Life after the Marine Corps was not going to be easy for Teri Hlavka. “There was the camaraderie, the friendship, seeing all the Marines at work and after work, and then you get out, and it’s a halt,” she says. “That’s where the Legion comes in. They do a lot for you.”
In 2012, the former Harrier jet electrician suddenly became a single mother of two young children, four years after discharge. She worked three jobs – one full-time, two part-time – while raising the kids and using her GI Bill benefits to finish her nursing degree. At one point, as life was happening fast, she suffered an infection that nearly killed her.
Such was the cyclone of circumstances that led Hlavka to fall in love with The American Legion.
The Chanhassen, Minn., Post 580 Legion Family welcomed her “with open arms,” she says. They helped her get settled, stood by her through a scary emergency surgery, and applauded her when she was hired as a nurse at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. “They gave me hugs when I needed hugs,” she says.
So impressed by her American Legion family, she immersed herself in it. In 2013, she was named adjutant of the 450-member post, where she also serves as Children & Youth chairman and frequently spends lunch hours at area high schools sharing information about American Legion youth programs and scholarships. She builds her own information packets – assembling post, department and national scholarship materials – and distributes them to students.
Dan Tengwall, Carver County’s American Legion-accredited service officer, says “when I get somebody like Teri who comes in not just to get help to get the benefits she has earned, but also wants to help other people ... that’s a really motivating thing.”
Branch of service Marine Corps (2003-2008)
Military job Avionics technician
American Legion post Post 580, Chanhassen, Minn.
Years in the Legion 13
- Post adjutant (2013-present)
- Post Children & Youth chairman (2013-present)
- Post public relations representative (2016-present)