Hundreds of Department of Indiana American Legion Family members spent their Sunday together to sample chili, play putt-putt golf and other games, support hurricane victims, thank veterans for their service, turn in membership cards, and remember the men and women who lost their lives 16 years ago on Sept. 11. The department’s third annual Legion Day on Sept. 10 was about the Legionnaires, Sons of The American Legion, Auxiliary and Legion Riders coming together as a Legion Family.
“The whole idea is to promote our family relationship. That’s how we grow our Legion – with a good family relationship,” said Department Commander Marty Dzieglowicz.
Legion Day was filled with activities for the whole family to enjoy, such as bounce houses, Frisbee golf, a putt-putt contest and corn hole, as well as a bake sale hosted by the Auxiliary, a chili cook-off, and a 53-foot trailer to collect donations to support the department's relief efforts for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. By day's end, the trailer was filled with water, baby diapers, formula, bleach and more, and over $15,000 was given in monetary donations. And another $4,000 was donated to the Legion's National Emergency Fund.
The trailer is headed to the Department of Florida’s headquarters in Orlando on Wednesday to begin aiding in relief efforts.
“Make no mistake of the dedication, generosity and commitment to continue service displayed by you – our American Legion Family. We will always have a direct impact on our fellow Americans in their time of need,” Dzieglowicz said. “I would like to applaud all of you. We just don’t say the words, we live them -- we do change lives.”
Donations raised from the bake sale and chili contest, where all 11 districts had sample tastings of their chili for at least a $1 donation, went toward the department's Veterans Emergency Transition System, which provides emergency funds to veterans in need. Between the bake sale and chili, more than $1,200 was raised for the program. 10th District Commander Dave Mummert said that what made his chili special was the two types of sausages (hot and mild), three types of beans and leaving it to simmer for three days. The 6th District said its chili was unique because it was made by a former Army cook. But in the end, the 7th District won the chili contest thanks to the highest number of donations collected - $350.
Adding to the numbers were the amount of membership cards turned in – 1,100. “Strength through membership is what the Legion is all about,” Dzieglowicz said. “The more members we have, the more we can do for our community, state and nation.”
The number of “thank a veteran” postcards written by attendees ended up at 1,139. The cards, a service project of SAL Detachment Commander DeWayne “Dewey” Long, will be distributed to veterans in nursing homes and at hospitals by SAL and Auxiliary members.
“My theme is ‘See a vet thank a vet,’” Long said. “I’m asking all of my SAL members when they go out and see someone that has a veteran's hat, on to walk up to them and say ‘thank you’ because a lot of vets haven’t heard that enough. Deliver postcards to hospitals. Anything we can do to make sure the veterans know that we appreciate them, that’s what it’s all about.”
Prior to the conclusion of Legion Day, attendees congregated to pay their respects to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and the men and women who are serving their country in the Global War on Terrorism.
“We mourn their deaths and feel a terrible sense of loss for all the families who must endure this for the rest of their lives,” Dzieglowicz said. “We are an organization of veterans who understand firsthand the mental, physical and spiritual toll on our young men and women who wear the cloth of our nation. And we are not just a bunch of old vets … we are the parents of those who have to fight this war. We have invested body and soul in the American way.”
The department’s annual Legion Day was successful and its mission accomplished: community service, membership, honoring Patriot Day and coming together as a family.
“It’s part of being a family; this is a good thing that The American Legion does,” said Past National Commander Jim Koutz. “It’s what we are here for.”
Department Auxiliary President Judy Morris agreed. “This is Family Day and we are an American Legion Family,” she said.