With a special guest on the way, the American Legion decided it was time to throw together a fish and shrimp fry at the Veterans Reception Center in Van Meter on Saturday, March 24. The special guest was American Legion National Commander, Denise Rohan, who is the first ever female National Commander.

Each year, the National Commander visits all 50 states as well as several foreign countries to meet with Legionnaires and Veterans. Her stop in Van Meter was a part of her trip to Iowa, which also included stops in Durant, Dyersville and Elkader, which is where she grew up.

“My favorite part is I get to visit with Legionnaires, find out what's on their mind, thank them for the work that they're doing across the country, because it's amazing stuff,” Rohan said.

She has also gotten to meet with the director of the Veterans Affairs Hospital and some of the adjutant generals, to find out what their concerns are for lobbying purposes.

“So we listen to them and we take in information from all over the United States and go back to our legislators and say 'hey, these are some of the concerns that are going on,'” Rohan added.

About an hour into the event, Rohan stepped up to the podium and gave a speech surrounding her theme of “Family First.”

During her speech, she raved about the Veterans Reception Center.

“The fact that you give families a place to come and be together after being up at the cemetery, it's an amazing gift that you give to this community, the veterans and the families of those veterans,” Rohan said. “So I thank you for building this fantastic building and giving the community of the whole… State of Iowa… that ability to come here and get that relief and that family feeling that they get.”

One of the things Rohan said that one part of the American Legion's job is to take care of the families of Veterans and American Servicemen and Women when they are overseas.

“When we go to a deployment ceremony and we say 'what can we do to make sure you have one less worry on the battlefield, our heroes' answer is always the same,” Rohan began. “They tell us 'please, take care of our family first.' They're not worried about the trials and tribulations they're going to face over there. They're concerned about their families here at home.”