American Legion National Vice Commander Angel Narvaez, left, speaks with Mike Etzel during a visit to Post 45 in Manchester. Etzel is from Marion and is a member of American Legion Post 298.

Angel Narvaez, one of five national vice commanders of the American Legion, visited Manchester Post 45 Nov. 18 on a tour of Iowa American Legion posts.

Vice commanders are elected at the American Legion National Convention and act as representatives of the national commander.

Narvaez, the vice commander assigned to the Midwest region, used his visit to thank Legion members for their service as well as to encourage ways to increase membership in the Legion.

Narvaez, a native of Puerto Rico, served in the Army from 1980-2004, beginning as a military policeman and advancing in ranks from private through first sergeant, joining the American Legion in 2005 following his retirement from the military.

With over two million members nationally, including 38,000 in Iowa, Narvaez said increasing membership is important, especially when it comes to lobbying Congress on behalf of veterans.

“We know Congress only listens to good numbers,” he explained. “That’s why we always put our emphasis on our numbers. When our national commander goes to Congress, he has to tell them how many members we have. There is strength in numbers and it’s important to keep the numbers up or Congress might not pay any attention to us.”

He used the example of those who served in the National Guard or military reserves, explaining that if they were not deployed during their time in the service, Congress doesn’t recognize them as veterans when it comes to benefits and assistance.

“We have been fighting for years for them to be recognized so they may receive benefits. Congress has that kind of money, but they don’t want to spend it. That’s why we exist, to keep Congress honest. To us, a veteran is a veteran.”

Despite the differences with Congress, Narvaez said there really isn’t a disconnect between the two bodies.

“All that happens is we don’t see eye to eye on some issues. They look for the bottom line and we have to keep reminding them what is important isn’t the bottom line, but to do the right thing for veterans.”