National Commander visits Post 227

Monday, July 8, 2019

The American Legion National Commander,
Brett Reistad, speaking at Post 227.
Text by Carroll Goehring
Photos by Jerry Pickard

Those who attended the June 26, 2019 meeting of The American Legion Post 227 were treated to a memorable evening featuring a visit by The American Legion National Commander, Brett Reistad.

Reistad and his entourage arrived at the Post before 5:00pm and engaged in meeting and greeting those present. Post 227 Commander Larry Fischer called the meeting to order and led the group in reciting the pledge of allegiance. Vickie Evans, who provided entertainment during the evening, then played the national anthem.

Commander Fischer read the admonishment that Legionnaires should spare no effort to secure the release of all American POWS, the accounting for those MIA and return of the remains of those killed in defense of their country. Sgt. at Arms Rick Christianson then placed the POW/MIA banner on the symbolic empty chair. Chaplain Richard Bologna offered the opening prayer. 

Commander Fischer then individually recognized the officers in attendance from surrounding Posts, from District 11, from Area 1 and from the Department of Washington. He also introduced each of the Post 227 officers. 

Commander Fischer called Ken Lee, National Executive Committeeman representing the Department of Washington, to the microphone to introduce National Commander Brett Reistad as the featured speaker for the evening.

History of the American Legion
Post 227 Commander Larry Fischer (on left)
presenting a certificate of appreciation
to National Executive Committeeman, Ken Lee.
Reistad discussed the key events that led to the formation of The American Legion following WWI. At the time, WWI was thought to be “the war to end all wars” and, when the WWI veterans died, no new military veterans were expected to replace them. 

Accordingly, the “Sons of the American Legion” organization was formed to continue the work of the American Legion. Although WWI proved to be not the last war and the US military continued to produce veterans, the Sons of the American Legion continued as part of the Legion family. 

GI Bill of Rights
Commander Reistad discussed the Legion’s efforts to get the US Congress to authorize what is today the US Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs. He also told how, in December of 1943, Past American Legion National Commander Harry W. Colmery wrote what became the US GI Bill of Rights. It was passed into law by the US Congress in June 1944.
Post 227 Commander Larry Fischer (on right) presenting
a certificate of appreciation to Bob Grasmick
for his many years of dedicated service
to the Post and the community.

The bill enabled thousands of military veterans to attend college and purchase homes. The bill faced opposition due to its anticipated cost. However, the increased taxes paid by college educated veterans eventually produced $7 in federal income for every dollar spent on the GI Bill.

Congress excludes veterans from membership
Reistad ended his talk by discussing current efforts to change the eligibility requirements for Legion membership. Currently, the US Congress allows only those who served in the military during war periods defined by Congress to be eligible to join the Legion.

Thousands of veterans whose service fell between these Congressionally defined periods are not allowed to join the Legion. This includes veterans who want to join Post 227. Virtually all of these excluded veterans served their country, some at considerable risk to their lives while others were killed or injured during the Cold War.
Post 227 Adjutant Earl Thompson (on left)
presenting a special pen to Commander Reistad.
Contact your congressional members
At the request of The American Legion, the US Senate passed SB504 that would make all US military veterans who served since December 7, 1941 to be eligible to join The American Legion. 

The US House of Representatives has not passed SB504. 

Commander Reistad asked everyone to contact their representative in the US House to urge them to pass SB504.

Awards presentation
Commander Fischer announced that those who had questions for Commander Reistad could ask them later in the evening. Fischer asked Ken Lee to come forward. Fischer presented Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation for “escorting The American Legion National Commander, Brett Reistad, to our Post 227 and for representing the Department of Washington as a National Executive Committeeman.”

Commander Fischer then asked Robert (Bob) Grasmick to come forward. Fischer presented Grasmick with a Certificate of Appreciation for “years of dedication to the Post in maintaining Post facilities while working with many commanders; also for serving in multiple positions on the Executive Committee and for services on related community organizations, committees and functions.” Then Post 227 Adjutant, Earl Thompson, presented commemorative pens he had created to Ken Lee, Brett Reistad and Ken Knight, Aide-de-camp to Commander Reistad. 

A very special cake for dessert
BBQ and Entertainment
Attention then turned to the BBQ that Chaplain Bologna, Vice Commander Brady and their crew had prepared. Prior to the evening, attendance was estimated to be 25 but more then twice that number actually attended and food was available for all. 

Besides BBQed burgers and hot dogs, the menu included side dishes and a beautiful cake that Bob Grasmick provided; the cake was decorated to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The American Legion and the visit of National Commander Reistad to Post 227. Throughout the meal, Vickie Evans entertained with music and singing.

Throughout the evening, Post Historian Jerry Pickard used his camera to capture the event in photos. Those photos in this story in the Shoreline Area News will allow those who missed the incredible event to see what they missed.


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