Steve Anderson of the American Legion Post 79 in Cando was elected as the Department Commander at the 102nd Annual Department Convention held in Minot on June 25-27, 2021, and was sworn in on the final day of the convention. As Department Commander, Anderson will be responsible for and accountable to all the American Legion posts in the state. The position will allow him to interact with members and posts all across North Dakota.
“As I travel throughout the state, I assist, encourage, lead and direct the posts’ officers on how to attract members, community service within their town and county, strengthen, and guide the posts,” said Anderson. He already has nine such commitments for the month of July.
The American Legion was founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children & Youth. Each of these pillars encompasses a variety of programs that benefit our nation’s veterans, its service members, their families, the youth of America and ordinary citizens. As Department Commander, Anderson intends to further advance those four pillars and their programs.
“As each new Department Commander takes over they have a slogan or program they are going to be trying to spread within the state,” said Anderson. “My slogan for my year is ‘Remember the Fallen, Support the Living,’ which will focus on post tramadic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide awareness.”
PTSD is a mental health problem that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Flashbacks, distressing memories, edginess, and trouble sleeping are normal reactions to these events, but if they persist, it may be PTSD.
Suicide and thoughts of suicide are higher in those who suffer from PTSD, especially those who cope with it by not expressing their feelings. Veterans may feel guilt or anger related to actions taken during combat.
“I fully intend to bring this subject out of the dark,” said Anderson. “It’s time to ‘take off the mask’ about PTSD and suicide.” This means opening up and talking about it, and he does so himself, telling others of his own struggles.
“I suffer from PTSD daily,” shares Anderson. “I have contemplated suicide on a number of occasions. People are going to read this and be shocked and think ‘holy crap, I didn’t know this about Steve.’ That’s exactly the point. We don’t know what others are going through because it’s hard to talk about it. When you do mention it, people think your weird, or suck it up, or put on your big boy pants, etc.”
Anderson said he needed help and thanks to the tough love of his wonderful wife, he got that help and is able to talk about it now. “That is my goal this year - to talk about it and show that there is help out there.”
Anderson will attend Legion meetings and training in Indianapolis and Washington, DC and attend national conventions in Phoenix and Milwaukee. He is also the Veterans Service Officer for Cavalier County, taking over on November 1, 2020, after the retirement of Leon Hiltner.
“My year as Department Commander will not affect my VSO job at all. They are two completely separate entities,” said Anderson. Most post meetings and trips will occur Thursday through Sunday.
Anderson is passionate about his message and wants to reach those who are suffering and the people who care for them.
“I leave you with this,” said Anderson, “I’d rather talk to you and hear your story than attend your funeral.”