LA GRANGE – For the first time in its 70-year history, the American Legion Robert E. Coulter, Jr. Post 1941 has selected a female veteran to be its next post commander.
Georgiann "Gigi" Callaway, a La Grange Park native and current resident, first began her work with the post 17 years ago after her 20 years of active duty with the U.S. Navy.
"This isn't my first time at the rodeo for breaking the glass ceiling," Callaway said.
Before being voted in as the post commander, Callaway served with the legion in a number of roles, including senior vice commander, junior vice commander, public relations officer and more.
Callaway said from a young age she had an interest in service to the United States and politics in general.
"I was just drawn to that," Callaway said. "My parents wanted me to go to college, and you know, sometimes you take a different journey."
After taking a year off school, Callaway decided to join the United States Navy. She said she sort of pushed her way in.
"The more that folks tried to discourage me, the more I said, no, this is what I'm going to do," Callaway said.
Looking back, Callaway said she had no idea what she was getting into, but none the less, after successfully completing basic training and two decades in the service, she's still continuing to serve through the legion.
"I needed to come to a place where people understood when I spoke about deployment and the experience," Callaway said. "The [legion members] talked my language ... and they made me feel very welcome."
Now, as she takes on her new role as post commander, Callaway said hopes her new title will help encourage fellow female veterans to join the American Legion.
"The military is about 30 to 35 percent female, unlike when I was in," Callaway said. "The female population has grown, but it's not reflected here in the American Legion."
Moving forward, Callaway said she plans to set new standards and put forth her full effort.
"It's not always easy being the first," she said.
During her time as the post commander, Callaway said she wants to keep the legion's traditions, but also try some new things.
"I'm not alone in this," Callaway said. "I have a team of officers and it's really about getting together with them ... whatever we start putting into place, [they] have to buy into because it's their baton to take next."
Callaway's installation ceremony, to be held Aug. 16, will also include the installation of the following officers; George Kurtzer as senior vice commander; Ray Hodson as junior vice commander; PC Al Krenz as adjutant; PC Joseph Delaloye at finance officer; Service Officer and Chaplain Jerry Matuch; Building Trustee PC William Manders; Executive Committeeman Fred Hartman; Wally Pidde as executive committeeman; and Len Sherwin and Don Baumgart as PC executive committeemen.