Since being chartered in 2011, Sons of The American Legion Squadron 524 in Ocean City, N.J., has grown from “humble beginnings” to regularly raise thousands of dollars for local charities.
“Back then, we didn’t even have an official Sons flag,” said Squadron 524 Commander Michael Byerly.
Now, with some 150 members of the squadron at Morvay-Miley Post 524, the squadron has been able to make substantial contributions.
Those include $1,500 to the South Jersey chapter of Heroes on the Water, a nonprofit which provides therapeutic kayak fishing at no cost to veterans, active duty personnel and first responders; and $7,500 to Operation Safe Haven, which provides 300-square-foot micro-houses to veterans so they can adapt to and overcome PTSD.
Byerly said the squadron has hosted several successful fundraisers, including beef ‘n’ beers, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts and chicken dinner. They’re also raffling a Weber gas grill for Father’s Day this year.
“However, our largest fundraiser is the Ocean City Fall Block Party where we distribute hundreds of 4x6 stick flags and accept donations,” he said. “This past year we raised over $3,500 in a single day. It has become such a tradition that families search us out to have their picture taken with ‘The Legion boys’ and their flags.”
Byerly, whose father, Ken, served in the Army in the Vietnam War, said joining the SAL “has been one of my most rewarding experiences.”
“My squadron membership has provided me the opportunity to tangibly express my gratefulness and strong respect for veterans, and especially for my father and his service. I love this country and it is an honor to proudly serve those who proudly served,” Byerly said.
“As we are all aware, engaging recent vets is difficult at best, and Legion membership is aging rapidly. The Sons provide a support structure for the Legion members and a boost to overall participation and involvement. Hopefully, in time, the young guys will join the ranks. Until that time, the Sons stand ready to fill the gap and help build for the next 100 years.”