American Legion National Commander Jim Koutz (left) of Boonville accepts cards from Noreen Komasinski of Post 369 in East Chicago, Ind., during a visit Oct. 11, 2012. Koutz also visited Post 66 in Griffith, Ind. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 22, 2012 6:20AM
Jim Koutz has a favorite slogan: “Every day is Veterans Day.”
The new American Legion national commander, a resident of Boonville, recently visited East Chicago Post 369 and Griffith Post 66 to discuss the importance of this slogan and reintroduce himself to members. Those were two of 12 stops on a statewide tour.
“We are proud, honored and excited to have Jim here,” said District 1 chaplain Stanley Nalewski as members lined up to greet their honored guest. “This is the first time in 33 years that a man from Indiana has held this national position.”
Many at Post 66 already knew Koutz, since he previously was the state commander, but they wanted to hear more about their new national leader and what he hopes to accomplish. State Commander Dick Jewell and Auxiliary State President Nancy Gunning accompanied Koutz.
“Jim wants to meet as many ‘Blue Caps’ (Legion members) as he can,” Gunning said of the tour.
While in Griffith, Koutz talked to more than 60 people about his goals for the group, including increasing membership, participating in upcoming public policy decisions that will affect veterans, and his pet project, Operation Comfort Warriors.
“U.S. military personnel who are wounded or fall ill while deployed receive some of the best medical care the Department of Defense has to offer,” Koutz said. “However, not always do our nation’s military hospitals and warrior transition units offer amenities like video games, books, movies, televisions, loose-fitting sweatsuits, and phone cards.
“That’s where Operation Comfort Warriors steps in. Funds raised for OCW are used to purchase comfort items for wounded and sick military personnel recovering in DOD facilities around the globe.”
Since OCW’s inception in 2006, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items have been delivered. After Koutz’s talk, officials from various posts offered checks for the cause.
From Griffith, Koutz traveled to Post 369 for a luncheon and another program. His motor coach to both local posts was escorted by Russ Gibson and Terry Hollis, members of the Legion Riders.
“This is an honor to meet Jim Koutz; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Gibson said. “I’ve heard he is a very hands-on type of commander and also very concerned about the veterans’ programs.”