COLUMBUS — The American Legion Department of Nebraska has a new commander, and he’s ready for a busy year promoting the veterans’ organization.

David Bruckner of Columbus was elected to the position of department commander by delegates attending the American Legion’s state convention last weekend in Kearney.

The 64-year-old member of Parry Post 283 in Platte Center replaces outgoing department commander Jim Sidel of St. Paul, who served the one-year maximum term for officers.

Bruckner spent the past year training for his role as commander while serving as the American Legion Department of Nebraska senior vice commander.

He becomes just the second Platte County resident to hold the top American Legion position in Nebraska. Mike Landkamer, the current commander of American Legion Hartman Post 84 in Columbus, also served as department commander.

Bruckner was drafted in May 1968 and spent two years in the U.S. Army, including 19 months stationed on Okinawa Island during the Vietnam War.

When that war ended, Bruckner said Congress cut the amount of funding for veterans’ benefits.

“We’re not going to let that happen this time around,” he said.

Bruckner said veterans earn the benefits they receive and the American Legion plans to fight to ensure past and present military members continue to be supported, even after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are over.

This effort requires a solid Legion membership, he said, because organizations with large numbers, and the programs they support, often have more clout with federal lawmakers.

“Every commander’s goal is to increase membership,” said Bruckner, who joined the American Legion 43 years ago.

Bruckner said some veterans may not currently receive a pension or other benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but they still should work to protect these privileges.

He plans to focus his statewide recruitment effort on younger members, something with which Parry Post 283 has had success.

Of the Platte Center post’s 43 members, about 25 percent served in the military in the past 25 years, according to Bruckner.

He also hopes to increase participation in Legion-sponsored children’s programs during his year representing the organization at events across the state.

The American Legion sponsors the high school Oratorical Contest, American Legion Boys State, American Legion Auxiliary Girls State and other youth programs.

Bruckner also is a member of the Sons of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Forty & Eight and has held the Legion positions of post commander, post adjutant, county commander, district commander and department area vice commander.

Bruckner is employed by Saunders Archery in Columbus. He and his wife Ardis are members of St. Bonaventure Catholic Church.