"You make such great friendships through the Legion
and people depend on each other. It's helping people today."
Judi Beischel, a Coast Guard veteran, traces her American Legion roots to birth.
Her father, Francis Slate – a World War II Army veteran and past post commander – is now celebrating his 70th year as a Legionnaire. Beischel's brother, Kevin, served in the Navy and is a Legionnaire, too. Her mother belonged to the Auxiliary, along with her sisters.
"I was always proud that my dad was very active in the post," says Beischel, Arizona's department commander. "It's something that you pass on to the kids. We've got four grandchildren, from 7 to 2, and they have all been members (of the Legion Family) since they were born. You've got to start them out young."
Born on Memorial Day, she spent much of her childhood at her father's post in upstate New York. One of her earliest memories is marching in a Memorial Day parade at age 4.
Today, Beischel works tirelessly to prop up veterans who are down on their luck. As department commander, she's overseeing an initiative to build a 24-unit facility for homeless women veterans. "We're seeing a lot of young homeless veterans because they don't have jobs or family to come back to," she says. "It's difficult."
Beischel's passion to help others comes from her close-knit families at home and at Post 58 in Fountain Hills, Ariz.
"From the time I was very young, I knew my dad lost his brother at Normandy on June 6," she says. "I've always felt a need to welcome veterans. So many Vietnam veterans came back and were treated poorly. We try to make sure that doesn't happen again."
Branch of Service: Coast Guard Reserve, 1973-1980
MOS: Boatswain's mate
Rank at discharge: Petty officer first class
American Legion Post: Post 58, Fountain Hills, Ariz.
Years in the Legion 12