ELKO — Elkoan Jim Byars will represent nearly 8,000 veterans throughout the state as the American Legion’s new Department Commander for Nevada.
Byars received the position in June at the Legion’s Department Convention in Laughlin.
“I’ve sort of joined a distinguished crowd,” Byars said. “It’s pretty humbling.”
This is the third time an Elkoan has been given the Department Commander title, he said.
Byars served as an Arctic Paratrooper for six years in Alaska from 1971 to 1977 as part of the Charlie Airborne Infantry. He has lived in Elko since 1987 and has held several positions within Elko’s American Legion Post 7 for the past 15 years, he said.
The American Legion began in 1919, right after World War I, as a nonprofit veteran organization. The Legion is now the nation’s largest veteran organization with nearly 2.5 million members worldwide.
The organization has four pillars of service: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism and Children and Youth.
As part of his duties, Byars will visit the state’s 35 Legion posts throughout the year.
“I’ll go around and visit the posts to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed,” Byars said. “I’ll be checking on the health of each post.” The traveling won’t be an issue, because “I’ve already logged a lot of windshield time from my previous positions.”
Byars also hopes to grow Legion membership through the organization’s multitude of programs, such as Hear Today - Learn Tomorrow, which provides hearing aids to children with hearing impairments.
The program is only offered in Nevada right now, Byars said, but that could soon change.
“We think it will be adopted by nationals,” he said. “It’s done very well the past few years and the merits of the program are exceptional.”
During his one-year term, Byars will also help the organization raise funding for a “Fallen Warrior” memorial to be built at Carson City’s Capitol complex.
In addition to visiting posts within the state, Byars will represent his fellow Legionnaires at the National Convention in Houston this month and a spring conference in Washington, D.C, where he will speak with the state’s senators and representatives on veteran issues.
“Being a spokesman for the Legionnaires is a big responsibility,” Byars said. “I feel grateful for the opportunity to serve Nevada’s veterans and I’ll do what I can to make sure they get a fair shake.”
The Department Commander is a one-year term.
Visit www.legion.org, www.nevadalegion.org or www.elkolegionpost7.org for more information.