A COMMANDING PRESENCE
The theme of "Family First" is a message that Denise Rodan hopes to spread throughout the United States. It's a message Rodan, the American Legion national commander, brought to Canby American Legion Post 122 Thursday morning.
Rodan, who has made it her goal to visit one Legion Post in all 50 states, was on hand to talk to Legion members and answers questions. But family – in the military, Legion and in America – was very much on her mind during the visit.
"Our American Legion is a family," she said. "We want to make sure we take care of our veterans and when we are doing that, we are taking care of our family."
She said her stop in Canby was a chance to connect with Legion members on the local level, something she said she enjoyed tremendously.
She also said she wanted to make sure the American Legion was dialed in to the four pillars that are the underpinning of the organization – Veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and children and youth.
"The American Legion helps take care of America's family," she said.
Steve Renhard, commander of Canby Post 122, said that having the national commander on hand was not only an honor, but a thrill.
"I have to admit I'm a little nervous," he said before Rodan's arrival. "It does mean quite a bit to have her here. I'm anxious to hear her explain what her goals are for her term."
Renhard said that Rodan's visit is also proving to be a morale boost for the Post, which continues to struggle to make folks understand that the Post isn't closing. It's a message Renhard said people seem to be struggling to grasp.
"We aren't going anywhere," he said. "We're going to stay right here."
Another issue Renhard hoped to have the national commander address is the dwindling membership in the American Legion as a whole. He said that national membership dropped by close to two million last year and Canby's own membership is down to just north of 280, dowon from 411 last year.
Younger veterans aren't dialing in to the American Legion right now, but Renhard expressed optimism that the trend will be changing.
"They're not here yet, but they will be," he said.