I believe that we were put on this Earth to take care of each other and work for the common good. Veterans understand this ethic because they volunteered to serve their countries and returned home to serve their communities. This is why I have been a proud member of The American Legion for 33 years.

An inclusive organization

My being the first female national commander takes some people by surprise, and I’m happy to tell them that the Legion has allowed women as full members since our beginning in 1919. In fact, women veterans who became Legionnaires in those early days had the right to vote for The American Legion National Commander before the passage of the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote for President of the United States. Women in the military and women in the veteran community have come a long way over the past 98 years, and I’m honored and humbled to have been chosen this past August to lead all two million members of The American Legion as National Commander.

Empowering female veterans

“When veterans need a place to talk to people who understand what they have been through...The American Legion is here.”

It is no secret that women are one of the two fastest growing demographics in our Nation’s military and within the veteran community. Today women serve in every branch of service, and every military job and unit is open to qualified women. The veteran community tends to lag a bit behind active duty trends, and we find that women today are less likely to identify themselves as military veterans. We’re working hard to address this by highlighting the service of military women and openly inviting all women who honorably served our country to join the Legion and be part of our veteran community. At our core, we are veterans helping veterans.

Extending a helping hand

But it’s more than that. I was chosen to lead all Legionnaires, men and women, and this is why my theme for this year is “family first.” Our desire to serve extends well beyond our group. We are here to serve our active-duty military, the national guard and reserves, their families and all of America’s veterans. With nearly 13,000 posts across the nation and even overseas, our doors are open to our communities. When veterans need a place to talk to people who understand what they have been through, when they need help navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs to access benefits, and when they want to get involved and make their communities a better place, The American Legion is here.

The American Legion was founded by World War I veterans to uphold and defend our rights as free people, foster patriotism, preserve the memories of those who served and reinforce a sense of our responsibility to our community, state and nation. We aim to safeguard and pass on to the next generation of Americans the principles of justice, freedom and democracy. Are you ready to join us?