Thomas L. Bock, national commander of the American Legion, spoke to members of American Legion Post 114 and its auxiliaries about a variety of subjects from current events to issues of concern for veterans.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is underfunded, according to Bock. Its funding level was flat during the '90s so despite budget increases in recent years, "we're just trying to catch up."
An adequate long-term funding solution must be implemented, he said.
"We can't go begging every year to find money for our heroes," Bock said. "They sacrificed for our country and they deserve our care."
He also noted that "we're creating veterans every day - we're at war."
Bock spoke about his recent visit to Iraq during which he met with everyone from Gen. George W. Casey, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, to the lowest ranked private.
"They're proud of what they're doing and they're good at what they're doing," he said.
The No. 1 request from soldiers in Iraq is for high-speed Internet access, according to Bock's survey. "They say dial up is too slow," he said. Second on the list is NASCAR books and magazines.
Bock said he visited Iraq because he wanted to experience what is going on first hand and found the mainstream media is not telling the whole story.
While there is plenty of the sand, dust and heat many would expect, "there's another side over there," Bock said. Traveling by helicopter about 60 miles north of Baghdad, he saw beautiful mountains, green valleys and blue streams.
Bock said he met with the city council and chief of police of Kirkit, a town north of Baghdad.
According to those Iraqi officials, Bock said, the people there are thankful American and coalition forces came and asked, "Please don't leave too soon."
Regarding their struggle to govern themselves, the Iraqi city officials said, "Be patient with us - we've never done this before," according to Bock, adding the top concerns are security, infrastructure and schools. "They're making progress despite what the mainstream media is telling us."
Bock said he spoke about his recent tour of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the American Legion is about to open a post "right in Castro's backyard."
There are presently 500 detainees there from the war in Afghanistan, down from 800, according to Bock.
"I've been inside the wire," he said. "There are no torture chambers ... There is no mistreatment of these detainees. ... America is not the bad guy - terrorists are the bad guys."
Bock said his job as the American Legion's national commander is "to inform America we are winning this war on terrorism. The alternative to winning this war is giving up our freedoms."
In discussing recent actions by the American Civil Liberties Union, Bock said we need to "repel this attack on America from within."
He said HR 2679, the Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005, would disallow judges to award attorney's fees in suits related to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. He explained the ACLU regularly collects attorney fees even though it uses staff attorneys; without these fees, the ACLU will lose its incentive to pursue these cases.
Bock also said we are one "hero senator" away from the two-thirds majority in the House and Senate needed for a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting burning the American flag.
If passed by the Legislature, it would have to be ratified by at least 38 states as well, he said.