WEST WARWICK — A century ago, West Warwick’s American Legion Post 2 was founded with a mission that’s remained steadfast: to look out for veterans and their families.
“The nation calls upon its young men and women to go and do things in the interest of national defense,” Bob Schierschmidt said of Post 2, which on Sunday rang in its 100th year. “And when they come back, we look at them as brothers, and we never leave an injured veteran behind.”
The milestone event was celebrated Saturday with an old-fashioned picnic.
Schierschmidt, finance director of Post 2, and Post Commander Ron Kingsborough presided over the event, held in part to recognize those who’ve helped the post through the last century — among them, the West Warwick police and fire departments; Kasim Yarn, the state's director of veterans affairs; and Legionnaires who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Certificates of appreciation were also given to representatives Tom Noret and James Jackson, as well as to West Warwick Town Council President David Gosselin Jr. and Councilor Jason Licciardi Sr., and Noret and Jackson presented the post with a grant for $3,500, which Schierschmidt said will be put toward fixing the post’s walk-in cooler.
“It was really good to bring everybody together,” Schierschmidt said Wednesday, adding that he was happy to see many long-time post members and their spouses come out for the event.
“It is everybody’s post,” he continued, “and it’s always great when you can get the family together for a remembrance.”
This year isn’t just the centennial anniversary of the local post, however — 2019 also marks 100 years of the national organization.
Chartered by Congress in 1919, The American Legion over the last century has made some important contributions to the wellbeing of veterans.
Nationally, the organization worked with other veteran service programs after World War I to establish the Veterans Administration. It also fought tirelessly during World War II for passage of the G.I. Bill, aimed at helping veterans prosper after the war.
“They helped draft the G.I. Bill, and were instrumental in helping it get approved,” Schierschmidt said.
Contributions by the local post, meanwhile, were also significant.
In addition to putting flags on the graves of veterans and coordinating Veterans Day and Memorial Day observances to ensure “people don’t forget the sacrifices veterans have made,” Schierschmidt pointed out that Post 2 also works as a clearinghouse, assisting local veterans in getting whatever care they need.
“If they have issues, or need medical care, we’re there to assist,” he said.
The job of The American Legion, Schierschmidt continued, is to ensure that any veteran who needs help gets it.
Today, 375 local veterans belong to American Legion Post 2 as Legionnaires. In the auxiliary, comprised of mothers, grandmothers and sisters of veterans, there are around 30 members; 85 sons and grandsons of veterans make up the Sons of the Legion; and in the Legion Riders are around 25 members.
With 100 years of history behind it, Schierschmidt said he imagines the post will continue well into the future to do the good work it’s been doing.
“Due to the security needs of our nation, I firmly believe that the nation will always have a strong military,” he said. “And if it has a strong military, then it’s going to need veteran service organizations, like The American Legion, to give the military person support when they come off duty.”
As long as there are veterans, Schierschmidt said, American Legion Post 2 will be here.
“We must take care of our own,” he continued. “We never leave a veteran behind.”