Ronald F. Conley of Pennsylvania will never forget the moment during the Vietnam War when he encountered a wounded soldier on Guam. “His story always stuck with me,” Conley says in his newly posted PNC Perspectives video interview. “He got shrapnel in his eyes. He was going to go blind within a year… he said, ‘I don’t know who is going to take care of me.’ I figured, I can do something to help, maybe not him, but help the other guys coming back wounded. That’s what got me into wanting to do something to help guys who were in the service.”
Soon after his discharge, Conley joined The American Legion. He was mentored by Pittsburgh-area, Department of Pennsylvania and national Legionnaires in the years that followed. In the 1980s, his passion turned to helping homeless veterans and wrote the resolution that created American Legion Housing for Homeless, Inc., which ultimately purchased homes for veterans in need in four Pennsylvania cities. In the years that followed, Conley became a fierce advocate for improved VA health care and services and spent his year as leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization visiting VA health-care systems throughout the country, looking at their strengths and challenges, following a checklist of key issues at the time, foremost of which was waiting times for primary care appointments. Thus was born the System Worth Saving program and task force, which continues to provide insights for VA, Congress and the White House today. In the years that followed, he became a leading national voice in the fight to identify and gain acceptance of effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. He is now chairman of the American Legion TBI/PTSD Committee.
View PNC Perspectives video interviews with other past national commanders on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHMR9MmnivfPSXg7BMJj1U57QBMXb_n2q