SPRINGFIELD– of the American Legion held its 65th Annual Installation of Officers ceremony last Wednesday at the Springfield Country Club.
The American Legion is a veterans organization, established following World War I to ensure that veterans receive the benefits to which they're entitled.
"We're here to honor veterans," 1st Vice Commander Dick Phillips explained.
In a short ceremony on Wednesday night, American Legion 8th District Commander Al O'Rangers and Sergeant at Arms Deputy Commander Harry Dougherty installed legionnaires to 11 American Legion offices. The men promised to uphold the values of the American Legion, serving God, country and community.
Several members were also honored with certificates of appreciation, was honored as Legionnaire of the Year, and two honorary lifetime memberships were awarded to Chaplain Tom McGovern and 1st Vice Commander Dick Phillips.
Honoring the Flag
The Marple Memorial Post 805 was established in 1946, and since then has been active in the community, working to support fellow veterans and to serve others.
In addition to helping veterans secure benefits, legionnaires sponsor the in its entirety, volunteer at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Hospital, and occasionally run contests and games for school students.
"The kids love it," Phillips said. "We enjoy speaking with kids, answering questions…it's an interesting time for both parties, and it helps teach them about patriotism and respect for the flag."
One of the most important parts of Post 805's community service is overseeing military funeral ceremonies. So far this year, members of Post 805—as part of the Marple Newtown Combined Veterans Alliance—have served at 145 military funerals, and they expect the total for 2011 to exceed 200, said. In a recent year, Post 805 attended close to 300 funerals.
"It's nice—the people there appreciate what we're doing," Orlando said. "People don't always realize what we do. "
About 18 members of the Veterans Alliance—which includes the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Marine Corps League—are needed for each funeral, Orlando said. Seven, for example, serve on a rifle squad, two fold the American flag, one plays Taps, and another recites "In Flanders Field."
"It's basically a full-time job," said Chaplain Tom McGovern, adding that the men had attended two funeral services the previous day and one that morning, before the evening's officers installation ceremony.
McGovern served in World War II as a Navy Corpsman: a medical specialist serving Navy and Marine Corps members.
"Our job is to protect the injured," he explained.
McGovern was stationed on the beaches in the Pacific during World War II. "[It was] terrible—you see all the worst of it," he said. "… [But at the same time,] it was an extremely good experience, and as a survivor, I'm incredibly lucky."
Member Sten Dalstrom said most of the American Legion's members don't talk much about what they did in the service.
He mentioned that Orlando had been a POW during the war, and wasn't surprised that Orlando hadn't revealed that fact in his conversation with Patch.
Dalstrom shrugged. "We talk about the good times," he said.
Dalstrom was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation at Wednesday's ceremony, and McGovern and Phillips were awarded Honorary Life Memberships.
McGovern and Phillips have served in the American Legion for over 40 years, an American Legion press release said. In that time, they've served in various roles as elected officers, from sergeant at arms to historian, to chaplain and commander.
"These two men epitomize the true meaning of Legionnaire with service to God and country," states the press release. "No job is too big and no task is too small."
McGovern considers it a privilege to have served in World War II as well as to serve his fellow veterans as Post 805's chaplain.
"[There are people who] just don't understand. They weren't there—and so they can't understand...and I can't expect them to," McGovern said. "But I'm very proud of what I did for our country."
Installation of Officers:
- Jerry Sweeley, Commander
- Larry Snyder, Adjutant
- Richard Phillips, 1st Vice Commander
- Sam Malandra, 2nd Vice Commander
- Larry Snyder, Finance Officer
- Guy Orlando, Service Officer
- Tom McGovern, Chaplain
- Bob Fromm, Sergeant at Arms
- Bob Spano, Sergeant at Arms
- Barry Reese, Historian
- Ben Cope, Judge Advocate
Awards and Recognition:
- Wayne and Helene Barner (Marine Corp League) – Certificate of Accommodation
- Sten and Helen Dalstrom – Certificate of Appreciation
- Larry and Patti Snyder – Certificate of Appreciation
- Bob Spano – Legionnaire of the Year Award
- Tom McGovern, Dick Phillips – Honorary Life Membership