The American Legion national commander’s visit to Lucedale next week may play a part in his annual report to Congress.
On Wednesday, February 20, the recently elected national commander for the American Legion, Brett P. Reistad, will be in Lucedale as part of his fact-finding tour in Mississippi. He will be here for about two hours, according to Post 53 Commander Kimble Cochran, during which time he will address local veterans, eat lunch and listen to local concerns about veterans’ issues.
The American Legion, currently two million members strong, was sanctioned by Congress in 1919 with a mission of advocating for military veterans. As a part of this mission, the National Commander appears before a joint session of the Committees on Veterans Affairs each year to give a report on the accomplishments of the past year and its legislative agenda for the coming year.
“As the new Commander takes office and begins his one year term, he travels across America visiting different states, including U.S. territories that have American Legion Posts,” explained Post Commander Cochran. “In his travels across the U.S. he gathers information that will help him when he goes before the U.S. Congress on Feb. 24 -27. He will begin a three day visit to Mississippi, starting in the northern part of Mississippi and then traveling to the southern posts in Mississippi, arriving in Lucedale on Feb. 20.”
The visit to Lucedale will not be Reistad’s first.
“At an American Legion State Conference earlier, our officers were informed that the new National Commander, with then Department Commander Robert Gasa, had visited our Post in Lucedale in 1991,” Cochran continued. “We were asked by the Ninth District Commander Bill Whatley if we would like to have him visit our Post and we felt this would be a great honor for our Post 53 and George County.”
A resident of Manassas, Virginia, Reistad is a life member and past commander of Post 270 in McLean. The Department of Virginia reached an all-time high in membership while he served as department (state) commander from 2005 to 2006. He retired as a lieutenant with the Fairfax County Police Department after 26 years of service and began a second career as a law enforcement services coordinator for the Regional Organized Crime Information Center of the Regional Information Sharing Systems Program, a congressionally funded law enforcement investigative assistance program of the U.S. Department of Justice. He holds a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from Virginia’s Bluefield College.
Reistad’s Legion membership eligibility is through his honorable Vietnam War-era service (1974-78) as an active-duty U.S. Army infantryman, where he served with the Presidential Salute Battery of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at historic Fort Myer, Va. He participated in the Inaugural ceremony for President Carter and other high-profile ceremonies. He has since been honored as a Distinguished Member of the Regiment.
“We feel it is a great honor for our members of Post 53 to be able to host the American Legion National Commander at this special time in the history of the American Legion as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Legion,” Cochran added.
“Our Post 53 is involved in many projects and programs
for our veterans that include our city, county and all the citizens of George County. We want to show our National Commander how a small American Legion Post in a small town like Lucedale can have a positive impact on the veterans and the people in the entire community.”
Commander Reistad will be traveling with an entourage of about 20 people including his personal assistant, the Dept. of Mississippi Commander Pat Baughman, other State and National officers and possibly the new American Legion Auxiliary Commander who is from Mississippi, Cochran said.
The National Commander will arrive in Lucedale at 12 noon, Cochran said, and lunch will be served at the Fine Arts Building/American Legion Hut by the Post 53 American Legion Auxiliary and the City of Lucedale. Commander Reistad is scheduled to be in Lucedale for two hours, Cochran said.
Post 53 has 98 members. The recently organized Sons of the American Legion has 19 members, the American Legion Auxiliary consists of 34 members and an American Legion Junior Auxiliary has 14 members.
All members and any veteran, member or not, who would like to attend is invited. Reservations are not required. Anyone who has questions may call Commander Kimble Cochran, 601-508-0772 or Jimmy Vise, 601-947-2094.