Challenge met

To travel to all 62 counties in New York state is quite a challenge, but one the top officials from the American Legion are up for.

The commanders of the American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion, and the President of the American Legion Auxiliary stopped recently at the American Legion Post 62 in Dunkirk. American Legion Commander Timothy Van Patten, of East Amherst, said the trio were traveling through the counties to make sure veterans are knowledgeable about programs.

“We are visiting 62 counties as a legion family promoting our programs to make sure our veterans are being taken care of,” Van Patten said.

The group also travels to Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis to Legion headquarters to lobby for veterans. While visiting various American Legion Posts, the group recruits members and explains membership benefits.

“We’re always lobbying to make sure there is no decrease in the benefits,” Van Patten said.

Van Patten’s program is the National Emergency Fund through the American Legion. This program helps Legion members who need immediate assistance with daily necessities because of natural disasters.

“We’re trying to raise money to support national disasters like (Superstorm) Sandy,” Van Patten said.

The American Legion Auxiliary has approximately 49,000 members, according to President Sally Johnston of Burke. The auxiliary is open to all women who have served in the military or have a sibling, parent or grandparent in the military.

“We’re the veterans’ advocates. We help write letters for legislation to make sure that our veterans are getting the help that they need,” Johnston said.

Her program, the Warriors Family Assistance program, is for those who are currently deployed or service members who have been deployed within the past five years. It grants up to $1,200 to help with emergency situations for eligible families.

John Knapp Sr. of Harpursville is the Commander for the Sons of the American Legion. The Sons of the American Legion membership is open for all sons and direct male descendants of those who have served in the military. Knapp, a purple heart recipient, is both a member of the American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion.

Knapp was advocating for the National Emergency Fund and the Child Welfare Foundation, which helps out children in need. The Child Welfare Foundation was founded in 1954 and the Sons of the American Legion are the biggest contributor to the foundation, Johnston said.

“It’s to give to children who can’t afford things, (to) help them out,” Knapp said.

Each elected position for the American Legion serves for a one-year term. The trio also stopped at the American Legion Post 1280 in Cassadaga earlier in the afternoon.

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