(Photo by Clay Lomneth)

Walk brings out 'camaraderie' in Nebraska

American Legion Department of Nebraska Senior Vice Commander Beth Linn has been traveling with National Commander Dale Barnett since he arrived in her state, covering hundreds of miles in the process.

On May 17 in Kearney, Neb., Linn and more than 30 other Legion family members and supporters covered a much shorter distance – approximately eight blocks. But the distance didn’t matter to Linn. Taking part in one of Barnett’s Awareness Walks for Veterans is what mattered.

“It almost makes you feel like you’re back with your boot camp buddies you served with,” Linn said. “There’s that camaraderie. There’s that urging you on to do your best … and having fun while you’re doing it.”

The walk was one of more than 30 that Barnett has led since being elected national commander during the 2015 National Convention. The walks raise money for Barnett's primary fundraiser, the National Emergency Fund, which provides financial grants to qualified posts and Legion family members affected by declared natural disasters.

But having Legion family members out in force in the public eye is doing more than raising funds. “It’s to raise awareness for who we are and what we do,” said Linn, a Legionnaire, Auxiliary member and Legion Rider from Post 5 in Scottsbluff. “It’s not just us, but it’s the Legion family. Anything to raise awareness for The American Legion (and) to get us out in the public.”

A similar walk was scheduled for May 18 in Bellevue near Omaha. “We felt that it would be better to spread it across the department, as opposed to just having one walk in one spot where we couldn’t get across the state and show everyone what we’re about,” Department of Nebraska Commander Michael Reimers said. “I think the walks have been great, and the more people that see us out and about and what we’re doing gets them more aware of what we’re doing.”

Nebraska Alternate National Executive Committeeman Fred Crosier, a member of Buffalo County Post 52 in Kearney, spent about six weeks organizing the walk. “It’s just a heck of a good way to get us exposure,” he said. “From the questions I’ve gotten from around town, (the walk) is pretty valuable.”

Kearney Mayor Stanley Clouse walked alongside Barnett during the walk. “The American Legion is a big part of our community,” Clouse said. “We have great relationships with (local Legion leaders), and the men and women who are in the Legion. So when they asked to support them, we do what we can to offer our best support.”

Linn said walks like the one in Kearney show the Legion’s versatility. “We are adaptable, and we do what we need to do,” she said. “If that means having fun, then that means having fun. But when it comes to helping our veterans, we’ll buckle down and do the job.”