Randy Johnson, a long-time member of the American Legion Post 296 of Deep River, delivers a speech at the Deep River Memorial Day services. Johnson was elected as the American Legion Department of Iowa Commander. The appointment was made at the American Legion of Iowa - 103rd Department Convention in Des Moines on July 10.
By J.O. Parker
Randy Johnson, a long-time member of the American Legion Post 296 in Deep River, has been named the Department of Iowa Commander.
The move came at the American Legion of Iowa - 103rd Department Convention in Des Moines on July 10.
Johnson’s wife, Gail, and others were there to congratulate him on his appointment.
“Thank you everybody for the kind words, phone calls, texts and emails,” noted Johnson of his appointment. “It's been quite the undertaking and I'm not sure being a Department of Iowa Commander for the greatest veteran service organization in world has completely sunk in yet.”
Johnson said as American Legion Department of Iowa Commander, he and other department commanders around the country are asked to pick a project to work on while in office. His project/priority is to restore the Veteran Service Office (VSO), which is located in the Neal Smith Federal Building in Des Moines, back to its original five Veteran Service Officers by raising the awareness of the office and securing funds to support the work it does for veterans and communities all across Iowa.
“Our VSO is funded 100 percent by The American Legion, Department of Iowa,” said Johnson. “Over recent years our funding for our VSO has decreased to the point that we're unable to rehire our service officers as they leave through natural attrition. The money just isn't there and it's severely affecting our bottom line.”
He said the VSO answers questions, offers advice and educates veterans and groups on what benefits are available from federal, state, county and local resources.
“They assist veterans in completing and filing benefit claims and represent all veterans and their families in VA hearings,” he said. “Our VSO is responsible for nearly 70 percent of the claims in Iowa. We provide these services free of charge.”
Johnson said his decision to run for department commander wasn’t easy. Throughout the last three years, Johnson said he visited with fellow legionnaires, friends and family in making the decision to seek the office of department commander.
“Those discussions helped me realize exactly what it was going to take to fill the shoes of the relatively few that’s gone before me,” he said.
Johnson said a humble person might question their worthiness to hold the high office of The American Legion, Department of Iowa Commander, and that they might question whether or not they can live up to the expectations of our Legion family.
“And we might privately question whether or not we’re making this monumental leap for all the right reasons,” noted Johnson. “Perhaps those reasons were the answers to my questions.”
Johnson said the team we’ve put together believes we have the right people at the right time and we’re ready to advance to the sound of the gun, and we’re geared up for the fight.
“Our American Legion does great things,” said Johnson. “Every one of my friends that knows what the Legion does understands it’s important work. And my immediate family knows firsthand it takes a special passion to commit to such an undertaking – because once committed, you’re in it. That passion and commitment will follow you to your grave.”
If you would like to learn more about how to help the VSO, reach out to Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the American Legion State Headquarters at 515-282-5068.
“Every little bit helps,” noted Johnson. “It’s going to take a boat load of money to do it, but I am determined to make this happen.”