(BPT) - Eva Wallace never enlisted in the U.S. military, has never been on active duty and never endured life-altering injuries protecting American freedoms. However, as a military spouse she has found another important way to serve our country — advocating for veterans’ rights.
Each February, Wallace and more than 500 other members of The American Legion Family, descend on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C., to attend a conference to hear from influential speakers and meet with Congressional representatives and their staff. American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) members share and discuss pressing issues and legislation that affects veterans and their families, including increasing support of homeless veterans, upholding and expanding the advancements made by the GI Bill and improving Veterans Affairs hospital care for veterans in need. Members of the Auxiliary also appear alongside The American Legion before a Joint Session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs to advocate for key issues and promote accountability for legislative actions.
“The military community is constantly evolving and changing, so the veteran community is changing along with it. Returning from the conference, members are armed with new information on important issues that we can share with those who are interested in making a difference in the lives of veterans,” says Wallace, whose husband served for 24 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. “We return to our communities ready to shine a light on the true veteran experience.”
Last year, ALA advocacy helped preserve many important veterans’ services, including programs for disabled veterans and veterans’ widows. They also played a role in helping make care for veterans more accessible, especially for those who live hundreds of miles from their Veteran Affairs medical facility. Recognizing the important role military families play in supporting servicemen and women, the ALA also focused on enhancing resources that support them.
With each conference attendees tackle new challenges and define annual priorities. In 2016, members learned how to encourage local involvement in veterans’ issues, generated awareness of national memorials honoring veterans and raised $110,000 for the Auxiliary Emergency Fund, providing disaster relief for ALA members. In 2017, ALA has programs in place to commemorate the anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and to help establish a National World War I Memorial.
“The conference encourages important conversations with policymakers and explores new ways to collaborate and promote the mission of the ALA," says Carol Harlow, director of the ALA Washington, D.C office. "When members depart Washington, D.C. they leave feeling empowered, inspired and ready for new challenges.”
The ALA is the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization and one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of veterans’ rights. The nonpartisan organization, founded in 1919, helps to advance the mission of The American Legion and provides service to veterans, military and their families. Working in tandem with The American Legion, the ALA has a record of creating meaningful change and has been instrumental in protecting the rights of those who have served. From helping to draft the GI Bill with The American Legion in 1944 to championing the formation of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in 1989, The American Legion Family has been pivotal in advancing legislation that improves the quality of life for our veterans and their families.
The ALA encourages non-military members to also get involved. To learn more about the legislative bills the ALA supports visit: legion.capwiz.com/legion/issues/bills/.