Commander/Service Officer: Dennis Gardner
Born at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Dennis grew up in Southern California. His first job was at Knott’s Berry Farm, as a train bandit. He entered naval service August 1977, at the height of the cold war and volunteered for the Submarine Service, during Boot Camp, in San Diego.He arrived in Groton, Connecticut, the home of the U.S. Submarine fleet, in time for the blizzard of 1978 which closed the state for five days. As he was completing Underwater Fire Control class “A” school, in April, with snow still on the ground, he chose to train on an aging combat system, only on submarines in Hawaii and left for the islands that June. After completing his training, he was assigned to the USS Patrick Henry (Gold) crew. He made five 90 day patrols before again heading back to Groton, as an instructor. He taught Submarine tactics and weapons employment at the officer submarine school for 18 months before being sent back to the Pacific and the USS Haddock out of San Diego, making one six-month Western Pacific deployment and taking the Haddock to Mare Island shipyard near San Francisco. Again fate intervened, the senior Fire Controlman on the USS Sargo, was injured in a car accident and the Navy needed a replacement quickly. With 21 days notice he packed up his family and moved back to Pearl Harbor. To report to one of the oldest submarines in the U.S. fleet. The Sargo was so old he was told they were not going to deploy again. After two deployments and taking the Sargo into the shipyard for decommissioning he was assigned to Submarine Squadron 7 staff as Senior Combat Systems Assistant to the Commodore. Dennis spent three years responsible for the conventional and nuclear weapons inspection and training of ten submarines. When it came time to once more return to sea he again moved to San Diego and the USS Louisville, which he took to Desert Storm and another Western Pacific deployment. He spent the last four years, of his 20-year career, in San Diego, assigned the Fleet Technical Support Center, supervising 33 technicians and responsible for the combat readiness of all submarines in the Pacific fleet, which required two scheduled trips to Hawaii and one to Bangor, Washington each year where he was on 24-hour notice to fly anywhere in the Pacific to assist in the repair of a submarine. As a civilian he held a position at Intel for over 8 years, bringing him to Arizona, where he inspected product for defects smaller than the head of a pin. Currently, Dennis is enjoying his second retirement driving for LYFT and representing the Joe Foss Institute, for almost two years, visiting schools to educate the students on civic responsibility and patriotism.
Finance Officer: Steve Preston –
Steve joined the Navy in 1990 as an 18 year old and was enlisted as a Radioman. His first duty station was at COMPATWING ONE Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan where he served for 2 years. He was then sent to the USS Pyro(AE-24) home ported in Concord, California. He was fortunate enough to be part of the decommissioning crew of the USS Pyro. After decommissioning the USS Pyro, Steve went back to Okinawa, Japan for another 4 years at NAVCOMDET (Naval Communications Detachment) Okinawa, Japan. During this time, the Radioman rating was converted into IT(Information Systems Technician). When his tour was done in Okinawa, he arrived onboard the USS Peleliu(LHA-5) for a 4 your tour. During this time he made several deployments including being on the first ship carrying Marines that arrived in the Persian Gulf after 9/11. He also obtained his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist(ESWS) and Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist designations(EAWS). When his tour was completed, he was assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE(ACB-1) in Coronado, California. During this tour he was deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Steve finished his illustrious 20 year Naval career on the USNS Mercy(T-AH19) Hospital ship home ported in San Diego, CA. He made 2 humanitarian deployment missions to the Southeast Asia in support of Pacific Partnership missions. He retired in March 2010 as an E-6, IT1(SW/AW), with full benefits.
1st Vice Commander & Adjutant: John ‘Radar’ Meyer
Radar is a native of Texas who graduated from high school in Mesa, AZ, enlisting in the U.S. Army through the delayed entry program just three days after graduating from high school. He served at Ft. Rucker, Alabama for aviation school (Air Traffic Control), a year in Bosnia in 1999 and a year in Iraq in 2003, as part of the ‘first wave’ into that country. He retired as an E-7 in 2010 after nearly 22 years of service to his nation. He has been a member of Post 97 since 2011. His wife, Elizabeth, has also been involved with Post 97 and Auxiliary programs.
2nd Vice Commander: Gary Weber
Minnesota resident Gary Weber joined the US Navy in 1965 and served for 23-1/2 years in a number of positions including sea duty, recruiting and law enforcement, working up through the enlisted ranks and retiring as a chief warrant officer in 1988. After retirement Gary earned a BS degree in business administration and worked in the state of Washington in a variety of careers serving veterans. Gary was a member of the Washington State Guard for 11 years (1994-2005) and was advanced to Chief Warrant Officer O3 (CWO3) and retired as a Captain in 2004. His highest position was as the Executive Officer for the 1st Infantry Battalion, WSG. Gary is a life member of the Military Officers Association of America (since 1986 – prior to The Retired Officers Association); a life member of Disabled American Veterans (since 1999); and has served in the American Legion prior to moving to San Tan Valley as a permanent resident in May of 2012.
Sergeant-at-Arms: James R. Green, Sr.
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Jim served in the US Navy from 1962-1966 on the USS Forrestal as a boiler-man 3rd class. A life time member of the VFW, Jim joined American Legion Post 97 when he and his wife retired and relocated to San Tan Valley in 2007to be closer to their two children and their families.
Chaplain: Christopher Connell – Phone: 480-434-0042
Chris served honorably in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2015. His MOS was 27D (Paralegal). Most of his experience was in Legal Assistance, and served as the sole paralegal for a Combat Support Hospital (CSH) for two years.
He came to the Lord in 2011. Since then he has done street preaching at the Alamo (San Antonio, Texas) and currently serves as the audio/visual technician and is the church librarian for Grace Christian Fellowship in Queen Creek, AZ. He’s a member in good standing with the National Certified Chaplain Association.
Public Relations Officer/Historian: Angela Smith
Angela was born and raised in Maryland. She joined the US Army when she turned 17 and went on active duty just after her 18th birthday. She served at Ft. McClellan, AL; Ft. Hood, TX; Ft. Campbell, KY; Ft. Belvoir, VA; Mannheim and Stuttgart Germany and Ft. Lee, VA. She was a Power Generation and Vehicle Mechanic, a Driving Instructor, Unit Training NCO, Company Supply Sergeant, Battalion Property Book NCO and a key player in the disbanding of the 2nd Armored Division at Ft. Hood, TX. Her last 3 years of service was as an Instructor and Technical Writer for the US Army Quartermaster Corp at Ft. Lee, VA where she wrote course material for and trained new and reclassified soldiers how to perform their duties as Supply Specialists. She moved to Arizona in 2007 and currently resides in San Tan Valley, AZ.
American Legion Riders: Robert Lafler
Robert Lafler is a United States Air Force combat veteran who served as a B-52 Navigator in the Gulf War. Robert now serves his community as Chief Administrative Officer for Reflections Hospice; President of Sunrise Points of Light Foundation; and Director of San Tan Valley Post 97 American Legion Riders Chapter. Robert is married to Sandee Lafler and together they have raised three children and have three grandchildren.
American Legion Auxiliary: Linda Moore
Linda Moore American Legion Auxiliary Unit 97 President. Mrs. Moore has serverd as the Auxiliary President several times in multiple units. She transferred from Unit 129 of Queen Creek, Arizona as a charter member of Unit 97. Mrs. Moore works closely along side unit members and schools to send high school juniors to Girl’s State. Throughout her various terms as Unit President, unit members have been involved with Relay for Life, The Reservation School of Blackwater, TRIAD for Seniors of Pinal County and direct service to our community and veterans. Mrs. Moore has also held the position of District 4 President.
Immediate Past Commander: Robert Krumwiede
Robert Krumwiede was born and raised in Illinois, graduating Fenton High School in 1968. He joined the Navy in April of 1969, going to boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Base. Bob completed the usual training courses for Naval Aviators and reported to Naval Squadron VP-11, home ported in Brunswick, Maine. In 1972 his unit were deployed to Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Philippines for duty in Vietnam. He was discharged in 1973, got married in 1974, had his first daughter and reenlisted in the Navy in 1976 spending that tour in Hawaii with VP-6. After getting out of the Navy the second time Bob went to work for the U.S. Postal Service. He was a Letter Carrier, on the job instructor and a vehicle mechanic for them and retired in 2005 with 32 years of government service. Bob joined the American Legion in Virginia and has been busy ever since. He is a Past Commander for Post 97 and is currently the Department Baseball Chairman and the District 4 (Pinal County, AZ) Commander.
Finance Officer: Tony Gunderson – Phone: 507-459-2879
A native of Minnesota, Tony spends most of his time living in Magic Ranch with summers in Minnesota. Tony served in the U.S. Army 1966-1972 as a member of the National Guard providing mechanical support for vehicles. He has been a member of the American Legion for 45 years and served as an officer in his Minnesota post as well as commander for the District. Tony is retired and he and his wife have two sons who live in San Tan Valley with their families.