• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Legion camp trains future leaders and youth program members

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Aug 11, 2022

As a middle school teacher and member of the American Legion, Albert Lovato’s goal is to connect the Legion with youth for greater long-term impact, especially with future involvement in Americanism programs and membership. He thought of ways to maintain the pillars of Americanism and Legion children and youth by engaging members of his Post 22 Legion family in Estancia, NM with the youth of the community. And last month, one of his ideas was very successful: a three-day camp at Poste 22 with 12 children aged 8 to 12.

“My goal is to impact young people, especially now more than ever,” said Lovato, New Mexico Department District 3 Warrant Officer and Sons of the American Legion 22 Squadron Commander. “If we get them involved, build those relationships and those relationships with the American Legion, it will definitely increase the number of our kids going to Boys State and Girls State. And it builds that camaraderie and that relationship with the community and what we stand for.

“I also think if we impact those kids early in life, let them know who we are because a lot of people don’t know who we are or what we do, in a sense we’re creating limbs of the American Legion. Because let’s say they are joining the military or a family member has served, they will be more excited about becoming a member of the American Legion or a member of the Sons or Auxiliary.

Post 22 advertised the camp on flyers posted throughout the community; applicants had to write an essay explaining why they wanted to be part of it. Lovato said 12 children applied, including her son, and the post felt that was a perfect number to kick off her first youth camp.

The 10 boys, two girls and their parents arrived at Post 22 on July 14 for an introduction to what the next three days and two nights were like for activities and safety briefings. The children pitched tents outside the post to camp, wore their Legion hats and t-shirts and prepared for their days of learning technical, social and life skills.

Through the efforts of Post 22 Legion Family members, children learned about the history of the American Legion, the Legion Family entity, Americanism programs, how to raise and lower the American flag, and what the Legion stands for. POW chair. Members of the fire, police, and DWI departments provided education and safety guidance; and a nurse provided basic first aid. They also participated in daily fitness, arts and crafts sessions, a nightly point-to-point challenge using a map and compass, and tried MREs like the military eats. . And each child served as a team leader for a period of time to “learn that leadership role,” Lovato said.

The last day of camp was an obstacle course at the post set up by the New Mexico National Guard. “They were so excited when the National Guard came and set up the obstacle course. I think that was a really good conclusion for the whole camp,” said Lovato, who served in the New Mexico National Guard. Then a formal graduation followed, where the children received a challenge coin and certificate in front of their parents, Legion family members and community members who helped make the camp possible.

“It was very, very impactful, and the positive feedback from the community has been amazing,” Lovato said. “The camp not only gave our young people skills, it made our position closer and stronger. It just shows what a little message can do. This experience has been great for all of our veterans.

Lovato said the camp gave the older members of the post meaning again. “They had a purpose, like their time in the military, to serve and do something for the kids and they loved it. It was nice to see our Vietnam vets come in and feel that purpose again. And thanks to generous donations from community businesses, the camp was able to take place.

“We are a small post and we don’t have a lot of money. The community loved the idea and we received tons of corporate donations, and we were able to organize the camp. It was a huge community effort. We show how a small message can have an impact on our community and our young people.

Lovato said parents are already inquiring about camp next year, which he says will happen after the profound impact it has had on the youth and the American Legion Post 22.

“It was one of the most memorable moments of my time with the Legion, and I know others feel the same way. The kids were so excited and happy, including the families,” he said. “These kids know us now. If they see us in a store or gas station, they have friends in the American Legion they can always talk to. It’s something we want to pursue every year…something they can look forward to every year and something they can pursue as they review the status of the boys and girls.