“As national commander I try to get to as many — we call them departments — we possibly can. The Department of Georgia is one of those and I hope to hit 48 this year, and 10 foreign countries. I’ll be on the road about 330 days this year,” Dellinger said.
Elected to a one-year term August 2013, Dellinger said he is the chief executive officer and chief spokesman of the American Legion. During his active duty service, he added, he was posted at Fort Benning and later moved into the Army Reserve. The Cartersville post, he said, was an example of the legion’s four pillars: patriotism, taking care of veterans, taking care of communities and a strong national defense.
“It’s a very good example. The programs they put on, the scholarships that they give, are exactly why we were founded,” Dellinger said. “They make sure that there are children taken care of and know the heritage of America and what we stand for.”
Dale Cockrill, commander of Post 42, said he and his post had been looking forward to the visit.
“I tell you what, when the department asked us to host the national commander, we thought, ‘Wow. We’ve done something good here.’ We looked forward to this day. It’s an honor for our post. It’s an honor for our members. It’s an honor for our community.”
Among the legion’s duties, Dellinger explained, is lobbying for both retired soldiers and those on active duty.
‘We have an office in Washington, D.C., with a legislative staff. This past year the American Legion testified in front of Congress 39 times on various veterans benefits and different subjects. So we, a bit of what we do is lobby on behalf of our veterans and especially our servicemen and women because they can’t lobby due to their commitment with the government. So we also have to be their voice,” he said.
Among the most pressing issues, he believed, was health care.
“It’s multitude. First of all, health care for our veterans is paramount. The men and women on active duty right now need the best care possible. With the [traumatic brain injury] and [post-traumatic stress disorder], the signature wounds of both Iraq and Afghanistan, we have to make sure they are properly taken care of by [Veterans Affairs], making sure that their disability claims are taken care of in a timely manner. ... Every day, especially with the increase in suicides in the military lately, we have to make sure that the doctors are there when they’re needed,” Dellinger said.
Following a dinner and recognition of local, state and national officers in the legion, as well as the American Legion Riders, Dellinger stood to give his remarks to an audience composed of legionnaires from around the organization’s seventh district. He touched on the legion’s need to support new veterans and increase membership.
“Because it isn’t, especially today — we’ve had basically 23 years of war. If you think back to the first Gulf War, it’s been 23 years of war. It isn’t the cost of war, it’s the 50 years of care afterwards. We have to make sure we’re strong and viable and relevant for Afghanistan and Iraq and Desert Storm veterans because they’re going to need our help. They really are,” he said.
Dellinger cited numbers from 2013, when the legion helped approximately 220,000 men and women through sponsorships, scholarships and other activities. Fundraising amounts hit approximately $22 million, he added. However, he said that while membership was up, it still needed to continue growing, and it could be done by simply asking a veteran to join.
“One thing that wasn’t stated in my resume was that I’m also a Mason, and I’ve coined a little phrase this year,” Dellinger said. “That we’re the second-best kept secret other than the Mason Lodge because we don’t just tell people who we are and what we do.”
For more information on the American Legion and its services, visit www.legion.org. Carl Boyd Post 42, located at 1 Roosevelt St., Cartersville, can be contacted at 770-382-9150.