Courtesy: American Legion
AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The national commander of the American Legion wants Maine veterans to know that he's standing up for their best interests.
Jimmie Foster is the Legion's first commander to come from Alaska. He paid a visit to Maine last week to learn about the issues that matter most to local veterans. His tour included stops at the Togus VA hospital and Legion posts in Augusta, Fairfield, Skowhegan and Waterville.
News Center's Sarah Delage caught up with him along the way to get his views on a range of military topics.
Under his leadership, Foster said it's the Legion's mission to make sure veterans get the health care and other government benefits they earned through their service. Foster said he won't hesitate to use the influence that comes with leading an organization of more than 2 million members to remind lawmakers about their obligations to veterans.
With newly elected Congress members calling for budget cuts, Foster cautioned them againt slashing defense spending until they've made a careful analysis of the effects it would have on the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Foster said it is unacceptable to compromise their mission through lack of funding. However, he is not opposed to cutting back on certain equipment if it's found to be unnecessary.
Foster was critical of a judge's order to immediately suspend the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevents homosexuals from openly serving in the military. Foster said a study was already under way to determine the best way to phase out the policy. Rather than end it abruptly, Foster said the Legion recommends allowing the study to run its course.
Foster said the Internet has become a valuable recruiting tool for the Legion. But he also said there is still value in building membership through personal contact and he encouraged older members to extend an invitation to younger veterans.
Foster said he liked what he saw on his visit to Maine. Between auxiliary units, the Sons of the Legion and junior members, Foster pronounced the state's extended Legion family to be strong.
Click here for a link the American Legion website to learn more about the services and advocacy it provides.