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  • Tuesday, January 24, 2017

    Conference Puts Spotlight on 2 Women in Line to Make History

    ALBANY — The Department of New York’s 98th Annual Mid-Winter Conference featured a weekend of seminars and meetings on significant issues of concern to veterans and their families – and also put a spotlight on two women in line to make American Legion history as the first national and New York State female commanders.

    Denise Rohan

    Denise Rohan

    Denise Rohan of Wisconsin, the leading candidate for national commander, was the featured speaker at the conference banquet Jan. 21 at the Desmond Hotel. She is a Vietnam-era Army veteran who was an instructor in the Quartermaster Corps.

    Jim and Rena Nessler

    Rena Nessler with her husband of 39 years, Jim.

    Rena Nessler, leading candidate for Department of New York commander, was introduced by Department Commander John Sampson at the Saturday evening banquet and the Sunday morning general assembly. A former county and district Legion commander, Nessler served on several state and national committees. She is an enrolled member of the Ojibwa Tribe from White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. Born in Flint, Michigan, Nessler moved with her family to Minneapolis, where she lived until she joined the U.S. Navy. Upon discharge, she moved to Geneva, NY, where she resides with her husband, Jim.

    At the banquet, Rohan noted that, from her own experience with families at a National Guard base in Wisconsin, she has become convinced that the American Legion plays a critical role in providing assistance to service men and women, and their families. She spoke of an 8-year-old boy whose father had been deployed five times, meaning he has been without a dad for most of his life. “It’s a reality we have put our service people through ever since the war on terrorism (began).”

    That scenario, along with the high unemployment and suicide rates among veterans, is disturbing, she said.

    “The only thing that gives me hope is being a member of the American Legion Family,” Rohan said to rousing applause, “because I know the American Legion Family is doing (its) best to help veterans and their families.”

    She pointed to the Legion’s family-oriented foundation of being for God and country, and noted: “It will always be about putting our family first,” which includes “our relationship with God, our personal family, our Legion family, our veterans’ family.”

    She added: “Together, as the American Legion Family, we are making extraordinary things happen across the nation.”