In addition to the national commander and vice commanders, six national constitutional officers are appointed annually by vote of the National Executive Committee. They are the adjutant, treasurer, judge advocate, historian, chaplain and sergeant-at-arms. Officers elected by the national convention take office upon adjournment and serve until the end of the next convention.
Responsibilities of national officers:
The administrative head of the organization, the adjutant oversees National Headquarters and all other national offices. He is charged in the Legion by-laws with administering the policies and mandates of the national convention and the National Executive Committee.
Daniel S. Wheeler is the national adjutant of The American Legion, a post he has held since October 2008. Prior to becoming national adjutant, he served as executive director of National Headquarters in Indianapolis (1995-2008). He joined the National Headquarters staff in 1979, during which time he served as The American Legion Magazine assistant editor (1979-1980), managing editor (1980-1981), assistant publisher/editor (1981-1985), publisher/editor in chief (1985-1995) and (2001-2007).
From 1994-2009, Wheeler also served as president of the Citizens Flag Alliance, devoting significant time to managing and administering this not-for-profit, nonpartisan coalition of civic, fraternal, veteran, business and labor organizations. The Citizens Flag Alliance's goal is to pass a constitutional amendment returning to Congress the power to protect the U.S. flag from intentional acts of physical desecration.
Wheeler was a U.S. Navy sonarman and journalist during the Vietnam War. His previous professional positions include staff writer for the U.S. Navy magazine All Hands; editor of the Navy Editorial Service; and staff member of Direction magazine.
Wheeler, a native of Richmond, Va., lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Kathy. He is a past president of the Veterans Day Council of Indianapolis, and a member of American Legion Post 137 in Virginia, the Indianapolis Rotary Club, and Mensa.
The treasurer is custodian of the Legion's funding. Duties include signing checks, making financial reports and performing other duties appropriate to the office.
George A. Buskirk Jr. was appointed national treasurer of The American Legion on Sept. 10, 1998, during the 80th National Convention in New Orleans.
Buskirk, a major general in the National Guard, currently serves as legal counsel to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and served as adjutant general of the State of Indiana under Governor Frank O'Bannon from 2001-2004. He is a member of American Legion Frank McKinney Post 510 in Indianapolis. Buskirk, who joined the Guard in 1977, served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps during the Vietnam War. He is a retired senior vice president and trust officer for Union Federal Savings Bank, and past president of the Indiana War Memorial Commission.
An Indianapolis native who resides in Zionsville, Ind., Buskirk holds a bachelor's degree in business from Butler University and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from Indiana University Law School. He and his wife, Maureen, have three children.
The judge advocate advises national officers and the National Executive Committee on legal matters, including the interpretation of the national constitution and by-laws.
Philip B. Onderdonk Jr. was appointed national judge advocate of The American Legion by then-National Commander Keith A. Kreul in 1983.
Onderdonk, a member of American Legion Post 183 in Parkville, Md., served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He earned the Bronze Star as a contracting officer.
A 1965 graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Onderdonk earned his law degree, with honors, from the University of Maryland Law School in 1969. He is a member of the Maryland Bar Association, the Indiana Bar Association, the Washington, D.C. bar association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
He has been admitted to practice before the bar in all courts of Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Indiana and Maryland. He is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Circuit Court for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th, D.C. and federal circuits.
Prior to his appointment as national judge advocate, Onderdonk was marketing and staff attorney for Crown Central Petroleum Corp. of Baltimore. His previous experience includes staff attorney for Mobil Oil Corp. in Philadelphia and Valley Forge, Pa., and law clerk for U.S. District Judge J. William Ditter Jr. of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Onderdonk and his wife, Ann, live in Carmel, Ind. They have two children.
The historian is responsible for Legion history, and helps department and post historians coordinate, unify and promote their work. The national historian is assisted by the organization's librarian and archivist.
James Copher Sr. of Mound, Minn., was appointed national historian of The American Legion on Sept. 3 during the 2015 National Convention in Baltimore.
An Army veteran and former Department Commander of Minnesota, Copher is a 44-year member of The American Legion and a life member of Post 398 in Mound. He has served as the department historian three times and as a commander at the post, district and state level. He has also served twice as president of the National Association of Department Historians of The American Legion.
The chaplain performs spiritual nonsectarian services as may be necessary, adhering to ceremonial rituals as approved by the Legion. The chaplain oversees memorial services at each national convention, opens and closes national meetings with appropriate prayers, and frequently gives guidance and leadership to the religious-emphasis program of the Americanism Commission.
Rev. Dr. H.C. Ted Kelley of Camp Hill, Pa., was appointed national chaplain of The American Legion on Sept. 3 during the 2015 National Convention in Baltimore.
A Legion member for 55 years, Dr. Kelley was a Department of Pennsylvania chaplain and a member of the Department Religious Emphasis Committee for many years. Kelley served as a chaplain with the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea and was a regimental chaplain at the Great Lakes Navy Training Center.
The sergeant-at-arms preserves the order at national meetings and performs such other duties as may be assigned by the National Executive Committee or national officers.
Daniel Zimmermann of Douglasville, Ga., was appointed national sergeant-at-arms of The American Legion on Sept. 3 during the 2015 National Convention in Baltimore.
An Army veteran, Zimmermann is a member of American Legion Post 145 in Douglasville and has held several post positions.