As current legionnaires, military veterans, former post officers and former executive committee members of the American Legion, Post Falls Post No. 143, we are outraged to read in a public forum that the state (department) adjutant and his appointed post commander have chosen to release what we understand to be questionable and defaming information of a present and ongoing investigation, of those involved within the investigation, and to read the present state of the once largest post in the state of Idaho.
The department adjutant has appointed the 1st Vice Commander as the successor to Commander Wheeler. In the article, dated Thursday, Dec. 19, 2017, it was reported that in the past four years the post has seen a decline of membership by more than half, and the Commander was removed from his office. As the 1st Vice Commander, in accordance with the American Legion Officer’s Manual, it states that 1st Vice Commander is in charge of all things related to membership to include recruitment and retention.
Current legion leaders were quoted in the same article saying “the nonprofit is moving ahead with its mission of serving veterans.” Our concern is how can the newly appointed commander serve its post while failing at his previous post position as 1st Vice Commander to maintain the strength in numbers within the post in order to serve the veteran community, and, how can a post, which has been bastardized by public forum, move forward without the assistance of a stable department command?
In our current and relevant experience, we have seen from the department a negligence in command judgment and due process. Post No. 143 is the second post within 2017 to come under “allegations” of mismanagement by the same sources. Generally, within due process, information is investigated for factual findings to include the source from which the information was obtained, and, evidentiary processes are used to back the information, which prevents falsified charges and libelous statements which have the ability to ruin the reputation for those involved, and to help weed out vindictive accusations.
It is factual that the state’s “confidential informant” has been providing fractured information to the department command chain since 2012. It appears that the department does not follow any due process and is quick to not only pass judgment and disrupt chains of command within the posts they claim to serve, but they also do not appear to retract or formally apologize for quick decisions made by half truths and assumptions based on little or no factual information, but that they also release negative legion business through public channels.
Throughout the past four years of working with Legionnaire Wheeler as Captain for the Legion Riders, which is a command-driven program through the post, and as the officer of the 2nd Vice Commander, Legionnaire Wheeler has demonstrated throughout multiple occasions to not only embody selfless service and having the post and veteran community’s best interests in mind, but is community driven to support even the civilian relations to the post. The article stated that Legionnaire Wheeler failed to resolve complaints and instead blamed those who made them. There have been motions through past membership meetings that disputes should be resolved by at least two resolutions on how to resolve them by the complainant. However, the article failed to mention whether or not resolutions were presented to Commander Wheeler for consideration. The policy is that when resolution is not presented, these topics are tabled until resolutions are presented to offer a fair and unbiased decision by the commander. The commander can only operate fairly based on the support of the body charged to him.
Appointed Commander DeMeritt was quoted in the same article saying, “We’ve gone down a bit, but we will work on improving recruitment. We have a lot of older veterans and we’d like to get more younger veterans involved.” It is factual that in 2015, there were at a minimum of seven Iraq/Afghanistan era veterans serving Post No. 143; five in an executive or elected post officer role, and two that volunteered their time in lounge and food service operations. However, those veterans have either left the legion or transferred to other posts due to the lack of support of senior legionnaires. It has been vocally explained by some of the senior veterans within the post that their opinion of the younger veteran group is incompetent; and has been shown through various examples that there is a lack of mentorship and support to help grow and train them.
It is our belief that until the “Good Ol’ Boy” system and the stigma that exists within the post by this example is abolished, there will be a gross lack in success of recruitment of the Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans to bring back the strength and success of the once largest post in the state, regardless of who is in command. Since the department seems to operate its investigations or “audits” through public channels and will act on unsupported claims, how can legionnaires expect a fair and factual investigation without the spillage and tainting of information of its investigations, and, how does any post move forward after potential members read that public smearing is proper protocol during investigatory proceedings?