When Laurel Clewell retired from the Army in 2012 after 36 years of service, she took with her strong feelings about Old Glory.
“I think of the American flag, and I feel proud,” says Clewell, a 15-year Legionnaire. “It’s a sign of strength, of a nation that’s so connected to its people. I really believe that the American flag is a symbol of hope, and it bothers me when people disrespect that flag.”
Because of that, Clewell has made flag advocacy one of the primary missions of her Legion career. She regularly leads flag retirement ceremonies at Johnston-Blessman Post 38 in Appleton, Wis., including local youth and others in the community. She also works with area schools to provide Americanism education tools.
“We have to reach the whole child,” she says. “If we teach our young how to display and treat the flag, and what it means ... I think we can make solid citizens out of those children.”
Post 38 retires nearly 5,000 U.S. flags every year. “We go out and advertise in the papers and ask different businesses to bring their flags here,” she says. “We have a red, white and blue box out front that collects flags. That bin is filled probably every week.”
All the while, Clewell is trying to recruit new members of the Legion, too.
“There are so many reasons (to join the Legion),” she says. “When I first joined, I did not realize everything the Legion does. We have to get out there and continually show people what we are doing. Younger veterans who have children need to know that we’re a family group. We are here to help support a family unit.”
Branch of service Army (1976-2012)
Military job Drill sergeant instructor
Rank Command sergeant major
American Legion post Johnston-Blessman Post 38, Appleton, Wis.
Years in the Legion 15
- Department vice commander (2016-present)
- Post adjutant (2015-2016)
- District commander (2014-2016)
- County commander (2011-2012)
- Post commander (2011-2012)