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To enhance and safe­guard the enti­tle­ments for all Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans who have served hon­or­ably and to improve the qual­ity of life for them, their fam­i­lies, and the com­mu­ni­ties where they live through lead­er­ship, advo­cacy and services.

As one of America’s vet­er­ans ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions, AMVETS (or Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans) has a proud his­tory of assist­ing vet­er­ans and spon­sor­ing numer­ous pro­grams that serve our coun­try and its cit­i­zens. The help­ing hand that AMVETS extends to vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies takes many forms.

One of the most vis­i­ble is our net­work of trained national ser­vice offi­cers (NSOs) accred­ited by the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs. Funded by the AMVETS National Ser­vice Foun­da­tion, these ded­i­cated men and women can be found in close to 50 states, pro­vid­ing sound advice and prompt action on com­pen­sa­tion claims at no charge to the veteran.

In one recent year alone, AMVETS national ser­vice offi­cers processed more than 24,000 claims that resulted in vet­er­ans receiv­ing some $400 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion. This com­mit­ment to ser­vice traces its roots back to 1948, when our NSOs first began help­ing vet­er­ans of World War II to obtain the ben­e­fits promised them by the fed­eral government.

Coin­ci­den­tally, it was these return­ing vet­er­ans who pro­vided the impe­tus for form­ing AMVETS in the first place. At the time, many of them belonged to vet­er­ans clubs on col­lege cam­puses. As the num­ber of returnees swelled into the mil­lions, it was evi­dent that some sort of nation­ally orga­nized assis­tance for them would be needed. The older estab­lished national groups wouldn’t do; the lead­ers of this new gen­er­a­tion of vet­er­ans wanted their own organization.

With that in mind, eigh­teen of them, rep­re­sent­ing nine vet­er­ans clubs, met in Kansas City, Mo., and founded The Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans of World War II on Dec. 10, 1944. Less than three years later, on July 23, 1947, Pres­i­dent Harry S. Tru­man signed Pub­lic Law 216, mak­ing AMVETS the first World War II orga­ni­za­tion to be char­tered by Congress.

Since then, the orig­i­nal char­ter has been amended sev­eral times to admit as mem­bers those who served in dif­fer­ent eras. Today, mem­ber­ship in AMVETS is open to any­one who is cur­rently serv­ing, or who has hon­or­ably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, to include the National Guard and Reserves.

As a volunteer-led orga­ni­za­tion, we annu­ally elect and/or appoint offi­cers at the national, dis­trict, depart­ment and post lev­els. Each August, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from these lev­els attend the AMVETS national con­ven­tion to make deci­sions on issues affect­ing vet­er­ans and the organization.

Over the years, AMVETS has been in the fore­front of public-policy related to national defense, ser­vices for home­less vet­er­ans, ade­quate fund­ing for the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs, con­cur­rent receipt of retire­ment pay and dis­abil­ity com­pen­sa­tion by dis­abled mil­i­tary retirees, vet­er­ans employ­ment and train­ing, POW/MIA account­abil­ity and flag protection.

In addi­tion to the work of our national ser­vice offi­cers, other AMVETS mem­bers, as well as those in the AMVETS Ladies Aux­il­iary, will devote as many as 250,000 hours of free time a year to brighten the lives of hos­pi­tal­ized vet­er­ans. Here, some­thing as sim­ple as play­ing cards with the lonely or watch­ing tele­vi­sion with the dis­abled can make a world of difference.

So can the assis­tance we give those who want to fin­ish their edu­ca­tion. Each year AMVETS awards schol­ar­ships total­ing $40,000 to deserv­ing high school seniors, ROTC stu­dents and vet­er­ans pur­su­ing higher education.

But help­ing oth­ers is not lim­ited to our fel­low vet­er­ans. AMVETS mem­bers in more than 1,400 posts nation­wide also pro­mote and sup­port “qual­ity of life” community-service pro­grams rang­ing from Spe­cial Olympics and ROTC to scout­ing and organ-donor projects.

Apart from these ini­tia­tives, the orga­ni­za­tion has thrown its mon­e­tary sup­port behind work on such national mon­u­ments as the USS. Ari­zona, the Statue of Lib­erty and the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans Memo­r­ial. It also spon­sors its own car­il­lon pro­gram to honor America’s deceased ser­vice­men and women. Since 1949, when Pres­i­dent Tru­man ded­i­cated the first car­il­lon at Arling­ton National Ceme­tery, this pro­gram has grown to encom­pass more than 60 sites in the United States and overseas.

Another trib­ute unique to AMVETS is the Sil­ver Hel­met Award, often referred to as the Vet­er­ans Oscar. A replica of the World War II GI hel­met, this pres­ti­gious award is pre­sented annu­ally to rec­og­nize excel­lence and achieve­ment in Amer­i­can­ism, defense, reha­bil­i­ta­tion, con­gres­sional ser­vice and other fields.

As the orga­ni­za­tion moves fur­ther into the 21st cen­tury, it does so with the con­vic­tion that its focus on pre­serv­ing free­dom, sup­port­ing America’s defend­ers and serv­ing her com­mu­ni­ties remains a clear blue­print for con­tin­ued ser­vice to God and country.