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Michelle's column: Carrying our history into the future

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Michelle's column: Carrying our history into the future
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

I have this pair of earrings, and a matching brooch, that I have worn with pride for the past five years.

The set was given to me by Farmington resident George Flynn. The pin and earrings are rhinestone clustered, and bear the emblem of the American Legion Auxiliary in the middle. The set belonged to George’s mother, who was a charter member of American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189, Farmington.

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I wore the earrings Saturday morning, but I couldn’t wear the brooch. I was officially installed as American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota Third District president Saturday morning, and protocol dictated that I wear no pins, other than that of the President. And I received my President’s pin on Saturday.

It seems like just yesterday when I wrote my first column about my apprehension of stepping in as ALA Unit 189 president. Not long after that column, George came into our office and asked if I would accept his mother’s jewelry as a gift. Flattered, I said yes.

When I stepped down as Unit 189 president, I made the comment to George that I would have to pass his pin and earrings on to the next unit president. With a confused look, George asked, “Why? Are you done with the Auxiliary?”

I said no, but that I’d stepped aside so that I could move up within the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota Third District.

“Well, then, you keep them,” he said. “We gave them to you.”

In reality, it’s been just shy of six years since that first column about the American Legion Auxiliary. Six years, and already I’m representing not only Farmington, but all of Minnesota’s Third District. And I couldn’t be more proud to do so.

To put this into perspective, the Department of Minnesota is divided into 10 districts. Here in Farmington and Rosemount, we’re part of the Third District — the Thundering Third, as we like to call it. The Third District covers Dakota, Washington, Goodhue, Carver, Scott, Rice, McLeod, Sibley, Nicollet and LeSueur counties.

Suffice it to say, I’ll be doing a lot of traveling over this next year.

Now, exactly what I’ll be doing this year, I’m not sure yet. I was elected and installed at the district convention in May. In June, I was riding in a convertible in the Nicollet Friendship Days parade one day and installing officers in Savage the next. A couple weeks ago, I opened a meeting with my officers and program chairmen.

I might add that I am thankful to have ALA Unit 189 president Kim Lomas as my memory book chairman, and Rosemount American Legion Auxiliary Unit 65 president Kyla Mitcheltree as my community service chairman. It means a lot to me to have the support of these ladies.

The American Legion Auxiliary is in its 95th year as an organization, and it’s the United States’ largest women’s organization to lobby for veterans issues. We have decades of service to veterans behind us, but with declining membership all over the district, the state and the nation, we’re focusing on what we can do to make our future successful.

That’s why I take my role as Third District president very seriously. In this next year, I will travel all around the district and the state of Minnesota to participate in activities, training sessions and rallies. I even get to go to Charlotte, N.C., next month to attend the national convention. I’ll spend hours learning new things about our organization, and about issues that impact our veterans.

Hopefully, I’ll learn a little more about how we can reach out and connect to this new generation of veterans and their families, as well.

But one thing is for certain: where ever I go, I will be wearing my brooch and earrings from George Flynn. That gift is one of the most precious I have received.

The brooch and earrings symbolize, to me, the hundreds of Farmington women who have been members of Unit 189 since our unit was chartered in 1920. Somehow, when I wear that jewelry, I feel like I represent everything they have worked for, and everything we hope to become.

As long as I have those with me, no matter where my travels take me, I will always remember from where I came. And I’m pretty proud to say I come from Farmington Unit 189.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and is the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 702-0974
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