Veterans Serving Veterans By: Terry Callahan

“Preserve, Protect, Promote” – three words that Ruth Higgins has lived by, in the Navy, then as a member of Talbot Post 70 of The American Legion, where she has held many positions, including Post Commander. “I’ve always believed in service to God and Country. I firmly believe in veterans helping veterans. So many return with PTSD; not all wounds are visible on the outside.”
Ruth follows in the footsteps of her father, Howard M. Higgins, and his two brothers. Her father served in the Navy in World War II. “Dad’s older brother served in the Navy and was killed on the beach during the Normandy invasion, making us a Gold Star family.” His younger brother was in the Army.
Currently, Ruth is 3rd Vice Commander for The American Legion Department [State] of Maryland. One of her duties is membership. “Membership is vital as it gives us a voice for being able to continue service to fellow veterans.” Another responsibility is overseeing Post Inspection Reports. “I travel throughout the state of Maryland where there are 134 posts; my goal is to visit each one. So far I’ve been to 76 of them.” She also holds positions in the national organization, including Vice President of National Department of Historians and Americanism serving on the Health Administration Committee.
Ruth is both a member of Post 70 and its Auxiliary. Being a member creates a special relationship with other members. “It’s not just the camaraderie, it’s the support that members give in times of need. For example, in the recent passing of my mother, I was overwhelmed by The Legion Family support.”
Four Pillars make up the base of The American Legion: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation (Ex: VA issues, homelessness, special needs, careers, GI Bill and final respects), National Security (Ex: support for troops and size of armed forces, quality of life, homeland security, full accounting of POWs and MIAs), Americanism (Ex: flag protections, issues regarding illegal immigration and voter registration and participation, Boy Scouts, Boys Nation, The Pledge of Allegiance and Legion baseball), and Children and Youth (Ex: family integrity, catastrophic illness, and family support areas such as financial assistance, disabilities, immunizations, drug abuse, exploitation).
“[From] When I served as Chair of Children and Youth, I can give two examples. The first was a local family who got burned out. We gave them financial assistance to help them immediately. Second, was a mother who lived in Baltimore, [who] was about to be evicted. While interviewing her, she didn’t even have a table to go over her paperwork; we had to go to the apartment laundry room to use a table. Being a part of The American Legion and serving is a humbling yet rewarding experience….”
The American Legion was chartered in 1919 to ensure that the basic needs will always be met for fellow veterans. “Membership isn’t just about the members; it’s about what we do.” Nationally, during the government shutdown, The American Legion donated one million dollars to the Coast Guard. This money helped 1,713 Coast Guard families with 3,170 children, money that was non-repayable. Talbot Post 70 has donated over $57,000 to local charities and youth activities, and last year Department of Maryland members volunteered for a total of 360,976 hours with a value of over $9 million. Also, blood donors provided 2,805 pints of blood.
Previously, membership for The American Legion was restricted to those who served in conflicts. The Legion Act was recently passed opening eligibility to join for any who served honorably since December 7, 1941 to the present. The Auxiliary has also opened eligibility to include male spouses. “We need all veterans to help us serve other veterans by joining. We are the advocates, veterans continuing to serve veterans.”
Throughout the year, Talbot Post 70 holds numerous activities such as monthly breakfasts (including during Waterfowl Festival), Blessing of the Bikes, yard sales and hall rentals for various celebrations. Some other ways it shows local support are sponsoring programs such as Oratorical, Boys State, Easton High School NJROTC and Legion Baseball, along with presenting the annual Four Chaplains program.
Ruth has an exciting future with The American Legion. “As I continue with the Department of Maryland, I hope to be the Department Commander in three years. I’ll be the third female in the state of Maryland and the first female from the entire Eastern Shore.”
Each year, she logs thousands of miles and volunteer hours as she serves in her American Legion positions. As a life-long member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Easton, she also lives her commitment to serving God. She has held a variety of positions there, and currently is an adult class Sunday School teacher. These commitments have been a huge part of her life; however, Ruth adds, “In conclusion, I’d like to say, none of this would be possible without the love and support of my family and fiancé.”
(Note: Information also provided by www.mdlegion.org .)