In addition to the national commander and vice commanders, six national constitutional officers are appointed annually by vote of the National Executive Committee. They are the adjutant, treasurer, judge advocate, historian, chaplain and sergeant-at-arms. Officers elected by the national convention take office upon adjournment and serve until the end of the next convention.
Responsibilities of national officers:
Daniel S. Wheeler, National Adjutant
The administrative head of the organization, the adjutant oversees National Headquarters and all other national offices. He is charged in the Legion by-laws with administering the policies and mandates of the national convention and the National Executive Committee.
Daniel S. Wheeler is the national adjutant of The American Legion, a post he has held since October 2008. Prior to becoming national adjutant, he served as executive director of National Headquarters in Indianapolis (1995-2008). He joined the National Headquarters staff in 1979, during which time he served as The American Legion Magazine assistant editor (1979-1980), managing editor (1980-1981), assistant publisher/editor (1981-1985), publisher/editor in chief (1985-1995) and (2001-2007).
From 1994-2009, Wheeler also served as president of the Citizens Flag Alliance, devoting significant time to managing and administering this not-for-profit, nonpartisan coalition of civic, fraternal, veteran, business and labor organizations. The Citizens Flag Alliance's goal is to pass a constitutional amendment returning to Congress the power to protect the U.S. flag from intentional acts of physical desecration.
Wheeler was a U.S. Navy sonarman and journalist during the Vietnam War. His previous professional positions include staff writer for the U.S. Navy magazine All Hands; editor of the Navy Editorial Service; and staff member of Direction magazine.
Wheeler, a native of Richmond, Va., lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Kathy. He is a past president of the Veterans Day Council of Indianapolis, and a member of American Legion Post 137 in Virginia, the Indianapolis Rotary Club, and Mensa.
George A. Buskirk, National Treasurer
The treasurer is custodian of the Legion's funding. Duties include signing checks, making financial reports and performing other duties appropriate to the office.
George A. Buskirk Jr. was appointed national treasurer of The American Legion on Sept. 10, 1998, during the 80th National Convention in New Orleans.
Buskirk, a major general in the National Guard, currently serves as legal counsel to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and served as adjutant general of the State of Indiana under Governor Frank O'Bannon from 2001-2004. He is a member of American Legion Frank McKinney Post 510 in Indianapolis. Buskirk, who joined the Guard in 1977, served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps during the Vietnam War. He is a retired senior vice president and trust officer for Union Federal Savings Bank, and past president of the Indiana War Memorial Commission.
An Indianapolis native who resides in Zionsville, Ind., Buskirk holds a bachelor's degree in business from Butler University and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from Indiana University Law School. He and his wife, Maureen, have three children.
Philip B. Onderdonk, National Judge Advocate
The judge advocate advises national officers and the National Executive Committee on legal matters, including the interpretation of the national constitution and by-laws.
Philip B. Onderdonk Jr. was appointed national judge advocate of The American Legion by then-National Commander Keith A. Kreul in 1983.
Onderdonk, a member of American Legion Post 183 in Parkville, Md., served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He earned the Bronze Star as a contracting officer.
A 1965 graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Onderdonk earned his law degree, with honors, from the University of Maryland Law School in 1969. He is a member of the Maryland Bar Association, the Indiana Bar Association, the Washington, D.C. bar association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
He has been admitted to practice before the bar in all courts of Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Indiana and Maryland. He is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Circuit Court for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th, D.C. and federal circuits.
Prior to his appointment as national judge advocate, Onderdonk was marketing and staff attorney for Crown Central Petroleum Corp. of Baltimore. His previous experience includes staff attorney for Mobil Oil Corp. in Philadelphia and Valley Forge, Pa., and law clerk for U.S. District Judge J. William Ditter Jr. of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Onderdonk and his wife, Ann, live in Carmel, Ind. They have two children.
Harvey H. Klee, National Chaplain
The chaplain performs spiritual nonsectarian services as may be necessary, adhering to ceremonial rituals as approved by the Legion. The chaplain oversees memorial services at each national convention, opens and closes national meetings with appropriate prayers, and frequently gives guidance and leadership to the religious-emphasis program of the Americanism Commission.
Harvey H. Klee was appointed national chaplain of The American Legion on Sept. 1 during the 2016 National Convention in Cincinnati.
Klee is a U.S. Navy Korean War veteran who served aboard the aircraft carrier, Philippine Sea-CV47. He has served as a domestic missionary working among drug addicts and was active in designing training programs for inmates at the California Institute for Men in Chino, Calif., and providing job placement opportunities in private industry. He is the founder of the Texas Chaplains Association, author of “A Chaplain's Story,” 2nd Ed., and a Texas Boys State Manual and Guide, and he regularly conducts workshops for fellow chaplains.
He has been appointed as the Department of Texas chaplain nine times, more than any chaplain in the history of the department and serves concurrently in that position. He also has served as division chaplain 11 times, district chaplain for 18 years, and as Texas Boys State chaplain.
Paul D. Bennett, National Historian
The historian is responsible for Legion history and helps department and post historians coordinate, unify and promote their work. The national historian is assisted by the organization's librarian and archivist.
Paul D. Bennett of Sedalia, Mo., was appointed national historian of The American Legion on Sept. 1 during the 2016 National Convention in Cincinnati.
An Army veteran, Bennett is a member of George A. Whiteman Memorial Post 642 in Sedalia. He has served as the post commander and district commander twice, as the department’s western vice commander, and he was elected as the Department of Missouri’s historian in 2001. Bennett also was selected as the department’s Legionnaire of the Year in 2012.
Kevin J. Owens, National Sergeant-at-Arms
The sergeant-at-arms preserves the order at national meetings and performs such other duties as may be assigned by the National Executive Committee or national officers.
Kevin J. Owens of North Bend, Ore., was appointed national sergeant-at-arms of The American Legion on Sept. 1 during the 2016 National Convention in Cincinnati.
A U.S. Coast Guard retiree, Owens is a member of Bay Area Post 34. He has served as the Department of Oregon commander.