By: C. Pat Smith, Department Adjutant

The 2011 Mid-Year Conference is over and what a great one it was. Over 250 Legion, Auxiliary, SAL and Legion Riders attended to soak up all of the great information provided by our program committees.

The highlight was the induction of 126 future soldiers into the U S Army. This ceremony was conducted on Friday evening, January 28th before a packed house of Legion members, new soldiers and their families and the Army cadre who conducted the ceremony. The walls of the hall were lined with all 50 of the state flags. And, members of the audience were waving small American flags showing their support of our great country.

The enthusiasm level and excitement in the room was contagious. Major General Steven Best gave the oath of office to the new troopers. Our Department Commander Rick Friend offered advice to the new troopers from his perspective as a former Army troop. He encouraged the new soldiers to seek out The American Legion when they need help or assistance during their tour of duty. Our National Vice Commander Bill Schrier, a retired Army soldier, served with the U S Army Recruiting Command on his last tour of duty, offered the new soldiers a vision of what they can expect. He thanked them for their commitment to their country, and their willingness to serve to help protect the freedoms we enjoy in America.

This was our third year of hosting this event and we sincerely thank the Army Recruiting Command and LTC Dionne Wilson for her support of the American Legion. Thanks to all who made this a great event!

The business of the organization was conducted on Friday afternoon, January 28th, when the Department Executive Committee (DEC) met to discuss and vote on several important items. Two resolutions were submitted to the DEC for their consideration and both were approved.

The first resolution was to study the feasibility of setting up a multi-year dues payment structure to permit our members to pay for 3, 5 or 10 years in advance. The PUFL program exists for our members but it is expensive and not really attractive for those members whose lifespan may be limited. It would also be attractive to those younger members who want to see if the American Legion is really for them without a large investment up front. The committee will report their findings and recommendations at our convention in June.

The second resolution involved improving the American Legion Riders Program. This is an outstanding program and offers our members a way to put their passion of the road on two wheels to good use by promoting the programs of The American Legion with their “rides” and comradeship they develop through this program. The Riders program is growing in numbers and as a result the DEC feels we need to have a more formal structure to manage the program. The DEC gave the Riders permission to form their own Colorado not-for-profit corporation with its own board of directors, and too eventually from an IRS 501 (c) (3) corporation to utilize the fund raising benefits of that type of structure.

This new structure will provide for financially accountability and reporting procedures for the income realized from their activities. This is a positive step for the Riders program and will greatly assist the program as it grows in the future. Congratulations to the Legion Riders for getting the DEC to approve this significant piece of legislation.

Commander Rick Friend took a step forward in appointing a “Technological” committee. This committee will be charged with reviewing the physical electronic assets at the Department Headquarters and making recommendations as to the serviceability of the equipment and recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of the office through the electronic tools we use. The committee will also be looking at ways to improve our communications to our members and prospective members using the Internet and the various tools available through that medium. They will serve as an advisory committee to the Department Officers and staff and will make their recommendation to the DEC at the June meeting.

The opening session on Saturday was chock full of special guests. Our National Vice Command Bill Schrier addressed the audience. Candidate for National Commander Jim Koutz from Indiana brought his vision of the future to the audience. North West Division Vice President for the Auxiliary Lynn Wilde from Nebraska brought greetings from the National President of the Auxiliary and offered her view of the state of the organization and our rosy future. Candidate for National Commander of the SAL Jim Roberts brought greetings from the SAL National Commander. We heard from Bob Ayers from the Legionnaire Insurance Trust and he informed us that the free AD&D insurance policy available to Legion member will expire at the end of August this year unless it is renewed. He brought along a lap top and renewed many members on the spot. To renew you can go online to www.thelit.com or call their 800 number at 1-800-235-6943. Be sure to do this ASAP. It is free.

Dave Kemper of Dignity Memorial told us of the burial benefits available to veterans and encouraged our members to do pre-planning for that eventual event. Heather Ehle of Project Sanctuary explained their excellent program for disabled veterans and their families and how they help integrate those families back into society after their honorable service. You can learn more about this program at http://www.projectsanctuary.us/.

The highlight of the morning session was the presentation of the annual Media Awards. Our PR Committee headed by Darrell Myers presented the TV award to Dave Delozier of Denver Channel 9 News for his story about Reina Salky of Steamboat Springs and her efforts to secure headstones for 11 forgotten veterans in the cemetery in that town. The story was inspirational and well told by Mr. Delozier. He is a one man show when it comes to his TV reporting. He does all of his own writing, production and camera work in preparing his stories. He has produced several other excellent stories about veterans over the last year. Thanks Dave for your commitment in telling the stories of America’s veterans. If you have not seen this award winning video presentation you can go to http://www.9news.com/rss/article.aspx?storyid=140038 and view it.

The second award went to the Steamboat Springs and Today newspaper for a series of article they ran on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Reina Salky story. Their editor was unable to make it in for the presentation so the PR committee will travel to Steamboat Springs later this year and make the presentation in person. Thanks to Jim Stanko of Steamboat Post 44 for bringing this newspaper to our attention.

Another highlight during the day on Saturday was the employment fair conducted by our Employment Committee headed by Ken Romero and Darrell Myers. Over 12 local employers showed up looking to hire veterans. What an outstanding event this was. All of the employers were satisfied with the turn out and they expect to hire some of the veterans that showed up for the fair. Thanks to Tim Amthor, Regional Veterans Employment Representative, of the Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Workforce Center form making the arrangements with the employers.

We had several other vendor tables and one of particular interest was the table conducted by Nick Del Calzio. Nick is the professional photographer who has showcased all of the Medal of Honor recipients in his book: “Medal of Honor” – Portraits of Valor – Beyond the Call of Duty.

Nick is officering a very special set of very patriotic and moving veteran related photographs to all of the members of the Legion suitable for framing and hanging in Legion Halls and homes everywhere. We will be featuring these photographs on our web site and will be working with Nick to introduce “America’s Creed” into all of our schools with one of his photographs as the vehicle to feature the creed. Watching for more information that this exciting project.

The rest of the morning session was consumed by reports from our various committees and the progress and successes so far this year. The PR committee conducted a PR training session for the rest of the morning. Duane Mercier of our National Public Relations Division conducted the session and provided outstanding information on how to improve and enhance local public relations efforts. Everyone who attended this session was later heard raving about the positive impact it will have on their PR efforts in the future. Thanks to Darrell for having the insight to conduct this session and thanks to Duane for taking his weekend to come to Colorado and offering his expertise.

During the afternoon a number of breakout sessions were conducted. One of the most popular was Service Officer Training put on by our Service Office Staff, Jeff Hewitt, Chuck Terry and Angie Jones. It was refreshing to see the interest level in this training since in the past it was almost impossible to get anyone to attend. Taking care of veterans is our number one priority and this training will help in advancing that purpose throughout the state. The service office promises more of this in the field as we go through the year. Thanks Jeff, Chuck and Angie. Good job.

The Americanism Programs were highlighted in a breakout session conducted by Americanism Chairman Ken Romero. Boys State, Oratorical, Jr. Shooting and Baseball all had something positive to offer and much information was dispensed. Our youth programs are on track this year and will improve thanks to all of the dedicated volunteers working those programs. Keep up the good work.

The Sons of The American Legion and the Legion Riders both held very productive sessions. Candidate for National SAL Commander Jim Roberts of Florida was on hand to encourage the SAL to learn and grow. They approved their 2011 operating budget and set the course for the rest of the year.

Last year Commander Frank McCurdy appointed a Women’s Issues Committee in response to a recommendation by our national organization to get involved with those unique issues affecting women veterans in the system. This committee held a well attended breakout session and elected Kathy Ford to serve as the interim chairman while they organize their structure and define their aims and purposes. Look for great things from this committee on behalf of women veterans.

Thanks to Carol Kennedy, Boys State Chairman for organizing and conducting a very successful silent auction. The auction was conducted during the day on Saturday with items donated from all over the state. The auction raised over $3,600 for the Boys State program. Thanks Carol. What a Super Effort.

Saturday night was fun night at Post 209. The post served dinner followed by the Auxiliary fund raising fair. Thanks to Chris Harvey for organizing this fun event. Music, games and great comradeship were prevalent. Post 209 rolled out the red carpet in hosting this event. Thanks to Post 209 Commander Jay Bowen and to PDC Neal Thomas for their efforts in this successful event.

The conference concluded on Sunday morning with a very moving and personal memorial service conducted by our Chaplain Richard Humphrey. Richard always puts a lot of thought into his messages and this one was no exception. He sent everyone away from the conference in an upbeat mood and ready to attack the challenges before us. Thanks Richard, God has a special place for you.

Special thanks to the behind the scenes personnel that made this conference a success. Elaine Bock, while attending the birth of her second granddaughter in Alabama, put all of the little details together before she left and thanks to her and her diligent, detailed work the conference went off without a hitch. Thanks to Amy Grubb who filled in for Elaine and to Julie Wooddell for running the registration booth. Thanks also to Tom Bock for managing the vendor booths.

In conclusion, you should have been there. If you missed it put June 23-25, 2011 on you calendar for our Department Convention. Get involved. America needs you and the American Legion needs you.