LAKE LINDEN - The American Legion's state commander visited Post 90 in Lake Linden Thursday night during an annual tour of the state.
Raymond Moore of the Jackson-Koster Gray Post 300 in Lake City was accompanied by a number of state and Upper Peninsula Legion dignitaries, who provided updates on membership numbers and projects over the past year.
Moore talked about the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) program. In the past year, there were 51,400 letters to the Veterans Affairs on behalf of clients, and 80,000 telephone calls going to the office. In that time, they were able to get $142 million in benefits to veterans.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Raymond Moore, state commander of the American Legion, talks during a dinner in his honor at Post 90 in Lake Linden Thursday. Moore appeared as part of the annual tour taken by the state commander, who serves a one-year term.
"That's money, our tax money, coming via the federal government because of benefits the veterans have earned, that is going back into the communities," Moore said.
With a $1.2 million budget, the program is getting a return of more than $100 for every dollar spent, Moore said. However, he said, funding from the state has been shrinking. At its peak, he said, the state provided about $980,000 a year, with the Legion contributing about $300,000 to $400,000. The state's contribution has shrunk to $760,000, with the Legion dipping into its reserves to make up the difference.
"I believe we need to do what we can to lobby our legislators so we can continue to provide the services we have done for 100 years," he said.
Moore said state membership is at 86.34 percent of the state goal, although the higher goal is "100-plus." The 12th District, which includes the Copper Country, is at 86.9 percent, third in the state. Nationally, Michigan is in 25th place.
"It's the lifeblood of the organization. If we don't have membership, we don't collect dues, and we can't afford to send me up on a credit card to visit here," Moore said to laughs.
Post 90's membership rate is 78.72 percent - although that jumped to 84 percent, as the post hand-delivered 14 new membership forms to Moore at the meeting.
Mark Sutton, state director of public relations for the American Legion, took exception to a recent Detroit News article discussing falling membership rates among veterans groups.
As for concerns from younger veterans that the posts weren't active enough, Sutton ran through a list of Legion activities, ranging from the Girls Town and Boys Town, which provide services to at-risk youth, to Legion baseball, which has included future Tigers such as Justin Verlander.
"Don't tell anyone we're dying, because we're not," Sutton said. "We're doing what we need to be doing."