The National American Legion College class of 54 students have spent a week focusing on training, leadership development, problem-solving, creating strategic plans, knowing their why to joining the organization and more. It all came to a close Friday morning in the National Executive Committee room at National Headquarters in Indianapolis, when the students graduated as the 2018 National Legion College class during the organization’s centennial year.
Earlier in the week the Legion’s centennial National Commander Brett Reistad told the students, “You are our centennial class. That is a legacy you can be proud of.”
The class heard special remarks from immediate Past National Commander Denise Rohan, a 2009 Legion College graduate herself.
“As I listened to your why’s (of joining The American Legion) this week, I heard a lot of people talk about family,” Rohan said. “My theme was Family First, and it really did my heart well to hear the word 'family' being used so often in this room. The way we retain our members is by actually caring about them, talking to them.”
She shared that if a post member doesn’t show up to meetings or events, call them and find out why. If it’s because they don’t have a ride, schedule arrangements for pickup. Or if they are sick, let them know their Legion Family cares about them.
“They are part of our family,” Rohan said. “Our American Legion Family is all about taking care of one another. That’s kind of my why. God put us here to take care of one another and The American Legion gives me the opportunity to do that.”
Steven Anderson of Post 98 in North Dakota said you have to be prepared to share your why of joining The American Legion when asked. “You have to break it down to Cliff's Notes so when you’re out and wearing your Legion hat and they ask, ‘Why are you in The American Legion,’ you have to have that Cliff's Note so you’re not stumbling. You have to be passionate about your Legion. People you talk to have to know that you’re passionate. This is what you want to do, and this is what you want them to be a part of.”
Upon return to their departments, the graduates were encouraged to share the training and knowledge they learned throughout the week. For Ken LaVoy of Post 598 in Ohio, his focus going back home will be membership.
“One thing I learned from here is that it’s just not about getting new members, but actually retaining those members and the retention piece of it,” LaVoy said. “People in my post are proud about getting new members but there’s no follow-up. That’s going to be huge, bringing the knowledge that I learned here and providing the training and mentoring as we go forward.”
The possibility of helping to start a Legion College at the Department of Wyoming is what Toni Elliott of Post 14 is excited for upon her return. “I’m hopefully going to go to the Department of New York’s training for their Legion College. I’m really excited about that,” Elliott said. “Again, that’s that networking you get to do here (at National Legion College).
Before the National Legion College class received their diploma and pin, Rohan closed her speech with congratulatory remarks.
“Congratulations on being here, congratulations on caring so much, congratulations on always putting our nation’s families first.”