Kachena assumes role as new state commander
Pisek native will serve for one year
PISEK – On Sunday June 30, Eugene Kachena, 69 of Pisek became the new State Commander of the North Dakota American Legion.
After a unanimous confirmation vote, Kachena was installed as the new state commander at the 95th annual North Dakota American Legion Department Convention in Dickinson.
The North Dakota American Legion represents nearly 16,500 Legionnaires, 8,000 auxiliary members and nearly 1,000 sons of the American Legion. Dignitaries on hand included North Dakota State Senator Heidi Heitkamp and National American Legion Commander James E. Koutz.
Kachena, who has been a member of the American Legion for the past 42 years, was introduced to the crowd and joined by his wife Barbara Ann, his son Maynard wife Kim and their grandson.
“It was a very interesting experience,” he said. “I think I was more nervous than I’ve been for a long time.”
Last summer, Kachena was elected commander elect for North Dakota and for the past year has served in that capacity in preparation for becoming the state commander.
“This has given me the opportunity to learn the ropes and meet the people throughout the state and for them get to know me too,” he said.
Kachena has held several offices within the American Legion throughout the years including District 2 Vice-Commander and Commander, Eastern Region Commander, Membership Commander and most recently State Commander-Elect.
Kachena said one of his first duties was to present a budget to the state for passage. He said he also introduced a proposal to raise the state dues to help reduce a budget deficit.
“The issue itself is a bit controversial, but it did pass at the convention,” he said. “That (increase) won’t take place until 2015. It won’t help my budget, but it will help the incoming commander to hopefully get a balanced budget.”
In addition to providing services to members the American Legion sponsors many programs for youth in the state including Boys’ and Girls’ State, the oratorical contest and Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball.
Kachena said the American Legion employs four people including an adjutant that serves as the chief operating officer, a veterans service officer and two office personnel.
“Everyone else is strictly a volunteer including myself and all of the people that hold different state offices,” he said.
Kachena said his year as state commander will be a busy one.
“Since July 1, we’ve gone to International Music Camp, we’ve gone to Medora and now we’re scheduling a trip to Minot for the state fair,” he said. “That’s all happened within three weeks. At the end of July we’ll be going to Indianapolis, Ind., for a membership conference on the national level.”
Kachena said he’s very proud to represent the North Dakota American Legion.
“I’m honored, but I’m also very humbled,” he said. “The are a lot of great veterans and a lot of great Legionnaires out there that could do this job if they chose to.”
Kachena said he’s proud to carry on the tradition of military service in his family and that fuels his passion as a member of the American Legion.
“My dad was in the service, I had three uncles in the service, one that died, our Legion post is named after him. I served and my son (Kenneth) is serving, so I think it’s just a natural fit,” he said.
Kachena said American Legion is about veterans looking after the needs of veterans young and old. He also said the demographics of the American Legion are changing with more and more women joining the ranks.
“About 20 percent of our military now is women,” he said. “It’s not the old boys club like it may have been years ago. We have a lot of women joining.”
Kachena said while the American Legion is committed to older veterans it is also reaching out to younger veterans. He said there is a new American Legion post on the campus of NDSU in Fargo and there will soon be a new post at UND.
“I’ve have a chance to meet the commander and some of the officers from Fargo and they’re very articulate, talented young people,” he said.
Kachena said dropping membership numbers have been a concern for the American Legion for several years and he’ll work hard along with others in the state and the nation to reverse that trend.