The national commander is the chief executive officer and official spokesman of The American Legion, with full power to enforce provisions of the organization's constitution, bylaws and resolutions. Each national commander serves a one-year term, after which a new leader is elected at the national convention. Five national vice commanders who serve different regions are also elected at the national convention each year.
Michael D. Helm of Norcatur, Kansas, was elected national commander of the 2.4 million member American Legion on Aug. 28, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C., during the 96th national convention of America's largest veterans organization.
A U.S. Army veteran during the Vietnam War, he served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., and earned his Ranger tab in 1972. He has been a member of Jack Helt American Legion Post 313 at Lebanon, Neb., since 1972. Born in McCook, Neb., he grew up in Norcatur, Kansas. He is a retired U.S. Postal Service rural mail carrier with more than 33 years of service.
Helm served as commander of the Department of Nebraska from 1987 to 1988 and as a national vice commander from 2003 to 2004. He also served as the national commander's representative to the National Legislative Commission, the chairman of the National Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Commission.
During his service as chairman of the VA&R Commission, Helm chaired the System Worth Saving Task Force, a team of dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers, providing in-depth and up-to-date analysis of the status of VA health care to Congress and to veterans advocates nationwide. He also served as a member of the Veterans Planning and Coordination Committee and of The American Legion Ad Hoc Committee studying the Military and Veterans Affairs response to traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
At the local and state levels, Helm has served as post adjutant, post commander, county commander, district commander, department area and senior vice commander, in addition to numerous committee assignments and chairmanships. He was Nebraska's first Vietnam-era veteran elected as department commander. Helm takes great pride in having been selected to serve as Nebraska's official American Legion representative at the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982.
Helm's wife, Debbie, is active in The American Legion Auxiliary, having served as District 9 president and as the Department Junior Activities chairwoman. They are the parents of five Legion Family members. Aaron and his wife, Robie, both graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; Rebecca and her husband, Jaron Cox, both graduates of Kansas State University; Jacob, a senior cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy; Matthew, an Army ROTC cadet at Kansas State University and Timothy, a student at Decatur Community High School in Oberlin, Kansas.