American Legion: It's More Important Than Ever to Check on Veterans

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WASHINGTON, DC — As Americans are self-quarantining to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the American Legion says it’s more important than ever to check in on our veterans.

In the spirit of the military Battle Buddy program, the Legion has similarly created a coronavirus pandemic Buddy Check system ensure no veteran is left without support and social connection.

“If you remember back to the World Wars, there was a term called ‘battle-buddies’ and that’s making sure the guy in the foxhole with is ok,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford told 104.7 WONK FM’s Jen Richer. “When we think about this coronavirus, it’s social distancing, but we still want to maintain contact.”

As the nation’s largest veterans service organization, the American Legion is mobilizing their 3,600 members to check in on veterans who are particularly vulnerable during this pandemic. “We are reaching out to make sure our veterans, our Legionnaires, are ok, ‘[asking] do they need anything, can we help?,’ that’s what a buddy check is,” Oxford explains.

Over the past several months, the program has proven to be successful. “We’ve had Legionnaires from across the country who make four or five hundred phone calls, that’s the kind of participation that we’ve had,” Oxford said.

The organization has seen unprecedented engagement, with participation from volunteers in all 50 states and the the five offshore departments. "In Minnesota, they have come up with an enhanced buddy check, they’ve appointed and created team captains. These team captains have different members on their team, [and] they’re reaching out to individual veterans,” Oxford described.

Once the members, or Legionnaires, have made contact, they’ve offered to run errands and perform daily chores for those at highest risk for contracting the disease.

“We’ve had Legionnaires be able to make a trip to the grocery store to pick up groceries for those shut in. We’ve had Legionnaires pick up a prescription at a drug store, we’ve had Legionnaires go to a veteran’s home and move the garbage can from the street back to the house, those are the things we’ve been able to see and do as we make these buddy check phone calls,” Oxford said.

Although the American Legion Buddy Check program was designed for Legionnaires to connect, they are encouraging all members of the community to find ways to connect with veterans during this crisis.

6 Ways to Organize A Buddy Check In Your Community

  1. Create a Call Team - Organize a group of volunteers to call veterans, seniors, and vulnerable members of your community.
  2. Build a Call List - Visit and ask neighbors for suggestions of those members in your neighborhood who may need assistance.
  3. Compile Resources - Make a list of local resources and phone numbers of services such as pharmacies with drive through windows, restaurants that deliver, and mail delivery vendors in your area to make suggestions on those calls.
  4. Start Calling - Ask people how they are doing and if they need anything.
  5. Document - Create a spreadsheet to record your calls and identify those who may need a follow up or additional assistance.
  6. Leave a Message - Leave contact information in case the call doesn't get answered so you can be reached in the future.

“You could check on the people in your building, you might not see them physically, maintaining that social distance with a phone call. That’s what the buddy check is all about, it’s just to reach out maintain the social contact and interaction with the folks you know,” Oxford explains. “Think about the people that you know, people that might be in need of help, if you can’t help them, somebody out there is willing and able to make that contact and help in anyway that we can.”

Oxford hopes that veterans stay connected, even after the virus threat has waned. “I would encourage every veteran across the board, if you do not belong to a veteran service organization, join one. I’d be honored and pleased to have every veteran as an American Legion member, but … it’s the camaraderie, it’s the brotherhood, it’s the fellowship,” Oxford explains.

For more information visit the American Legion website here:

Listen to the full interview with American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford here:

Jen Richer with Commander Oxford

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