A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: George Miga

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: George Miga

The American Legion is a nationwide organization committed to helping veterans; it was founded in 1919.

George Miga is the Commander of The American Legion Post 16, located in Muster. Miga served in the Air Force for eight years in both the Korean and Vietnam War.

“I was recruited, by in fact Dan Buksa. I was working in my front yard, he drove up one day and asked me if I’d be interested in joining, and I hadn’t really much thought about it. I agreed and that’s how I started, I don’t know, five, six years ago, maybe a little longer,” Miga said. “Dan Buksa was such a persuasive guy, that I said ‘Alright, I’ll attend a few meetings,’ and once I did and met the other people who are involved; it’s just contagious. You just feel like you gotta be there and help out however you can because their objectives are to help each other and to help people of the community. I mean that’s why we have these youth programs as well. They go to high schools and they talk about Flag Day, about the Constitution and sometimes we go there to speak about our experiences.”

While the Legion focused on various ways to help veterans, Miga believed the health of veterans was the most important.

“The most important thing to me is the well-being of veterans. As a service officer, I came across veterans who were still suffering from illnesses they received in Vietnam, and I read they're several hundred homeless veterans in Northwest Indiana and the benefits, many of them are not getting are the benefits they should receive. So one of my objectives was to do what I could to help those people in need,” Miga said.

As a member of the Legion, Miga was able to help veterans who needed medical or financial help.

“Well, I would take them to the Veteran’s Administration together and talk to the Veteran’s administration, who got kind of a bad rap about not providing services. However, part of the problem is a lot of our veterans didn’t know how to ask for benefits, didn’t know who to see or waited too long. The biggest complaint about the VA is it takes so long to get approved," Miga said. "Generally, when you fill in the paperwork it may take up to two and a half years to find out whether you’re gonna get any help. If your paperwork doesn’t meet standards, or there’s some other question and it has to be redone, it may take another two and a half years."

Miga credits meeting the right people who not only inspired them but, allowed the veterans to receive the support they needed.

"I met a woman who would go scrupulously over the paperwork the veterans filled out, to make sure that everything is in order,” Miga said. “Her point was being an iron lady. She made sure everything was filled out exactly right, it took her only about 90 days to get approval, or disapproval one way the other, so that’s what I did as well. I tried to figure out how to create the shortest connection between those in need and those who can help”

When Miga first joined the Legion, he was a member. As Miga spent more time in the Legion, he was promoted to a service officer, today Miga is a commander for Post 16. As a commander, Miga saw the value of each member. “We have World War II veterans, guys around 90 to the young guys who were in Afghanistan. I admired them and some of them had horrible experiences in combat. I had that great deal of respect for the members, whether or not they served in combat, they performed a job in the war or military. We just can’t forget that. Even if their lives weren’t at risk, they gave good work that helped other people that helped the nation. I felt, I still do feel very good to work with those people and to be associated with them,” Miga said.

Miga was able to grasp the diversity of each member, and the unique traits Post 16 added to the Legion.

“I haven’t met anybody who said they regret serving. I’m sure there are some people that had really bad experiences but I haven’t met any of them. They’re just the most dedicated and especially among the young people. They wanted to do what they could for their country; they wanted to serve, that was the main thing and it's so encouraging," Miga said.

"When we go to meetings, there is such diversity there. Every conflict that this nation has ever been in from World War II on, there’s someone there who was there. I feel privileged to be associated with these guys and there’s of course, there’s a women’s auxiliary too. They have their own meetings and some of these women served in some really tough jobs.”

Post 16 meets once a month, these meetings allowed members to bring up any ideas they had to help veterans in the area. Miga’s goal was to expand Post 16 and find a new meeting place while still making each member’s voice heard.

“We have meetings once a month, and at these meetings, we bring up the business of the district and then we talk about our personal goals and personal objectives. One thing we’re trying to do is get more veterans involved, but we meet in a small room in the Town Hall, which only holds about 16 people. We have 150 members and we need a place where we can all meet together; we need to motivate some people to attend meetings. That’s primarily what I do. I primarily run the meetings, with the help of the other officers. To hear these, to hear what they think is important, what they hope to achieve by being in the Legion, it’s very interesting and inspiring thing to hear at times,” Miga said.

The Legion allowed Miga to make an impact on the veterans in Northwest Indiana.

“It’s gotten me more involved in helping veterans and many of them who needed help and you get a good satisfaction out of that, knowing you helped some person who needed help and who wasn’t getting it, but yet you find a way to help them. You can’t help them all, sometimes it’s just too much of a challenge, but when you can help veterans, that’s to me the ultimate accomplishment,” Miga said.