2019 Centennial Celebration of the American Legion visits East County on second day of organization’s 100-year anniversary

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A beloved organization celebrates 100 years of service to the veteran community and Santee members were honored to help usher in the beginnings of a new century of work and commitment.

The American Legion kicked off the veteran’s service organization’s centennial year celebration on New Year’s Day, with Legion representatives honoring the occasion on the third float appearing in Pasadena’s Rose Parade.

A beloved organization celebrates 100 years of service to the veteran community and Santee members were honored to help usher in the beginnings of a new century of work and commitment.

The American Legion kicked off the veteran’s service organization’s centennial year celebration on New Year’s Day, with Legion representatives honoring the occasion on the third float appearing in Pasadena’s Rose Parade.

On day two of the yearlong commemorative activities, the Legion’s currently serving National Commander Brett P. Reistad concluded his Jan. 2 events with a meet-and-greet session evening at Santee American Legion Post 364.

Gary Henriksen, Commander of Santee Post 364, expressed appreciation for the acknowledgment.

“It’s nice that the National Commander of The American Legion chose to stop here in Santee for a meet and greet after the Rededication of the Ocotillo Wells Veterans Memorial Cross,” Henriksen said. “We believe it’s a privilege and an honor to represent our city and our town, as well as our Post, for this visit.”

Military veteran motorcycle riders from American Legion Riders Santee Chapter 364 escorted the National Commander entourage from Borrego Springs to Ocotillo Wells to Santee, in cold, icy road conditions that delayed the National Commander’s scheduled appearance.

Mike Thweatt, Commander of Ramona Legion Post 332, stopped by to address National Commander Reistad with concerns about care for Vietnam era veterans.

“Our volunteer work is always for veterans first, for God and country,” Thweatt said, while he awaited Reistad’s arrival. “I’ve been advising some Vietnam veterans around Ramona, and I want to ask the National Commander to see that what’s happening with the VA is straightened out about Agent Orange exposure. These veterans need a better hearing and more of an audience.”

Leader of the roughly San Diego countywide local level of The American Legion, District 22 Commander Chris Yates, introduced Reistad and noted that Santee Post 364 is one of only three, among the 28 Legion Posts in the district, to have earned the “Post Excellence” Award this year.

Reistad spoke to the gathering briefly, mentioning the honor of being on the Legion float in Pasadena the day before, and his gratification at being selected as National Commander for the 100-year anniversary of the Legion.

“My first and primary focus for the centennial year is on fighting how we are losing membership,” Reistad said. “We are 72,000 Legionnaires short nationwide versus the same time last year, which is surprising.”

Reistad asked for assistance with membership recruiting.

“I request that you begin personally engaging with potential members instead of staying with a social media focus.”

Reistad informed his audience that he was familiar with California.

“I love San Diego,” Reistad said. “Remember that I’m here for you, I’m one of you, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week in California.”

Reistad concluded his visit to San Diego County with a full schedule of activities on Thursday, Jan. 3.

Reistad received a presentation about a promising new treatment for combat veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress and related conditions in the morning. He toured the Chula Vista Veterans home before lunch there, and then was escorted along the Greatest Generation Walk along the Downtown San Diego bayfront in the afternoon.

Reistad’s busy day rounded out with a special evening National Commander Dinner hosted at Escondido’s J.B. Clark Post 149.

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