The National Commander of the American Legion visited the Crossett Post 111 Monday morning.
Brett P. Reistad was elected national commander of the American Legion in August during the Legion’s 100th national convention and is the second national commander to visit the Crossett Post.
Reistad, along with the Arkansas Commander R.D. Kinsey, National Executive Committeeman Mary Erdman, Department Adjunct Robert Renner and other members of the commander’s team arrived for breakfast and a meet and greet on Monday morning.
The Commander spoke to Post 111 and guests about his goals for his time in office as well as concerns he has for the organization as a whole.
“It’s a big thing for this organization, for any organization, to be 100 years old, but now the big question is are we going to be around for another 100 years,” Reistad said.
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a “patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness.”
Reistad talked about the important role the Amerian Legion plays and how the Legion was instrumental in getting the GI Bill passed and more recently pushed for the passing of the Forever GI Bill, or the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.
The Legion also sponsors many programs and activities such as American Legion baseball and Girls and Boys State in an effort to “strengthen the nation one community at a time.”
One of their projects, named Operation Comfort Warriors, is a program in place to aid recovering soldiers and their families by providing them with comfort items and other support to help make the best of their hospital stays.
The American Legion depends solely on active membership, participating and volunteerism to fund the programs and assistance that they offer.
“Our biggest concern right now is numbers,”Reistad said. “We are down 70,000 from last year.”
Reistad said that focusing on recruitment and retention was going to be a priority during his time as commander.
Reistad he wants to build the membership back up so that he can feel good about passing his position off to the next commander when the time comes.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us, I want he or she (the commander) to be able to foot their best foot forward towards the next 100 years,” Reistad said.
Reistad said recruiting younger members was a bigger challenge because younger veterans are starting families and finishing college and they may not feel like they have time to join.
Reistad talked about the benefits and aid the Legion offered to help soldiers who were battling PTSD, having trouble finding employment or dealing with other issues that the American Legion could possibly assist with.
“We have 3600 service officers, that is more than any other service organization,” Reistad said.
Reistad thanked the Post 111 members for the breakfast and said he looks forward to working with all of the posts to build membership and promote the Amercian Legion.