Friday, November 10, 2023

Newly elected American Legion national commander pays visit to Windham post

By Ed Pierce

Since the National Commander of the American Legion Daniel J. Seehafer of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin was elected to the position on Aug. 31, he’s only slept in his own bed at home for a total of three days. The remainder of his time has been spent on the road attending meetings and visiting posts like on Saturday, Nov. 4, when Seehafer and an entourage of Legion officials stopped in Windham and had lunch with Field-Allen Post 148 members and the Post 148 auxiliary.

The new National Commander of the
American Legion, Daniel J. Seehafer,
visited Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham
on Nov. 4 and had lunch with post and
auxiliary members. He also met with
World War II veteran Carroll McDonald
and Korean War veteran Walter Braley,
both of Windham, during his visit. 
Seehafer is an ordained minister and served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve as a military chaplain. He’s a longtime Legion member who has spent time in leadership positions at every level, including as national chaplain and as the commander of the Legion’s Department for Wisconsin.

He succeeded Post 148’s Vicent J. “Jim” Troiola as the National Commander for the American Legion and spent time during his visit speaking with World War II veteran Carroll McDonald, 98, and Korean War veterans Walter Braley, 92, both of Windham.

Post 148 members offered Seehafer traditional Maine favorites for lunch including authentic Italian sandwiches from Amato’s, two different kinds of whoopie pies and Moxie soft drinks. He said he enjoyed the sandwiches and whoopie pies but passed on sampling the Moxie.

According to Seehafer, he’s known for many years what his role would be in life and how happy he is to be leading a national veteran’s organization.

“I stopped saying ‘thank you for your service’ to veterans a few years ago,” Seehafer said. “Now I say to veterans ‘thank you for our freedom’ and I truly mean it. I’m grateful to veterans every single day and it’s never too late to tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for this nation.”

The American Legion’s mission of serving veterans and their families is personal to Seehafer and he’s embraced the Legion’s “Be the One” initiative to thwart veteran suicide in America. The national “Be the One” campaign strives to destigmatize veterans asking for mental health support, create opportunities for those with mental health issues to speak freely and get the support that they need; to provide peer to peer support and resources in local communities; and to identify issues affecting veterans and find resources for supporting veterans who may be struggling.

“We know that outreach saves lives,” he said. “Nothing is more important than our effort to reduce the number of veterans who die by suicide. We can’t stop. Not now, not ever.”

Nationally about 17 veterans or active-duty military members die by suicide every day and Seehafer says that number can be fewer if every Legion member makes a concerted effort to stay in touch and listen to veterans they know through the “Be the One” program.

“The life of one veteran saved makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “That gets to the heart of the ‘Be the One’ mission. While the initiative was only launched two years ago, it is already starting to make a difference. Somebody might be having a rough day, but you can change somebody’s life.”

Seehafer says that by helping to build on the momentum of ‘Be the One’ by raising awareness of the issue of veteran suicide, guiding them to resources to help and eliminating the stigma associated with mental health counseling, the veteran suicide rate nationally can be reduced.

“We are not just an organization, we are a family,” Seehafer said. “We’re a family that changes lives and saves lives.”

He also said he was saddened when he first heard about the mass shooting in Lewiston in October that claimed 18 lives.

“You always think that it couldn’t happen here in Maine, but sadly it did,” he said. “We’re doing all we can to assist the families of the victims and praying for the recovery of those who were injured.” After the lunch, Seehafer presented certificates to McDonald and Braley and had his photo taken with them before departing to visit the American Legion Post in Scarborough. <

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