The DAV Auxiliary hosted more than 300 people Sept. 30–Oct. 2 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, for its annual fall conference, a year after COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel the 2020 meeting.
Members from units in 39 states attended in-person, with many more members joining the conference virtually. The Auxiliary’s fall conference focuses on educating its members on various Auxiliary and DAV programs and planning activities for the upcoming year.
Auxiliary National Adjutant Pat Kemper and National Commander Lynn Helms Prosser said they were extremely pleased with how well-attended and smooth the conference went. While some Auxiliary members got to see each other at the DAV Auxiliary national convention in Tampa, Florida, this was the first Auxiliary-specific event since the pandemic where members could reconnect. Many units have not been able to hold in-person meetings since early 2020.
“So for me, what I was witnessing is sort of a rebirth,” said Kemper. “Members are starting to get out and become active and busy again and fulfill the mission of service.”
Kemper said the fall conference is also an opportunity for newly elected national officers and chairs to present updates on their programs. Presentations, including those from the chairs of the legislative, membership, community service, VA Voluntary Service and Americanism committees, focused on getting back to normal operations and energizing members about the Auxiliary’s mission.
DAV representatives, including National Commander Andy Marshall, National Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski and Membership Director Doug Wells, also presented.
“The gravity of the pandemic and the destruction it caused gave us an important opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned in the face of adversity,” said Marshall during his speech to the attendees. “Undoubtedly, we will be experiencing the impact of this pandemic for years to come and must be prepared to address the long-term ramifications. But it has been remarkable to see the spirit of our Auxiliary truly come alive and to watch so many of you show the world what makes our organizations so great.”
That spirit was on display the first night of the conference when the evening’s theme was patriotism. People came decked out in red, white and blue outfits—some in American flag-themed shirts, hats and Uncle Sam costumes. The sea of color, Kemper said, gave her chills as she looked out at the crowd.
The Auxiliary, founded in 1922, is now in its centennial year. To commemorate the anniversary, Kemper said Auxiliary leadership is encouraging every unit to do 100 good deeds for veterans and their families during the year. Once they reach that milestone, she’d love to see them do 100 more. These deeds could be something as simple as reaching out to say hello, cooking a meal or helping with errands.
“That’s where the Auxiliary is at its best,” said Marshall. “It’s uniquely suited to provide support to families and caregivers of our veterans.”