First male commander focuses on caregiver legislation, junior membership

DAV and Auxiliary national adjutants Marc Burgess (left) and Pat Kemper (right) flank national commanders Delphine Metcalf-Foster and Craig Johniken. Both commanders are the first nationally elected leaders of their genders in their respective organizations.

The importance of continued growth and strengthening of the partnership with DAV brought roughly 350 Auxiliary members to Lexington, Ky., for the 69th annual DAV Auxiliary Fall Conference, held Sept. 28–30.

“With the increasing number of conference attendees, particularly first-time attendees, we are witnessing firsthand the strength and commitment of those whose goal is to continue the organization’s mission of service to others,” said Auxiliary National Adjutant Pat Kemper, “most importantly, for the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces.”

This was the first conference for Auxiliary National Commander Craig Johniken since his election to lead the organization at the 96th DAV and Auxiliary National Convention in New Orleans. His election marked the first time a male took the helm of the Auxiliary since its establishment in 1922.

“The Auxiliary continues to evolve, and there are many ways women, men and young people can become involved in our organization and honor the service and sacrifices of veterans and their families. If there’s any significance paid to my election to this office, I hope it’s focused on how there is room for anyone of any age or gender to help,” said Johniken. “Over the course of the next year, we will be making a concentrated effort on moving our caregiver initiative forward in hopes of securing caregiver benefits for veterans from every era, while continuing to encourage junior membership and participation within the organization.”

During the conference, Auxiliary leaders spoke in depth about their respective programs in order to educate and train members in attendance about what can be done to spread awareness of the DAV Auxiliary and its programs. National campaigns include Americanism, community service, junior activities, legislative initiatives and the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service.

“The programs and workshops presented during the conference encourage audience participation, which initiates discussion and cultivates an atmosphere of networking, idea sharing and relationship development,” said Kemper.

“The DAV Auxiliary fall conference is important on many levels, but I think among the most important is that we can demonstrate how we are in lockstep with each other regarding our mission of service to veterans and their families,” said National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster, who spoke at the event.

“Commander Metcalf-Foster and I have already had many opportunities to talk this year, and we’re in absolute agreement that two strong entities are better than one,” said Johniken. “She’s very aware of how families are heroes in their own right and has given the DAV Auxiliary her full support. DAV and DAV Auxiliary are partners working together. I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Commander Metcalf-Foster as we go forward, and I tremendously look forward to working hand in hand on some of our initiatives.”

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