“We don’t just sit behind a table and wait for them to come to us. We get up front and talk to them. Once you start talking, you bring in The American Legion and what we do – pretty soon you get them as a member.”
Five years ago, Joseph Schram was one of two veterans who belonged to Flanders Field American Legion Post BE-02 in Belgium. Today, post membership exceeds 100 thanks to initiatives that connect the fallen heroes of World War I to the children of active‑duty U.S. personnel and veterans serving today at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) and NATO.
Post BE-02 Commander Schram has recruited members and worked to revitalize and charter posts elsewhere in Europe. He helped rev up a Legion Riders chapter and an adopt-a-grave program at the World War I cemetery that is Post BE-02’s namesake.
The Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium, is the final resting place of 368 U.S. World War I heroes. The names of another 43 are etched into the wall of the missing. Just as the post was getting ready to launch the grave-adoption program, then-President Barack Obama spoke at the cemetery. “It brought the cemetery to light …. within two months, every grave and name on the wall of the missing were adopted. By associating this adoption program with The American Legion, we’re branding The American Legion.”
The adopt-a-grave program, oratorical competition, Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State help the post build awareness and membership. “It’s getting bigger and bigger,” he says of the youth outreach effort at NATO and SHAPE. “As we grow, and as the community understands what we can do, we are working more with the Junior ROTC and hopefully will be more involved with their junior shooting program.”
As the Legion’s centennial draws nearer, Schram and the department look forward to extending the organization’s message in France, where the Legion was founded in March 1919.
“As we start advertising through the different commands, through the embassies, the different VIPs in Europe – they’re going to say, ‘American Legion? Wow.’ People are going to take notice.”
Branch of Service: Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard (1983-2011)
MOS: Psychological operations, transportation
Post: Flanders Field Post BE-02
Years in the legion: 5
- Department vice commander at large (2016‑2017)
- Post commander (2012-present)
- Post service officer
- Gold Brigade Recruiter
Source: Legion News