National: Dues increase is on the way

By Tim Engstrom
Minnesota Delegation Chairman Tom Fernlund, a past department commander, casts a vote at the 104th National Convention in Charlotte.

Resolution passed but then pulled for review over date issue

CHARLOTTE — The ruling body of The American Legion are the delegates at the National Convention. Under Article X of the National Constitution & By-Laws, for the National American Legion to increase its portion of the dues, it must be done at the National Convention.

And it was done at the 104th National Convention in Charlotte. However, there was a hangup with some language over the start date.

Minnesota National Executive Committeeman Bill Barbknecht of Underwood Post 489 said that language is to be fixed at the National Executive Committee’s meeting Oct. 11-12, and the dues increase will be announced.

American Legion dues are split among different levels of the Legion. Often, dues are divided among post, district, department and national. Sometimes, there is a county level, too. Each part of the Legion determines its portion of the dues.

The present national resolution calls for an increase of $5 starting in the Legion year that begins July 1, 2024, Barbknecht said. That so-soon date means departments, districts or posts will have to adjust to maintain their funding levels, and many departments and districts would have not have time for their conventions to make decisions.

People applaud as a man and woman stand on stage.
New National Commander Daniel Seehafer thanks Legionnaires at the National Convention in Charlotte.

“Posts are going to have to decide by April 1 what do you want to charge for 2024-25,” Barbknecht said.

He said it will be interesting to see what happens at the Fall Meetings.

The resolution also increases the Paid Up For Life (PUFL) amounts. People wanting to join as PUFLs ought to do so now before July 1.

“I’ve never done it, but I am going to do it now because everything in society is going up and up in price,” Barbknecht said.

He added the resolution offers a three-year option for membership, locked into the current rate. Right now, people renew for one year or for life.

Here are news and notes from the 104th National Convention in Charlotte:

• A resolution Department of Minnesota Service Officer Ray Kane and his assistant, Janet Lorenzo, calling for the VA to assess the affects of the anthrax shot on Persian Gulf War-era veterans and Gulf War syndrome on brain atrophy, bowel dysfunction and other areas, was referred to the National Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Committee and HQ staff for further study, according to 2nd District Commander James Olson.

Kane said he has been in communications with national staff about rewriting the resolution with the hopes it can go before the National Executive Committee at the Fall Meetings Oct. 11-12.

• A Minnesota resolution to add correctional officers to the American Legion Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer Award had a strong reception at the National Security Convention Committee’s hearing on it, said Past Department Commander Jim Kellogg, who sits on the National Security Council. He said it might need to be rewritten to be its own award, rather than part of the existing award.

This resolution original came out of the 7th District.

The Minnesota American Legion Riders turned in $162,000 for Legacy Scholarships.

• The Minnesota American Legion Riders turned in $162,000 for the Minnesota Legacy Fund. For a decade, Minnesota has given the most for the ALR’s mission to raise funds for the Legacy Fund. This year, Maryland (a state also with electronic pulltabs) made an extra special effort and topped all departments by raising $211,000 this year. Many people noted Maryland would not have raised so much if Minnesota for years had not set the bar so high.

• The two Legionnaires to attend National Legion College in December at National HQ in Indianapolis are Joseph Bares of Jordan Post 3 and James Hultgren of Osseo-Maple Grove Post 172.

• The American Legion is encouraging all members of the Legion Family to emphasize the first day of each month as Be the One Day. This stems from a resolution passed by the National Executive Committee at the Spring Meetings in May 2023.

The resolution urges Legion Family members, on the first day of every month, to wear a Be the One item to show their commitment to reducing the stigma around mental health issues among veterans and servicemembers — and to start a conversation about what Be the One is and how to save the life of a veteran. Legion posts should also promote Be the One on the first day of every month.

Several people stand on stage in a row.
New National Vice Commanders stand together.

• Hillsdale College will be the new host of the National Oratorical Contest, which will take place in May. In previous years, it happened in April at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel. Hillsdale College is in Hillsdale, Mich. The 2024 contest finals will be May 17-19.

Department Oratorical Contests will remain at the same time frame, typically in February.

• The winner of the Philip B. Onderdonk Jr. Religious Liberty Award, presented by First Liberty Institute and The American Legion, went to Shields of Strength.

Shields of Strength is a faith-based company that made replica dogtags with inspirational Bible verses for servicemembers.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands were donated to troops. Some units bought them for their soldiers. Many have been given to first responders, too.

First Liberty is fighting in federal court for Shields of Strength. An anti-religious group filed a complaint against the Christian goods store, which led to the Department of Defense instituting a discriminatory policy that’s preventing Shields from producing and distributing its tags. First Liberty intends to reverse that policy on the First Amendment grounds of religious freedom.

On their side is 245 years of American military-and-religion precedence, such as soldiers or sailors carrying a small New Testament in their pockets.

“The Department of Defense gave in and made it impossible for these to get to military personnel,” Kelly Shackelford, CEO of First Liberty, told the convention.

A Legionnaire from Washington, D.C., makes a motion at the National Convention.

• Most of the national membership awards were won by the Department of Puerto Rico and the Department of Mexico. The Department of Mexico also is going through procedures to change its name to the Department of Latin America. It presently has members from much of the region, not just Mexico.

• At the Minnesota caucus on Monday, Aug. 28, Past National Vice Commander Al Davis, treasurer of the Convention Corp., announced that the Convention Corp. had secured a package to have the American Legion Department Convention in Willmar for the next five years. He noted multiyear deals reduce costs and lock in hotel rates.

• The Fourth Estate Awards were awarded to WFTS-TV in Tampa, Fla., and to

The TV station won the broadcast award for exposing a sham company doing fake COVID tests during the time COVID testing was in high demand. When the TV reporters came and asked to see the lab, the company refused because, obviously, there was no lab. Drug store tests were more reliable than these scammers. won the print/web award for its coverage of the PACT Act and efforts by veteran service organizations like The American Legion to get it passed. The award stated gave far and away more time and resources to coverage of the bill than any other media outlet.