Department Convention next year to be hosted by Willmar

By Tim Engstrom
Several reports were given at the convention, including from Fastpitch Softball Director Mike Arvidson, left, and Baseball Director Randy Schaub, right. Both are SAL members.

News, notes and awards from convention reports

REDWOOD FALLS — Jim Mertens, chairman of the Convention Corp., said Willmar was approved for the site of the 105th Department Convention. He said committee members are in negotiation for a five-year deal much like the one St. Cloud has for the Fall Conference. Multi-year contracts result in better rates.

However, nothing long-term is signed, he said, and the committee is open to interests in convention hosting from any post in the state. He said the 2024 convention dates are July 10-13, hosted by Willmar Post 167.

The Fall Conference, he said, is Oct. 27-28 at River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. It is hosted by the Convention Corp.

Here are news and notes from reports given during the 104th Department Convention hosted by Redwood Falls Post 38:

National American Legion Chaplain Mark Antel speaks to the Department Executive Committee on July 12.
National Chaplain Mark Antel of North Dakota (but who lives in Apple Valley presently) spoke to the DEC and the convention.

National chaplain

National Chaplain Mark Antel attended the July 12 DEC meeting and gave the opening prayer for the convention on July 13. He said the greatest part of his time as national chaplain so far was getting to pray before the U.S. Senate.

Only Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray of Washington state was there, but it was broadcast live nationally and livestreamed to the D.C. and home offices of all senators. He said he had to travel to northern Virginia for Boys Nation to be part of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

He gave three pieces of advice at the DEC meeting:

1. Be the person God has called you to be; don’t be somebody else.

2. Reach out to people of other faiths. We are not a church. Reach out to people without faith and provide guidance for them.

3. Keep in mind we cannot do what we do without the full American Legion Family.

Robert Larson, president of the Lower Sioux Indian Community, greets the Department Convention on July 13.
Robert Larson, president of the Lower Sioux Indian Community, greets the Department Convention on July 13.


The convention was greeted by Robert Larson, president of the Lower Sioux Indian Community.

“We at the Lower Sioux have always held our warriors, our veterans, in high regard,” he said. “The folks that defend and fight for the way of life that their people want, so we are proud and happy that you have chosen this venue and that we can host you. We’re thankful for you.”

He mentioned his uncle, who died and was buried in Germany fighting for the United States.

Redwood Falls Mayor Tom Quackenbush said Redwood Falls is humbled to have been selected as the site for the new state veterans cemetery. He encouraged Legion Family members to go by the site on the drive between the casino and the city.

“I would also like to thank all of you for your service and dedication to The American Legion,” he said. “Your tireless efforts to support the veterans and their families, promote patriotism and strengthen our communities are truly inspiring.”

Legion member Ken Meyer of Pequot Lakes Post 49 looks for an incoming presenter at the convention.
Legion member Ken Meyer of Pequot Lakes Post 49 looks for an incoming presenter at the convention.


Lloyd Ricker, chairman of the Minnesota American Legion Foundation, said the foundation has $600,672 in cash and checking. It has $1.39 million in investments, and its total net worth is $1.99 million as of the end of June.

Ricker passed out a new brochure for the Minnesota Veterans Assistance Fund, which is the foundation’s Fund 85. He encouraged everyone to take several back to their communities.

He also said the foundation’s overall brochure has been revised to reflect the addition of the John Zgoda Disabled Veterans Deer Hunt. Both brochures have QR codes, too.

He said Minnesota Veterans Assistance Fund can help veterans, vetted by a post, for up to $5,000 each. He said the fund has spent $223,777 aiding veterans in need.

“People that are down and out, lost their job, wife ends up with cancer,” Ricker said.

In the last quarter, the fund spent $37,968.

“There is a need out there. We are very happy to come up with this brochure,” he said.

Contact Department HQ if you wish to receive copies of the brochure in the mail.

Ricker also noted the Riders will have a Fund 85 Run on Aug. 19, starting and finishing at Forest Lake Post 225. He turned the podium over to Assistant DSO Janet Lorenzo to share some stories of helping veterans.

In one, Lorenzo described helping a female veteran who served two tours in Iraq, returning home in 2021. The transition was difficult. She had flashbacks of losing battle buddies. She was diagnosed with PDSD, anxiety and severe depression. DSO Ray Kane and Lorenzo connected her to a CVSO. She was diagnosed and awarded 80 percent disability. The Minnesota Veterans Assistance Fund was able to keep her and her children housed just in time for her rating.

Lorenzo quoted the mother:

“I am a divorced single mom and a combat veteran. In the last couple of years since divorcing from my children’s father due to his PTSD and substance abuse disorder, I have strugged to keep a roof over my head while caring for my children and working two full-time jobs. … Without the MVAF grant, I would be on the streets and unable to recover. … I can’t thank The American Legion enough for their help.”

Lorenzo’s other story is detailed by Kane himself in a first-person account on Page 10.

SAL Detachment of Minnesota Commander Tim Weaver receives a gift from Department Commander Jennifer Havlick.
SAL Detachment of Minnesota Commander Tim Weaver receives a gift from Department Commander Jennifer Havlick.

Sons of The American Legion

The Minnesota Sons of The American Legion, at their convention in Anoka, elected John Weiss of Squadron 577 as the detachment commander to the two-year term. The detachment elected David Vulcan as the National Executive Committeeman.

SAL National Commander Christopher Carlton of Indiana visited the Minnesota SAL Spring Conference in Rochester. SAL National Vice Commander David Mennel visited the Detachment Convention in Anoka.

The 2024 Detachment Spring Conference and Convention both will happen at Forest Lake Post 225. The 2024 budget for the detachment is $90,900.

In the past year, the detachment raised $9,600 for the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, placing second in the Central Region.

New Detachment of Minnesota Commander John Weiss of St. Paul Squadron 577 speaks to the Department of Minnesota Convention.
New Detachment of Minnesota Commander John Weiss of St. Paul Squadron 577 speaks to the Department of Minnesota Convention.

The John Zgoda Disabled Veterans Deer Hunt at Legionville takes place Oct. 3-8.

Departing Commander Tim Weaver said the detachment has created two new awards: SAL Member of the Year and Auxiliary Member of the Year. This is in addition to the existing award Legionnaire of the Year.

Auxiliary and SAL Members of the Year were Diane and Steve Sullivan. Jim Kellogg was Legionnaire of the Year.

Weiss said his commander’s project will benefit two causes. One is the Minnesota Veterans Assistance Fund and the other is the Veterans & Children’s Foundation.

Finance Committee

The Department of Minnesota revenue exceeded expenses by $535,346 as of June 30, reported Finance Committee Chairman Carl Moon. However, he noted the fiscal year doesn’t end until Sept. 30.

As of May 30, fixed-income investments were $1.9 million, with annual income from it at $60,907. Stocks were at $1.14 million, with estimated annual income of $23,487.

He asked for committee chairs, if they think they might exceed their budgets, to notify the comptroller and him.

“Please do not assume all can or will be honored,” Moon said.

The Finance Committee meets in September at Elk River Post 112 to budget for 2023-24. The next Finance Committee chairman is Dennis Delong of Minneapolis-Richfield Post 435.


Many veterans think the county veteran service officers are the VA, said Minnesota Association of County Veteran Service Officers President Martin Howes of Roseau County.

“I’m going to see my VA officer. I’m going to talk to the VA today,” he said, describing such conversations.

“Well, close, but not quite close enough. We are county employees. We are not the VA. And that’s where the true advocacy comes in,” he said.

DAV Commander Mick Aguirre speaks to the American Legion convention.
DAV Commander Mick Aguirre speaks to the American Legion convention. He was the chairman of the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force this past year.

He said other states ask him how Minnesota is able to provide such strong support. He tells them it is because of support from the veterans organizations: The American Legion, VFW, DAV, JWV, Amvets and so on.

“We look out for other brothers and sisters,” he said.

Minnesota CTF

Mick Aguirre, chairman of the Minnesota Commander’s Task Force and immediate past commander of the DAV of Minnesota, noted this past legislative session witnessed a second veterans and military omnibus bill and $90 million for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. He said the efforts to prevent reduction in e-tab revenue failed.

Minnesota American Legion Legislative Committee Chairwoman Kristy Janigo, right, listens to Legislative Committee member Mike Parry speak.
Minnesota American Legion Legislative Committee Chairwoman Kristy Janigo, right, listens to Legislative Committee member Mike Parry speak. The duo took turns at the microphone.


Department of Minnesota Legislative Chairwoman Kristy Janigo took the microphone with a member of her committee, Mike Parry, a former state senator from Waseca.

Minnesotan Legionnaires, they said, traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to speak with their senators and representatives about veterans issues.

In St. Paul, much of the Legislative Committee’s efforts focused on educating state lawmakers. They explained why the omnibus bill was important.

“We don’t want to be pawns anymore,” Parry said. “We want our own bills in our own package. We don’t want to be used to pass this. We don’t want to be the poison pill not to pass this. They understood that.”

The infrastructure bill included $77.7 million for work at the Hastings Veterans Home to replace many buildings. This funding will allow federal funds to assist in the construction.

Lawmakers expanded the Post-9/11 Bonus bill, allowing veterans who are Minnesota residents but didn’t enter the military in Minnesota to take advantage of the bonus and bringing in veterans who served in Operation Inherent Resolve.

More details of the last session were available in the June issue of The Minnesota Legionnaire.

As for charitable gambling, Parry summed it up: “We took it in the shorts, folks. I’m sorry,” he told the convention. “And it all happened behind closed doors. And I’ll just say, as a former state senator, I have never seen such a strong coalition to have some of my colleagues tell me straightforward that they would never, ever vote for anything that would even harm veterans  and their families, and then they turn around and they vote the opposite direction.”

He added that his colleagues told him they do not recall any single issue where they got more email, mail and phone calls than they received on the matter of e-tabs.

“I believe when we come back this next legislative session, and we ask for a bigger tax break on gambling, I believe we are going to get it,” he said.

“You’ve given charities a black eye,” Janigo added. “Now how are you going to help us move forward?”

Training Committee Chairwoman Linda Dvorak speaks to the convention.
Training Committee Chairwoman Linda Dvorak speaks to the convention.


The Training Committee finished its fourth Minnesota Legion College in April and is hosting its fifth on Oct. 12-15, said Chairman Michael Ash.

Chaplain Kelley Adelsman held well-attended online chaplain training sessions.

In addition to learning more about leadership, Legion College graduates appreciate the statewide networking they form with other veterans, he said.

Media & Communications

Chairwoman Teresa Ash brought her committee members up on stage and thanked them one by one for the social media, the videos, the livestreams and photography they performed all year. Each received a personalized trophy.

Baseball & Softball

Baseball Director Randy Schaub, a member of Olivia Squadron 186, told how he played Legion Baseball for Albert Lea Post 56 and began coaching Legion Baseball right after high school. He was 21 when he became the head coach of Post 56’s baseball team.

He later coached in Sacred Heart and won the state title in 2000. He moved into organizing tournaments in the 7th District and eventually became the 7th District baseball director. Then-Department Commander Mark Dvorak appointed him state baseball director in 2019, and he was reappointed by Commander Jennifer Havlick this past year.

He ran through postseason locations (since finished by the time you read this) and thanked his committee and its staff for all they do, making Minnesota the best Legion Baseball program in the country.

“It’s truly a team effort that makes this happen, and thank you for giving your time and allowing me to talk to all you fine veterans,” Schaub said.

Fastpitch Softball Director Mike Arvidson, a member of Detroit Lakes Squadron 15, said the first tournament in Mankato was successful.

The words "American Legion Minnesota 9th District" appear on the side of a bass drum.
The 9th District Band was present on the final day of the convention to provide patriotic music.

“First pitch. Flyover with planes. It was magical. It really was. I couldn’t believe how well it went,” Arvidson said.

This year, the tournament is in New York Mills (also finished by the time you read this).

“Our biggest struggle so far has been kind of getting connected with  the coaches who run the teams and actually put them together,” he said.

He noted how Legion Baseball is the oldest youth baseball program in the nation and began without competition. Legion Softball, however, faces stiff competition from club teams.

“It’s just hard to get people to change something that isn’t quite broken, even if maybe we have a better product financially or more opportunity, especially out in the rural areas,” Arvidson said.

He thanked the Fastpitch Softball Committee for all of its hard work.

Armed Forces Service Center

Liaison David Dahl, immediate past commander of the 4th District, described how for 49 years the Armed Forces Service Center at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport never closed. The pandemic shut it down, and when it reopened, there weren’t enough volunteers to remain open 24 hours.

He asked for volunteers to help the place get back to full time. Visit and click on “volunteer.”

Dahl encouraged posts to donate to the Armed Forces Service Center and he is hoping to send out request letters to post gambling committees.

Judge Advocate

Department Judge Advocate said some posts struggle as a result of individual behavior of some of their members, often leaders at that.

1. Veterans badmouthing other veterans. “Since the Civil War, veterans have been working, fighting and lobbying to get services. Why on earth would we badmouth each other?”

Legionnaires at the convention salute the colors during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on July 15.
Legionnaires at the convention salute the colors during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on July 15.

2. Some posts are blowing off the suggestions for improvement made by district commanders and adjutants. Sometimes, it is because the one making a suggestion is female. He said it is imperative for posts to follow their constitutions and bylaws, to have elections, take care of money and give due process.

“A lot of people are looking for the department to solve post problems,” Colby said. “The post has more authority than the department to solve the issue.”

American Legion Family Hospital Association

Abbreviated as ALFHA, it is a 501(c)3 organization. Twenty-five cents from every member’s dues goes to the association. Chairman Robert Bristo said members can contact the department to apply for relief from hospital expenses. He said a claims coordinator will contact members over the phone and the medical provider to negotiate the amount owed.

“We are there for you, and we will always be there for you,” Bristo said.

Children & Youth

Chairwoman Karen Welander announced award winners:

Category 1: Lyle Post 105

Category 2: Fairmont Post 36

Category 3: Fridley Post 303

Category 4: Duluth Post 71

Posts she recognized for meritorious service are Denham Post 361, Nisswa Post 627, Little Falls Post 46 and Park Rapids Post 212.

Steve Fosness of Fairmont Post 36 was the winner of the Jim Oldenburg Award.


Chairwoman Tess Davis listed winners of Americanism awards. They were:

Americanism Service Award: Litchfield Post 104

Lyndale Community Service Award: Willmar Post 167

Hanson Education Trophy: Eden Valley Post 337

Frank J. Ring Boy Scout Trophy: Olivia Post 186

The Americanism awards by district were:

District 1: Claremont Post 422

District 2: Sleepy Eye Post 7

District 3: New Prague Post 45

District 4: North St. Paul Post 39

District 5: Viking Post 493

District 6: Hill City Post 340

District 7: Clinton Post 258

District 8: Ely Post 248

District 9: Parkers Prairie Post 219

District 10: North Branch Post 85

Membership Director Linda Dvorak stands with award winners.


Membership Director Linda Dvorak said Minnesota currently is at 31st place in the nation for the 2023 membership year, standing at 91.87 percent. She noted the membership year actually wraps up Dec. 31.

“So you can still be recruiting for 2023,” she said.

Within the department, the standings were:

First place: 9th District, 95.19 percent

Second place: 6th District, 94.81 percent

Third place: 1st District, 94.41 percent

Fourth place: 8th District

Fifth place: 2nd District

Sixth place: 3rd District

Seventh place: 7th District

Eighth place: 10th District

Ninth place: 4th District

Tenth place: 5th District

Shown are Minnesota's top membership go-getters.
Shown are Minnesota’s top membership go-getters.

Dvorak said there are 1,869 members in Post 1982 AD, the statewide at-large post.

“Those are all members we can try to get into our posts,” she said.

They often don’t renew because no one reaches out to them.

The winner of the Premier Race was 1st District Commander Mary Hanson. Silver Brigade winners were Don Skow and Dean Londo of Forest Lake Post 225. The New Member Award went to Terry Larson of Post 225. The award for transferring the most members from Post 1982 went to Carl Moon of the 6th District.

American Legion Riders

Director Ted Berg gave thanks to the 1st District Riders for showing up with a $13,000 check for Eagle’s Healing Nest. He thanked everyone he worked with the past two years of his term, and he introduced the state’s first non-Legion director, Auxiliary member Jody Hassing.

She said many people know her from being chairwoman of the Legacy Run for the past two years and secretary since the start.

“I felt it was time to show the Legion Family that an Auxiliary member can also be the director of the Minnesota American Legion Riders,” she said.

Her husband, Paul Hassing, was elected department commander. Jody Hassing is with Bloomington Unit 550. He is with Post 550. They both live in Montgomery.

She described the Minnesota Legacy Run’s route: North Branch on July 26, then to Walker, then Thief River Falls, then Moorhead and down to Spicer.

Minnesota turned in $1.5 million for the Legacy Scholarship since its inception, she said.

Safety School Patrol

Chairman Jim Blakesley announced the winner of the Safety School Patrol’s Distinguished Service Trophy is Past Department Commander Mark Dvorak.

Other reports & VFW

Several reports were previously described in past issues of the Legionnaire, such as Law & Order, Oratorical Contest, Education and Bowling, among others.

The new commander of the VFW Department of Minnesota, Dan Meyer, spoke, too. He said the Legion and VFW need to  work together. He called for members to join each other to up membership rolls. “We are all on the same side,” he told the convention.