STATE OF THE ORDER
National Officers, Delegates, and Brothers attending the 126th National Encampment of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War:
At the 125th National Encampment of our Great Order, I was honored and privileged to be elected by you, to the office of Commander-in-Chief. I humbly accepted, to honor not only my own ancestor, but the 2.5 million men who left their homes, to serve. That has been my goal, to be of service to our Departments, Camps and Brothers.
Then outgoing Commander-in-Chief Don Darby told me this job would be two weeks of silly grin, followed by fifty weeks of scowl, as I dealt with the business of the Order. Brothers, I stand here today and tell you, I never lost the silly grin. There have been a few sleepless nights as I struggled with hard decisions, which some of you did not agree, but I put forth the effort of my entire being to serve and protect the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
I want to thank the elected and appointed officers and our Executive Director, who served the National Organization with me. It is largely through their efforts and dedication, we accomplished so much. You have their reports before you and will hear from each of them shortly, as to what they have done and what they propose. Taken together, these reports constitute the current state of our Order. I know you will give these details your full attention.
I also want to take a moment to honor those who served in the office of Department Commander during my tour of duty. I thank you very much.
I set as my goal, to attend as many Department Encampments as I could. For those I could not attend, I attempted to be represented by an elected National officer, to assist each Department in the transaction of their business.
The quarterly reports submitted by the Department Commanders, the Department and Camp newsletters I received (and I read everyone - cover to cover), along with my travels to several of our Departments and the reports received from National officers attending Department Encampments for me - showed me - much more than I anticipated - what a wonderful and dedicated group of brothers we have in this Order.
I have a few suggestions for those who follow and a recommendation for your consideration.
SUGGESTIONS - To continue the monthly email to Department Commanders and Commanders of our Camps-at-Large. Everyone I talked with during my travels found those communications very helpful. Continue to request the Departments report back on their activities - but I would reduce the number of reports from four to two. Wonderful reading and it will keep the National Organization more informed as to what is going on in the Departments. In addition, I encourage all our National officers to look at the Department and Camp web sites from time to time. I was very surprised and pleased as to what I found there.
RECOMMENDATION - That the National Committee on Program and Policy establish a system to rate the effectiveness of each of the Camps, based upon a variety of factors, including new members, frequency of meetings, activities, timeliness of reports, etc. The model developed by Don Palmer while Commander of the Department of Missouri is a good point to begin discussions. Adoption of this type of evaluation tool will greatly assist Department Commanders in identifying Camp strengths and weaknesses and be a subjective method of selecting Camps to honor.
RULINGS - I have made a few rulings over this past year concerning our National Regulations. Some of these have been published in General Orders, some have not. Please allow me to briefly review these opinions:
1. A Camp Organizer need not be a brother of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He should be one of the applicants that are joining together to form a new Camp.
2. The old Camp no longer exists and cannot be brought back to life. The brothers so wishing may use the same Name and Camp number, subject to the approval of the Department Commander. But they need to proceed as if they are beginning a totally new Camp, as that is what they are doing. If the old charter still exists in their possession, they may retain it for historical purposes. The old charter is to be photographed with enough resolution to see all of the details and a copy of this photo be forwarded to the National Secretary for our records at National. A dispensation from this ruling was granted to Battin Camp #73, in Bloomfield, Iowa, based upon a previous and specific instruction to them by then Commander-in-Chief Bob Grim.
3. I confirmed the following opinion of our National Counselor: An action by a Camp to pay an individual's legal fees that are not associated with Camp business would be in violation of our Regulations, Chapter III, Article VI, Section 4.
4. To be a member of the Order, one must be directly descended from the veteran, or a brother or sister of the veteran. If the applicant is descended from a cousin of the veteran. This is not sufficient for membership.
5. During Camp elections, the members forgot to elect members to the Camp Council. My ruling is that previous council members remain in office until their successors are properly elected and installed. Therefore, the council as it existed before the elections remains in effect until the next regular Camp elections. If one or more of the council members resign before those elections, the C&R has a provision to appoint a replacement.
6. We will accept into our membership, a person whose Confederate service was involuntary, they left Confederate service just as soon as they could escape and come north. If the Confederate service was voluntary, even if they subsequently took the oath of loyalty and served the Union, descendants are not eligible to membership in the SUVCW.
7. Brothers may hold multiple elective office within the Order, unless specifically prohibited by National Regulations. If any brother who holds an elective office is nominated for another elected office, the nominee shall disclose this at the time of nomination. It is then up to the brothers voting in the election to determine if a conflict exists or not, as they are the ones most directly impacted by the election.
8. There is a difference between someone who was dropped from membership and someone who was honorably discharged. A brother dropped still has financial obligations to the Order, which much be addressed before he can be re-admitted. Per CinC Bundy, Dec. XVII, 14th, 31: Members who have been granted honorable discharges may be received again by simply being re-obligated, after application for and election to membership. Therefore, one who was honorably discharged is again received by new application, application fee, payment of dues and election to membership.
I want to expand upon the ruling at this time. If a brother was dropped from membership and still has financial obligations to his Camp, he may not be re-admitted to the Order unless that Camp confirms that all past financial obligations have been paid or forgiven.
Moving on - We face many challenges in the times ahead. The monuments and memorials erected by the Grand Army of the Republic and the Allied Orders are being threatened by the ravages of time, vandalism and political correctness. The graves of these great veterans, even entire cemeteries, are disappearing. Our battlefields are being lost to the greed of commercial development. Our schools are abandoning the teaching of history. The names of Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Logan, Thomas and others, are being forgotten. I spoke at the National Reunion of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Mobile, Alabama two weeks ago, saying these same things. There are forces at work seeking to erase the memory of what our ancestors sacrificed so much to do. I pledged to the SCV, that I would encourage (and I am encouraging) our Camps and Departments to offer cooperation in preserving our monuments and cemeteries. That we would invite the local commands of the SCV to our events and would support theirs.
We are making progress in locating the graves of our ancestors. Monuments are being cleaned and restored. Several other groups have joined with us to preserve our battlefields. Our educational programs, ROTC and Eagle Scout awards help educate our youth and prepare them to assume leadership some day - but I wonder if we are holding our own against the onslaught being directed against us.
Ten years from now, will those who meet here and look back at what we did, shake their heads and wonder where our heads were, or will they be able to look proudly upon the foundation we built, for them to build an even greater Order upon?
Gentlemen - We are the answer - it is within our hands, within our grasp. We need to lead our Order to greater heights - the sacrifices of the 390,000 Union veterans who died in service, 280,000 more who were wounded - demand no less. Thank you.
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