Morris, a 66-year-old, 40-year member of the American Legion in
Cardington, Ohio, is the national vice commander for seven states,
including Illinois. Morris said this was one of 24 stops he and the
caravan would be making this week in Illinois.
Morris said the
journey has logged 1,400 miles in the state so far, with stops as
far north as Chicago and as far south as Carbondale.
The purpose of the trip is to help promote new membership in the
American Legion. Morris says his seven-state district has 750,000
members, and nationally the Legion has 2.7 million members. But the
goal nationally is to go over 3 million members in 2010.
Although the statewide trips are taxing and can cause 15- or
16-hour days, Morris says getting out and meeting members
rejuvenates him for the next day. "I get to meet a lot of wonderful
people and I love people," Morris said.
Another purpose of the national caravans is to find out what the
posts are doing, to glean their good ideas on membership and
community involvement, and to share those ideas with other posts.
As an example Morris mentioned a post in Missouri that has
changed its philosophy to cater to younger people, thus creating an
atmosphere where today's young veterans want to go. "Once they join
and become frequent visitors to the post, they learn about all the
Legion does and become active members," Morris added.
Morris said the American Legion posts in every community need to
do a better job of telling the community all the Legion does to help
veterans. "We are not very good at public relations," he said.
What the Legion does ranges from scholarships for children who
have a parent overseas, children and youth programs, the
organization's Child Welfare Foundation and Scouting to veterans
affairs -- and those are just some of the things Morris says
communities need to know the Legion is involved in.
Morris says that although every American Legion program is
important, he wanted to mention the organization's activism in
veterans affairs and the Legion's Family Support Network.
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"We can't do enough for our veterans," he said.
He pointed out that having almost 3 million members gives the
American Legion a strong voice in the political arena.
He noted that President Obama had mulled over including veterans
in his national health care program until he heard from the Legion
that health care for veterans should be left alone. "The next day
the president announced that it was only an idea, and that was the
end of that," Morris said with a smile
With the visit in Lincoln over, Morris said his caravan is
heading north and then back to Ohio. Until the next week, when they
hit the road again to drum up more membership and to find another
great idea he can share on how to make the American Legion better
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