FARMINGTON — Leaders of a Farmington veterans organization want to get the word out about the support they provide area veterans.
And they also hope to recruit more members.
"We really need some new members," said American Legion Post 93 Cmdr. Butch Condrey.
Condrey says the group's membership has dropped significantly over the last few years. He attributes the reduction to the fact that many of the senior members have passed away. Others, he said, cannot afford to pay membership dues, which amount to $30 a year.
"That can be a lot of money when you don't have it," Condrey said.
In 1919, Congress incorporated the American Legion "as a patriotic veterans organization developed to mutual helpfulness," according to the organization's website. It is the nation's largest wartime veterans service group and focuses on mentoring youth, supporting other community charities and helping fellow veterans in need.
Any veteran who served in the U.S. armed forces during a war or conflict can join the American Legion.
Condrey said local post members attend military funerals of fellow veterans, participate in community parades and provide help to veterans, such as supplying them with gas cards and building wheelchair ramps. The post also sponsors ROTC groups at local high schools and periodically presents ROTC members with scholastic medals. The group relies on an annual poppy sale to raise operational funds.
Post 93 members meet on the second Saturday of each month at the Farmington Civic Center. The meetings provide local veterans a chance to network with other veterans, discuss military and political issues and opinions and talk about ways to contribute to the community, said Condrey, who served in Vietnam during the 1960s as a hospital corpsman with the First Marine Brigade and is also committeeman for the New Mexico American Legion District 10.
"We're also there to provide support to those who need help with things like getting their military pension," Condrey said. "We'll help veterans in any way we can."
Donna Lobato, who serves as the local post's adjutant, said many veterans come to the American Legion's meetings just to have someone listen to their problems.
"Sometimes, they can't figure out the (Veterans Administration) system, so this is a way for one vet to help another," she said. "Everybody needs help nowadays, and that's what we try to do. That's all anyone can do."
Condrey and Lobato encourage interested veteran to attend one of the monthly meetings and learn about what the American Legion offers.
"They don't have to be a member to come," Condrey said. "They should just come drop in, check us out, and enjoy some free coffee and a doughnut."Leigh Black Irvin covers health for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4610 and firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her @irvindailytimes on Twitter on Twitter.