Tina’s patriotism, volunteerism fueled by ‘Auxiliary’ power

Patriotism and volunteerism go hand in hand for Tina Washington.

Q & A TINA Washington good one

Tina Washington is the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 President.

A resident of Georgetown, Ms. Washington began volunteering with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 in 1999, “enlisting” several years after retirement from the Department of Defense/Homeland Security where she logged 24 years of service.

At 71, she is in her fourth year as president of Auxiliary Unit 28, based at Legion Post 28 in Millsboro.

She has two children, who live in New Jersey and Virginia, and four grandchildren.

“So I am sort of like the ‘middle man,’” she said.

Ms. Washington earned degrees from Rutgers University and Shippensburg University, and also attended the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., near Shippensburg.

As this week’s People To Know spotlight on Veterans Day 2015, here is Tina Washington:

After raising your children, you decided to continue your education:

“Yes, later in my life I went back to school. My business degree is from Rutgers. The one from Shippensburg, I did that in conjunction with my Army War College stint. I got my masters in science and strategic planning.”

Following divorce having relocated to Southern Delaware, you chose to stay:

“Financially it allowed me to do some of the things that I wanted to do and still be self-sufficient. And on the other hand I was looking for something to do in retirement, and I had eyed this Post as a place that I would come to volunteer when I retired.”

Talk about your passionate connection to America’s veterans:

“It is tied to my working at the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Just before I retired – when we into Iraq and Afghanistan – I worked for a general who had a monthly luncheon for the veterans that were at Walter Reed (Army Hospital). So I would go, and that was the turning point for me. I would see these soldiers – young soldiers, like 18 and 19 – lots of them coming back with no real quality of life, at times when other folks would just be starting their lives. So I made up my mind then that I would go out and find an organization where I would volunteer and it would help the military and veterans.”

You say there is a common misconception about American Legion Auxiliary?

“Please do not call us the ‘Ladies Auxiliary.’ One of the reasons why we harp on that a lot is because in five years we are going to celebrate our 100th anniversary – the National American Legion Auxiliary will celebrate its centennial year. We still find that people don’t really know who we are and what we do. Part of it is because they automatically connect us to the Post, and think that we are an entity that just helps the men do the things that they do, which is not true. We are separately chartered. We have our own national constitution and bylaws and our own programs.”

Talk about Auxiliary Unit 28’s mission and collaboration with Oak Orchard/Riverdale American Legion Post:

“Our being in this building together is part of our mission where we are to mutually cooperate to do some of the things that provide programs for our veterans. There is a common theme.”

“Part of our tasking today too is to be a force for the military, the active military and children and youth.”

Community outreach touches the lives of many veterans, children and schools through Americanism programs. Talk about the ongoing connection with active troops:

“We have been sending packages to troops for ages, way before I was here. We send approximately 17 boxes and they go to individuals that have been identified here who are family members of folks who belong to the Legion family. If someone comes in says ‘I know a soldier …’ they give us a name. The packages are personalized. A lot of times we will get messages back that they have shared it with their platoon or their company. This budget year we had to cut back and now we are only sending them every other month because of budget restraints. We try to send them as much as we can.”

Unit 28 has earned numerous honors. Is there one that stands out?

“One of the major awards we received a few years back … we got a National President’s Award as the Unit of the Year. It is done at the national convention. It is one department and five units. We were one of the five units. We won basically for our overall programs. We have quite a community service outreach.”

Unit 28 has over 2,000 members – all females, correct?

“On our rolls are over 2,400 Auxiliary members. The Auxiliary by nature of the charter will not include men. It will always be females. We will probably never have men because the American Legion was chartered by Congress. And Congress also chartered the Auxiliary, and it will take an act on Congress for any of that to change.”

You have a personal connection to 9/11: Sept. 11, 2001, the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon:

“I worked at the Pentagon but I was at the Army War College. I had just started the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. that August. We were in class. And the instructors kept coming in and out of the classroom, but they weren’t saying anything. Of course we were all wondering what was going on. Then finally the commandant made an announcement that the TVs were going to go on in a few minutes and that the World Trade Center had been attacked.”

“It actually crashed into the Pentagon on the side of the building I would have been in – not immediately close to but a lot of my counterparts who I worked with. I was on Joint Staff at that time; most of the budget people worked in that area.”

“For me because I was a civilian in the class – it is generally lieutenant colonels and colonels who are getting ready for command – they have about 20 civilians in the class. It was my first entry into seeing how the military acts when there is a situation. It was interesting that all of these lieutenant colonels  and colonels who were in this classroom getting ready for command – starting their year-long class to learn strategic planning -immediately wanted to go to battle. It kind of stayed us with us for the whole year. They all felt they were not doing what they were supposed to be doing; their buddies were over there … and they were in the classroom.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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