National commander visits Hillsboro American Legion post

Staff reporter

Taking care of veterans is the right thing to do.

That's the message American Legion National Commander Marty Conatser delivered Thursday at the Hillsboro American Legion Post.

Conatser ate breakfast and visited with Hillsboro and Marion members of the local posts.

Following breakfast, the national commander informed legionnaires of issues on a national level regarding the U.S. Veterans Administration budget and health care.

Conatser wants individual posts, like Hillsboro and Marion, to reach out to the newest veterans and families.

"World War II veterans had been the largest membership but now Vietnam veterans are," he said, "but the torch will pass to the next generation of veterans."

All veterans are encouraged to become members to receive support from other members and from the national organization.

While some smaller posts are closing, Conatser said he has found many smaller posts thriving.

"The strength of the American Legion is in the small posts," he said.

The American Legion provides other services such as Legacy Scholarships with $20 million committed nationwide.

Fund-raising events have been organized by American Legion Riders to assist with the scholarship with $400,000 raised last year.

The Legion also is one of the largest supporters of Boy Scouts, Conatser said.

Veterans affairs remains the top priority of the Legion.

The national commander believes providing health care benefits to veterans is an important service and one that should remain at the top of the list.

Those who are willing to risk their lives for the freedom of others deserve adequate health insurance.

"We have to take care of our veterans," Conatser said. "It's the right thing to do."

Conatser of Champaign, Ill., was elected national commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion in August during the 89th national convention.

A U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam era, Conatser joined the Illinois National Guard as an infantryman in 1970. He went on active duty in 1976 and held all positions in Army recruiting from Field Recruiter to Sergeant Major from which he retired in 1996.

He is a 25-year member of Lincoln American Legion Post #102 in DeLand, Ill., where he served as post commander and adjutant. Conatser also served in other positions on district and national levels.

Conatser's stop at Hillsboro was the 10th of 16 stops in a three-day period. After visiting posts in Kansas, he was headed to Maine, and then overseas to Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Pearl Harbor by Dec. 7.