Legionnaires stepping up during coronavirus pandemic

Legionnaires stepping up during coronavirus pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic has expanded and the number of cases grown, American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford has urged Legionnaires to follow the guidance of local officials and health experts to avoid both contracting and spreading the virus.

Oxford also has called on Legionnaires to use this time for Buddy Checks via emails and phone calls to older veterans in the community “to make sure they have the supplies they need, are feeling healthy and help them acquire the resources they need.”

American Legion Department of Colorado Commander Dean Noechel has taken Oxford’s words to heart, encouraging Buddy Checks in his state, where on March 16 Gov. Jared Polis announced a 30-day suspension of dine-in services at restaurants and bars. That means American Legion posts are no longer open for normal business.

“Right now, Buddy Checks are as important as ever for checking on our brothers and sisters,” Noechel said. “Around 60 percent of our membership are in that high at-risk group (for the coronavirus). It’s important that we keep in touch with them to see how they’re doing, if they need any assistance and to let them know that The American Legion is here to assist them in any way we can.”

Noechel also noted that for some Legionnaires, visiting their Legion post is a big part of their social interaction and that total isolation can takes its toll mentally and emotionally on those veterans. Phone calls, emails and other methods of communication are a way to keep that interaction going.

“A lot of our posts have Facebook groups, so that’s a way to stay in touch,” Noechel said. “It’s not the personal, face-to-face interaction, but it’s still a way to communicate with our veterans.”

A similar effort is taking place at Bernays Apgar Post 342 in Chester, N.J., where Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered that bars and restaurants can remain open for takeout or delivery only.

Via Facebook, Post 342 Commander Brian McGuire said he’s canceled all March post meetings, as well as its Sunday community programs in Chester. The post will reassess in April.

In the meantime, McGuire said, “Many of our membership rely on the AL (American Legion) activities to keep them motivated and spirits high, so I’ve set up a call roster. We younger vets will be calling our members, offering support, groceries, etc.”

Also via Facebook, First Vice Commander Chris Hoffman of Cecil Cox Post 147 in Clovis, Calif., said his post is “utilizing the buddy checks to see if our members, especially our senior members, are in need. We are reaching out with offers of shopping and delivery, transport to and from appointments as necessary, and any other needs, physical and spiritual, that our members may request or require. We are being proactive by also taking calls from members and our local community for assistance as needed by request and availability.”

In addition to health concerns, the coronavirus also brought panic at the grocery store, where supplies of sanitizing wipes, toilet paper and food staples were snatched from the shelves much faster than they could be replaced.

Rothie American Legion Post 330 in Hayfield, Minn., is attempting to help out those who cannot get to the store by collecting toilet paper for the local elderly population who are unable to get any during the shortages. The donation drives continues from 4-8 p.m. March 18-21.

Individual Legionnaires also are stepping up. Via Instagram, The American Legion received the following message:

This is for the Legion as a whole…

I'm a 23-year member of The American Legion and currently at Nicholson Post 38 in Baton Rouge, La.

I'm a long haul driver with US Express working a dedicated route for Walmart. Since this crisis has begun all of the drivers delivering to all the stores, no matter which type of store...Walmart, Target, etc., has been working to keep up with the demands of the people of this country so that we can survive and make it thru this world pandemic.

I feel as though I'm back in the Army serving this country once again and it truly feels good for me to be of service not only to my fellow Legionnaires but to the people of this country. So let's take some time out to get on our knees and pray for all of this to be taken away by God's mercy. Let us also take time to go help our elderly brothers and sisters who are not able to get and go get food, medicine or need a ride to their doctor.

For God and Country

Raymond Bernucho

US Army

Korean Defense Service Veteran

We encourage all American Legion post and Legion Family members who have stepped up to assist others during the coronavirus pandemic to share with us how you’re helping. Either upload your stories to www.legiontown.org or email sbrooks@legion.org.