With 700,000 federally licensed amateur radio operators, or “hams,” in the United States, The American Legion has formed a special entity to provide a forum for military veterans who today are engaged in a hobby that can also provide emergency communications “when all else fails.” During Spring Meetings in Indianapolis May 4-5, the National Executive Committee authorized the establishment of The American Legion Amateur Radio Club (TALARC).
“The American Legion has always enjoyed an affiliation with amateur radio, going back to the civil-defense days when hams were key communicators in local units,” American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster said. “Today, ‘hams’ are providing communications when traditional methods are knocked out.”
Over the years, countless members of the U.S. military were trained as technicians or engineers, and later obtained amateur-radio licenses to continue to use their abilities at home, as both recreation and a public-service commitment.
“The beauty of amateur radio is that it attracts folks of all career interests, from doctors, Ph.Ds, engineers, rocket scientists to mechanics, housewives, construction and office workers, students and everything in between,” said Robert L. Morrill, chairman of the Legion’s Public Relations Commission. “Hams provide backup communications to emergency management agency offices across the country when ‘all else fails,’ and have done so with distinction in virtually every major disaster, when cell towers and commercial communications have been knocked out after earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and man-made disasters.”
The objective of the new club is to establish an amateur radio station at National Headquarters in Indianapolis to be able to conduct special operations on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and to conduct regular “nets” of licensed hams who will be able to ask questions about veterans benefits and how participants might get help with their claims. To that end, TALARC is looking for HF and dual-band VHF/UHF transceivers, and associated gear donations. Any hams who may have upgraded their station and are willing to donate their old one to TALARC may receive a tax deduction, as the Legion is a nonprofit 501(c)(19) organization which has a 501(c)(3) subsidiary trust entitled “American Legion Charities.” Contact your tax consultant for details. If you have radio gear you are willing to donate, please email email@example.com.
As to the membership benefit, Foster noted, “Just like other public-outreach methods, this is one more way to reach a different group than our current efforts are targeting. Hams are folks who are more likely to try to help others, because they’re good neighbors. This club continues that tradition of service to community while providing a direct connection with veterans-support links.”
In January 2005, the Legion signed an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to support emergency disaster preparedness. Subsequently, the Disaster Preparedness Booklet was made available to posts. Amateur-radio support was an integral entity.
“The potential to serve here is limitless,” Morrill said. “Legionnaires who are hams can help others get licensed, coordinate with local emergency authorities, provide counseling and assistance to schools, and a whole array of other support.
“While some people may think that ham radio is an old technology, the simple truth is that hams were working with digital transmissions long before folks had home computers, and they provided the impetus to make ‘wireless’ happen. They were transmitting emergency calls from their cars long before anyone had a mobile phone to do the same. Today, hams are conducting broad spectrum experiments on the ham bands, that may eventually become routine ways to communicate for all of us.”
“The basic message is that ham radio is alive and growing in America, and that there are thousands of veterans who are dedicated ham-radio operators,” Foster said. “And a lot of them are not yet carrying American Legion membership cards.”
Membership is free to members of The American Legion family. Because the club has just been authorized, Morrill invites licensed Legion family hams to join now, but to be patient – it will take time to solicit equipment donations and get a national club station assembled and on the air. Reports will be made available via Legion media as progress is made.
Posts interested in establishing an amateur-radio communications station at their post can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.