Focus on service: State legions officials want more done for veterans

Department Commander Timothy J. Collmer, left, is welcomed by Chautauqua County Commander Kirk L. Miller.

BROCTON — Chautauqua County’s American Legions were host to a group of dedicated state commanders and presidents over the weekend.

Department Commander Timothy J. Collmer, State Auxiliary President Karen St. Hilaire, and New York Detachment Commander for the Sons of the American Legion Peter DeAngelis were greeted by area legionnaires, Auxiliary and Sons members at the J.W. Dill American Legion Post 434. The three top leaders from Legion Headquarters in Troy enjoyed learning the many stories of the region, and the people who live here.

One such story was told by Stan Kawski, Chautauqua County Legion Chaplain, and longtime Adjutant at Brocton Post 434 at the request of County Commander Kirk Miller about the unique statue of Abraham Lincoln that keeps a watchful eye on the 434 dining hall. Kawski told of long-past legionnaires finding the statue discarded along the roadside and rescuing it to the confines of the legion post.

Other quips were shared about military service, growing up in a military family and the rigors of holding legion offices. To sum it up, it was a family table discussion over a meal sponsored by the county and provided by the talented Brocton Auxiliary. To conclude the lunchtime event, The county commander, and his Fourth Vice Commander Mattie McIntyre, who is also a member of the Brocton Auxiliary as well as Post 434 Commander, took the entourage for photos with the famed “Pink Elephant” at 21 Brix Winery in Portland. Owner of 21 Brix Kris Kane has been a supporter of veterans and their families in Northern Chautauqua County, offering employment opportunities as well as monetary support for area veterans’ programs.

As the evening hours were reached the day-long visit continued with a gala-event and testimonial dinner held at Fredonia Memorial Post 59 under the supervision of Post Commander Denise Puskar. The National Anthem was sung by Marencia Bohn of Dunkirk, and the Master of Ceremonies was John Miga, of Dunkirk Post 62 and a future candidate for New York State American Legion Department Commander.

From left, Timothy Collmer, New York state Department Commander, Karen St. Hilaire, state Auxiliary President and Peter DeAngelis, Sons of the American Legion state Detachment Commander, stand in front of the elephant at 21 Brix.

During the program, Pete DeAngelis spoke about the honor and pride he had to be leading the Sons of the American Legion and how this area’s squadrons were reaching high marks for membership and recorded activities. He acknowledges his father, a twice Purple Heart recipient from World War II for instilling in him the discipline and ability to remain dedicated to such a worthwhile organization.

Next to the podium was President St. Hilaire who also lamented about her family’s relationships to military service including her deceased husband who died from complications related to his service in Vietnam. Her message was about remaining united in the legion family and the importance of providing quality support to America’s veterans.

It was then time for Collmer to speak to the delegation of legionnaires about his thoughts as they relate to what was and possibly still is an increase in veteran suicides. He is championing the National Legion incentive of “Be the One!” that sets up training, advocacy, and peer to peer contact with veterans who may be in crisis. He also spoke about keeping informed about legislation both state and federal that may affect veteran’s lives. He concluded with thanks for the hospitable time the legion family provided him here in this corner of the world.

Other notable comments made from distinguished guests were proclamations of appreciation from the office of State Sen. George Borello and James Feldman, a representative of County Executive P.J. Wendel, who expressed how thankful the executive has always been that the Legion assists him whenever called upon.

Fredonia Mayor Mike Ferguson stated he was in full agreement that area veterans deserved more than they were receiving after their service to the country, and exclaimed about his research for possible additional tax exemptions for veterans who live locally. The evening was ended with presentations of gifts and by the singing of God Bless America where the entire assembly took part.

The Abraham Lincoln statue with the department commander’s cap and coin.

The American Legion is a veterans association that provides support for veterans benefits and additional support to their families in many ways to include financial, medical, educational and employment opportunities.

They perform funeral ceremonies and Flag Education as well as sponsoring other special youth programs. The Legion advocates for veteran’s rights through endorsing and lobbying for legislation on behalf of veterans. They also fully support patriotism for our country. Legion posts are found in a vast array of locations, and membership is open to any veteran who is actively serving or has been discharged under “honorable conditions.”

The American Legion family extends those memberships to spouses’ sons and daughters through key partner associations, such as the SAL and Auxiliary. Additional information can be obtained at any Legion Post, or by going to http://www.legion.org.


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