American Legionnaires should work at the grass-roots level for causes such as veterans' rights and a Constitutional amendment protecting the U.S. flag, an American Legion national officer said Saturday.
Lee Stolfus, national vice commander, visited Lawrence on the second stop on a seven-day, 42-stop tour of Kansas. There were 50 U.S. flags flying in front of Dorsey-Liberty Legion Post No. 14, 3408 W. Sixth, in honor of his visit.
Speaking to about 25 local Legionnaires, Stolfus said letters to government officials from the legion's general membership were an effective way to support the organization's concerns.
"We do poorly when it comes to telling people what we represent and what we stand for," he said. "We have to let the politicians know what we want."
A FORMER Emporia city engineer and director of public works, Stolfus is one of five American Legion national vice commanders.
He urged Legionnaires to join a Legion campaign to reverse a change in care provided by Veteran's Administration hospitals. Two years ago, a change in VA policy denied care in VA hospitals to a large number of veterans, except for those who are very poor or have a 30-percent, service-connected disability, he said.
Stolfus also discussed the need to resolve the POW/MIA issue. An American Legion representative now sits on the Senate Committee on MIA/POWs, he said.
"We need to get to the truth as soon as possible," he said. "The issue of POWs and MIAs should be one of the things we settle with Vietnam before entering into any new economic agreements with them."
Stolfus said Legionnaires should rally to bring about a Constitutional amendment allowing states to pass laws outlawing U.S. flag desecration. Seventeen states have sent flag-protection resolutions to Congress, and 17 more are needed to bring the total to two-thirds of the 50 states.
IF 34 STATES sent flag-protection resolutions to Congress, he said, Congress then would put the vote to each state's general population. "That way, the issue would be decided by the people, not on a political level," he said.
The proposed amendment would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the states.
"The American Legion does not want to see the First Amendment altered in any way," Stolfus said. "But the flag is a symbol of worldwide democracy and should be held in reverence, not burned by anyone who wants to prove they can have a temper tantrum."
Stolfus also congratulated the Legionnaires of Post No. 14 on the success of their membership drive, and he encouraged them to recruit more women veterans.
"As far as lady veterans are concerned, we're missing the boat," he said.
DON McINTYRE, post commander, said that for 1992 the post expected to surpass its 1991 total of 626 paying members. It has recruited 69 new members so far this year.
He also said the post was working toward more community involvement, citing as examples a blood drive, the post's float in the Fourth of July parade, and a flag etiquette and history program it conducts in local schools.