Salutes the American Legion
–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: Feb 20, 2018
A visit with Joseph Diehn Post #468
The American Legion was founded in 1919 in France to bring wartime veterans together after service. Locally, I have seen members honoring the colors at events, giving gun salutes for fallen veterans and hosting fish fries, yet I knew very little about the organization. That would quickly change after meeting Commander Joe Cafferty of the Sylvania American Legion Joseph Diehn Post #468.
The Sylvania American Legion was chartered in 1920 in the downtown Sylvania area in the building that presently houses the Sylvania Area Federal Credit Union. The Post is now located at 5580 Centennial Rd. “They purchased this property in 1972 with the intent of improving the organization’s catering business,” states Cafferty. “The Ladies Auxiliary wanted to improve catering and the post wanted to expand its offerings. The credit union building ran out of room. Space was needed especially for this time of year–fish fry season! Purchasing the new building would also allow us to hold wedding receptions. Originally, our location was out in the middle of nowhere. Sylvania has grown around us and has placed us in an unintentional good strategic location.”
At present, the Post has over 500 members, split into three membership groups. They are the Legionnaires, veterans who served during a time of war, Sons of the American Legion, consisting of sons of those who served, and the Ladies Auxiliary, who are the mothers, daughters and spouses of veterans. Cafferty explains, “There is a subgroup of the Ladies Auxiliary, called Juniors, consisting of granddaughters or daughters under the age of 18. We are excited to have members who range from 10 months old to 90 years old. We are also fortunate to have Gulf War veterans making up 50 percent of our executive board.”
One of the pillars of the American Legion is youth development. “We invest a lot in our local school systems through our Americanism Program,” states Cafferty. “In addition to that program, we provide public speakers and color guards for events. We also strive to educate kids about American history and patriotism. We give an Americanism and Government test to interested Northview and Southview students. The American Legion Americanism and Government test covers different functions of state and local government and American History. The test and essay winners are given college scholarship funds from the Post. Sylvania Southview High School student Jacob Connolly was one of the top 18 winners in the state of Ohio. The Ohio Legion sponsored him to travel to Washington D.C. We also sponsor high school juniors, after an interview process, to attend Buckeye Boys and Girls State. It is a week-long program, held at the University of Miami, that develops leadership and pride in American citizenship.”
The organization also provides flags for the Sylvania School District classrooms.
Fun and games
Among the most popular aspects of Post membership are the social activities. Corn hole, pool tournaments, potlucks, holiday parties, Walleye and Mud Hens games are enjoyed by members.
The road to leadership
Commander Cafferty, who was deployed to Iraq in 2009, became involved in the Post in 2011. “In college, I couldn’t find a place for my leadership skills. I was looking for an organization that would satisfy my desire to be part of a team and I found it here,” recalls Cafferty. “I serve veterans in multiple ways and on a bigger scale, invest in our community’s youth.
Our members and I will go beyond our walls to agencies in need and volunteer, which is also very rewarding. We now live stream meetings so vets with young kids or those who cannot attend, due to disabilities, can be part of meetings. We try to grow deeper roots and reach out to other veterans’ organizations. I think the American Legion will continue to modernize to serve modern veterans. I’m proud to be part of it.”
I couldn’t agree more. Plus, through personal experience, a visit to Post #468 on a snowy Friday night is worth the effort. The fish is amazing!