Updated: Mar 8
Veteran, family, community at the core of Indianapolis Post 522
When Stacy Bohem initially tried to join an American Legion post, it was not the experience she was expecting. “I was asked multiple times who my sponsor is. I do not need a sponsor, I am a veteran,” Bohem said. “That was very disheartening as a female veteran.”
But she didn’t give up on joining The American Legion. And she knew that if she was going to invest time into the organization, having her husband and children serve alongside her was a necessity.
In 2018, Bohem had a stake in the chartering of American Legion Post 522 in Indianapolis – an online post that is focused on creating a family-friendly environment while investing in its members, veterans, veteran families and the community statewide. The investment piece for Post 522 is through Buddy Checks, suicide prevention efforts, resource guidance, and member-family service.
“We have learned that sometimes it’s not the first touch that ropes someone in to The American Legion. Sometimes it’s the seventh and the eighth. They need to know that you’re invested,” said Bohem, vice commander of Post 522 who lives in Vincennes, Ind. “When people are invested, and the veteran believes you are, they believe your mission and they want to be a part of something bigger. We want people to invest in The American Legion and invest in the veteran community.”
For its Buddy Checks, Post 522 sends text messages and makes phone calls to check on the needs of its members and community veterans.
“At the end of the day, whether you’re a Legionnaire or not, you’re a veteran and we want to take care of you,” Bohem said. “When a veteran is in need, they are one of the most least likely people to ask for help. We, as veterans, oftentimes think that we can handle it until it gets too dark. (At Post 522) we want to prevent that darkness.”
Bohem said dues have been covered for members who can’t afford it at the moment in time “because they need that Legion support. We try to surround our veterans with as much love as we can.
“You’re having a bad day? Let me sponsor you. You’re having a hard time? I’ve got you. You need to call me at 2 a.m.? You call me. And that’s what it’s about … it’s making those connections that are going to be there your lifetime.”
The phone is a connection that veterans have to Bohem and post leadership.
“Our members have my personal cell phone number. They know to call or text at any time. If you are on the officer board, they probably have your personal phone number. That’s part about being an officer is being available to our members and other veterans that need us.”
The post number 522 stands for the five military service branches and the 22 veterans a day dying by suicide. So a core mission of Post 522 is being proactive in veteran suicide prevention.
A service project for Post 522 this year is being a sponsor of the Irreverent Warriors in Indianapolis whose mission is to “to bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.” Post members will be doing a 22K veteran-only hike in downtown Indy.
“We did this (event) last year and were able to connect with a lot of veterans and connect them with resources to help support them. You have the Legion that has all of these amazing people that know the system. Normally it only takes me one phone call to be like ‘How do I navigate this? What program do we have for this? Who is the contact for this?’ And we get a veteran connected. I love that part of The American Legion. I love being able to connect the dots for veterans who don’t know how to or sometimes don’t have the willpower to do so themselves. When people are in a really dark spot, even picking up the phone the first time is a huge step. Or making all these connections on their own is too hard, and they don’t need hard. They need someone to help fill that gap.