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Post #89: Mt. Angel American Legion presented with Special Service award

By Melissa Wagoner

Although the Mt. Angel American Legion Post #89 was founded back in 1934, many of the 26 names on the original charter and the 28 names on the memorial, dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, are family names – still familiar to those living in Mt. Angel today, according to Jeff Leighty, a Legion member. And the same holds true for the names of those 62 men and women who are current members of the Legion as well.

“They are loved ones and neighbors,” he said. “They are business owners, first responders and civic leaders.
They are veterans.”

Because the members of the Legion make up such a large segment of the Mt. Angel population, and because they are, almost without exception, members of many volunteer groups and charities, the Mt. Angel Legion is receiving a Special Service Award from the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re really community oriented – more than most,” Legion member Martha Kosel said.

Some of the services the Legion provides to the community include: the placing of the American flag throughout town during holidays and at each veteran’s gravesite on Memorial Day; providing a color guard for veterans’ memorial services, parades and celebrations and the sponsorship of scholarships.

“We’re just a great bunch of [people],” Legion Commander Joe Borschowa said. “Everybody helps and works together.”

The American Legion, whose members are made up of veterans who served during designated war-times, will celebrate its 100th birthday this month.

“We’re a home-away-from-home for veterans no matter what the branch is,” Kosel described. “You have a warrior friend in the Legion.”

That sense of community and comradery are the main reason many veterans joined.

“In 1946 being a veteran was pretty popular so I followed the crowd,” Dick Maley, a World War II veteran related.

But other members have a different and slightly more somber reason for getting involved.

“I joined in memory of the former veterans that I served with,” 86-year-old Bob Sticha, a US Air Force veteran who served during the Korean War said. “We all pledged our life to bring back the liberty that we fought for. It was a great honor.”

Much like Sticha, the men and women of the Mt. Angel Legion take pride in the services they have provided – and continue to provide – for their country.

Leighty may have put it best in his nomination letter when he wrote, “The awards of our members, past and present, are too many to list. Military awards for service and for valor since World War I have been bestowed upon every member of our organization. Many come home after serving to become valued and influential citizens of Mt. Angel. Some have also received special recognition in the past from the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce. The men and women of Post 89 represent every branch of the Armed Services. All are proud to have served. All continue to serve their community.”

A brief history of the American Legion and Mt. Angel Post #89

On Nov. 11, 1918 (now known at Veterans Day), the US State Department issued the statement, “The armistice has been signed,”marking the formal end of the Great War hostilities.

Many troops remained in Europe into 1919 awaiting orders to rotate home. A group of officers, with the support
of General Pershing and Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., met in France, ultimately leading to the Paris Caucus meeting of March 15-17, 1919, which eventually led to the formation of the American Legion.

The purpose of the Paris Caucus was to plan an association of Great War Veterans. The Legion was chartered by the U.S. Congress on Sept. 16, 1919 as a patriotic Veterans organization, focusing on service to Veterans, service members, and communities.

Paris Post #1 was formed on Dec. 13, 1919, with most of its members being members of the American Expeditionary Forces. Post #1 has been in continuous operation since its inception, except for 1941 – 1945 because of German occupation.

There are more then 13,000 American Legion posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments, one for each state, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Mt. Angel Post #89 was chartered August, 1934, with 26 members. A Salem architect designed the building in 1935. It was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) about 1936, and formally dedicated about 1938.

Construction of the building was about to begin, or had started, when it was said that Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects can only be on government entity properties.

The property was owned by the Mount Angel Abbey. The Abbey sold the footprint of the building plus five feet to Marion County for $10. Thereafter building was owned by the Post, the property by Marion County.

In 1985 the county, following a property review, essentially quit claimed the property to the American Legion. But, the American Legion itself does not own property, the individual Posts own the property, buildings and associated improvements.  In 1986 Marion County amended the transaction record to read American Legion Mt. Angel Post #89.

— Jim Kosel

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