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Mid-Winter Conference meets Jan. 16-18 in Columbus

The Department of Ohio American Legion will conduct the annual Mid-Winter Conference the weekend of January 16-18, 2015 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 4900 Sinclair Rd. Columbus, Ohio.

On Saturday, January 17th the Sons of The American Legion Conference will start at 9:00 a.m. in the Toledo room.

Several Department Committees will meet Saturday at the hotel. Visitors are always welcome. A membership LEAD seminar will be conducted by Assistant Director of Internal Affairs Dave Elmore from National Headquarters.

On Saturday afternoon, the various Department committees will offer information on their programs at the information booths located in the lower level of the hotel. Included in the information booths will be Charities, Inc., Membership, Americanism, Child Welfare, Post Activity Programs, POW-MIA, and many others.

The main session will open promptly at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 18th. National Commander Michael Helm will be the guest speaker.

Department Commander David Hilliard, the Officers and Staff of the Department of Ohio cordially invite you to attend the 2015 Mid-Winter Conference.

The Best Seat in the House

The University of Akron American Legion Post 808 held a Charter presentation and POW/MIA chair (provided by Hussey Seating) dedication on October 11th, 2014, between the 1st and 2nd quarters of the University of Akron vs the University of Miami (Ohio) football game. The events coincided with the university's Military Appreciation Week and Game. This plaque will forever rest next to the chair, associating The American Legion with the chair and with the university. The presentations took place in front of thousands of civilians and veterans alike.

Post 808 Commander Steven Downey chose the spot for the chair and plaque saying, "this chair, in this location, is for our brothers and our sisters who didn't make it home and who aren't with us today. This chair needed to have the best view of the field and needed the best of everything because that is what they deserve. Once I explained that, the university was fantastic in helping us finish and finalize the location. Just being a part of this has been a tremendous experience for me." Commander Downey is a 6 year Army Vet who served as a Combat Medic earning the Combat Medical Badge for performance of his duties during direct enemy contact in Iraq. Downey also served in Africa and Walter Reed Medical Center where his duties included coordinating organ transplants. He is currently a junior with 3 semesters left before earning a degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. Commander Downey says, "I see …. Post 808 as an opportunity to help fellow veterans because I've gone through what they are going through. They are family to me."

Shortly after the presentations, Post 808 issued a video via youtube highlighting the events.

For more information on how to start a campus Post, please contact Jason Graven at 740-362-7478 (ext 4) or by email at graven@ohiolegion.com.

You may also contact Jason in regards on how to go about purchasing a POW/MIA chair from Hussy Seating to be placed at your local high school or college stadiums and arenas.

Ohio is ahead of the game

By Jason Graven

By now most of you have certainly read, or at least heard of, the Washington Times article in which a female veteran (Army reservist who served in Iraq) was interviewed and had disparaging things to say concerning The American Legion (and VFW). If you haven't, save your time for something more useful, you didn't miss much anyway.

However, the article does bring about some interesting points. This veteran speaks of the stereotype every Legionnaire has heard a million times that "we are nothing but the local bar," that "we do not participate in community activities," and that "we are nothing but old men telling war stories." Please do NOT write me telling me that these are misstatements, I know that they are. In my year and a half in my position and 4 years in this organization, I have learned that these are wrong so you don't have to convince me. However, this is the stereotype.

We, every Post, must actively try to change this perception. Many younger vets see us as just that, a bar. We know what we do, we know the good things many Posts do throughout our communities. But do the communities know? Have we been actively trying to engage in communications with the younger veterans? Newsletters are very informational, but only get distributed to current members. Newspapers are failing due to lack of interest and many won't run articles on what The American Legion does anymore anyway. So how do we get our message out so that younger vets and our communities see what we do to help? We must adjust to technology.

I know many of you feel you have no use for a computer, and you are probably correct. YOU don't need a computer to survive. The Vietnam generation will be the last generation to have lived most of their lives without computers and you have done just fine. However, articles such as the Washington Times piece (which specifically mentions the Legion's use of "snail mail") highlight the need to investigate use of technology. Things such as email make communication cheaper, faster, and more accountable. You as an individual may not need to expand into this technological world, but the Legion does. Social media sites such as Facebook make for the dissemination of information amongst those in your Post up-to-the-minute and easily accessible and can also be followed by nonmembers in your communities. Active websites that announce upcoming events, which can be shared on social media pages, will save you postage and will have a farther reach as more of those in your communities come across the different events you are hosting.

If you are unknowledgeable about the use of computers you are certainly not alone, but please do not hesitate to adjust to a changing world because of that. Your children, grandchildren, and others would most likely help if they were just asked. Speak to the local high school and see if they have a graphic design department and if they would like to help your post create a website. Ask the children and grandchildren of members if they wouldn't mind posting something on the Post Facebook page for you every so often. Speak to them about how and where they get their information.

Unfortunately, until we modernize it will be articles such as the Washington Times piece that will continue to be the ones to influence the perception of who we are and what we do to the very veterans we are trying to reach. The University of Akron Post 808 has begun placing videos on YouTube and I invite all of you to find them and watch them. Just ask someone to show you how. The wave of the future is now.

Such articles and comments on a national stage are always calculated to elicit a response. The response in this case can be assumed to be one to continue to drive younger vets away from existing VSO's.

If this article does not motivate you to ask your child or grandchild to show you how to use the "book of faces," then nothing will. We have to find a way to counter such stereotypes and make our Posts heard again because if we do not, articles such as this will be the only communication they receive that will shape the younger generation's perceptions of who we are and what we stand for.

I am disheartened that she was turned away for being a woman and I would never assume that she is a liar and I know first-hand that this does occur in some Posts. But this is not the message that needs to be taught, or shared, with the younger veterans. Nor is it what The American Legion considers acceptable in our ranks and such an instance should never occur.

Many of the things in the article are things we are actively trying to do in Ohio. I understand that changing how things have been done for the last few decades isn't easy and makes many of you, especially in leadership positions, uncomfortable as we do things that you are not used to. However, we adapt or we die as an organization, and the discomfort of change should not discourage us from changing at all.

Many out there say it is inevitable that The American Legion will continue to show less and less members and eventually will become irrelevant and die off. The thing about inevitability is that it too can be changed.

Our message will be the inevitability that The American Legion will ALWAYS be the largest and leading veteran service organization in the world because we are not scared to change because our mission is too important.