Rita Navarrete is a woman on a mission.
"My theme is reconnect and energize," said Navarrete, the American Legion Auxiliary's national president, who visited Evans and the Augusta area recently to inspire the organization's membership. "With all we do for veterans in the community, and the public doesn't know who we are and what we do to serve."
Navarrete said new membership is needed in the American Legion as veterans and their spouses age and are no longer able to be as involved as they once were.
She spoke at a dinner on March 21 at American Legion Post 192 in Evans, where a highlight of her evening was presenting Marikay DeCrow with a Gold Star banner.
DeCrow's husband, Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow, was killed in the Nov. 5 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
According to Department of Defense regulations, Gold Star banners may be flown only by those who lose an immediate family member serving in active military service.
Navarrete spoke at a luncheon the next day at American Legion Post 63 on Milledge Road. Members of auxiliaries from North Augusta and Columbia, Richmond and Lincoln counties took part.
"This is the fifth national president we've hosted at this unit, and it makes us proud," said Sally Malone, a member of Post 63's auxiliary and the auxiliary's 11th District president. The 11th District covers Columbia, Richmond, Burke, Lincoln and McDuffie counties.
Navarrete also visited the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and Fort Gordon, where her husband, Tony, was stationed from November 1967 to May 1969.
The American Legion Auxiliary is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.
"We are the largest women's patriotic organization," said Navarrete.
Locally, American Legion Auxiliary units support veterans at the Charlie Norwood VA by providing personal-care items and sponsoring a creative arts festival at the hospital. They also organize social activities, such as pizza parties for hospitalized veterans at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, and raise money for scholarships.
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