American Legion of Iowa members will meet in Cedar Rapids today through Sunday for the organization’s 92nd annual state convention. State Adjutant John Derner says there are just under 57,000 American Legion members in Iowa. He’d like to see membership grow to between 58,000 to 59,000 by this time next year. “We have seen a decline in membership over the past few years. I would not call it a significant decline,” Derner said. “I think our numbers will increase. We just need to get the word out to the people and let them know what we have to offer them as a member of our organization.”
Currently, most of the American Legion of Iowa members are veterans of the Vietnam War. Eligible members pay annual dues to their local post that average around $35. There are 663 American Legion posts in the state. Many posts have been shut down over the past decade because there’s not enough veterans joining in small towns. “We’re seeing some consolidation of posts and in most cases that’s a very good thing because a larger post makes for a stronger post and they can better serve the community that they’re in,” Derner said.
The goals of the American Legion involve supporting veterans and their families, running programs for children and spreading patriotism. Members attending the convention will elect new officers, consider new policies and discuss legislative priorities. Derner says the American Legion of Iowa would like the state legislature to add money to the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund, which was created in 2003 with the intent of growing the fund to $50 million) in 10 years. “One of the things we’ve been pushing for is an annual appropriation by the legislature to that fund so we can get it built up to that $50 million level,” Derner said. “Currently, the fund is not meeting the needs of all the requests that are coming into it.”
Around 600 veterans are expected to attend the convention in Cedar Rapids. The weekend’s festivities will include a parade starting at Kingston Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday.