Santee veterans post celebrates next generation of leadership at installation ceremony, welcomes “Nurse Commander”

Photo by B.J. Coleman. Santee American Legion Post 364 Commander 2019-2020 Robyn Bourland Nolin before formal change-of-command installation ceremonies at the post on Saturday, June 1. Nolin accepted transfer of the Legion Post 364 flag from outgoing Legion Post 364 Commander Gary Henriksen.

A major challenge for any service organization is renewing, perpetuating and transitioning servant leadership across generations.

Mentorship is one aspect of seamlessly transferring responsibilities for organizational stability, as is identifying promising candidates to take on leadership roles.

Santee’s veterans post is home of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9327, the affiliated VFW Auxiliary, and co-located Santee American Legion Post 364 and Santee American Legion Riders Chapter 364.

The Santee veterans post celebrated change of command installation ceremonies on Saturday, June 1. (On the Legion side, the leadership changes were immediate, upon recitation of leadership oaths. The VFW’s new officers became formally recognized on June 8.)

Robyn Bourland Nolin is new Commander of American Legion Post 364. She refers to herself now as “Nurse Commander.”

During her brief remarks during the Legion Post installation, she wiped away a few tears of gratitude over the trust and recognition bestowed on her.

“With a female commander, you are going to get emotions,” Nolin said. Nolin said that she intends to bring her military nursing expertise into developing responsive programs serving East County veterans.

Prior Santee Legion Post 364 Commander Gary Henriksen and charter Santee Legion Post 364 Commander Gene Michonski expressed confidence that Commander Nolin will provide new ideas and programs that reach out to younger active-duty troops and veterans around the Santee area.

A sampling of opinions from current Post 364 Legionnaires indicated that the Post members are proud of electing their first female commander.

After her installation, Nolin presided over installation of the incoming set of officers for American Legion Riders Chapter 364.

Jose Marrero is 2019 VFW Commander at the Post, assuming duties after Charles “C.J.” Walker.

Not to be outdone in generational shifts, the Santee VFW Auxiliary tapped a male veteran, Gene Michonski, as incoming president of the mostly female organization.

Earlier that day, outgoing Commander Henriksen participated in a basketball fundraising event in Vista for American Legion District 22, the countywide level of The American Legion.

The event, in its second year, is called Hoops for a Cause, with financial donations slated to go toward three local programs of District 22. Those programs are: noninvasive treatments for veterans experiencing traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety; San Diego area Stand Down interventions for homeless veterans; and American Legion Baseball for over 400 young players in the county.

Henriksen was challenged to dress as Richard Simmons while attempting to shoot 100 baskets that morning, in exchange for Santee Post donations to the three causes. His Santee Legionnaires donated $200, the Santee VFW Post donated another $200 and the Santee VFW Auxiliary gave another $100.

During quick questioning after the event, Henriksen noted that he never played basketball but did his best to score some hoops, before hastening to get out of those humiliating pink shorts and back into his own East County casual clothes.

The fundraising event was projected to bring in nearly $4,000.

A few weeks before, Santee Legionnaires and Legion Riders presented a $1,000 scholarship check to Grossmont High School Senior Daniel O’Laughlin.