Now that the war in Afghanistan is over, veterans organizations like the American Legion Post 390, are looking to tap into the younger generation of veterans and their needs.
From food pantries, to clothing giveaways, to health services — the American Legion Post 390 helps find and provide resources to all veterans in need in the Uniondale and Hempstead Village areas.
The American Legion is the largest veterans' organization in the country, dedicated to advocating for and supporting veterans, service members, and their communities by offering them much-needed resources like access to counseling, free and low-cost healthcare services, access to food pantries and more.
Each post within the American Legion is independently operated and receives no state or county funding for its operations, leaving some smaller posts like 390, who are struggling to stay afloat financially. According to Mary Burns, a board member for the legion post, had troubles since the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re currently unsustainable,” Burns said. “We cannot afford to continue at this rate.”
Burns explains that the post is really the only asset for many veterans in this area and that without them, those living in the Village of Hempstead who are in need would have trouble finding and accessing much needed resources.
Currently, Nassau County’s allocated budget for the Division of Veterans Service, a county-level agency dedicated to serving the needs of veterans and their families, is $29.9 million — none of which goes towards supporting local organizations such as the Legion Post 390.
But in a county with over 38,000 veterans, that means there is only about $787 allocated for each veteran, for services and programs including community outreach, advocacy work, transportation, administrative tasks, and claims processing.
Despite their financial burdens, the Post has stayed dedicated to reaching out to veterans in need and hosting different events and giveaways — such as their recent hospital visit where they handed out much needed clothes and supplies to injured veterans. “There is a lot of younger veterans who just came out of the Middle East who are in need of our services,” explained Frank Neal, a board member of the Legion Post 390.
According to United States Census Bureau estimates, roughly 4,300 Nassau residents have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, while nationally roughly three-quarters of all veterans have served during wartime, with only 22 percent having served in times of peace.
“For us Vietnam veterans,” Neal said, “a lot of us didn't join any kind of group or program right away after we got out of the military, and I think that is what we are seeing with new veterans coming home now.”
“It's very expensive to live on Long Island and the fact that could be working and earning 50 to $60,000 and that only covers your mortgage, your insurance, and puts food on the table, but it doesn't cover the other expenses, so a lot of the younger people, they just don't have the time to address the needs they don’t realize are there.”
“Nobody here is under 70 years old,” said Harry Ransom, vice commander of the Legion Post 390. “I think it is important to tap into the younger generation of veterans and pass the torch, or this community may suffer in the long run.”