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Mitchell veteran elected state commander of American Legion

Hugh Holmes, of Mitchell, was elected the state commander of the American Legion of South Dakota on Sunday during the annual state convention in Watertown. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)

Hugh Holmes can now call himself a state commander.

Holmes, 65, was elected Sunday as the state commander of the American Legion of South Dakota during the 99th state convention in Watertown.

The longtime Mitchell resident spent months campaigning for the position, and after being elected this weekend, said he's glad to continue serving for an organization he loves.

"One of our missions is to help veterans and veteran rehabilitation," Holmes said. "We really look forward to helping as many veterans as we can locally, statewide and a nationally."

Holmes is a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1975 to 1997. The first half of his career was spent as an air defense officer, protecting soldiers and units from air attacks. The second half was spent with personnel, taking care of soldiers and their family members.

The Doland native came to Mitchell in 1992, after he was released from active duty. For the next five years he was on reserve. But it was during this time he joined the American Legion Post 18 in Mitchell.

And 25 years later, he's named to one of the top positions within the state American Legion organization. As the state commander, Holmes will be the organization's spokesperson, going to meetings and national conventions as needed.

He will also be an advocate for the organization, speaking to the legislature on matters or bills that may affect South Dakota's veterans.

Holmes is looking forward to these responsibilities, but also made it a goal to increase the membership of the South Dakota American Legion. In Mitchell, there are 392 members of Post 18, where Holmes has served as the adjutant for the last six years.

"When you're in the military, it's a comradeship and friendship that you have. It continues after you get out ... " Holmes said. "We used to all be in the military, we have all been through certain things and we can relate to each other."

Electing the new state leadership is the last event of the state convention each year in Watertown, according to Travise Flisrand, adjutant for the American Legion of South Dakota.

This year's convention was held Thursday through Sunday, and Flisrand said Holmes has a "pretty full plate" ahead, spending a majority of his time on the road, traveling to state and national events.

But he's not worried, knowing Holmes has been an advocate for the organization and children youth programs — one of the pillars the state organization supports.

"He's been with the Legion for long time, and he's very dedicated to the organization," Flisrand said. "He speaks very, very well and he's gone through the ranks. He knows how the Legion operates, and he knows what our four pillars are."