt  

Supporting the ending of the policy that requires some retirees receiving disability to forfeit a portion of their Department of Defense retirement pay, by passing the Major Richard Star Act, repealing the offset and allowing veterans to receive both their full retirement pay and disability compensation.

Guard & Reserve GI Bill parity 

The Legion is urging Congress to recognize all state and federal National Guard and Reserve duty orders in determining eligibility for the GI Bill.

GI Bill for honorable service 

Currently, to receive most VA benefits, a veteran’s discharge papers must read “under honorable conditions.” Some benefits, including the post 9/11 HI Bill, require the discharge papers to say “honorable discharge,” leaving some veterans who are eligible out. The American Legion is urging Congress to amend U.S. code to correct the statues that conflict, and to open access to all eligible veterans.

Pay the Coast Guard 

At this time, the Coast Guard does not fall under the Department of Defense, but rather under the Department of Homeland Security, which leaves servicemen and women in the Coast Guard more vulnerable to not being paid during government shut downs. The Legion is urging Congress to reintroduce and pass the Unwavering Support for our Coast Guard Act, guaranteeing on-time pay during government shut downs and similar issues.

Protect the American Flag 

The American Legion is urging Congress to prohibit the desecration of the U.S. flag, and to pass the Flag Modernization Act of 2021.