By Paul Hassing
Commander, American Legion Department of Minnesota
Greetings, Legion Family,
I am truly honored and humbled to be elected commander of the greatest department in the greatest veterans service organization in the world.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many of you who have supported me — not only during my campaign, but throughout my entire time in the American Legion Family. We have some truly outstanding people in The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Riders. Your friendship, mentorship, willingness to listen, hard work, dedication and commitment to veterans, and their families is truly outstanding. I truly appreciate every one of you.
My theme this year is “The Road Ahead.”
The American Legion has done so many great things since its beginning, and we as veterans can never thank them enough for everything they accomplished on our behalf. We can all sit back and enjoy the road that was paved for us. We like how smooth it was, and how fast we could drive. We can keep looking in the rearview mirror in admiration of that beautiful road because it was so great.
But then we wouldn’t be paying attention to what’s coming up ahead. We need to look back occasionally, but we need to stay focused on what’s ahead.
There are a lot of potholes, curves, detours and construction to which we need to pay attention. The world is changing; the military is changing. The younger veterans are in many ways different than us old vets.
As Yogi Berra used to say, “Our similarities are very different.” We need to learn to adapt to these changes. There are a lot of great younger veterans who have some really good ideas. We need to listen. We need to help them bring these ideas to fruition. We also need to welcome them into our organization.
I’ve seen too many that never come back to a meeting, or event, because they were scolded for things that they didn’t know — eating with their cover on, cutting the colors or not introducing their spouse.
These are teachable moments to be taught in private, not a time to berate someone publicly.
Most importantly, we need to enjoy the trip on the road ahead. We do great work and get a lot accomplished. We need to have some fun along the way, too. Speaking of fun, thank you, Hopkins American Legion Post 320, for the great time at the Raspberry Festival. You really did a great job.
For my project, I chose the Minnesota American Legion Veterans Assistance Fund (aka Minnesota American Legion Foundation Fund 85). We can all remember a time (or times) that we needed a hand.
Things happen in life that we need a little help with. In many cases a family is just one paycheck away from disaster, and when unexpected things happen, it can really have detrimental effects. We can be there for them when this does happen.
We need to take care of veterans and their families. That is what we do, and why we are here.
I want to thank Past Department Commander Jennifer Havlick for all the advice she gave me, and I wish her well in her future endeavors.
I also would like to thank Patty Swanson in heaven for listening to me so many years ago, and finally telling me it’s time to stop whining, and start helping others. If it weren’t for her, I never would have found The American Legion.
Also, a special thank you to my friends Steve and Dianne Sullivan. You kept me interested in The American Legion by introducing me to the Riders and pushing me to keep learning.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say a big thank you to my wife, Jody. She has helped me in so many ways along the way. I don’t know where I would be without her, and I look forward to working alongside her as she was elected director of the Minnesota American Legion Riders for a two-year term. I know she will do great.
Thank you to the Bloomington Post 550 Color Guard for coming to Redwood Falls, and thank you to Bloomington American Legion Baseball for supporting reception costs. Finally, thanks to Post 550 general membership for your support of my candidacy and campaign.
I am so looking forward to the great things that are going to happen this year in the American Legion Family. We have a great membership director in Pam Krill. We have some outstanding Legionnaires elected to vice commander, historian, chaplain and sergeant-at-arms.
Congratulations to Jim Kellogg for securing the endorsement for national vice commander, and another congratulations to Adjutant Mike Maxa for being appointed to another three-year term. You do a great job, and we are all better for it.
Please remember to have some fun, take care of veterans and their families, and enjoy “The Road Ahead.”
Paul Hassing of Bloomington Post 550 is the commander of The American Legion Department of Minnesota. His theme is “The Road Ahead.”