New American Legion Post commander is opposite of any past commanders

Navy veteran Ennis "Beau" Isabeau, right, the new commander of the Bakersfield American Legion post, is the first woman to serve as commander since the Bakersfield post was started on Aug. 17, 1950. She steps into the role held for 16 years by retiring commander Pat Neal, a former Marine, left. They're also shown at top in their military service portraits.

Ennis “Beau” Isabeau

Pat Neal

Bakersfield American Legion Post 374 tore down the old building it had previously used, above, and rebuilt this new meeting hall in 2008 during Pat Neal's 16 years as commander.

South Fork resident Pat Neal, right, served in the Marine Corps from 1957 to 1967, including two tours in Vietnam. When he retired last month as commander of the Bakersfield American Legion post, his fellow Legionnaires honored him with a plaque acknowledging his work as commander from 2008 to 2024. He's shown with Post Adjutant Vince Drexelius, center, and treasurer Darrel Mahosky.

When 84-year-old Pat Neal retired as the commander of Bakersfield's American Legion Post last month after serving in that role for 16 years, the former Marine turned over the job to someone who's the opposite of any other commanders in the Bakersfield post's 73-year history. The new commander, a Navy veteran, is Isabeau Ennis. A 26-year-old woman. 

Isabeau, known to friends and family as "Beau," served with the Navy in Virginia from February 2019 to August 2022. Her official Navy job title was Master at Arms, 2d Class Petty Officer, and she served in "what other branches of the military know as military police," she said in a recent interview. She had 25 sailors and five Department of Defense law officers under her command, she said.

Isabeau is the post's first female commander, but she's not the only female veteran in the Bakersfield group. Army veterans Roberta Leaverton and Annette Angelo are also Legionnaires; Roberta's husband, Army veteran husband James Leaverton, is also a member. 

Along with her fellow Legion members, Isabeau expressed thanks to Neal for his many years of service to the group. Under Neal's leadership, the post demolished its old building and rebuilt a new one on the same site. The original structure was an old building that had been owned by the nearby Bakersfield School District. After years of use, the building was in bad shape and had no running water and no toilet facilities, Neal said, acknowledging with a chuckle that he had led the fundraising effort to replace it. "I guess I was kind of the ramrod for the deal," he said. He and his wife, Rachell, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, with other Legion members, sold more than $25,000 in raffle tickets to pay for rebuilding the Legion hall in 2008. 

Neal, who grew up in Michigan, joined the Marine Corps in 1957; his 10 years in the service included two tours in Vietnam. His grueling battle experiences there caused him to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder many years later – after he retired from the Ford Motor Co. in 2001. He and Rachell moved to this area in 2003. He joined the American Legion soon after that, and in 2008 he was named commander of the Bakersfield post. His story was told in "Veteran's memories of Vietnam include 'Ordeal of Con Thien,'" published in the Nov. 7, 2018, edition of the Times.


A Navy veteran with a dream

Isabeau grew up in California and then followed an aunt and uncle who moved to this area several years ago. Eventually her parents and two sisters made the move from California to the Ozarks too. After her honorable discharge from the Navy in August 2022, Isabeau returned to West Plains and worked as a server and bartender at Ostermeier Brewing Company, a popular microbrewery and pizza restaurant on Highway 63 south owned by her aunt and uncle. She's currently employed as a server at Ruby Tuesday's and is also working on a college degree focused on nonprofit organization management. 

When she's not working at the restaurant or tending to college assignments, Isabeau enjoys working with her two horses, rodeo horse Ronald Reagan and pleasure horse Akila Tequila. She's an experienced rodeo roper and often serves as the flag carrier at area rodeo events. 

With that kind of background, Isabeau is tossing around the idea of organizing a bull-riding show sometime in the future that could be a fundraiser for the Legion post and/or for the dream she's currently aspiring to. 

That dream was sparked by her drive to help Missouri's nearly 500 homeless veterans. With her military experience, plus her experience with horses and gig work with rodeo stock contractors, and with the knowledge of nonprofit organization management she's gaining through her college classes, Isabeau is building a nonprofit group, Wally's Warhorses Foundation, named for her Korean War veteran grandfather. She wants to house homeless veterans on a ranch and teach them farm chores and how to ride and handle horses through therapeutic riding activities. 

Her dream is to house 20 veterans and their families in each of at least three future ranches to be built across the United States, starting with a ranch near West Plains. "I'm working on getting land and funding," she said.  


'Uplifting' time at the Legion hall

Isabeau got involved with the American Legion after meeting members of the Bakersfield post when they were customers at Ostermeier Brewing Company, when she worked there. The Legion members sometimes come to the restaurant after selling fundraiser raffle tickets on Saturdays in West Plains. 

When she told her Legion customers that she had served in the Navy, they encouraged her to come to a meeting. They're always looking for new members, they told her.

Isabeau accepted their invitation and started attending Legion meetings in January 2023; she became an official Legionnaire a couple of months later. Now, a year later, she has agreed to serve as post commander, even though she is less than half the age of the 30-some other members, who are all over age 60.

She appreciates the experiences these older veterans share with each other, and with her – not only experiences about their time in the military but also their experiences in dealing with the bureaucracy of agencies and paperwork veterans need to tap into to access services and benefits. Isabeau calls it "uplifting," adding that "hanging around them and learning from them is a whole different world." The older veterans know the ins and outs of filing such things as disability claims and who to talk to at the Veterans Administration when a need arises, she said. 

"When I first got out, I didn't know how to go about these things," Isabeau said. "They pointed me in the right direction."    


Fundraising efforts and community activities

As post commander, Isabeau will continue Neal's leadership role, including how the group raises funds. Currently, members are selling raffle tickets for a Henry 44 magnum rifle that has a handcrafted wood stock made in Willow Springs. Tickets, available from any Legion member or by messaging them through the "American Legion, Post 374" Facebook page, are $1 each or six for $5. 

Legion members usually sell raffle tickets in West Plains most Saturday mornings at the farmers market at Endurance Church, 805 Worley Dr., near Hirsch's. The winning ticket will be drawn around 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, during the annual Bakersfest car show. Tickets will also be sold at that event until drawing time. 

In the past, the Legion post members have raffled other items, including different firearms and chain saws, and the auxiliary has held bake sales and fish fries, collected grocery labels and found other ways to raise money. 

The Bakersfield American Legion post uses the money it raises for scholarships awarded to selected students at Bakersfield High School. The Legion also awards medallions to graduating students who are enlisting in the military. Legionnaires participate in the school's Veterans Day events, and the post donates and replaces all the flags needed by the school. 

In the past, some of the Legion's other community-focused activities have included driving veterans to medical appointments, sending care boxes to troops serving overseas, giving Christmastime groceries and gifts to families in need, and remembering veterans in area nursing homes. Funds and gift items are also donated to other military-linked organizations such as Wounded Warriors and Tunnels to Towers, a charity that helps first responders and troops who deployed during and after 9/11. And of course funds are needed for routine expenses to keep the Legion going and for building maintenance.


For more information

The American Legion is open to all honorably discharged veterans whether they served domestically or overseas. It's also open to active-duty service members, including those serving with the Reserves and National Guard. 

Meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Legion Hall, 2 Mullins St. in Bakersfield. (The next meeting is June 13.) All veterans and active-duty servicemen and servicewomen are invited to visit and/or join, and spouses are also welcome. 

For more information about the American Legion's Bakersfield post, contact Commander Isabeau at 661-380-8244 or or Post Adjutant Vince Drexelius at 417-372-2993 or

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