The American Legion is important to veteran Steve Anderson for one reason, the mission of helping veterans. In his pursuit of helping fellow veterans, Anderson has reached the peak of the North Dakota American Legion. He was elected to the position of Commander-Elect for the North Dakota American Legion. In 2020, Anderson will become the Commander for the state. For now, the two year responsibility is similar to that of a vice president.
By Melissa Anderson
“It’s just one more step to help veterans. It’s that next step to have a bigger influence, hopefully more of a helping hand, helping veterans within the state,” Anderson explained.
Anderson has worked his way through the ranks of the American Legion, first starting at Post #98 in Langdon before slowly working his way through the district and regional positions. Anderson had been the Central Region Vice Commander where his district stretched from border to border engrossing about 60 American Legion Posts.
“As you grow in the American Legion, you start to make a name for yourself, hopefully a good name,” Anderson shared. “It was our last convention in Minot, and I had a couple of guys who had been there for many years in the American Legion, and they pulled me aside and said, ‘Steve, it’s time you step up.’ I said okay.”
Anderson had already been thinking of trying to go further within the organization. As a younger generation of veteran among the Legion, Anderson wanted to do more to make one issue affecting veterans more visible, suicide.
“Remember the fallen. Support the living. That is my slogan, my goal, my thought, and my process. I want to bring it out. Everybody knows about it, but you don’t hear much about it,” Anderson said.
This slogan is in reference to the 22 veterans per day that commit suicide. This is a personal campaign for Anderson as he tries to support and bring more awareness to suicide, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
“I have lost a couple of really good friends to suicide that I was in the military with. It’s near and dear to my heart, and it affects me,” Anderson shared.
The need to bring more awareness to the mental and social issues that veterans deal with is a driving force for Anderson. Supporting veterans in any way that is needed is the purpose behind the American Legion as far as Anderson is concerned. Anderson wants to bring suicide awareness out there.
“It’s out there. Everybody knows about it but it’s not out there. It needs to be out front and center. It’s taboo; you don’t talk about suicide; you don’t talk about PTSD, TBI,” Anderson said. “It’s taboo. That’s bull. It needs to be out in the forefront. We need to talk about it. The more we can talk about it the more we can help.”
Currently, Anderson assists the Commander by traveling around the state and speaking and promoting membership. Some of the topics that are being spoken about by Anderson are the happenings at the national level.
The first item is the LEGION Act – Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – which was just signed into law by President Donald Trump. The Legion Act now makes all veterans of the armed forces eligible for American Legion membership. This bipartisan legislation fills the gaps of war eras that had previously been in place. These gaps lead to the exclusion of servicemen and women from being able to join the American Legion. With the passage of the law, American Legion eligibility dates begin with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and continue until it is determined the United States is no longer in a state of war.
“Now, with the LEGION Act, everyone is inclusive,” Anderson said.
The second item occurs at the National Convention held in Indianapolis where a resolution will be signed into effect allowing the male spouses of female veterans to join the Legion Auxiliary.
“Those are the two biggest things currently dealing with the American Legion.”
Anderson also wants to promote the youth programs sponsored by the American Legion. It isn’t just baseball. From the teaching of government at Boys and Girls State to public speaking in the orator contests, there are many opportunities available.
“We need to get the word out to these young kids cause they are our future,” Anderson said. “ And there are some smart kids out there that could really help us out.”
When Anderson reaches Department Commander he will begin raising money for this awareness campaign of “Remember the Fallen, Support the Living”. Any and all money raised from this will be donated to an entity within the state of North Dakota.