At NALC ‘we were a team’
Julie Flynn of Maine attended the 2023 National American Legion College at American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Photo by Hilary Ott /The American Legion

At NALC ‘we were a team’

Julie Flynn from the Department of Maine is a 2023 National American Legion College (NALC) graduate. She attended the 2023 NALC session Nov. 12-14 in Indianapolis at American Legion National Headquarters.

I first learned about NALC at a state conference, the latest graduate was asked to stand up and give us a brief of his experience. I did some research on the college, and I was impressed by the syllabus. They  called it a syllabus and not just an agenda, so it was a good start.

The courses sounded interesting, and to be honest it made me yearn for the days I was in uniform. I miss the challenge of being a leader and being part of a team with a similar mission. It has been a while, but not so long that I did not have the memories flood back. I was interested enough now that I was determined to go some day. When an instructor from our state Legion College approached me to attend, I was thrilled. I was looking forward to helping with the state in training and education.

I was excited to receive the email stating I had in fact been accepted to attend the 2023 National American Legion College. Then I started to panic! I thought back on all I had read and the research I had done and thought “what have I gotten myself into!”  The work started soon after, I received a welcome letter then an assignment. Actually, it was three assignments. I had committed to this experience, so I went for it. I worked on the assignments and made sure to get my work in on time. My first indication of what to expect came via email. It was a note from the dean of the NALC (Past National Commander Dave Rehbein). A few people had not submitted their assignments on time and without going into details I can just say my eyes were opened. He made it known this was a premier opportunity for Legion members, and he expected his students to abide by the rules. Recurring theme I thought to myself “what have I gotten into!” 

I excitedly packed remembering my cover, packing for both business casual and business, and I headed off to Indianapolis. I have been to Indianapolis before, but I had forgotten how pretty it was. The hotel check-in was easy, and we had a meet and greet that night. Looking back on that night I did not realize how quickly those other Legionnaires sitting around me would become my dear friends. We started right off developing our team. What seems like an innocent game to break the ice turns into a great foundation for building your team. We built a strong bond through shared experiences but also by being completely different. We were from different states, we all had various positions in our Legion departments, our ages varied, our political affiliations differed but we were a team! 

The speakers we had were amazing, I mean seriously we got to hear from National Adjutant Daniel Wheeler, National Treasurer Shawn Long  and especially National Commander Daniel Seehafer. It was all about what we are experiencing and how we can do things better. We learned tools of leadership we could bring back home and use to improve our posts, districts and departments. We said the Pledge of Allegiance each day and conducted classes in a room of great historical meaning to The American Legion, the National Executive Committee Room. We were surrounded by the history of the Legion as we walked through the halls with pictures of past commanders and other dignitaries, to the documents which all played a part of forming The American Legion. The American Legion Headquarters was exceptional, but so was the outside known as the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Each night after class was dismissed, we would walk through the plaza with its grand memorials to all the wars and conflicts. It was a true dedication to those who came before us. 

We had a “tater,” a fun nickname given to our facilitator assigned to our team for the week. He was quite an unassuming man who of course we later learned had been a police officer, a deputy district attorney, a Legion post commander and a California American Legion department commander. He did not stop there, and he still hasn’t. He is a member of several national committees and continues to work veteran issues. He was an inspiration to those of us in class who were looking for the way forward. He nudged us when we needed it and let us flounder when necessary. We spent many hours either sitting in class or working in our breakout room or studying after class back at the hotel, and we became a team. On our last night of studying, we all shared our story of what we thought of the NALC before we arrived and now after we had been here. 

My fellow teammates’ stories were fascinating. The way the states conduct Legion College varies tremendously from state to state. Some had been waiting years to attend this college and others were simply in the right place at the right time. One thing we all agreed on was what a wonderful experience it had been. The caliber of fellow classmates was the highest I have ever experienced. One of my classmates said it best when he said, “This is the first training and team experience where there wasn’t one slacker.” I thought this was funny at first until I realized how right he was. Every single one of us worked hard, did not complain, and we did the work together. We were eager to learn and proud to be there.

I thought back on our Welcome Letter and the knowledge I was part of a premiere opportunity, and I would not have missed it for the world! I was glad I didn’t know what I had gotten into and glad I got in it! I know The American Legion is going to be better because of the men and women I had the privilege to meet. They are going to do remarkable things, and it can be attributed to the NALC. For myself, I have been given a wider perspective of The American Legion and my devotion to The American Legion has been solidified.