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Legion reaches out to younger veterans

At a press conference Nov. 7, the American Legion presenteda charter to veterans at UND, opening Post 401. The new post is part of the American Legion's efforts to reach younger veterans. "We're a 95-year-old organization," says Adjutant David Jo...

American Legion Adjutant David Johnson
American Legion Adjutant David Johnson presents the charter to new American Legion Post 401 at UND. Photo by John Brose/Special to the Herald.

At a press conference Nov. 7, the American Legion presenteda charter to veterans at UND, opening Post 401.

The new post is part of the American Legion's efforts to reach younger veterans.

"We're a 95-year-old organization," says Adjutant David Johnson. "So we've tried to figure out how to adapt to the younger veteran."

The first collegiate post in the state opened last year at NDSU. Johnson came to UND in hopes that a post there would be just as successful.

"[NDSU's] charter was 17 veterans, and now they're approaching 50," Johnson says.

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He says each campus has about 1,200 veterans, so the opportunity to reach out is huge.

Ultimately, the goal is to open posts in universities throughout the state, according to charter member Carol Anson.

Anson is the contact person for those interested in becoming members of Post 401. She says all wartime veterans are welcome to fill out an application and pay their $40 dues to join.

With 22 members signed up so far, the group hopes to grow quickly and began advertising before the charter was officially granted.

Anson says that while young veterans could go to any American Legion, having one on campus will make it easier for them to incorporate it into their busy schedules.

"It's hard for students to get together because they're studying so much," she says.

Johnson says many younger veterans, especially those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, have a hard time adjusting to civilian life, and he hopes the post will help make that adjustment easier.

"If they don't have ameans to share with people who understand, they tend to go into depression and check out of society," he says. "The best way to prevent that is to be able to visit with other veterans who have similar feelings."

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Celebrate the bond

Johnson says the American Legion celebrates the bond shared by wartime vets that exists from the first day of boot camp.

"80-year-old veterans are just like brothers; you all have stuff in common," he says.

This is expressed through the Legion's motto, "veterans helping veterans."

That motto is precisely what Anson would like to see Post 401 embody.

"It would be nice if [we] could just help out area veterans, and they would have aplace to go and talk with someone," she says.

She hopes that beyond helping student-veterans adjust to civilian life, the group can pay particular attention to homeless veterans in the area.

But, she says, the group's goals won't be determined until it has its first meeting, which has not been scheduled yet.

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Johnson says setting goals and organizing the post will be the first points of business. The post needs officers, goals and a meeting schedule before any other decisions can be made.

He says the post can be anything the members want it to be. This could include activities for veterans' young families, community service projects and creating a lounge for veterans to make friends and network.

Whatever direction the group settles on, he is confident it will have the support of the university administrators, who have been more than willing to help in the process so far.

"They're very open and supportive of veteran needs," Johnson says.

In fact, UND was recognized as one of the most military-friendly schools in the nation by GI Jobs and one of the top three military-friendly schools for online classes.

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