As a California Department Warrant Officer, Barbara Lombrano helps veterans throughout the Golden State connect with American Legion duty officers.
For Lombrano, a member of post 502 at Moore Park, community involvement is one of the most important aspects of the American Legion. This has been one of her main missions since she became a departmental warrant officer in January 2021.
“It was important to me to make sure the Legion is present in the community to make sure the community knows what we are doing, and we are here to help community members,” Lombrano said during the Grand Monterey Firestone Prize last September. “As important as membership is, we’ve been able to connect veterans with our department service agent for the services they need to get their benefits when filing claims.”
According to Lombrano, many veterans are often afraid or hesitant to ask for all the benefits they are entitled to because they feel like they will have to hire a lawyer.
This is where the American Legion comes in.
“They ask us, ‘What is the Legion asking us to do?’ Lombrano continued. “We don’t charge them anything. I was a veteran Legion duty officer in the Los Angeles area. Our service agents are able to connect them with resources and help them file their disability claims, or maybe they have had a service-related disability before and never applied for certain things or gotten a raise in their rating or different things like that. And their family members too.
Being a veteran and a member of the Legion is something that makes Lombrano very proud. It’s part of his family heritage.
His grandfather served in both world wars. He was a Doughboy in the Army during World War I and a Seabee during World War II. Both of Lombrano’s parents served in the Navy, where they met and later married. Each of his mother’s brothers was involved in the service, including one who was a Green Beret in Vietnam.
Lombrano’s son served in the US Army for six years and is now a trauma nurse.
Lombrano joined the Navy beginning in 1983, when she started on the USS Jason as an engineering department yeoman. Some routine dental work put her on a different path when one of the dentists convinced her to become a dental technician from 1984 to 1988. She left active duty at Naval Base Coronado and entered the reserves.
She was later recalled at the start of the Gulf War in 1991. Lombrano became a hospital corpsman and served in the Middle East with the Marines for nine months.
She has 13 years of total active duty and brought that experience to the American Legion.
“At that time, what women were allowed to do in the Legion was very limited,” Lombrano said. “It’s a long way to go, but when it comes to women, there’s still a long way to go. We must do better to involve more women in the Legion. Even for me, when I was in the military and came out, I didn’t consider myself a veteran. When they think of a veteran, everyone thinks of a man sitting in a bar telling war stories.
“In the Legion itself, we are trying to rebrand ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with sitting at the bar having a drink and that camaraderie, but we’re so much more than that. For me, it’s very important for us to be in the community, for them to see what our missions are. We have to better congratulate ourselves and say that this is what we are doing for our citizens and our young people, Americanism, all these different things.
Lombrano, along with many other American Legion members in national offices and various departments around the world, hope to encourage young veterans to become members.
“We need to have more family-oriented things,” Lombrano said. “Young veterans have families and work to try to raise their families. They want things to do. They just don’t want to come to the meetings. We need to have more events that interest them and collaborate with these other service organizations.
“We also need to become more diverse. Its very important. Like anything else, diversity is what helps grow membership. Everything in life, the more diverse you are, the better the solutions you offer. We need to be more diverse.
The state of California is rich in diversity with a strong military history. Lombrano believes there are plenty of veterans in this massive state who could help the Legion grow, just by becoming members.
“Here in California, we have so many veterans and so many military bases that it amazes many of us how many veterans we could reach out to involve them in becoming members,” she said. declared. “I haven’t been through a lot of negative things. Most people seem very grateful to veterans and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make on a daily basis.
Lombrano was one of twelve members of the California Department who set up an exhibit booth and spread the American Legion’s message at WeatherTech Raceway in Laguna Seca last September. The following week, Lombrano and other members of the California department also delivered their message at the final race of the 2021 season, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Lombrano believes the combination of the American Legion with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Chip Ganassi Racing and Jimmie Johnson has given the veteran’s organization a highly visible platform to share its message.
“I’m from the south, so I grew up watching the races,” Lombrano said. “When it was offered to us at the American Legion, it was really exciting. I love the sport, but more importantly, it introduces us to the community.
“I think it’s great that Jimmie Johnson and the Legion have come together. I hope this is something that continues for years. I think it’s a good shot in the arm. I think it can help us promote ourselves. It can help promote Indy. It’s a win-win situation.