R to L - Ida, Peggy, Marie, Pat and Barbara from the American Legion Auxiliary of New York
One of the many opportunities I have enjoyed while being here at the American Legion Convention is hanging out with different folks outside my hotel. Tonight I ran into the ladies pictured above. They are all members of the American Legion Auxiliary and are all from New York state. Ida is both a Veteran (Navy) and the wife of a Veteran. All of the other lady's husbands are Veterans.
I was drawn to this group of ladies for many reasons. One was listening to their playful banter and laughter. Another was that they were instantly approachable. When I asked if I might interview them for a story for my blog one of them mentioned that there really was no story. I told her she might be surprised. As it turns out there really were some great stories from these ladies.
Ida served in the Navy until she was in an accident and her eardrum was burst. She's been deaf in that ear since. She told me she tried to convince the Navy to let her stay in but they wouldn't let her. I think the Navy might have made a bad call there. Ida, like each of the other ladies, was delightful and full of spunk.
I asked the ladies how many American Legion Conventions they've been to. It was the first convention for one of the ladies. The fourth convention for two of the ladies. The fifth convention for one of the ladies and the sixth convention for one of the ladies. This is my first convention (and probably my last one) but I know I'd love to attend more of them.
I then asked the ladies what one of their favorite parts of attending the convention is. The consensus, hands down, was meeting folks from the other states. Each of the ladies either commented or agreed that everyone they have met is so nice and enjoyable to be around. I, too, have found that to be the case without question. Another comment that was made by one of the ladies is that this convention location is much more centrally located making it easier to attend more events and for the auxiliary members to be geographically closer to all of the delegates and guests.
When questioned as to what aspect they like most about being in the American Legion Auxiliary all the ladies agreed it was because of how much they are able to help Veterans and children. New York has recently opened their fourth Homeless Women's Veteran's Shelter. The new facility is located in Ballston Spa, NY. It can house twelve homeless women Veterans. There is another facility in Rochester that houses up to thirty six homeless women Veterans. Each of the facilities and the other two assist the homeless women Veterans to readjust, re-connect with family, find employment and provides counseling services. I find that to be an incredible project. The facilities are funded by the Auxiliary, private donations and federal funding. Apparently New York is one of the few states to have facilities of this sort.
In 2009, under the auspices of the American Legion Auxiliary, the American Legion Auxiliary College was founded. The College provides a weekend opportunity for members of the Auxiliary to attend classes in a college setting to learn about each of the committees of the Auxiliary, what it does and how the attendees can contribute to each committee.
The New York American Legion Auxilary's past president, Ann, chose to focus their efforts for children on COTA (Children's Organ Transplant Association). Through their efforts the children of five Veterans were able to receive life saving organ transplants. This program does not just pay, or help pay, for the initial transplant but also helps to pay for any additional needs or expenses down the road.
The ladies continued to tell me more "no story here" stories. All of them touched my heart and reminded me that our Veterans and their families of the heartbeat of this nation. Not only have they served (or are currently serving) but even after they have left the military they continue to open their hearts, wallets and their time to helping those in need. I could not be more honored or proud to be a part of this convention and to meet so many amazing Americans.
Ida talked about how, just last year, she worked to get over 400 stuffed animals donated for children in hospitals. The ladies shared that another of their past president's focused on helping to raise funds and awareness for Operation Purple Program. From their website:
"When you hear "Operation Purple camp" you should think: Kids Serve Too! The National Military Family Association's Operation Purple camps are a time for having fun, making friends, and reminding military kids that they are the Nation's youngest heroes.
The Operation Purple program was created in 2004 in response to the call from military parents to "help us help our kids." The mission of the Operation Purple program is to empower military children and their families to develop and maintain healthy and connected relationships, in spite of the current military environment. We do this through a variety of means, including the healing and holistic aspect of the natural world. The program is joint or "purple"— and open to children and families of active duty, National Guard or Reserve service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service and NOAA.
Since it's creation in 2004, the Operation Purple program has grown to serve approximately 45,000 military children and teens. The Operation Purple program also includes family retreats at national parks and specialized family camps geared to address the needs of children and families of our nation's wounded service members."
I know there are many, many more stories like these among the 10,000 attendees of this convention. I wish I had the time to learn about them all. It's comforting to know our Veterans and our nation are in such great hands.