Tuesday, April 29, 2014
‘I Was Born into The American Legion’
Judi Beischel, a Coast Guard veteran, traces her American Legion roots to her upstate New York birth.
“I tell people I was born into the American Legion because my dad has been a Legionnaire longer than I’ve been alive.”
Her father, Francis Slate – a 93-year-old World War II Army veteran and four-time Camden Post 66 commander – is now celebrating his 70th year as a Legionnaire.
Beischel’s brother, Kevin, served in the Navy and is a Legionnaire, too. Her mother belonged to the Auxiliary, along with her sisters (including Karen Kenealy, who with her Sons-of-the-American-Legion husband, Ted, accompanied their father to a dinner in honor of National Commander Daniel Dellinger’s visit to the 5th District April 9 at Robert Edwards Post 358 in Pulaski).
“I was always proud that my dad was very active in the post,” says Beischel, Arizona’s 2013-2014 department commander. “It’s something that you pass on to the kids. We’ve got four grandchildren, from 7 to 2, and they have all been members (of the Legion Family) since they were born. You’ve got to start them out young.”
Born on Memorial Day, she spent much of her childhood at her father’s post in Camden. One of her earliest memories is marching in a Memorial Day parade at age 4.
Today, Beischel, who served in the Coast Guard Reserve from 1973 to 1980, works tirelessly to prop up veterans who are down on their luck. As department commander, she’s overseeing an initiative to build a 24-unit facility for homeless women veterans. “We’re seeing a lot of young homeless veterans because they don’t have jobs or family to come back to,” she says. “It’s difficult.”
Beischel’s passion to help others comes from her close-knit families at home and at Post 58 in Fountain Hills, Ariz.
“From the time I was very young, I knew my dad lost his brother at Normandy on June 6,” she says. “I’ve always felt a need to welcome veterans. So many Vietnam veterans came back and were treated poorly. We try to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”