SPEARFISH — Fred Nelson, of Spearfish, is the new state commander of the American Legion Department of South Dakota.
“It’s a major honor,” Nelson said Monday. “It means a lot to represent all the veterans that are members of the American Legion.”
Nelson was elected Sunday to the one-year term by delegates attending the 101st annual state convention of the American Legion in Sioux Falls. He was nominated by Larry Price, of Redfield, with the nomination seconded by Ron Schuttler, of Spearfish.
“The American Legion is like a very big family, and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” Nelson said, describing that he appreciated how several members of the Spearfish American Legion Post 164 traveled to Sioux Falls to support him. It was special to have Schuttler provide the second, as Schuttler was Nelson’s scoutmaster when he was young.
“He helped me get my Eagle Scout when I was a kid. … It (seconding the nomination) meant a lot to him and me, both of us,” Nelson said.
The American Legion is the largest wartime veteran service organization in South Dakota, with over 18,000 members serving in 240 local American Legion Posts across the state.
“The thing I’m most looking forward to is being able to meet all my fellow veterans and find out what’s going on out there,” Nelson said of his term as state commander, adding that he plans to focus on the Four Pillars of the American Legion’s mission: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth.
Nelson, director of network and computing services at BHSU, graduated from Spearfish High School, and at 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as an aircraft crew chief and later as an Air Training Command instructor.
Nelson is a 21-year continuous member of the American Legion and is currently a member of the Spearfish American Legion Post 164, where he serves as the Americanism officer, assistant adjutant, and road captain with the American Legion Riders.
He is a life member of the American Legion and is member of Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Riders, ANAVICUS, Disabled American Veterans, and the Air Force Sergeants Association. He also serves as the advisor to the BHSU Yellow Jackets Vets Club.
Fred is married to Micheline, and between them they have five children and nine grandchildren. They reside in Spearfish, where Micheline serves as president of the Spearfish American Legion Auxiliary.
“I am so proud of my husband ... for his dedication to the mission of the American Legion,” Micheline Nelson said. She thanked Post 164 members who traveled to Sioux Falls to support Fred Nelson, as well as family members, and she gave a special thank you to Past Department Commander Larry Price and Past Department Commander Paul Evenson who escorted her to the installation and oath of the new officers. There will be a homecoming celebration for Fred Nelson as the American Legion State Commander on June 29 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center.