In May 2007, Sons of The American Legion member Ken Kraetzer sent a routine press release to a local radio station, promoting the Memorial Day ceremonies planned by Pelham, N.Y., American Legion Post 50. A host from the station soon called Kraetzer for more details, which he happily provided. Following the ceremonies, the station called again, wanting to talk on the air about how they went. A couple of weeks later, the same station – WVOX (1460 AM) in New Rochelle – called him to discuss Post 50’s Flag Day observances. Again, Kraetzer gladly obliged.
That’s when an idea struck. Even though he had not been behind a microphone since his days of broadcasting hockey games as a student at Providence College, Kraetzer realized that a place like Westchester County, N.Y., near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, ought to produce plenty of interesting topics he could address on the radio. He provided weekly stories for over a year to morning host Bob Marrone, before the station proposed a weekly half-hour show that would focus on military issues, troop support and, of course, the programs and services of The American Legion and Sons of The American Legion.
The “Sons of The American Legion Radio Report” debuted in November 2008. Kraetzer and fellow SAL member John Chuhran, both sons of World War II veterans, later added a “Holiday Calls from the Troops” program to connect military personnel serving overseas with folks at home on special dates. Last fall, the pair launched the “West Point Football Report,” which provides in-depth coverage of the Army football program during the season.
The “SAL Radio Report” can be heard live Mondays at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on www.wvox.com (click the “Listen Live” button in the upper-left-hand corner of the WVOX website’s landing page).
Now in its third year, the show has featured a range of guests and subjects, from Boys State participants to the admiral of a U.S. Navy ship fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. “We actually had to do that one twice,” Kraetzer recalls of the interview from the ship half a world away. “They had trouble with the satellite hookup, and literally had to turn the ship in a certain direction to maximize the satellite connection.”
Kraetzer and Chuhran have interviewed American Legion national commanders David Rehbein and Clarence Hill during their years in office. Former SAL national commanders Mark Arneson and Tommy Cisna were also both on the show. The “SAL Radio Report” frequently includes interviews with troops stationed overseas, along with National Guard and reserve personnel. The show has covered Fleet Week in New York City, and has featured on-air interviews with authors, historians, politicians, actors, military support groups and others. The names of war casualties from the listening area are announced on the show, and veterans are invited to tell their stories, which are later posted on the Post 50 website. And whenever the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff, the SAL announcers make a point to explain to their listeners why.
For each show, Kraetzer publishes a report and photos at www.legionpost50ny.com. He also promotes all of WVOX’s Legion and SAL programs on his personal Facebook page. It’s a model that can be replicated anywhere, he says, pointing out that the military appreciates the exposure and listeners love hearing about the military.
“This all came about from us being proactive and seeking out the media,” Kraetzer says. “We love to be able to tell the stories of veterans.”
Kraetzer, whose day job is vice president of a financial-services marketing company, is thrilled to devote his free time to support for the Legion, the SAL, and the New York military community. “My father was an Army officer in World War II,” he explains. “He served for 20 years, and I was born at the tail end of his military career. We got him involved in The American Legion after he retired. The Legion guys were great to him. They really embraced him. And then, as his health declined, they were very good to him. He was grand marshal of our town’s Memorial Day parade. I learned about the SAL program and signed up. From then on, I have always tried to give back as much as I can.”
Whenever Kraetzer does a presentation about the show or explains what motivates him to spread the word about the Legion, “I show photos of my father,” who died in 2004, he explains.
Such is the essence of the organization to which he belongs.