American Legion chief visits county, protests cuts to military programs

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Legion Post 27 on Saturday rolled out the proverbial red carpet for a special VIP: None other than American Legion National Commander Dan Dellinger, who was in town as part of a listening tour to get information on how to better serve the country’s more than 21 million military veterans.
Dellinger, from Vienna, Va., began his one-year term as the Legion’s national commander on Aug. 29, 2013. He is the chief executive of the organization, which has 2.4 million members affiliated with around 14,000 posts worldwide. Dellinger routinely lobbies federal and state lawmakers to improve programming and services for the nation’s veterans and for those still active in the armed services. To that end, he is touring scores of Legion posts and statehouses in 48 states to get feedback to bring to Capitol Hill and Veterans Administration Hospitals that care for past and present servicemen and women.
Dellinger was in Vermont for three days last week, beginning Thursday, March 6. His stops included Legion posts in Barre, Waterbury, Colchester, Vergennes and Middlebury, as well as visits to the VA Medical Center in White River Junction and the Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care.
He was impressed with what he saw while in the Green Mountain State.
“The (Legion posts) in Vermont have great programs and scholarships,” he said of the outreach and philanthropy local veterans exhibit in their communities.
Dellinger has become quite familiar with Vermont throughout the years. It has been a popular vacation spot for the commander’s family. And it is also home to what Dellinger called one of the Legion’s best allies in the nation’s capital — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Sanders currently serves as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“I deal closely with Sen. Sanders,” Dellinger said. “He is a great advocate for veterans in this state and throughout the country.”
And veterans could use a lot of political allies during these tough fiscal times, according to Dellinger.
He spoke on Saturday of the deleterious effects of the federal budget sequestration, and recommendations from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the U.S. Army be reduced to pre-World War II levels.
Hagel has proposed a variety of austerity measures for fiscal year 2015, including pay freezes for some categories of military officials; a slowdown in the rate of growth in housing allowances; and a reduction of the government’s subsidy to military commissaries, something that would increase grocery prices for military families.
“They shouldn’t be worrying about where their food is going to come from to put on the table while they’re on active duty,” Dellinger said.
He is pleased with the health care veterans are receiving, but remains vigilant to ensure there is no erosion in those benefits. The American Legion in 2009 put together a commission to study the manner in which returning soldiers were being treated for traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder — the two signature wounds for many servicemen and women returning from service in the Middle East. That ad hoc PTSD/TBI Committee recently released a report of its findings, called “The War Within.” The report, among other things, provides recommendations on how to better treat those suffering from PTSD and TBI. Instead of relying heavily on medications for patients, Dellinger noted the report points out the benefits of acupuncture, companion dogs and other techniques to help patients.
Vermont Legion Commander Rick Gray and Middlebury Legion Post 27 Adjutant Tom Scanlon accompanied Dellinger for most of his activities on Saturday. Scanlon said he believes the national commander had a very fruitful visit.
“Commander Dellinger was quite pleased with our post and what we do for veterans and the community,” Scanlon said. “He was particularly impressed with the fact that we own and operate a veteran’s cemetery (Farmingdale Veterans’ Cemetery on Creek Road). He was deeply concerned with the lack of support for our veterans on the national level, where he indicated that ‘partisan politics has replaced patriotism.’”
Post 27 was chartered in 1919 and made its first permanent home in 1954 in a building off Creek Road. That building is to be demolished later this year to make way for a new Middlebury recreation center. From their current headquarters off Boardman Street, the members of Post 27 donate thousands of dollars each year to various Middlebury-area causes. The organization annually gives $20,000 in college scholarships; $3,000 to Middlebury Union High School programs; $3,000 to sports programs through the Middlebury Parks & Recreation Department; and $1,500 to the Children’s Miracle Network, to name a few. Post 27 has also been a substantial contributor to major building projects in town, including $175,000 for the Memorial Sports Center; $50,000 for Porter Hospital; and $50,000 for Elderly Services Inc.
Post 27 is also participating in a statewide Legion effort to purchase a Giraffe OmniBed for the Vermont Children’s Hospital. The OmniBed provides critical care for newborns. The state’s Legion posts have raised a combined total of $39,000 toward a $46,000 goal.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

Share this story:

More News
Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Op/Ed Uncategorized

Hector Vila: The boundaries of education

There is a wide boundary between the teacher and the student, found most profoundly in col … (read more)

Naylor & Breen Uncategorized

Naylor & Breen Request for Proposals

Naylor and Breen 042524 2×4.5 OCCC RFP

Share this story: