He will visit Leon R. Roberts Post 161 in Holland Patent, where he will join veterans for lunch and be available to speak to news media. In the evening, Koutz will attend a banquet in his honor at the Beeches Inn and Conference Center in Rome. During the day he will also tour the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) at Griffiss Airpark in Rome.
The national commander recently met with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the VA backlog of veterans' claims and how to turn military experience into credits for career credentials. He also demanded an investigation of the VA's handling of Gulf War Illness patients when testimony at a March Congressional hearing revealed the possibility of a coverup.
"We're looking forward to meeting the national commander and hearing what he has to say about the pressing issues facing veterans and our service men and women," said Post 161's Mikel Buczkowski, who chairs the 5th District committee coordinating the visit.
He noted that wounded warriors have a special place in the commander's heart as he has made the Legion's "Operation Comfort Warriors" his personal project. "His goal is to raise $500,000 during his year as commander, with one hundred percent of the money going directly to provide comfort items and equipment for injured troops," Buczkowski said.
Fifth District Commander William Park will serve as host for the national commander, along with New York Department Commander Timothy Van Patten.
Commander Koutz Background:
Koutz entered the United States Army in August 1969. He attended basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky., and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, Calif. In January 1970 he reported to Vietnam and served an extended tour of duty with Co. C 169th Engineer Battalion. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist 5 in March 1971 and quickly joined The American Legion. He is a member of Boonville Post 200 where his father, George, was a World War II veteran and a past commander of the post. He was honored as a life member of his Post in 1991 and served as its post commander for nine years.
Koutz retired from the Amax Coal Company in 1995 after 21 years of service. He was appointed by the Warrick County Commissioners in January 1995 as service officer for the Warrick County Veterans Affairs office. The governor of Indiana appointed him commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005 where he served as president of that commission in 2007. In January 2009 he was appointed to serve four more years.
Koutz has held elected and appointed offices in The American Legion at the post, county, district, department and national levels. As Indiana State American Legion Commander, he achieved an all-time high membership during his tenure in 1990-1991. At the national level, he served on the Foreign Relations Commission and as chairman of both the Economics and Legislative Commissions. Additionally, he is a member of the Citizens Flag Alliance and also served on the Veterans’ Planning and Coordinating Committee.