POINT PLEASANT — American Legion members from across the area converged Tuesday on Point Pleasant to greet their national commander.
Dale Barnett flew into Mason County in a Black Hawk helicopter and toured the National Guard Armory before being driven to American Legion Post 23 in Point Pleasant, where was first greeted by Post Commander Miles Epling.
Epling was himself a past national commander in 1989-90.
Epling will be accompanying Barnett on his tour of West Virginia, including stops in Kenova for a tour of the VA hospital; Barboursville for a tour of the veterans home; and a tour of Marshall University.
While at Post 23, Barnett shook hands with those gathered to greet him, including legion members from posts in both West Virginia and Ohio, including the Drew Webster Post 39 in Pomeroy, Ohio.
Mick Williams from Post 39, previously worked with Barnett at the national level of the American Legion organization.
“They couldn’t have done better,” Williams said on electing Barnett as commander. “He’s a gentleman and is interested in the cause of veterans. He’s a wise choice.”
Barnett spoke to the Point Pleasant Register, saying he wanted to tour all 50 states to get a sense of the issues facing veterans and how to take those issues to legislators to help find solutions.
“Veterans need to stand up and be heard,” Barnett said, specifically speaking about matters of national defense, and maintaining “strong health care systems” for veterans, including keeping the VA “viable.”
Members of the Point Pleasant Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and its color guard then led Barnett to Tu-Endie-Wei State Park for a tour and a lesson on the role the Battle of Point Pleasant played in American history. Accompanying the SAR members were state President Steven D. Hart and department Commander Kenneth Smith. SAR member Craig Hesson gave the commander a brief account of the battle.
Speaking in front of the park’s battle monument, Barnett told those gathered he was also a retired history teacher.
“It’s important to remember our history … when we forget our history, we’re lost as a nation,” Barnett said. “We need to be the conscience of the nation and speak out on behalf of the military.”
Barnett, of Douglasville, Ga., was elected national commander of the 2.2 million-member American Legion on Sept. 3, 2015, in Baltimore during the 97th National Convention of America’s largest veterans organization.
Barnett graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served as an Army infantry officer from 1974-1996, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. A member of American Legion Post 105 in Fayetteville, Ga., he served The American Legion at every level, including department commander of Georgia from 2007 to 2008. After leaving the military, Barnett taught high school social studies and coached basketball, baseball and cross country. He was the Creekside High School Teacher of the Year in 2005-2006 and a national board certified social studies teacher in 2003.
Barnett served from 1990 to 1991 as the battalion executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. His decorations include The Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (two awards), Kuwait Liberation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and Pathfinder Badge.
Biographical information on Barnett provided by The American Legion and found at www.legion.org.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.