In case you hadn’t heard; the National Commander, Charles Schmidt, was in town to visit Arizona from November 16th to November 20th. Your Post Adjutant had the honors of being his driver and personal protection (like he needed it) during the visit. We had an amazing time getting to know the National Commander better and getting his insight on how we could be a powerful organization once again. After getting the Commander and his Aide, Dirk Levy, squared away in their hotel rooms, Commander Schmidt was off to greet the members of Post 44 in Scottsdale. We had a warm reception by Post 44 and then we were off to Post’s 35 and 91 in Chandler. After a long day of traveling and greeting Arizona members, we tucked the Commander and Dirk in their beds for some well needed rest to prepare for another busy day the following morning.

At Post 91. Left to right-Dept. Adjutant Angel Juarez, Past Dept. Adjutant John Aldequoa, NEC Dick Perry, National Cmdr. Schmidt, Dept. Cmdr. Danny Bigh, Alternate NEC Judi Beischel, and Post 91 Cmdr. Michael Cimon. On Thursday, we hurried the Commander and Dirk off to meet Veterans at the Arizona Veteran’s Home (tucked away behind the VA on 3rd Street and Indian School Road). We had the most wonderful time meeting and greeting Veterans from numerous war eras (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Lebanon, Grenada, and Golf) and we came across one special Veteran, Rex Farley. Rex served in three eras (WWII, Korea and Vietnam) and he was also once an Arizona Senator.

We of course recruited a few new members along the way and I don’t know about the others, but I felt honored to be among these men and women that served to keep our great nation safe throughout the years. I felt like I was sitting in the movie theatre once again watching the new and acclaimed movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” Their stories of what they did for our country will forever be on my mind and in my heart.

Off again we went to slide into Post 41 in Phoenix. Afterwards the Commander and Dirk were starving for Mexican food, so we swooped into a great restaurant and got their stomachs full of some delicious Arizona Mexican food. Once our stomachs had settled from the fine dining experience, we were off to Wesley Bolin Plaza, so the Commander and Dirk could see our USS Arizona Memorial. This turned out to be the best part of the entire visit for Commander Schmidt and the entourage. While there 8th grade students from Maricopa, Arizona approached Commander Schmidt and asked him what the significance of the red cap was that he was wearing and why everyone else was wearing white or white and blue caps. What a beautiful way for Commander Schmidt to educate them about Veterans and our great organization. It left all of us knowing there was hope in the world and that the students would someday serve our Country and return as members of The American Legion.

Their teachers and parents were extremely impressed with their students (some of them breaking down to shed a tear being proud of the students) and all of them received the National Commander’s pin. It turned out to be the most emotional event of the day and as we drove away all of us, including Commander Schmidt talked about the emotion and bumps we got as we socialized with the students.

The next day started off at Post 1 in Phoenix for breakfast, which thanks to Frank’s kitchen was fantastic. For lunch we arrived at Post 29 in Glendale for a luncheon, which the Post hit a home run by having the Color Guard on-hand and in formation to greet the National Commander. For dinner we ended up at Post 62 in Peoria and after getting our stomachs full of food it was time to get the Commander and Dirk back to their hotel room for an early rise the next morning.

Saturday morning we were off traveling East on the US 60 for the Gilbert Days Parade and a meet and greet at Post 39 in Gilbert. The parade was fantastic and the National Commander led the way while members from Post 39 walked in the parade. Approximately 3,000 people from all over the valley of the sun showed for the parade. We had everything in floats from high school bands, Disney land characters, war memorials, to rodeo gals riding horses and showing off their stuff. Me in particular enjoyed the rodeo gals and their horses the most and lost my train of thought numerous times thinking back to my high school days working the rodeos and hanging out with Cowgirls. Then some clown in a tank decided to honk an exceptionally loud horn, you know the type from your military days and my day dreaming was over.

Shortly before noon, we were back on US 60 traveling east to arrive at Post 27 in Apache Junction for a luncheon. Along the way we joked around about the parade and Dan’s possibilities for the future in the Legion. Nope, not going there folks, because I’ve already told everyone I am not going to run for the Department of Arizona Commander. There might be a glimmer of hope once I am in Montana, but I would rather go back to being a regular Joe as a member.

Now I know you are thinking that all this traveling and meeting/greeting cannot be that exhausting, but I am here to tell you that it truly is exhausting. I was just the driver and body guard, and there were many times throughout the days and nights that I began thinking about how much time I was volunteering and how tired I was feeling, but as they say in Hollywood and New York; “The show must go on.”

So after spending time at Post 27 we galloped our way back west and threw the Commander and Dirk out the doors of the van in order for them to get a little nap in before the busy night. The entourage of course lacked the ability to see the inside of our eyelids or a nap and we prepared for the night time festivities.

Saturday night brought us to Post 2 in Tempe and turned out to be a great closing of the National Commander’s visit to Arizona. Post 2 had a little spaghetti competition planned and our Department Adjutant Angel Juarez finally lost the thrown to a new King of the Spaghetti Competition. A band and dinner accompanied the dinner and many Legion members came out to visit with and meet the National Commander.

What I can tell you about the National Commander is that he is a classy guy and a gentleman, who has your interests, our currently serving Veteran’s, as well as our family members at the center of his heart, and he is willing to battle for you on a daily basis.
I have had the honor to know a few National Commanders during my time in the Legion and this one will go down in the history books; I assure you.

Dan Palmer, Post Adjutant

View more history for Post 144 in Glendale, Arizona