Today, The American Legion National College program graduated its 2012 class of 55 Legionnaires from 35 departments. The students individually walked across stage in the National Executive Committee room on the fourth floor of National Headquarters in Indianapolis to receive their Legion College diploma, lapel pin and coin. But before doing so, National Commander James E. Koutz offered some advice to the graduates.
"I want you to remember my slogan, ‘Every Day is Veterans Day,’ so think about our veterans and go back home and tell the people at your post, districts and departments what you learned here this week," he said. "Don’t keep it inside you. Public relations is a great thing for this organization, so we need to get out and tell about the things we do, the great programs The American Legion has.
"As I said earlier, this is the best team this year, and it’s the best team ever because you’re on my team."
After the graduation ceremony, students immersed themselves in conversation with each other about what they learned and the importance of Legion College.
"If anyone is planning on taking a leadership position in their department or post level, there’s a wealth of information to learn (at Legion College), so you really need to attend this program," said Gail Galich, adjutant of Post 180 in Highland, Ind. "I enjoyed the comradarie of our fellow veterans, hearing the wealth of knowledge everyone has within themselves, and learning about the resolution process and how they become written laws for our organization."
"This week at Legion College has been wonderful for me because I had little knowledge beforehand of all that the organization does, so I’m really impressed with The American Legion as a whole," said Jeremy Blevins, commander of Post 229 in Madison, Ala. "After I get home and look through my notes from this week, I’m going to speak with my post and my district so we can work together to grow our district and then hopefully help the department as well."
Earlier this week, one group raised $100 for Operation Comfort Warriors during their 20-minute presentation on the program. That OCW presentation motivated each of the five small groups to start an OCW collection and during graduation, it was announced by Koutz that the students raised more than $1,000 for the commander’s fundraising focus this year.
"Thank you for your donations toward Operation Comfort Warriors that each of you donated out of your pockets during the week," Koutz said. "During the holidays is when our soldiers are going to need these comfort items the most, so this Veterans Day and Christmas is when we are going to try and raise the most money for the program."
This year’s graduates were:
Alabama: Jeremy B. Blevins
Arizona: Dr. Roland J. L’Heureux, Keith A. Brown
California: Harry M. Woods, Dennis E. Radcliffe
Colorado: Terri L. Shelefontiuk, Thomas Florez
Connecticutt Allen G. Iott, Thomas P. Wood
Florida: Micheal J. Seidel, Terrence S. Briggs
Georgia: Deborah S. Kessler
Illinois: Michelle M. Aaron, Michael D. Vance, Erik J. Gerischer
Indiana: Gail A. Galich, Bridget A. Robinson, Buzz T. Smith, Charles W. Graybiel
Iowa: Alvin C. Miller, James H. Peterson
Kansas: Clark E. Conaway
Kentucky: Toni N. Cory, James A. Lish
Louisiana: James A. Jackson
Maine: Russell E. Wrede
Michigan: James E. Wallace, Mark A. Sutton
Missouri: Gayle L. Langan
Montana: George Blackard
Nebraska: Jennifer L. Salak, David W. Salak
Nevada: Yvette L. Weigold
New Hampshire: Daniel S. Yoder, Lisa Buck-Rogers
New Jersey: Joseph S. Imperato
New Mexico: Dwayne S. Fleming, Donald R. Harrison
New York: Stanley B. Grela, Jerome L. Rice
North Carolina: Norman L. Mullinax
North Dakota: David A. Johnson
Oregon: Keegan D. Hodges, Phyllis P. York
Puerto Rico: Angel O. Narvaez
Rhode Island: Michael W. Reed
South Dakota: John E. Harper
Tennessee: Leroy L. McCaul Jr.
Texas: Kimberly A. Biggerstaff
Virginia: David M. Stein
Washington: James R. Lohr II, Gail F. Porter
West Virginia: Brian Tolstyka
Wisconsin: Mary C. Lloyd, Daniel J. Seehafer