National Commander visits Post 73

Published 10:17 am Friday, April 5, 2013

FRANKLIN—The Charles R. Younts American Legion Post 73 in Franklin was one of only four stops in Virginia visited by the organization’s National Commander.

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz speaks during a stop at the Charles R. Younts American Legion Post 73 in Franklin. -- Lucy Wallace | Tidewater News

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz speaks during a stop at the Charles R. Younts American Legion Post 73 in Franklin. — Lucy Wallace | Tidewater News

Arriving in Franklin yesterday morning, Commander James E. Koutz was accompanied by other members of the national committee and escorted by members of the Legion Riders from various locations throughout the Commonwealth.

Post 73 Commander David Flythe welcomed Koutz and presented him with several gifts.

From Boonville, Indiana, Commander Koutz will serve a one-year term. He served in the United States Army and attended basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky., and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, Calif. In Vietnam he served an extended tour of duty with Co. C 169th Engineer Battalion.

The commander is traveling all over the U.S. during his tenure to promote the Operation Comfort Warrior project.

The American Legion nationally has raised $400,000 for the program, which provides comfort items to wounded veterans. He said he believes that amount of money has been raised because “people care about our wounded soldiers.”

He explained, “We want to make sure they are comfortable.”

He cited examples of some of the items purchased including music equipment such as guitars, drums, CDs; and sporting goods like bow and arrow sets, baseball bats, golf clubs and fishing equipment.

“When we give (items) to the troops – it is something to see,” he said. “After all, they sacrificed for us.”

Koutz said every cent raised for Operation Comfort Warrior goes to wounded soldiers and urged everyone in attendance to look at the American Legion’s website for more information.

Another important item on his agenda as commander is working to have a woman’s veteran coordinator in every department within the organization. He said, “We need to do better to find out what women veterans’ needs are.” Virginia’s coordinator, Rita Brock Chandler, from Fredericksburg, was there for Koutz’ visit. She said her role is to discover disparity in how the Veteran’s Administration decides on women veterans’ issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She helps women veterans throughout the state file claims free of charge and will come to them to assist.

While Koutz and his entourage were in Virginia, he visited with First-term U.S. Senator Tim Kaine who announced his first piece of federal legislation — Troop Talent Act of 2013. The bill, backed by The American Legion, is designed to bolster efforts to streamline the military-to-civilian licensing and credentialing process. Kaine will formally introduce his bill after the Senate reconvenes on April 8.

The senator and members of the Legion’s Economic Commission had been working together on such legislation since Kaine was governor of Virginia. Appropriately, Kaine announced the contents of his veteran employment enhancement bill in a news conference on April 2 at The American Legion Department of Virginia headquarters in Richmond.

Koutz closed his brief remarks by saying, “Every day is veteran’s day.”

Local guests for the breakfast event included Franklin City manager Randy Martin, Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber Executive Director Teresa Beale; former Franklin Mayor Jim Councill and Downtown Franklin Association Executive Director Dan Howe.

Joining the National Commander were the Department Commander Isaac Kelley, and 4th District Commander James Rovinski.

For further information about the Comfort Warriors project, visit the website at: