SUNBURY, Ohio – The National Commander of the American Legion, James W. “Bill” Oxford, visited Sunbury on Wednesday. He joined local veterans for a breakfast hosted by John Self and Donna and Glenn Evans at Self’s Big Walnut Grill.
Oxford, a marine who served in Vietnam, spoke to a crowd of veterans nearly 200 strong from all branches.
He explained how that negative experience stayed with him and has motivated him to serve others, especially his military brothers and sisters.
“I made a promise to myself that day [the day he returned]…so over the years that day has just remained fresh in my mind about my commitment to serve American veterans.”
Oxford said the American Legion is 100 years old, “We’ve got to remember we’re just as valuable, just as important, just as relevant today as we were a hundred years ago.”
He talked about the mission too. The American Legion website describes it in even greater detail:
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans.”
“We are the foundation of the future of this organization…but we are also the foundation of the future of this country,” Oxford proclaimed, and he proceeded to describe the role the American Legion has with the youth of today, influencing over 100,000 students not including those involved with Junior ROTC which dramatically increases that 100,000 number.
“As we teach, coach, educate and mentor these young people, we are developing the foundation for the future of this country,” said Oxford. “We have a tremendous opportunity, an obligation to make this country better.”
A few examples of the Legion’s work with young people include their baseball program, Boys State, scouting, shooting sports, scholarships and Boys Nation.
The Ohio Star spoke with Oxford after his speech. He shared, “Part of my responsibility [as National Commander] is visiting our 55 departments, of which the Department of Ohio is one of them…This is a tremendous event.”
The breakfast is held several times a year. The next two are scheduled for 9:00 AM March 18, 2020 and July 15, 2020. Oxford awarded a commendation to the hosts, Donna Evans and John Self, “In recognition and sincere appreciation of outstanding service and assistance which contributed to the advancement of The American Legion programs and activities dedicated to God and Country.”
When asked how he was encouraged by the event at the Big Walnut Grill, Oxford responded,”I made a commitment [when I returned from Vietnam] that today’s soldiers would never be treated the way I was. So, to be able to recognize that we’ve got World War II guys here, we’ve got Korea guys, we’ve got a lot of Vietnam guys, this is just a tremendous opportunity for me to say ‘thank you’ and recognize their service and just make sure that they recognize that we realize they are heroes.”
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