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Du Quoin plays host to American Legion of Illinois caravan

  • Veterans from across southern Illinois came to Du Quoin Thursday to hear from statewide and national American Legion and Auxiliary officials.

    Veterans from across southern Illinois came to Du Quoin Thursday to hear from statewide and national American Legion and Auxiliary officials.
    Geoffrey Ritter photo

  • Sharon Conatser, past national president of the American Legion Auxiliary, speaks at Du Quoin American Legion Post 647 Thursday, part of a statewide tour.

    Sharon Conatser, past national president of the American Legion Auxiliary, speaks at Du Quoin American Legion Post 647 Thursday, part of a statewide tour.
    Geoffrey Ritter photo

 
By Geoffrey Ritter
gritter@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 1/19/2017, 6:23 PM

Patriotic organizations will have to work even harder to make sure veterans are well cared for in the years to come, the past national president of the American Legion Auxiliary said Thursday during a stop in Du Quoin.

Sharon Conatser, who was the Auxiliary president in 2015 and 2016, spoke Thursday morning at Post 647 in Du Quoin as part of the American Legion of Illinois' Membership Caravan.

Legion members from posts throughout southern Illinois, including those in Benton, Marion, Zeigler and Chester, gathered for breakfast at the post and to hear Conatser speak. Several individual posts also were recognized for meeting or surpassing membership goals.

"We are a member-based organization," Conatser told the assembled crowd. "If we do not continue to grow, who's going to take care of our veterans who are serving today? That's how you get people in your community to know what you're doing: Bring them into your post."

Growing membership and expanding efforts to care for veterans were the dominant themes of the morning. Cheri Stanton, department commander of the Illinois American Legion, noted that in the past year, Legion members donated 1.3 million volunteer hours to Veterans Affairs hospitals -- an astounding number dwarfed by that of the Legion Auxiliary, whose members donated 1.9 billion hours during the same period.

Stanton said that as the Legion attempts to grow its membership across the nation, letting people know about that kind of work is the most important thing current members can do.

"If you haven't talked about your American Legion Post so far, you need to get that out so everyone can understand," Stanton said.

Conatser also took time to highlight the Citizens Flag Alliance, a broad partnership among organizations across the country to push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricting the rights of individuals to desecrate the American Flag. Conatser urged members to write to their elected leaders in support of such an amendment.

"All reputable organizations will be asked to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us to protect Old Glory," Conatser said.

As American Legion members from across the region shuffled in and out of the Post 647 hall, Du Quoin Commander David Dintelman said it was a privilege for the local post to play host to the visit by the caravan, which is in the middle of a tour of selected posts all around the state.

"It's an honor to have them here," Dintelman said. "It's a very big deal."

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