PICTURED: Renee Thompson Flores

INDIAN HEAD, Md. — After 70 plus years since being established, the American Legion Post 170 has appointed its first female commander, Renee Thompson Flores.

The members of American Legion Post 170 electing Flores as a commander will set the tone for future military women that plan on joining the American Legion.

“This is going to solidify the role of the female veteran. We are still fighting to prove that we are just as good if not better,” Flores said. “This sets the tone. My performance will set the stage for the next female veteran. If I do not do well, there may not be another [woman] for a long time.”

Flores is a black woman from New Orleans, LA, and she started her 22 years of service after leaving Louisiana State University. By the time she retired from the military, she had worked her way up to Chief Hospital Coordinator.

Flores joined the Indian Head legion after retiring because she could help others while being around people that relate to her.

“Joining the American Legion was appealing to me because I could fuse two things I care about, which is taking care of veterans and volunteering,” Flores said. “This is the only place I can go where I can have a conversation with people who understand what it feels like to have served.”

For those who don’t know, the American Legion is a national veteran organization focused on enhancing the well-being of American veterans. Additionally, this organization tries to meet the unique needs of the communities they are in.

However, it has historically been difficult for a woman to become part of the organization, let alone get nominated as a commander. When Flores first joined, members assumed she was going to join the American Legion Auxiliary, which is filled with women. Instead of conforming to the norm, she stood her ground and showed the other members why she belongs.

“I will admit upon first joining I realized that the women who are wives of the members belong to the auxiliary. So, I kept being asked, are you going to join the auxiliary,” Flores said. “It was about showing them that even in heels, I am just as much a legionnaire as they are. Once they saw my work ethic, all of that went out the window.”

Flores became a chaplain after one year of membership. Eventually, former commander of Post 170, Earl McKay, nominated her to become commander.

Since winning the election to become commander, Flores has already set goals for herself. First, she wants to get repair work done on the building that they are in.

“First, we need maintenance. It is a very old building, so I want to upgrade our post’s functionality and appearance because we can’t be in there if it is not held to the right standards,” Flores said.

Second, she wants her post to have a more visible impact on the local community. Although Post 170 has held holiday food drives and given out school supplies to children in the area, Flores wants to do more for the community.

“I want to increase our visibility in the community as people who care for the community, not just somewhere to go get a drink,” Flores said. “Those people [local families] need to know we are here for them.”

Flores’s last goal is to increase membership by bringing in the next generation of veterans.

As commander of the American Legion Post 170, Flores understands that there is a lot of weight on her shoulders. But she is ready for any challenges that come her way.

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