CALEDONIA, NY (WROC-TV)
The American Legion is celebrating 100 years, as is Post 255 in Caledonia. Members, veterans and family came out for a picnic to celebrate a centennial of service.
Robert Rapone, American Legion member and Vietnam Veteran says, “When you enter the military you’re taking an oath to serve this county. And when you leave the service, that oath isn’t taken away. And so many veterans still serve.”
“(Legion members) participate in a lot of phenomenal functions, from fund raising to supporting veterans who have come home, including those who have disabilities and are in need of treatment,” says Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes of the 133rd District.
Senator Pat Gallivan of the 59th Senate District feels the same way adding , “What strikes me is not so much their service to the country, that in and of itself deserves incredible appreciation and gratitude. But beyond that, they came back, joined the Legion and continue to serve.”
Mel Keenan, the Commander of Post 255, says a lot of the fundraising and volunteer efforts go beyond just Caledonia. He says, “We help out with a lot of organizations. We try to give back. We give to the Veterans Outreach Center, we give to the VA hospitals in Batavia and Canandaigua every year.”
More members are needed to keep that community service momentum going, as the American Legion’s numbers have dwindled over the years. The Legion Act was passed by President Trump last month, expanding membership to six million veterans. Beforehand, the Legion’s requirements for acceptance were limited to those who served in major conflicts.
Laura Stradley with the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester says she’s hoping this move will be the first of more action and awareness to get veterans access to greater benefits.
Stradley’s praising the act for, “Recognizing that America is in so many conflicts between wars, and inbetween World War II and the Korean War and so on, we have been in so many conflicts. Particularly in the 1980’s… Grenada, Lebanon, and in the 1990’s Panama. People died in those conflicts and weren’t recognized.”
She adds, “This Legion Act in my opinion is ideally going to pave the way to level the playing field for all veterans in terms of veteran benefits and health care and so forth.”