New National Commander, Star-Studded Line Up Light Up Vegas Stage (Part 1)
By Joseph R. Chenelly
Larry A. Polzin thanks convention delegates who unanimously elected him National Commander on Aug. 7 in Las Vegas.
More then 4,000 veterans and their family members from across America converged on Las Vegas Aug. 4-7, electing a new National Commander, setting DAV’s legislative agenda for the coming year, hearing directly from the U.S. Vice President and honoring two celebrated veterans’ advocates.
Larry A. Polzin was unanimously elected National Commander on the final day of the 91st DAV and DAV Auxiliary National Convention at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The service-connected Vietnam-era veteran and retired National Service Officer has been a life member of Chapter 73, Woodland Hills, Calif., since joining in 1971.
“As National Senior Vice Commander, Polzin showed solid leadership skills and a strong vision for the organization,” said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. “We look forward to advancing the organization and furthering our strategic goals under his leadership.”
Polzin joined the U.S. Marine Corps following high school graduation in eastern Colorado. After boot camp, he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, 1st Engineer Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He continued to serve until his medical discharge in 1966.
“In 1971, I found myself in a tough place,” the newly elected commander said at the convention’s final business session. “The company that hired me after I was discharged from the Marine Corps five years earlier, suddenly turned its back on me when it was discovered that I needed open-heart surgery. Laid up in a VA hospital, a DAV Department of California Service Officer stopped in to check on me. He offered to help me file a claim for the benefits I had earned. It was so encouraging to meet a fellow veteran who was committed to helping me—for free. Later, he asked if I wanted to join DAV. I hadn’t thought of that until then. “Of course, I quickly said yes. I am grateful that he asked me.
“So next time you are out asking new veterans if they want to join us, just think, you may be recruiting a future national commander.”
Polzin has been actively involved in veterans’ issues at the state and national levels throughout his career. In 1972, he joined DAV’s professional staff as a National Service Officer in Los Angeles. He was promoted to Assistant Supervisor of the L.A. National Service Office, and continued his work as an NSO for more than 25 years until retirin“It’s an honor to lead an organization committed to empowering our nation’s injured and ill veterans and their families,” said Polzin. “I will do my best every single day to help DAV fulfill its worthy mission.”
The other national DAV line officers elected are Sr. Vice Commander Joseph W. Johnston, 1st Jr. Vice Commander Ron Voegeli, 2nd Jr. Vice Commander Ron Hope, 3rd Jr. Vice Commander Moses A. McIntosh Jr., and 4th Jr. Vice Commander David W. Riley. Michael E. Dobmeier was re-elected as National Judge Advocate, and Ronald R. Ringo Jr. was elected National Chaplain.
The DAV Auxiliary also elected a new National Commander. Donna Adams took the helm as Patti Rapisand’s term came to a close.
“Since joining the DAV Auxiliary, I have been humbled just by the opportunity to be part of an organization doing such immense, important work done by both DAV and the Auxiliary,” Adams said. “So to have been chosen to serve as your DAV Auxiliary National Commander is one of the greatest honors of my life.”
Commander Adams announced she will focus on the theme “the key is understanding.”
The other Auxiliary national line officers elected in Las Vegas are Sr. Vice Commander Susan Miller, 1st Jr. Vice Commander LeeAnn Karg, 2nd Jr. Vice Commander Linda Stake, 3rd Jr. Vice Commander Fran Costa, and 4th Jr. Vice Commander Craig Johniken. Kathy Wiley was re-elected as National Judge Advocate, and Carol Rundell was elected National Chaplain.
Starting in earnest with the DAV Board of Directors meeting, Marc Burgess, National Headquarters Executive Director, delivered his report on the financial health of DAV.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and Vice President Joe Biden addressed a special joint opening session on Saturday, Aug. 4.
Biden delivered an election-year speech, promising America's fighting men and women won't suffer and will be guaranteed the best medical care for life.
"We're going to keep our commitment to American veterans no matter what happens," he said.
"The contributions each and every one of you made will outlive us all,” Biden said.
The Vice President choked up as he told of visiting a wounded veteran in a hospital around Christmas. The man had lost the lower half of both legs, and Biden said the soldier apologized for not standing to salute when the Vice President approached his hospital bed.
"Sir, can you get me back to my unit, sir? I know I can be helpful, sir," Biden recounted the veteran asking him.
"You're all amazing," Biden said, recovering his composure.
Biden also said the VA is working to get rid of a growing backlog of claims for benefits.
The Obama Administration has vowed to cut the backlog completely by 2015. It also increased the annual VA budget by 30 percent to $127 billion to handle the increasing needs of veterans.
"We will not rest until there is no backlog, and that's a promise," Biden said.
Biden also pledged more job help for veterans, whose unemployment rate is two points higher than the national average. He said military skills will now qualify veterans for licenses and certificates so they don't have to go through duplicative training to work.
Also, the Administration has challenged the private sector to hire veterans, resulting in 90,000 jobs for veterans so far with the goal of 175,000, he said. Federal funding for the COPS program for local governments to hire police also will give veterans preference, Biden said.
"No veteran who fought for our country should have to fight for a job at home,” Biden said.
[ Continue ]