When James “Bill” Oxford, American Legion national commander, rolled into Minnesota last week, he marked off the 26th state he has visited since taking on the role last August.

Oxford was elected Aug. 29, 2019, and since that date he has spent very little time at his North Carolina home.

While the travel has been intense, as Oxford has also visited several foreign nations, including Taiwan, Japan and Australia, he would not have it any other way.

After all, what he has been able to accomplish in the few short months since taking on the role is meeting many of the nearly 2 million members across the United States who make up the American Legion.

Having that opportunity to interact with Legion members, as well as members of the Legion Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion and Legion Riders, means hearing the issues and challenges those members face and then working together to find ways to resolve them.

Oxford was in Redwood Falls Feb. 18 and met at Post 38 to talk and to listen.

For Oxford, the vision for the Legion is clear. Having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, Oxford wants to set things in motion now to ensure the Legion is around for another century. 

Oxford said that starts with establishing a strong legacy by investing in future leaders. He explained that the youth programs sponsored by the American Legion, including baseball, boys and girls state, oratory competitions and Scouting are making a huge impact.

According to Oxford,  in 2019 alone there were 200,000 youth who participated in the programs. Over a 10-year time frame that means 2 million youth would be impacted by the Legion.

He added the impact has also been demonstrated historically, as he said professional athletes, political leaders all the way from the local to the federal level and many successful business leaders all can say they were involved in a program sponsored by the Legion. However, he also said those programs are only as successful as the people behind them, so he encouraged Legion members to get involved.

Naturally, Oxford also talked about the strength of the Legion, which is in its membership. While the American Legion is nearly 2 million strong, Oxford said the numbers are on the decline.

Oxford said the new Legion Act opened the door to millions of people, adding each Legion member knows someone who could not be a member.

“This has got to be a team effort,” said Oxford, adding strong numbers is the only way the Legion will survive.

Oxford thanked each member of the Legion in attendance for the work they have done, adding the Legion needs them to continue those efforts.