Jimmie L. Foster is sworn in as American Legion National Commander during the organization's 92nd National Convention in Milwaukee. Photo by Tom Strattman

The focus this year: SAVED

Newly elected American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster of Alaska expressed thanks in Milwaukee after delegates to the 92nd National Convention made him the leader of the nation's largest veterans organization. Now, he wants thanks expressed to as many veterans as possible during the 2010-2011 Legion year.

"My motto or slogan is the word SAVED, meaning ‘Serving America's Veterans Every Day,'" Foster said during his acceptance speech. "I don't care how you do it, but I want you to ensure that you take care of our veterans in any way possible. It does not have to be something monumental. Just say, ‘Thank you for serving our country.' That will work."

A U.S. Army and Marine Corps veteran and member of Spenard Post 28 in Anchorage, Alaska - expressed his firm belief in the Legion's four pillars: national security, veterans affairs and rehabilitation, Americanism, and children and youth. He also urged Legion posts to become equipped with WiFi Internet access. "You may not be interested, but some prospective young new member may be," he said. He also encouraged Reconnect visits with local military installations.

"Don't forget the Reserves and National Guard members," Foster said. "Never before have they been deployed on multiple rotations as they are now. Make sure you invite them into The American Legion and show them you care by having a Heroes to Hometowns function upon their return."

Foster also called for a focus on recruiting female and minority veterans into the Legion and praised The American Legion Riders for their efforts in raising funds for The American Legion Legacy Fund. This year's Legacy Run brought in more than $524,000 for the fund. He vowed to keep pressure on VA to reduce the claims backlog, saying, "As a former department service officer, you can bet I will advocate on a daily basis to make this happen."

Legislative priorities for Foster include continued advance funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and passage of the flag amendment. He also explained his Lucky 7 Award membership program.

"You have to sign up two new members and five renewals to attain this pin," Foster said. "We have a limited number of these pins, but I want you to force us to purchase more pins because that means we are signing up more members in The American Legion."

And returning back to expressions of thanks, Foster asked that thanks be passed out to every Legionnaire who volunteers during the course of the year. "Most of the time a simple ‘thank you' will be sufficient to most members for their participation in any event or situation. Remember, never have your members do anything that you haven't done, or wouldn't do, yourself. Lead by example, not by position."

Foster was administered the oath of office by Past National Commander Daniel Ludwig of Minnesota. Following Foster's ceremony, the five national vice commanders for the year were elected. They are John M. Mella of Gladwin, Mich.; Eugene R. Pytka of Cumberland, R.I.; Russell J. Henry of Sulphur, La.; Carlos Orria-Medina of San Juan, Puerto Rico; and William F. Schrier of Sedro-Woolley, Wash.

National Historian James Fratolillo of Quincy, Mass.; National Sergeant-at-Arms Ernest L. King, Sr., of Anchorage, Alaska; and National Chaplain Rev. Daniel J. Seehafer of Beaver Dam, Wis., were appointed to their positions by Foster following the close of the national convention.

Outgoing National Commander Clarence Hill was presented a plaque and the colors by Past National Commanders Ron Conley and Jake Comer.