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Commander Leach's Vision for Success

Commander Gary LeachWhy are you a member of The American Legion Family? You may have joined for any number of reasons, but why have you remained? Almost certainly, it’s because of our programs, and the rewarding feeling you get by being part of an organization that does good things for veterans and for our communities. Thank you for supporting our efforts by belonging to America’s largest group of wartime veterans. Now, let’s grow our membership and increase our revenue so we can do even more. It is 100% correct to say that membership is the most important thing we do. It is not an exaggeration to say membership is our lifeblood. Everything revolves around membership!

"Membership is the most important thing we do!"

Unfortunately, the delegates to the 2015 National Convention in Baltimore approved a $5.00 per capita increase. That means many posts had to increase their dues. The main reason given for needing the per capita increase: a decline in membership since the previous increase! Operating expenses are always rising. Membership also needs to rise, or else we each have to pay more. And that does not help us grow our membership. So, what can we do?

National Headquarters Staff

The first thing I want to do is take full advantage of all the help we can get from the National Headquarters staff. They have full-time, paid employees available to help at no cost to us. We have already begun the process of getting their assistance. We’ll start by having a presentation from them at the post-convention Department Executive Committee (DEC) meeting and a District Membership Revitalization the following week. We’ll have their assistance putting on a workshop at the Fall DEC meeting, and we’ll have their help with additional District Membership Revitalizations throughout the year. These efforts will help transfer newly recruited members into your posts. Getting them into your posts is only half the battle. Keeping them is also important. Your post’s participation in American Legion programs will help retain them.

Recruit More Veterans!

Next, how about recruiting veterans who are not yet members? We do a lot of good things, but we’re not very good at letting the public know. And, although it’s an unfair stereotype, some people think of veterans’ organizations as nothing more than a bar where old guys drink beer and tell war stories. We know we’re more than that and we need to let the public know. One way to do that is by increasing our presence on social media. We can publicize the things we do and include pictures, and it’s free! Start a Facebook page for your post and use it as a public affairs tool. If you award a scholarship at a local school, take some pictures, do a write-up, and post it on Facebook. Does your post host a ceremony honoring first responders? Do you conduct a Memorial Day ceremony or a Veterans’ Day ceremony? Help do cleanup at a local school? Put it on social media! It’s a free tool we can use to educate the public about who we are and what we do, and every post and member can take part. Eligible veterans will see us in a more favorable light once they have the facts. That could help persuade them to join us.

Corporate Donations

Finally, how about getting some corporate donations to help us out financially? I want to see us start getting some revenue through our Veterans’ Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Foundation. That Foundation is a great idea and we need to put it to use. Our VA&R Division exists solely to help us help veterans. I believe, when prospective corporate donors find out what we’re really about, they will be willing to make donations to our VA&R Foundation. This would help ease some of the financial burden placed on our members to support the full cost of this vital program.

Remember, when it comes to membership, we need to Recruit, Renew, and Retain.

Let’s go “Full Speed Ahead!” for the Department of California!

Gary Leach
Commander, Department of California

Membership 3 R's

"Membership is the most important thing we do!"

How can we do better a better job of growing our American Legion membership?

Making Membership Work from The American Legion on Vimeo.

In this video, Making Membership Work from The American Legion,
past Department Commanders Randy Goodman (Georgia) and Jay Conti (Florida)
share what helped their states finish No. 1 and 2 in membership in 2014-2015.

Department History

Post 48 1919The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, their families and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in America.

In 1919 American Legion departments across the nation were holding conventions for the very first time. The Department of California held an organizational convention in San Francisco at Post 1 on October 10-12, 1919. The first convention was then held in San Diego on August Post 13 Cat
23-26, 1920. David P. Barrows, Berkeley Post 7 was the Department Commander.

In a few short years we will hold our Centennial Convention. There is a powerful history of the Department of California that is being written to help us celebrate. Every Post in the Department of California is part of our success story. If your post would like to include your story, please let us know.


Organization PyramidColor MapThe American Legion is organized into 55 departments, with one operating in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.

The basic unit of The American Legion is a post, which is supported by a number of organizational levels in the Department. The pyramid graphic to the left shows the levels of organization in the Department of California. The map to the right (click on the map to see a larger view) shows how the Department of California is organized geographically.

There are 6 Legion Areas in the Department with a Vice Commander for each area that is elected by the Legionnaires in the area they serve. Distributed within each Legion Area are the 30 districts of the department. Each district elects their own leadership from the ranks of Legionnaires in their district. The Legion Areas and Districts of the Department of California are administrative divisions of the Department intended to better serve our local Posts.

The American Legion Post, there are 460 posts in the Department of California, is in many ways the tactical unit of The American Legion. It is the Legionnaires serving in our local post who do the good work of The American Legion. Every member of The American Legion, is first and always a member of their local post. This includes members assigned to the administrative Post 1000. The point is, every member of The American Legion has membership in a post.
Legion hats

The color of the uniform cap a Legionnaire wears indicates at what level in the Legion they serve. "Blue Caps" are worn be the large majority of Legionnaires and indicates they serve at the post level. Blue & White caps are for those serving at the district or area level. White caps are for department level leaders. If you see a red cap being worn by a Legionnaire it indicates responsibility at the national level. The National Executive Committeeman (NEC) wears a red cap as does our NEC alternate.

The Department of California does not manage, operate or control local posts in day‐to-‐day business decisions. Departments support posts in many ways as they uphold the principles expressed in the Preamble to the The American Legion Constitution and Constitution, as well as the regulations and decisions of the Department of California's Department Executive Committee (DEC), the National Executive Committee and the National Convention.

The Post is the place where the boots of Legionnaires march in service to all America's veterans. It is in the Post that our members conduct the good work to support our members, their families and the communities where the Posts exist.

Preamble to The American Legion Constitution

The Preamble of our Constitution is the written essence of who we are, it contains our basic values, time tested for almost 100 years. The Preamble is recited before every American Legion meeting.

To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America;
To maintain law and order;
To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism;
To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars;
To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation;
To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses;
To make right the master of might;
To promote peace and goodwill on earth;
To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy;
To consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.

Mission of The American Legion

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 service members and veterans.

Janet Wilson's white capHundreds of local American Legion programs and activities strengthen the nation one community at a time. American Legion Baseball is one of the nation’s most successful amateur athletic programs, educating young people about the importance of sportsmanship, citizenship and fitness. The Operation Comfort Warriors program supports recovering wounded warriors and their families, providing them with "comfort items" and the kind of support that makes a hospital feel a little bit more like home. The Legion also raises millions of dollars in donations at the local, state and national levels to help veterans and their families during times of need and to provide college scholarship opportunities.

The American Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with great political influence perpetuated by its grass-roots involvement in the legislation process from local districts to Capitol Hill. Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington. The Legion stands behind the issues most important to the nation's veterans community, backed by resolutions passed by volunteer leadership.

The American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives.

The American Legion Family

Legion FamilyThe real strength of The American Legion is demonstrated best when our whole Legion Family works together to support the mission of The American Legion. Our American Legion Family is over 4 million members strong.

The American Legion Family includes The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, American Legion Riders and Sons of the American Legion.

Links to the California web sites for each of our Legion Family members are at the very top of each page in this web site. More information about the American Legion Riders and Sons of the American Legion can be found on the 'Program' page.

California Chaplains Center

Praying HandsWhat To Do Before a Veterans Dies
Like our nation’s founding fathers, the veterans who founded The American Legion acknowledged God as the source of all our rights and freedoms.

Apart from God, our history as a people has no meaning. In this faith our institutions were created, our laws enacted, and our liberties secured. To safeguard our sovereignty and our prosperity, that same belief must direct our political, social and economic paths today.

Conceding the erosion of moral and spiritual values in recent years, and recognizing our dependence upon God, The American Legion reaffirms its commitment to bring all Americans closer to their Creator and remind them of His proper place at the center of the nation’s life. “Service to God and Country” – it’s an American Legion program, yes, but the saying describes just as well our members’ attitude and way of life.

Nondenominational and nonsectarian, the Legion’s support for religion in the public square is basic Americanism. Rather than acting independently of religious groups, the Legion desires to cooperate with and join them in reminding the American people with one voice that God is the author and architect of our beloved “land of the free.” Without God, there is no Americanism.

The brochure "What To Do Before A Veteran Dies" is a good resource that Post Chaplains and other leaders can use to help during a difficult time for veterans and their families. It explains the importance of advance planning including the gathering of records and covers the many of the resources and benefits available to veterans.

Chaplain Resources

"Last Bugle Call"

The "Last Bugle Call" portion of the Book of Reports records the names of Legionnaires who have passed away and transferred their membership to the Post Everlasting.

Remembering the Four Chaplains

The first Sunday in February is Four Chaplains Sunday. More than 70 years after they made the supreme sacrifice, the story of these heroic chaplains – Methodist, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Dutch Reformed – is still being told.

On that day in February 3, 1943, a torpedo struck the ship USAT Dorchester reducing its time afloat on the surface of the Atlantic to only an additional 20 minutes. What happened during those few minutes is the reason we remember this day and the acts of courage and sacrifice that took place on her deck every year since.

Four first lieutenants gave the supreme sacrifice that day; each one an Army chaplain. They included Methodist minister, The Reverend George L. Fox, Reform-Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Ph. D), Roman Catholic priest the Reverend John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister, The Reverend Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities and faiths were different. They had met at Army Chaplains School at Harvard University where they became friends as they prepared for service in the European theater, all sailing on board USAT Dorchester to report to their new assignments. All having one God as their father.

Read more about the Four Chaplains - HERE

February 11, 2017 Department of California, Four Chaplain flier

The American Legion Emblem

The Amercan Legion emblem
"There shines the Emblem of The American Legion, it is your badge of distinction, honor and service. It stands for God and Country, and the highest rights of man. Of its several parts, each has a meaning."

“Policies Not Partisan Politics"

Letter from The American Legion, Judge Advocate
Nation Judge Advocate P.B. Onderdonk, Jr.
"Use of The American Legion's name and/or emblem for a political endorsement is totally prohibited and can involve both the individuals involved and the department in serious legal and tax issues."

The American Legion qualifies under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(19) as a Veterans Service Organization and is absolutely non-partisan and non-sectarian. From the National Commander to the newest Legionnaire we can neither engage in partisan politics nor promote the candidacy of any person for public office. “Policies Not Partisan Politics” has been a guiding principle of The American Legion since our beginning in March 1919.

Membership is Everybody's Responsibility