A retired software engineer from Penn State University and life member of the Standing Stone VFW Auxiliary 1754 in Huntingdon has been elected national conductor of the American Auxiliary’s Veterans of Foreign Wars.
It’s not a job she’ll take lightly, said Donna Mills of Alexandria.
“My community and the veterans in my community mean a lot to me,” she says.
As a national officer, Mills will represent the members of the national organization and assist the national president. The position is the second of five positions leading to the national presidency, which she is expected to hold in 2026-27.
Her journey to the top began 43 years ago, when her mother, Bonnie Eichelberger, signed her up for membership in the Standing Stone VFW Auxiliary 1754 in Huntingdon to achieve her membership goals as president of the organization. Mills was 16 at the time and eligible through his grandfather, Neil F. Giffin Sr., who served in the United States Army during World War II.
After college, Mills regularly attended VFW auxiliaries meetings and her work with the group took off.
She was elected National Conductor on July 21 at the 109th National Convention in Kansas City.
In this role, she will be one of the leaders of the approximately 500,000 members of the organization. Duties will include organizing meeting rooms and storing items at the end of meetings. But these will not be small meetings, she will be working on regional conference meetings in the East, West, Big 10 and South VFW and Auxiliary conferences, departmental conventions and departmental training conferences.
“I’ve been assigned to represent Michigan, South Dakota, Maryland, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nebraska, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Nevada, to name a few. some”, she says.
Her mother said she was proud and lived through Mills’ experiences.
“I couldn’t get involved like Donna did because I had to raise a family,” Eichelberger said, noting that Mills will fill the role admirably because she is very particular, precise and committed to everything.
“She’s very outgoing and loves talking to people and doing things with veterans,” she says.
“Donna really enjoys traveling and everything with work.”
Mills’ brother Scott Eichelberger, also a member of the VFW Auxiliary, said the family had been involved with the organization for years.
“My mum was involved in the VFW Auxiliary but not nationally so it’s amazing to see Donna do this,” he said. “She does a lot for veterans and does a great job.”
Mills said some of his best experiences working with the VFW Auxiliary are in events, projects and activities that provide service to veterans and their families.
Visiting local nursing homes and hospitals, delivering food and providing transportation are small ways she lets veterans know they are not forgotten.
“The Standing Stone VFW Auxiliary 1754 does great things for veterans and their families,” said Mills.
The Auxiliary honors veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, participates in parades and memorial services, serves dinners, and provides items to veterans and families in need.
The Auxiliary also honored local fire companies and ambulance services with certificates of appreciation.
American flags are supplied by the VFW Auxiliary to companies whose flag is worn or who have requested a new one.
The auxiliary also offers scholarship competitions for local students, Mills said.
“We work with groups of young people who teach patriotism, support their activities and help our community when they need volunteers”, she added.
Mills also attended the Huntingdon County Fair with the VFW and VFW Auxiliary to conduct a membership drive.
The group provides information on Veterans Benefits and what the VFW and Auxiliaries do for Veterans and their families.
Although she will serve on the national stage, Mills is keenly aware of the needs in her own region.
Hesston, her hometown, is a rural area where agriculture is an important part of life, she said.
“The services provided here in Huntingdon County impact our country, and I wish I could find the publicity to grow and bring more residents, businesses and amenities to the area,” she says.
Mills graduated from Juniata Valley Junior-Senior High School in 1981 as valedictorian.
She continued her education at Penn State, earning a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in 1985.
She then worked for 28 years as a software engineer for Penn State in payroll and human resources.
Mills’ classmate, Wendy Spade, said Mills always did her best and made sure people were happy and thrilled with her success with the Auxiliary.
“She’s kind and she’s a hard worker” she says. “Being there to make a difference is great.”
When not busy with the VFW Auxiliary, Mills works in other locations as a member of the Methodist Church, American Legion Auxiliary 24, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks 976, of the Moose Lodge 223/220 and the Military Order of the Cooties Auxiliary 33. .