Amid an array of pomp and circumstance last week, the American Legion Post 233 in Loganville proudly hosted a visit by the National Commander of the American Legion, Charles E. Schmidt. It was one of five posts that Schmidt visited during what was his first trip to Georgia. During his term, Schmidt had already visited 213 posts in 46 states and was getting ready to head out to France, the official birthplace of the American Legion. Schmidt explained that it was first founded in Paris in February 1919 following World War I and chartered by the United States Congress in September of that year.
Prior to an official welcome and luncheon, American Legion Post 233 commander James Carmona took Schmidt on a tour of some of the contributions Post 233 has made to the Loganville community, such as Loganville’s Legion Field. Schmidt had high praise for the post, something that was echoed by the Georgia Department commander Carmen Streit-Smith when she spoke at the luncheon, and something that is a source of pride for the post.
“We’re proud of what we’ve got here, we’re proud of what we’ve been able to do, but it’s being done for one reason, and one reason only – to have a home for the veterans in our community that they’d be proud to come to,” Carmona said. American Legion Post 233 in Loganville is the second largest post in the state. Carmona noted the close relationship between the communities and cities and the post, saying everybody works together for the good of the community, and Post 233.
Schmidt spoke of the mission of the American Legion, especially with regard to its care of veterans, as well as touch on previous problems experienced with the Veterans Administration.
“The local legions help provide those needing help, service officers, who can help submit claims and help file appeals,” he said, noting that access is getting better and staffing problems are being looked at and dealt with. “Why have an appointment when there’s going to be no one to see you?”
He expressed optimism in the VA going forward.
“We are very optimistic that Congress and President Donald Trump will correct the issues and help our nation’s veterans,” Schmidt said. “As the veteran population grows, the VA will need to grow.”
The theme of Schmidt’s visit is one he said he carries with him wherever he visits of “Carrying the legacy forward.”
“We have a responsibility,” Schmidt said during his luncheon speech to fellow legionnaires, adding “We all have something to contribute. We are stakeholders in the American Legion. We are where the rubber meets the road.”
Schmidt was elected National Commander of the American Legion on Sept. 1, 2016. He joined the military in 1965, enlisting with the U.S. Air Force. During his service, he earned many medals, including a Bronze Star; a Defense Meritorious Service Medal; a Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; an Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster; an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor device and two oak leaf clusters; the Air Force Good Conduct Medal with three oak leaf clusters; a National Defense Service Medal with a Bronze Star, to name a few. Schmidt has served in Oregon, California, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Germany, Philippines and Vietnam. He lives in Hines, Oregon, with his wife, Linda. They have two daughters, Andria and Cori, two sons-in-law, Peter and Anthony and six grandchildren.
Schmidt noted during his visit that the American Legion is breaking history at the end of his term when Denise Rohan, the first ever female National American Legion Commander, will take office.
“She served in the Army, is a 33-year paid-up-for-life member of the American Legion and a 24-year paid-up-for-life member of the American Legion Auxiliary,” Schmidt said, adding “We know she is going to do great work.”
Before heading out on to the next leg of his Georgia visit, Schmidt, Carmona and some other dignitaries and member of the community exchanged gifts commemorating the prestigious visit.