The national commander of the American Legion is no stranger to the hospitality of Southern Indiana because he was born and raised in Johnson County.
On Tuesday, Dale Barnett stopped at American Legion Post 89 in Seymour as part of a tour of Indiana American Legion posts.
“As the national American Legion commander, you have the opportunity to visit all 50 states and several countries and tour the roughly 13,000 posts,” the U.S. Army veteran said.
The goals of the tour are to see the different facilities, learn about the options available for veterans and educate and inform the public about the issues facing veterans today.
Barnett, who now lives in Douglasville, Georgia, said he had missed Hoosier hospitality.
“I love the area. I’m originally from Franklin and attended Whiteland community schools,” he said.
After touring the Seymour post, Barnett said it was a “beautiful facility” and a “very nice post.”
“People met me at the front door, and the American Legion Riders escorted us into town,” he said.
Post 89 Commander Larry Shelly said it’s not uncommon for the national commander to visit Seymour. There are several reasons why, he said, but none more important than the obvious.
“We’re hospitable,” Shelly said.
Post 89 also has a large and active membership, Shelly said.
During his tour, Barnett often talks about traumatic brain injuries, which have become a signature wound of the global war on terrorism, and the number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
Barnett, who was accompanied on his visit to the area by state Commander Larry Lowry, said veterans still have trouble receiving health care in a timely manner, and many have been waiting for years to have their disability claims resolved.
Barnett’s stop at Seymour came after he toured the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville.
“I have to say, some of the most fun I have had was having a shooting competition with my bus driver at Muscatatuck,” Barnett said of the experience.
From Seymour, Barnett and his entourage planned to travel to New Albany, Evansville and other communities before returning to his former stomping grounds at Whiteland on Wednesday, where he was to have 11 radio interviews. He was scheduled to speak at Clark-Pleasant Community Schools in the afternoon.
National commanders for the American Legion are elected every year by the 2.2 million members during the national convention at Baltimore in September. The five national vice commanders, who serve different regions, are elected at the same time.
Barnett is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Following that, he served as an infantry officer in the Army from 1974 to 1996, including service as the battalion executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.
Barnett retired in 1996 as a lieutenant colonel, earning honors such as the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and others.
In addition to his work with American Legion Post 105 in Fayetteville, Georgia, Barnett has taught high school social studies and coached baseball, basketball and cross-country at Creekside High School. In 2005, he was recognized as the school’s teacher of the year.