‘Be the one to save one’ …National Commander sends message to veterans to reduce suicides

Oelwein Daily Register (IA):

Oelwein American Legion Post 9 legionnaires and auxiliary were honored to host a visit from the American Legion National Commander Paul Dillard on Thursday morning. Dillard, of Lake Kiowa, Texas, was joined by an entourage of state and national legion dignitaries including Department of Iowa Commander Robert Waugh of Douds, David Rehbein, President of the American Legion Foundation of Iowa and Past National Commander, from Ames, Dennis Soppe, National Executive Committee, from West Union, and Ken Rochholz, Alt. National Executive Committee, from Durant.

Dillard spoke to the large crowd on his theme as National Commander of “No Veteran Left Behind.”

“It’s not just a slogan, it’s an agenda and it applies to everything we do in the American Legion,” Dillard said. “There are 20 to 30 veteran suicides a day across the country. We are doing everything we can to reduce that number.”

Dillard said fellow veterans could save over 3,600 lives a year by simply checking in on another veteran. Maybe there’s someone you served with in another state that you haven’t been in touch with for a long time, he suggested.

“Check on them. Pick up the phone. They just like to hear the voice of another vet. We know about the loneliness and depression associated with service men and women. That day that you make that call might be the day you save them,” Dillard said. “That veteran has been through a lot. They need to realize it was worth it and that they’re worth it.”

“I want you to be the one to save one,” the commander said in his Oelwein message.

Dillard also touched on legislation that is in the works to help veterans through the VA. He said they are working to improve and simplify admissions to VA hospitals, as well as making certain that the remaining World War II veterans know how grateful this nation is to them.

Dillard said they are also working to get the U.S. Coast Guard recognized as a branch of military service. Right now, they are considered part of Homeland Security. He said in 2019, when the government went into a shutdown, Coast Guard members did not receive pay for two months. The American Legion stepped up and gave $2M to help them through that time. We’ve got to get that fixed, he said.

During his visit Thursday, Dillard met with members of the Otter Creek Quilts of Valor quilting group. He was given the honor of presenting four Quilts of Valor to local veterans, Rick Kleppe, Dale Lowe, Tommy Nations and Dale Strand. A separate story on the service of those four veterans will be in the Saturday edition of the Oelwein Daily Register.

President of the American Legion Foundation of Iowa David Rehbein gave a presentation to board members of Northeast Iowa Charitable Foundation for their contributions to the Legion Foundation. He mentioned Church Williams, whose benevolent gifts were the start of NEICF, and through which the Legion Foundation has also been a benefactor. Rehbein noted that some of the most generous contributors to the Legion Foundation can be found in northeast Iowa and through the Oelwein Post 9.

Rehbein said the Foundation has been in service for 43 years and has awarded more than $2M in grants toward Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation, children and family projects to name a few.

He called on members of the NEICF Board to come forward and presented Board Chair Maureen Nolan with the Pinnacle Award, one of the highest awards presented by the American Legion.

“We want you to know the money is being spent the way you would want it to be,” Rehbein told the board members.

Commander Dillard closed by adding that everything that is given to one of the legion foundations, every cent, goes for that purpose. None is kept in reserve.

“God bless our men and women serving in uniform today,” he said.