Story and Photos by Tim Sproles
The American Legion Department of Indiana recently held the 101st Annual Department Convention, July 11 through the 14th at the Marriot East Hotel in Indianapolis. The Department’s State Convention is held annually for Legionnaires from across the state to discuss and vote on Legion business, recognize Legionnaires and local heroes for their service and conduct elections for new Department officers.
The Department held the first of three general sessions Friday, where many state leaders brought greetings to our Hoosier Legionnaires including U.S. Senator Todd Young, DAV Junior Vice Commander, Bob Carnegie and AMVETS Vice Cmdr. Roger Williams.
The newly appointed Director of Veterans’ Affairs, Dennis Wimer also addressed the convention, where he ended his remarks by presenting Commander Strong with a certificate from the Governor Eric Holcomb naming him a Distinguished Hoosier.
The Department Convention is also a time to honor local heroes in the fields of military service, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, and educators every year in communities across Indiana.
In the Military Person of the Year category, the Indiana National Guard’s Sergeant First Class Thomas Bunnell, who was sponsored by Fortville Post 391 in the 10th District brought home the National Guard award and United States Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Tracy, sponsored by Floyds Knobs Post 42 in the 8th District won for the Active Duty award.
The Department also honors first responders from around the state for their service to their local community. Rodney Snyder, who was sponsored by Hamilton Post 467 in the 4th District, was named the EMS of the Year. Chief Scott Olofson, sponsored by Speedway Post 500 in the 11th District, was named Firefighter of the Year. Officer Kyle Butz, sponsored by Broad Ripple Post 3 in the 11th District, was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
In the Educators of the Year Category, Connie Ingels, sponsored by Vevay Post 185 in the 9th District, was named the kindergarten through sixth grade winner, Pamela Yates, also sponsored by Vevay Post 185 in the 9th District, was named the seventh and eighth grade winner, and James Wiltshire, sponsored by Lake Station Post 100 in the 1st District, was named the High School educator of the year.
The Department also honored State Representative Bob Cherry Lonnie and State Representative Karlee Macer with Distinguished Public Service Awards for going above and beyond to work with Indiana Veteran Service Organizations to benefit our state’s Veteran community.
The Department took the opportunity to honor some of their own Bill Moffitt from Post 67 in the 10th District took home The American Legion Rider of the Year award.
The American Legion Burton Woolery Bloomington Post 18 finished the year with 1,269 members, which made them the top post in the entire state. Bryce Hullett from Post 64 of the 11th District, Ron Patterson from Daleville Post 446, Laurie Bowman from Post 152 in the 10th District, and Past Dept. Cmdr. James B. May from Bloomington Post 18 all received the Gold Brigade Membership Award for recruiting at least 50 new members into The American Legion.
Richard Schwartz from Brownsburg Post 331 in the 6th District took home top honors as the “Recruiter of the Year.”
The Department also recognized four outstanding Legionnaires with the highest honor the Department can bestow, The Distinguished Service Award. Past Department Commander, James May, a 47-year member from Bloomington Post 18, Stephen Short, a 41-year member from Lapel Post 212 in the 5th District, Charles Martin, a 54-year member from Wanatah Post 403 in the 3rd District, and Jerry Maune, a 50-year member from St. Leon Post 464 in the 10th District all received the award for their service to both The American Legion and our Hoosier Veteran community.
After the awards and scholarships were presented, it was time to elect the Department officers for the next command year.
This year, the Department elected Nick Nicholoff as the Department sergeant-at-arms, Ernie Komanski and Dick Sexton as Northern Vice-Commanders, Bill Parks and Steve Barnett as Southern Vice Commanders, Ed Trice was re-elected as Alternate National Executive Committeeman, and Jerry Jordon was re-elected as National Executive Committeeman.
Allen Connelly was elected The American Legion, Department of Indiana State Commander by delegates from the 11 Districts throughout the state.
Allen is a 49-year member of LaGrange American Legion Post 215 in the 4th District.
Allen adopted the Department slogan of “We Change Lives” as his motto this year, saying, “No other motto represents who we are and what we do better than We Change Lives. It’s more than a motto, it’s a focus statement for the entire Department.”
Allen’s “Commander’s Project” this year is the newly incorporated Indiana American Legion Legacy Foundation.
The American Legion Department of Indiana will meet again during the annual Fall Conference from Oct. 3-6 in Indianapolis.
Department Memorial Service
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