American Legion returns to Minn.The American Legion National Convention returns to its roots in Minneapolis this year for the annual gathering of thousands of veterans and friends. And barely more than two weeks after his most recent visit, President Barack Obama again will appear in Minnesota —this time to speak at the conference.
By: By Danielle Nordine, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
The American Legion National Convention returns to its roots in Minneapolis this year for the annual gathering of thousands of veterans and friends.
And barely more than two weeks after his most recent visit, President Barack Obama again will appear in Minnesota —this time to speak at the conference.
The 2011 convention, which kicked off Friday, is back in Minneapolis after 15 years, revisiting the city where the first meeting took place in 1919.
The Legion invites the president, as commander in chief, to its gathering each year, said Dan Ludwig, a Red Wing resident and former American Legion national commander.
“Sometimes they give political speeches and sometimes it’s a speech with more substance in it,” Ludwig said of those presidents who have accepted.
During his Tuesday morning talk, Obama likely will touch on major issues he has highlighted recently, such as getting veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan back to work.
“The unemployment problem is the No. 1 concern for veterans,” said Bob Davis, Goodhue County Veterans Service Officer.
Davis said he expects Obama also to talk about revamping Veterans Affairs procedures so claims are processed more quickly.
Minnesota typically doesn’t have as many problems as other areas with this issue, he said, and in fact is involved in pilot programs testing ways to improve VA service.
“We want to speed up claims processing so it’s done faster and correctly the first time,” Davis said.
Those issues were also the main points of discussion when Obama met with veterans in Cannon Falls after his town hall-style meeting Aug. 15, Davis said.
At that meeting and in other settings, Obama has promoted a plan to give tax breaks to businesses that hire veterans.
Davis said that’s a good first step, but companies also have to get on board.
“The government can give tax breaks, but then we’ve got to get businesses to tie in and get hiring,” he said. “It’s kind of a two-way street.”
Young veterans aren’t the only ones having trouble with jobs, Davis pointed out. Middle-aged veterans are returning without jobs and need to go through training to find new ones.
“Once they’re retrained, no matter what age, we’ve got to have some jobs for them,” Davis said.
But for attendees of the Legion’s nearly weeklong convention, the gathering is about more than the president’s appearance: It is a time for the Legionnaires to socialize as well as hash out stances on major issues facing veterans and those in military service, said Ludwig, who will be attending his 30th convention this year.
The Legion will act on hundreds of resolutions throughout the conference, which ends Wednesday.
“We always take a hard look at the life and the conditions for our servicemen and their families,” ensuring they have the proper equipment and training as well as addressing quality of life issues, Ludwig said. The Legion also voices thoughts on national security issues and the actions of the VA.
Resolutions start at the post level, Ludwig said, and work their way through department and state conventions.
Danielle Nordine is a reporter at The Republican Eagle,
which is owned by Forum Communications Co.