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American Legion votes in first female Department Commander in Florida

July 25, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh resident Dianne Boland, and member of Post 323, was voted as the first female Department Commander of the American Legion in the state of Florida earlier this month.

"I was elated. I am jumping up and down. I am walking on air. There is no other way to describe it," she said of coming out ahead of the other person running in the election. "I have a lot of respect for the Legion."

In addition to Boland being named as the department commander, her husband Dennis was voted in as the National Executive Committeeman.

Article Photos

Dennis and Dianne Boland. Dennis was recently named the American Legion National Executive Committeeman and Dianne was named the Department Commander for the State of Florida.

PHOTO PROVIDED

The Bolands were accompanied at the convention by Dianne's daughter and grandson who live in Virginia, as well as Dennis' son, wife and grandson who live in Fort Myers.

"I walked my husband down the aisle because he got installed first. I got to install him. Then a past National Commander walked me down the aisle and up the stage. My husband got to install me as a commander," Dianne said.

Dianne, an Air Force veteran who served in the early 1960s as a chief master sergeant, has been a member of the American Legion for 23 years. A friend of hers from the base asked what she missed the most after retiring from the service.

Dianne's response, "the camaraderie," which turned into a membership with the American Legion.

Since Dianne lived in Palm Bay she became a member of Post 117.

"My post got me where I am today. When we got married and we moved I didn't want to dump them. I remain a member on the Legion side at the post in Palm Bay. I transferred my Auxiliary membership to Lehigh," she said.

She has held many positions at the post, including post commander for four years, district commander for one year, as well as the state chairman of membership, Americanism, Children and Youth and Special Olympics.

Last year Boland was the First Vice Commander of the American Legion.

"This year I got voted as the first female Department Commander from the State of Florida and this year is the American Legion's 100 year anniversary," she said. "At the national level they had their first female commander last year."

As the first female Department Commander in the state of Florida, her theme, goal and slogan is communication, dedication and education.

"I hope to improve the communication not only between the Legion and the Post and our chain of command, but with the community," Dianne said.

She said she wants to change the mindset that the American Legion is a gathering place for veterans to tell war stories surrounding a bar.

"We have so many great programs that I want to communicate to people and let them know what we have to offer," Dianne said.

As far as dedication, her goal revolves around thanking the volunteers, while trying to get more people involved.

Education is another special component because "the more our people are educated, the better educated they are and the better they can communicate to the community," Dianne explained. "We give away so much money and we have such great programs that the civilian world does not know about for the most part."

She went on to say that she feels if everyone is more knowledgeable about the programs, memberships into the American Legion will follow.

Through her tenure as the department commander she will focus on two charities, American Legion Child Welfare Foundation and Final Salute.

She said the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation is at the national level and donates between $600,000 to $700,0000 a year to charitable children's programs, such as children diabetes and autism.

Final Salute helps homeless women veterans get back on their feet.

Dianne is responsible for holding at least one program for these two charities, while the other posts throughout Florida will host their own programs to raise money for the charities.

"It's not something that I personally plan and schedule. I, as a commander, will work with the people. They will be raising the money and, if possible, I will be attending," she said.

There are quite a few other programs under the American Legion that Dianne believes are great assets to the organization.

One is Boys State, where boys go to Tallahassee for a week and stay in dorms on campus and take hands-on classes where they learn about government and Florida history. They also spend a few days at the Capitol and run for office.

"They learn to write bills and vote on the bills," Dianne said.

Boys State is a seven-day trip at no cost to the family, thanks to the American Legion.

Another program is called the Florida Law Cadet Program, where teens 16 to 18 also spend a week in Tallahassee and train with the Highway Patrol. They eat in the town hall and sleep in the same building.

"Once again, it's at no cost to the family," Dianne said.

Another program, American Legion Baseball, attracts roughly 30 teams in Florida. The state winner goes to regional and then the winner goes to the American Legion World Series, which is televised on ESPN.

"Every dollar that gets donated to the American Legion, 100 percent goes directly to the programs. The overhead is paid by membership fees," Dianne said.

The American Legion is open to individuals who have served in the United States Armed Forces during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon/Grenada, Operations Just Cause - Panama and Persian Gulf/War on Terrorism and were honorable discharged or are still serving.

The American Legion also includes the American Legion Auxiliary, open for wives, sisters, daughters and granddaughters of a veteran, and Sons of the American Legion, open for sons and grandsons of a veteran.

The American Legion came into existence on March 15, 1919, igniting a year- long celebration.

"Every post is being encouraged to have their own 100 year anniversary. I would like them to invite local leaders from the community as a chance to learn more about the American Legion and what we do and what our programs are. The state is having a large one for two days in Crystal River on Jan. 18, and Jan. 19," Dianne said.

An event is in the works for the Lehigh Acres post in March 2019.

 
 

 

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