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Sons of the American Legion

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This week the stepfather of our most conservative and outspoken Scout asked me if I would be interested in our Troop being "adopted" by the "Sons of the American Legion."


As I understand it, his group is offering an "informal adoption" and not a formal change in sponsoring organizations (although his wife has suggested in the past that our membership would increase if we were located somewhere other than our current "neighborhood in transition").


They seem to be offering their resources (such as their facilities and organizational skills for fundraisers) in return for our eligible Scouts (those directly related to a veteran) joining the Sons of the American Legion. They will pay the membership fees.


I don't see a downside to this, but I would welcome any comments before I contact them to discuss the details.



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Political persuasions aside, this raises a couple of questions in my mind.


1. What would your current CO think about this? If you suspect they'd be unhappy and see this as another group usurping their position then that's a problem. One sure sign: would you (someone) make this an open arrangement, or is this done quietly without clearly telling your CO? If the latter, I'd be uncomfortable with that.


2. How are you going to ensure that the eligible scouts join? Personally I'm uncomfortable with anything that looks like coercion, even if it comes nicely wrapped with "goodies" like a better meeting place. If you are expected to "deliver" members in exchange for their support then you place yourself in a position of needing to deliver. What if there are eligible scouts who aren't interested? Yes, the organization will pay the membership fees. But then you are also supporting "ghost" members - people who exist as members on paper only. And I find that a bit troublesome. (Think of the problems it has caused w/ regard to BSA to have "ghost" units...)


3. You mention right off the bat that there is a political aspect here. Is that what's motivating this offer? If so, and regardless of which political agenda we're talking about, are you comfortable with that? Would this result in a situation where your troop might be perceived as being under the influence of a particular ideologically motivated group? Bad business there.


4. If you were to leave your "transitional" neighborhood and hold meetings elsewhere, would you be perceived as abandoning boys in that neighborhood? In particular, does your current CO exist in part to serve that neighborhood? If so then this might be a reason to decline the offer.


I think it comes down to question of whom you (and your CO) serve and whether forming this relationship with this outside group would adversely affect your attempts to serve the target population.



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Thanks for your comments Lisa!


To reply point by point:


1. What would your current CO think about this?


I'm not sure exactly what the American Legion has in mind, and I'm looking for feedback before I follow up. Our CO is a Catholic Church.


2. How are you going to ensure that the eligible scouts join?


I told them that they would have to sell the Scouts on it, and explain the program to their parents.


The brochures do not mention regular meetings. Perhaps someone on the list knows what joining the Sons of the American Legion actually involves, and how much variation there is from group to group.


3. You mention right off the bat that there is a political aspect here.


Yes, for instance the brochure that they want us to distribute to the Scouts contains the passage: "Sons of the American Legion are assisting The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance in their efforts to secure a Constitutional Amendment to protect the Flag of the United States from desecration."


When American Legion and VFW members see our Scouts marching in ceremonies each with his own flag, and find out that I personally purchased 24 American Flags to do this, they always assume that I support this Constitutional Amendment, but I always keep my political views to myself. My personal experience with right-wing conservatives is that when they assume that you share the same political values, they will move heaven and earth to help your Scouts.


This would be about the Scouts, not about discussing with them my personal views. For instance, one of our Scouts needs guidance in parliamentary procedure, and I notice that one of their goals is "To learn how to conduct a meeting using Roberts Rules of Order.


But given my personal views, I would like to know in advance what kind of political indoctrination (if any) to expect.


4. If you were to leave your "transitional" neighborhood and hold meetings elsewhere....


No, it is my understanding that we would continue to hold our meetings at our current Sponsoring Organization, but hold additional fund-raisers and opportunities for public-service through the American Legion facilities.




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OK so I agree it would be important to flesh out the political aspect. Does this group see scouting as a way to gain publicity or to further their political cause? If so I'd be wary. I hate it when I see scouting used as a political tool and even more when I see individual scouts get sucked into this (perhaps unwittingly). We're not a photo op for any group of politicos.


As for the last point. I know a lot of units who do service, etc., for outside groups that are not their CO. My son's troop is sponsored by a Lions club, yet they regularly do service projects for the VFW, American Legion, Elks, and a variety of other community groups (including several churches). I don't see a need for some kind of "unofficial" sponsorship to do this.


And I'd really want to know, what's in it for the Sons? Why do they want you all as members, particularly if they don't seem to hold meetings or whatever? I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth but I'm just concerned that this is a ploy to either inflate their membership #s or to use their support of scouts as a political tool.

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I think there may be a few members of this forum that may share similar backgrounds as mine, so allow me to describe a little of my background first. I am a family man, parent, Scouter (Troop ASM and Crew Advisor), retired military, a local American Legion Post Commander, member of the local VFW post, and a few other military veterans associations. My sons are both Boy Scouts, Venturers and Sons of the American Legion.


The American Legion and Sons of the American Legion (like many other Community Base Organizations) have held long time bonds with the BSA. They(we) find Scouting programs to have very similar views in education, character building, and citizenship development.


Each military veteran has their own political views (what ever they may be). However, membership in the Legion usually adds to the numbers that lobby congress for veterans rights and veterans benefits. Various items provide by law via the Veterans Administration such as the VA hospitals and clinics, VA home loans, and the VA GI Education Bills, are items that the various veterans groups have urged congress to vote in favor of.


As the average age of the Veteran groups grows older, their average childrens age is mid 20's to mid 40's even. (Similar to the shifting baby boom population bubble/bell curve) Equally, our most recent veterans are returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. The veterans organizations are attempting to satisfy the needs, education and family oriented support of a younger veteran population.


As I said, Legion and Scouting (like other chartering organizations) have had a long bond, thru years of Chartering Organization across America. The American Legion has even had a information booth at the Relationship Expo Tent during National Jamboree. The American Legion, SAL, and other veterans organizations now welcoming younger military veterans have revived their interest and commitment to Scouting.


All clubs and organizations have recognitions for maintaining a quality status quo. They are awarded points for advancement, education, safety and membership just to mention a few criteria. As Boy Scouts, we call it Quality Unit, but you can find this same "measuring stick" in nearly every club. The American Legion and Sons of the American Legion not being any different, also award points for membership.



Now... After saying all that. I've been involved in various Scout Troops and Legion Posts and local churches over my military career. I've always been a big critic of "informal adoptions" or people saying "our Scouts". Either you are the Chartering Organization or not. Any thing else provided to a Troop would be considered a donation and not a "quid pro quo". I've even told church pastors and youth pastors, "we are not "your Scouts" unless you are willing to sign a charter agreement!"


What I highly recommend is the SAL in your neighborhood meet with the local DE, and become an actual Chartering Organization for a new Troop or Troop relocating to a new Chartering Organization. Personally, for those youth that are eligible, I would encourage membership in the SAL, but I would discourage dual membership being a criteria to join the Troop.


As Kudu described, it sounds like the stepfather of a Scout, does not understand what the functions of a chartering organization is. No big deal, he would just need to be explained the Chartering Organization process.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!



Here are the SAL joining criteria.

Not everyone is eligible to become a member of the Sons of The American Legion. There are specific membership requirements.


To be eligible, you must be a male descendant (includes stepsons and adopted sons) of a member of The American Legion.


You would also be eligible to join the Sons of The American Legion if you are the male descendant (stepsons and adopted sons included) of a veteran who died in service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, or the Persian Gulf War (see specific time periods for service during these conflicts).


You would also be eligible to join the Sons of The American Legion if you are the male descendant (stepsons and adopted sons included) of a veteran who died subsequent to his or her honorable discharge from service in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, or the Persian Gulf War


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I am going to endorse what Lisa'Bob and Crew21_Adv both said. It's probably better for a new unit to Charter out of their organization, and it's certainly a good thing for you and your DE to meet with them.


It's also a good thing to flesh out the political issues here. Patriotism is one thing, quids pro quo for the equipment is wholly another.


Finally, if your current Chartered Partner believes your unit is really "delivering the promise", STAY WHERE YOU ARE!!! A developed unit, running well, can be relatively low maintenance. A new unit during start-up (even a charter transfer) is high maintenance.

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