AmVets Chapter in Little Egg Harbor Fills a Void

Mar 27, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson American Legion Post 493 on Radio Road in Little Egg Harbor is also the home of a new chapter of AmVets.

American Veterans, or AmVets, is an inclusive veterans service organization chartered by Congress in 1947. Unlike other veterans groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which is open only for veterans who did service in a war, campaign or expedition on foreign soil or hostile waters, and the American Legion, whose members must have served or be serving in active duty during any of the war eras, AmVets is open to all who were honorably discharged from United States military or are still serving, including the National Guards and state Reserves.

According to AmVets’ national website, “Our commitment to service traces its roots back to 1944 when veteran volunteers first began helping veterans of World War II obtain the benefits promised them by the federal government. As the number of returning veterans swelled into the millions, it was evident that some sort of nationally organized assistance for them would be needed. The older established national groups wouldn’t do; the leaders of this new generation of veterans wanted their own organization.

“With that in mind, eighteen of them, representing nine veterans clubs, met in Kansas City, Missouri and founded The American Veterans of World War II on Dec. 10, 1944. Less than three years later, on July 23, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 216, making AMVETS the first World War II organization to be chartered by Congress.”

Since then, the original charter has been amended several times to admit members who served in different eras.

Today, membership in AmVets is open to anyone who is currently serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. armed forces from World War II to the present, including the National Guard and Reserves.

Today, there are 250,000 members nationwide, and the local group hopes to add to that.

Some of the services provided to members are trained national service officers accredited by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to provide advice and action on compensation claims at no charge to the veteran.

Andy Jackson is the commander of American Legion Post 493 on Radio Road in Little Egg Harbor, a new member of AmVets and a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He is a Navy veteran who was part of the 1983 Beirut peacekeeping forces during the Lebanese civil war.

AmVets Commander Kenny Sauer was not available for comment. Sauer was one of the veterans who served between the Vietnam War and Desert Storm and was not eligible for either the American Legion or VFW veterans groups, said Jackson. “A lot of guys came in and couldn’t join the American Legion who wanted to join the post. So we started the AmVets group in November. AmVets New Jersey came down in January, and we were sworn in as an official charter group, and they were kind enough to let us use Post 493 for AmVets.”

AmVets meets the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 493.

“People think the post is just a bar where old guys sit and drink and relive the wars,” said Jackson. “It’s much more than that – it’s a place where veterans and service members can create camaraderie. Somewhere they can sit and talk about their service rather than just to their families, who have heard it already.”

AmVets, like the American Legion, plans on being involved in charity drives. “Just now we are raising funds for the new Veterans Park,” said Jackson. The Veterans Park is located just a half mile down Radio Road on a vacant lot. So far, Little Egg Harbor Township was able to use grant funds to install curbing, sidewalks and a few parking spaces. Still to come are the flagpoles for each branch of the service, benches and landscaping.

The group also hopes to raise funds for two $300 scholarships to Pinelands Regional High School.

AmVets is holding its first fundraising dinner on Saturday, March 30, from 5 to 8 p.m., serving stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes, drink and dessert for $10.

Last year Post 493 raised over $200,000 for various causes, including the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.

“Recently we visited Veterans Haven in Hammonton, one of two shelters for homeless veterans in New Jersey,” said Jackson. “Local Girl Scouts collected items of clothing for the homeless vets and went with us to donate the items.”

Planned for the summer is a “Ride to Zero,” a motorcycle ride and music festival at Post 493 to raise money to provide mental health services for returning veterans. Statistics are grim – nationwide, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The “Ride to Zero” aim is to bring that number down.

The annual dues to join AmVets is $30 and allows members access to the post and all its functions.

To join AmVets, stop by Post 493, 420 Radio Rd., during a meeting. The next meeting is April 21 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 609 296-9771.

— Pat Johnson

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