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By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer


Despite the threat of an impending snowstorm, about 180 members of the American Legion and guests from all over Northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin packed Johnson’s Reception Hall May 23 to hear National Commander Denise Rohan speak about her goals. Rohan, who was born in McGregor and grew up in Elkader, was elected as the first female Commander of the American Legion last August at the Legion’s National Convention in Reno, Nevada.

“It’s so good to be home,” Rohan told the assembled crowd. “It’s an honor to serve as your National Commander. I have met some amazing people and have had some amazing experiences.”

Rohan’s theme as National Commander is “Family First.” Her involvement in the fundraising project in the Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance, which awards cash grants to minor children of veterans who are eligible for Legion membership, is a priority for her.  The assistance is used to help fund families in need to meet shelter, food, utilities and health expenses.

She recounted her experiences while visiting hurricane-ravaged areas in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“During those visits I had the opportunity to talk to Legion members and their families to see what we could do for them,” she said. “We got good input from them, and the Legion sent truckloads of materials to them.  They were very thankful for the help, both material and financial.”

“One of the things that I do is to meet with governors and National Guard generals to find out what they need from us,” she continued. “The American Legion is there for the family because we are a family.  We continue to be there as National Guard and Reserve units get called up and deployed time after time.  Our job is to take care of serving members families.”

“We also make sure that our veterans are taken care of regarding health and benefits, and we make sure that our service officers get the correct training to provide that help,” she added.  “Another thing is to make sure that our youth understands the sacrifices that have been made by veterans.  We understand that the Legion is a community, and that the Legion family takes care of the nation’s families.”

Rohan, who lives in Verona, WI, with her husband, Mike, will serve one year—the term limit for national commanders—during which she will direct lobbying priorities for the Legion, promote service and fundraising and speak before congressional committees on veterans’ affairs. The Legion is the nation’s largest veterans’ organization with a membership of nearly 2 million.

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