Chante Brown, 42, remembers when she first realized her then stay-at-home mother, Cassandra Belfield, was ambitious.
“I was 8 or 9,” said Brown of Capitol Heights. “She just said to me one day, ‘I’m going to join the Army’.”
On Sunday, Cassandra Belfield, 65, of Bowie, became the first woman to be sworn in as commander at Maryland American Legion Post 275 in Glenarden. She has been a member of the post since 2009.
John McGee, a member of the American Legion Post for 25 years, said there are no requirements regarding how long someone must be a member before they can run for office. But, he said, “it’s usually people that’s been there awhile.”
Nadine Seeney, the post’s historian, said she was the first woman ever elected to an office within the Glenarden post’s executive committee in 2011, when she became the post’s service officer.
The 50-year-old organization is dedicated to volunteering in the community and helping veterans, said Seeney, who lives in Washington, D.C.
Belfield said she plans to meet with the executive committee before deciding exactly what needs to be changed, but she said she will continue focusing on increasing membership to the nearly 1,000 member post and organize volunteer events to help the community and veterans. She said she ran for the position because she wanted to help the community and other veterans, and thought her strengths were in her ability to lead.
Four other women were sworn into officer positions for the nine-member executive committee after May 31 elections, Seeney said. Three women served on the executive committee for the 2012 to 2013 year.
“It’s a good change for the post because women have a tendency to be more focused multi-taskers,” Seeney said. “[Belfield] is a strong woman, I think she’ll be a good commander.”
Belfield served in the Army from 1978 to 1982 and is a federal government retiree and is a mother of two, a grandmother of 10 and a great grandmother of two. In addition to her Post 275 duties, Belfield is president of the Lake Arbor Social Seniors group.
She said she joined the American Legion in 2009 after visiting it with a friend.
“I went there and it was great fellowship with people similar to me,” Belfield said. “I decided I wanted to get involved in the American Legion other than just going there to visit.”
She became the first female vice commander of the post in 2011, a stint that encouraged Howell Leftwich, a member and former vice commander of American Legion Post 275, to push her to run for commander.
“The time was right. Her position as first vice commander showed me she had leadership qualities,” Leftwich said.
Belfield said she has been inspired by comrades at other posts, some of whom have volunteered with the legion for 20 to 30 years.
“To see their commitment — it just makes you want to be just like them,” said Belfield, who added that she volunteered with one man in his 90s who has been handing out toiletries at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital every Wednesday for more than 30 years.
“The people in the organization — they sort of like charge me up when I see them doing things and I listen to what they’ve done, because I’m new,” Belfield said. “I’m the new kid on the block.”