STATE OF THE ORDER
National Officers, Delegates, and Brothers attending the 123rd National Encampment of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War:
WELCOME. Your time and expense in being here, to help move our fraternal and patriotic Order forward, is greatly appreciated. Special greetings are hereby extended to those Brothers who are attending their first National Encampment. As we address the business of our organization over the next two days, you'll be witnessing what our Constitution refers to as, "the supreme power and authority of the Order." That being said, I want you to know that we cannot overstate the importance of our actions at the local level of the SUVCW. The efforts of our volunteers through our many Camps is where we interact with the public, with programs and projects that attract new Members, Juniors, and Associates.
There are two things that I have enjoyed most during my turn as Commander-in-Chief. One is meeting new Brothers and seeing the work they're doing in their locale - to honor the memory of Union soldiers, sailors, and marines. The other pleasure that I have had is in honoring Brothers for their accomplishments and special anniversaries.
Much good work has been done. But there is so much more that we could do - and should do. One of the key factors that limits our capability overall, is membership. Consider the number of men who served the Union between 1861-1865 and how many of their descendents are eligible to be our Brothers today. Yet, our overall membership continues to hover just above the 6,000 mark. We HAVE to put as much effort (if not more) toward recruiting and retention, as we do toward honoring those who wore the blue. Again, this happens at the local level. Please bear in mind that in our projects and in greeting prospective Brothers, we never get a second chance - to make a good first impression. Our continued efforts to recruit and to offer opportunities that interest our membership will help this organization grow and accomplish more.
Another pleasure I've had this past year, is in working with a group of very dedicated volunteers. Brother Stephen Michaels has served us well as Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief and is now a veteran of having edited and published four issues of The BANNER.
Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Donald Darby has been a member of the Council of Administration for several years and brought many good ideas to the Order, including the "Last Soldier" project which provides yet another way for us to honor those who served the Union.
I want to thank the Council of Administration as a whole, for their service in conducting the business of our Order since the 2003 National Encampment. Many of these gentlemen are Past Commanders-in-Chief and a few of them have roles on the Council that give them a vote. But regardless of that, as a voting or non-voting member, ALL of our PCinC's willingly offer valued advice that is greatly appreciated.
Through this report, I wish to enter into the permanent record, the names of several Brothers in recognition for their distinguished service. - Immediately after his turn as Commander-in-Chief, PCinC Ed Krieser has served a three year term as our elected National Secretary. - PCinC Elmer ("Bud") Atkinson has served as our elected National Quartermaster for several terms. - PCinC Richard Greenwalt has served in many roles. One of which has been Secretary-Treasurer of the Department of Ohio for twenty-nine (29) years. - PCinC Alan Loomis continues to plan and conduct ceremonies that we can all be proud of. The Installation Ceremonies for Camp, Department, and National Officers include a statement to the outgoing Commander, expressing the trust that his "interests in the welfare of this Order will not cease." The PCinC's mentioned above have certainly proven their continued commitment.
Others deserving note herein, are: PDC Leo Kennedy, for his service rendered toward Graves Registration; NMAL Coordinator Linn Hoadley, PCC for his "people-skills;" PDC Jerry Orton for his search for and monitoring of Real Sons and Daughters of Union Veterans; National Signals Officer Nathan Orr; National Webmaster Kent Peterson, PCC; Assistant National Webmaster Keith Harrison, PCinC; PDC Alan Russ, for his expertise in formatting several of our official forms, to allow submitted information to be filled-in electronically; and e-Bay Surveillance Officer Kurt Vouk, for his tireless monitoring of Internet auction sites and thwarting the sale of veterans' grave markers and other items.
Praise for many other Brothers can be found within the twenty six (26) General Orders issued during this administrative year. In this series, I was proud to announce the signing of Charters for 17 new Camps, and saddened to report the loss of 8 Real Sons of Union veterans of the Civil War.
I have respectfully introduced a "Vacant Chair," draped in black, that you see before you. Please look upon it in remembrance of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) and all who've honored the memory of Union soldiers, sailors, and marines - and joined their spirits.
This year's Encampment Bible has been provided to us courtesy of my fellow Brothers of George W. Anderson Camp 58, Department of Michigan. It is the original bible that was used during the existence of the G.A.R. Post in DeWitt, Michigan, that our Camp honors the memory of (in name and number).
My only regret this past year has been in not being able to visit more Departments and their functions. Part of this is due to multiple events on the same date (six Dept. Encampments were held on April 24, 2004) and the limitations of time off from work. I still managed to represent the National Organization with visitations to 23 states, traveling 21,878 miles by car and 9,753 miles by plane.
In that journey, I have seen so many good things being done by our membership. But we live with a citizenry that is often unknowing of - and uncaring toward our American heritage. Through your continued efforts, we will help correct these shortcomings.
Thank you for the privilege of serving as the 117th Commander-in-Chief of this Allied Order of the Grand Army of the Republic. As we prepare to pass-the-torch to a new leadership team, let us rededicate ourselves to preserving the memory of all who served and sacrificed to Save the Union. I think of those men every time I recite the pledge of allegiance to our flag - key words being, "and to the Republic for which it stands" / "One nation" / "indivisible."
We can only imagine how different our history might be - and our place in the world today, had the Union not prevailed.
In my Memorial Day message this year, I shared these thoughts -
Let us remember that just 85 years after we declared our independence from Great Britain, our Republic was torn apart by civil war.
Let us remember that after that terrible 19th century struggle, a United States of America emerged that was able to face and overcome the struggles of military confrontation in the 20th century.
Let us remember that in this young, new century, America's military forces continue to serve and protect - many of them in harm's way, and many of them giving their lives in the line of duty.
Let us remember all of that - and assure that those who follow us will not forget
In Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty,
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
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