Ron Wilkins, Lafayette Journal & Courier
WEST LAFAYETTE — One-hundred years ago, veterans of the Great War pledge to help one another in years that followed World War I, and the American Legion was born.
It is a historic moment that carries on through today.
This month, Jill Wable made American Legion history as the West Lafayette post, becoming its first female commander.
Her days as a Legion member date back to 2005, when she was a soldier in the Army Reserves. The American Legion was the one military service organization that helped her when she injured her back in 2007 while getting ready to deploy to Iraq.
Wable was a cog in the Army's mountain of paperwork and trying to get benefits.
“The American Legion — their veterans service officers out of Indianapolis — … those service officers, … they have more claims that they’re able to get processed and get payments than any other veteran service organizations across the country,” she said.
“Because I was able to be helped, I wanted to help others,” she said when asked about her passion for the Legion post she now leads. “It’s the adage of pay it forward.”
As the post's first female commander, Wable realizes she's a trailblazer.
“It is a honor to be the first female commander in here," she said. “It’s the faith of the post seeing that my heart was in the right place. That they felt strongly enough that I would be able to come in here and help move the post forward.”
Wable plans to raise the visibility of the American Legion in the community, as well as expand its patriotic education programs.
“Most people think that it’s a place that you come down to where old folks hang out and drink cheap beer,” she joked. “That’s not the case.”
“One of the things that I look forward to doing is to be able to help — with the other folks in the Legion family — to help educate folks in the community about what the post is able to offer," she said.
The American Legion offers school programs to teach proper flag etiquette or teach about service to the country, she said.
The American Legion helps veterans access benefits or helps veterans who are experiencing a crisis, she said.
And of course, there are the graveside honors for veterans that the Legion provides.
"The hope is to be able this term to be able to start educating the community of how the post can potentially contribute to them personally and over all where we can have a larger impact on our community,” she said.
She also hopes to dispel the misconception that one has to be a veteran to join the American Legion.
Children and grandchildren of veterans may join the Sons of the American Legion, and women whose fathers, grandfathers or husbands served may join the American Legion Auxiliary.
Contact Wable or any American Legion Post to find out how to join and give back to the community and its veterans, she said.
Reach Ron Wilkins at 765-420-5231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.
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