American Legion Hopes to Recruit Younger Patriots

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The national unemployment rate for veterans is about 11 percent, several points higher than the rate for the general population. And in 2012, military suicides outnumbered combat deaths for the first time ever. The American Legion hopes to help new veterans adjust to life at home.

When 25-year-old Brent Bacon came back from military service in 2008, he knew his American Legion post in Genoa would be there for support.

"I know the war's a little different. Vietnam era, Gulf War to us, it's a lot different," said Bacon. "But the bottom line that I see is you know, we can swap stories, the older generation can guide us with the younger generation to get us through."

Rockford post 1207 is the last stop on a 19-city American Legion caravan tour around Illinois, lead by National Vice Commander David R. Hall. He's addressing veterans' issues like mental health.

"Who knows what goes through these young soldiers minds who have been deployed two and three and four and five times over there," said Hall. "We believe that with more care geared toward suicide we believe that we can help a lot of these."

An issue for Rockford Post 1207 is recruiting younger soldiers like Bacon.

"We're getting limited as far as the membership, and we're trying to get the message out," said post commander Rick Rivera. "Maybe some people thought it was an older veterans organization, and we're really trying to get the message out that it isn't. We're trying to get the younger veterans in also."

Younger veterans who Rivera hopes can feel at home with their fellow patriots.

Rockford post 1207 recently moved into its new location on Alpine partly to attract a younger crowd. It will hold a grand opening celebration next Saturday.

The caravan also addressed setting up job fairs for new veterans and making sure injured veterans receive proper health care.

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