Rich Heigert, who addressed the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday, said while even he may not always personally agree with the administration's foreign policy "I will stand firmly behind our American soldiers and I believe all Americans should be behind them, too."
Emphasizing America must remain strong, the commander added it should be our nation's policy "not to pursue war but to protect peace."
As part of the effort to maintain its military strength, Heigert said the American Legion has made several recommendations to government officials. He said the American Legion is seeking continued improvements in the pay, health care benefits and educational benefits for those serving their nation as soldiers.
Also quality of life issues need to be addressed, particularly for the citizen soldiers who are being called upon to serve the nation from their National Guard or Reserve units. These soldiers need improved compensation, benefits and employment rights, the commander emphasized.
Many of the soldiers - both men and women - have families back home who suffer hardships from the loss of regular income which is more than there salary as a soldier, he explained. "If we continue to have families that have to go on food stamps due to the low pay then we won't have people willing to join the Reserves or the Guard," said Heigert. "We have to have an adequate quality of life in our military structure."
Through a strong military, the commander emphasized, America can continue to locate, isolate and punish terrorists and assists countries. Currently, he noted, the United States has troops in more than 100 countries around the globe.
Heigert said as troops return home from these foreign assignments it will be important for their communities to show their support and make the troops feel welcome. "And not just for the troops, but for their families," he added. "If you see a family that needs help (while a spouse is on active duty) take the initiative to get them help. Call your local Legion, VFW or auxiliary."
During the meeting, Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce Director Missy Marshall explained two new awards being presented by the Chamber. Each month a SACC Spirit Award will be presented to a business and to a local resident in recognition of their efforts to beautify their property and display community pride.
Other upcoming activities include:
Oct. 4 - the Missouri Delta Medical Center Ball
Oct. 16 - Harold Jones will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award during a presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Clinton Building.
Nov. 3 - the week-long Chamber membership drive begins.