HEYWORTH — American Legion National Vice Commander David Hall has learned a few things while visiting Illinois.
“I’ve been told I talk funny,” said the New Haven, W.Va. native. “Also, I learned that the ‘s’ in Illinois is silent.”
Hall spoke Thursday at American Legion Post 624, part of a 10-day Midwest Family Membership Caravan tour that will include 18 other post stops and numerous visits to Veterans Administration clinics.
In addition to promoting membership, Hall talks about health care, employment, career fairs and operational changes for the legion.
“It’s been a great trip so far and I love the tour of Illinois,” he said. “Visiting with the smaller legions is perfect because I really just enjoy meeting people and listening to what they have to say.”
A U.S. Army veteran, Hall is a retired team leader from American Electric Power in New Haven, where he worked 41 years. He’s held numerous leadership positions with his hometown post, and at the state and national levels. He served in the infantry from 1968 to 1970, joining the American Legion in 1985.
Post 624 Commander Charles Backlund said having someone of Hall’s stature in Heyworth was important.
“It’s a very big day for us and a lot of hard work went into this, but we appreciate him coming here and talking with our members and trying to help us recruit new members,” he said.
Hall said the American Legion is a benefit for all veterans, particularly anyone who has had problems since leaving the service.
“The unemployment rate among veterans is a big issue,” he said. “Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. For veterans, it is 9.9 percent and for women veterans, it is 12.5 percent. We hold job fairs and we promote people hiring veterans. There are services available and our job is to let them know who to talk to.”
Hall said the high suicide rate among veterans also is a concern.
“Actually, there were more suicides among active duty military than combat deaths last year,” he said. “It is scary and the military is trying to get more involved in that and I think we can get more involved by supporting the families of these families. Who knows what is troubling them and each case is different and that is what makes it so difficult to find a common theme or reason.”
The Operation Comfort Warriors program has been created to provide non-essential items, outside typical government standard items, for recovering wounded soldiers.
“Our goal is to raise $500,000 and we are about halfway there,” he said. “These are items which may not be necessarily essential, such as a laptop or smart-phone, but is still a part of today’s lifestyle.”
About 50 people attended the breakfast meeting. After his speech, Hall answered questions and spoke individually with local veterans and state legion leaders.