Brett P. Reistad: May 3, 2019

The Nation’s Largest Veterans Organization Observing 100th Birthday

Commander Discusses Memorial Day 2019, Issues Facing America’s Heroes


Brett P. Reistad

National Commander of the American Legion

U.S. Army veteran Brett P. Reistad (rye STAD) was elected the 100th National Commander of The American Legion during the organization’s 100thNational Convention on August 30, 2018.

A retired lieutenant with the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department, Reistad was a U.S. Army infantryman from 1974 to 1978 and served with the Presidential Salute Battery of the 3rd US. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at historic Fort Myer, Va. He participated in the Inaugural ceremony for President Carter and other high-profile events.

A member of American Legion Post 270 in McLean, Va., he is leading the nation’s largest veteran’s organization through its centennial year. The American Legion was founded in 1919 by a group of American World War I veterans in Paris, France.

“Memorial Day is solemn time to honor the ultimate sacrifices that have been made by American heroes since our nation’s founding,” Reistad said. “But really, the families of these heroes remember the loss of their loved ones every day. The American Legion calls on all Americans to offer their heartfelt support to all Gold Star families. When The American Legion was founded 100 years ago, most Americans believed that World War I was the ‘war to end all wars.’ Sadly, it wasn’t.  But from that war came an organization that was built on the four pillars of a strong national defense, care for veterans, patriotic youth programs and Americanism. That organization is The American Legion and we are still dedicated to serving this great nation.”

Among issues that The American Legion hopes people will focus on:

  • This year marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  Twenty-five hundred American heroes lost their lives during the operation, which marked the beginning of the end for the Axis Powers and led to the liberation of Europe.
  • Caring for veterans who defended our nation is not only a solemn obligation but it is a cost of war.
  • Thousands of veterans struggle daily to overcome the hardships inflicted by traumatic brain injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other signature wounds of war. An estimated 20 veterans a day commit suicide. The American Legion believes all possible resources should be used to prevent such tragedies.
  • The American Legion strongly believes that the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has problems, is a system worth saving and must be strengthened. While VA is not the best choice for every veteran, nobody understands the unique health care needs of the veteran population better than the professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA should take the lead in running the Choice program to ensure veterans receive timely and quality care.
  • Reforming the VA health care system is not just a task, but a continuing process that will only improve if Americans hold their elected officials accountable and demand that veterans be treated with the dignity and respect that they have earned.
  • The American Legion provided more than $1,000,000 of financial assistance to junior-ranking Coast Guard families during the federal government shutdown earlier this year. This was $1,000,000 more than Congress provided during that same period. The American Legion would like to see passage of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act and ensure that no branch of the U.S. military ever faces pay uncertainty in the unfortunate event of future government shutdowns.
  • Nearly 1,600 American servicemembers were killed or wounded during periods of service after World War II that were not declared or recognized as hostile eras by Congress.  These casualties occurred in places such as Greece, Iran, Cuba, El Salvador and Korea, to name just a few. The American Legion is working with Congress to recognize these periods so that every veteran who served honorably during the Cold War can join nation’s largest wartime veteran’s organization.
  • One hundred years ago, in 1919, The American Legion was founded by a group of World War I veterans in Paris, France. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., future Treasury Secretary Ogden Mills and the father of U.S. intelligence “Wild Bill” Donovan were some of the legendary founders. Their mission, one that continues today, was to care for veterans, provide patriotic programs for our nation’s youth, advocate for a strong national defense and instill a societal pride on what it means to be American.
  • In honor of The American Legion Centennial, Congress passed The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act,which authorized the U.S. Mint to produce collectible coins. Congress only authorizes two commemorative coin acts per year.
  • The best way for employers to thank a veteran is to hire one. By providing jobs, employers can help eliminate veteran homelessness.
  • To maintain a strong volunteer military, America should provide a high quality of life for military members and their families, and the training, technology and weapons needed to prevail against any enemy.
  • Veterans are a vital part of communities across the nation.  American Legion programs such as the Veterans and Children’s Foundation, Operation Comfort Warriors, Boys State, Boys Nation, American Legion Baseball, Oratorical Scholarship contests, blood donations and the National Emergency Fund benefit and touch countless lives.

The American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization, with about two million members and nearly 13,000 posts worldwide, whose members are involved in community-based support of veterans, service members and their families. The American Legion is strongly committed to helping veterans and military families with its outreach programs and lobbying efforts, as a new generation of returning veterans reintegrate into the community.

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