By Sharon McIntire Some what like turtles, we are emerging from the pandemic cautiously, peeking slowly out of our shells as we venture into this new world. It looks reassuringly the same. But as we take turtle steps, we realize there are chuckholes in the road –holes in us, and holes in the world around us. We need to make our way into tomorrow. But tomorrow isn’t yesterday, and who we were and what we used to do has changed somehow. We’ve spent a lot of time isolated from friends, family, workplace, community. If isolation has taught you that family, friends, community is important, then your nose should explore scents outside of yourself. One organization that hopes this will happen is the American Legion, which champions four pillars: veterans’ health and rehabilitation, national defense, Americanism, and children and youth. Its purpose and all of its activities support those four pillars. Our local Bryan Mudgett Post No. 7, located on Legion Street behind the Pierce Street Sonic, has the same mission. Each year its membership supports veterans, offering services for whatever needs arise, including building handicap ramps and seeking and distributing wheelchairs and other needed equipment. Border security, supporting Homeland Security, and building the border wall have been its latest efforts involving national defense. Americanism focuses on the flag. They no longer visit schools to discuss our flag’s history and symbolism, but they do collect discarded flags and have an annual flag retirement ceremony, on or around Flag Day. Combining Americanism with the pillar of children and youth is their annual scholarship to Boys and Girls State, a leadership program that teaches high school students the basic functions of our government. Their children and youth outreach provides an annual total of $19,000 in scholarships to 30 seniors in Carlsbad and Loving. In addition, they sponsor numerous youth organizations, including Boys and Girls Scouts, the American Legion baseball team, and junior shooting sports. “That’s what I enjoy doing is the charity and helping people,” states Frank Sapien, who has served as the Legion’s Adjutant since 2002. “I like helping the kids and doing scholarships and all that. I believe that they are our future and hopefully, through the American Legion, they can achieve something. ”Assistance is also available to help individuals who come in seeking emergency assistance. This can include help to pay utility bills, buy groceries, or pay medical expenses. Each American Legion post has three family members: Legion for veterans, Legion Auxiliary for their spouses, and the Sons of the Legions. The national website states that The Auxiliary volunteers “give tens of thousands of hours to its communities and to veterans, and raises millions of dollars to support its own programs as well as other charities,” while “The Sons exists to honor the service and sacrifice of Legionnaires.” Detailed descriptions of their many and varied activities are available on the American Legion website. But assistance is scarce this year. Annual membership fees are minimal: $40 for a veteran, $35 for an Auxiliary, and $30 for Sons of the Legions. The post makes its money primarily from gaming machines, so for 14 and a half months while their doors were barred for COVID, the post took in no money. After providing scholarships, their coffers are depleted. Sapien is worried. “We ran the charity account down to almost nothing trying to keep up the scholarships. ”Finance officer Pat Jones agrees. “We have no money. No money to operate, and no money to help anybody. ”Things could be worse. And they are. Many of the charitable activities the Legion offers are not available here because no one wants to carry the banner. Flag presentations in the schools, motorcycle runs for charity and to honor and protect veterans’ funerals, motorcycle caravans carrying gifts of handmade blankets, laptops, and gift cards to a San Antonio hospital serving amputees no longer run because no one is willing to head the Sons of the Legions. With a membership roster of 220, the post meets the second Monday of the month with dinner at 6:00 followed by their meeting at 7:00. Sapien noted that for their first meeting since the pandemic there was a good turnout for the meal, but only 18 stayed for the meeting. At the end of the meeting, some offices remained vacant. Chances are, you’re eligible for membership. The website of the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ service organization states, “If you have served federal active duty in the United States Armed Forces since December 7, 1941, and have been honorably discharged or are still serving, you are eligible for membership in the American Legion. ”As you emerge from the darkness into the light, take a look around and reflect on the life our veterans gifted us. See if you have talents this time-honored organization can use. The post is open Monday-Thursday from 5-12 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 12 p.m.-12 a.m. Introduce yourself to a veteran and share some memories. Have a drink at the bar and try your luck at the gaming tables, knowing that the money you spend will help our vets and our community. Make yourself at home -the people you meet will be delighted to welcome you into their family.