Story by: Tim Sproles - Photos by: Jack and Tim Sproles
If you heard live music playing over the weekend in Crawfordsville, chances are that it was coming from Crawfordsville Post 72.
On Saturday, September 15th, The American Legion Family at Crawfordsville Post 72 held a special “Bluesfest” benefit for the American Legion program, Operation Comfort Warriors.
As you may already know, Operation Comfort Warriors is a program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured or ill military personnel by providing them with comfort items not usually supplied by the government.
Past National Commander of The American Legion, Jim Koutz, who created the OCW program during his command year (2012-13), said, “Every dollar that is donated to Operation Comfort Warriors goes to benefit the program and bring comfort to our wounded servicemembers”.
The Legion Family at Post 72 weren’t the only ones who came out to enjoy to the program.
“We had a lot of vendors come out to give us a hand. The fine folks at Backstep Brewing Company and Jordan’s Ribs set up vendor booths to serve up food and drinks,” said Rodney Strong, Commander of The American Legion Department of Indiana. “We also had a representative from Andretti Autosport bring one of their IndyCar’s as a display.”
Of course, you can’t talk about Bluesfest without talking about these outstanding bands.
Cmdr. Strong said, “The 72 Blues Band kicked off the show and we were off to the races. We also had the Gordon Bonham Blues Band and the Monte Keller Blues Trio. Both of those bands played longer sets because everyone was having such a great time.”
A great time that raised a lot of money. Admission for the event was only set at a $5 minimum donation, but may of the people who came, gave more than that.
“We had a lot of people tell us to keep the change after they handed us a larger bill,” said Rick Mitchell, Chairman for Bluesfest. “People were there to have a good time, but they also know how important the OCW program is. The generosity of this community was on full display”.
Legionnaires from Post 72 were able to hand PNC Koutz a check for $7,100 to go towards OCW, but the post wasn’t done yet.
“The event ran all the way through mid-night and we kept collecting donations throughout the evening,” said Cmdr. Strong. We were able to raise an addition $1,000 before the end of the night.”
After the success of Bluesfest, the Legion Family at Post 72 plans on holding other events just like it.
For more information on the Operation Comfort Warriors program, Click Here.
Story by: John Sarnecki
Pictured above with the awards are President of ESW, Inc., Larry Caldwell Sr., Past Department of Indiana, American Legion Commander Marty Dzieglowicz, and the 1st District American Legion Employment Committee Chairman John Sarnecki. All three Legionnaires are members of the East Chicago, American Legion Allied Post 369.
ESW, Custom Training & Engineering Services Inc. out of Crown Point, Indiana was recently recognized for going above and beyond when it comes to hiring veteran employees.
During The American Legion Department of Indiana’s annual State Convention, held on July 15, 2018 in Indianapolis, the company was awarded two Employer of the Year Awards. They were presented the “Employment of Older Workers” and the “Employment of Veterans” State Awards.
ESW was nominated for these awards by American Legion Allied Post 369, of East Chicago, Indiana.
The company earned accolades for employment from the national headquarters of The American Legion.
During the 100th annual American Legion National Convention held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ESW, Inc. President Larry Caldwell was also presented with the “National Employment of Older Workers’ Award on August 25, 2018.
For over 30 years, ESW, Inc. has provided custom-designed training programs that utilize the skills of Older Workers and Veterans, in the development and training of Maintenance and Operational personnel locally and across the country.
The American Legion Department of Indiana is comprised of more than 77,000 military service veterans who have served honorably during times of conflict in defense of their nation and has been active within Indiana since 1919. The Indiana American Legion has represented veterans from every major conflict since World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan within its membership.
Photos by Tim Sproles and Steve DeFeo
Legion Family members from all over the state traveled to Minneapolis Minnesota for the 100th Annual National Convention from August 24th through the 30th. Photos include:
The National American Legion Color Guard Competition, where the Indiana SAL squad did a fantastic job representing the Hoosier state. They are also the very first Indiana SAL color guard it compete in this competition.
The National Convention Parade. Unfortunately, the parade was moved indoors to the convention center due to bad weather in the area. The Indiana Legion, SAL and Auxiliary were loud and proud to let everyone know that the Indiana Legion Family was coming through.
There are also photos from the Indiana Legion Family Casino Cruise. It was a great night to celebrate the accomplishments of our Legion Family with food, fun all while enjoying the view from the Mississippi River.
The National American Legion Color Guard Competition
The National Convention Parade
The Indiana Legion Family Casino Cruise
Photos by Tim and Paris Sproles
The American Legion Department of Indiana recently partnered with the Indianapolis Indians for Family Day at Victory Field on August 12th. Legionnaire, Sons of The American Legion members and Auxiliary member were invited to come out for a fun day at the ballpark. Department Commander, Rodney Strong threw out the first pitch and The Meek Sisters, Auxiliary Members of Mooresville Post 103, sang the National Anthem. Cmdr. Strong also made a trip up to the broadcast booth for an interview with award winning broadcaster and “Voice of the Indianapolis Indians”, Howard Kellman.
Story by: Tim Sproles
Cadets of the Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy listen to a Indiana State Police instructor run through the duties involved with police k-9 units. The Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy, provides first-hand experiences and insight into the operations of law enforcement agencies. The program also affords these highly motivated young people an opportunity to consider law enforcement as a potential career choice. Photo by Tim Sproles
The American Legion Department of Indiana celebrated the first graduating class of its newest program, the Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy.
The Academy started with a partnership between the Indiana Troopers Youth Services and The American Legion, Dept. of Indiana, where Indiana State Troopers provide first-hand experiences and insight into the operations of law enforcement agencies. The program also affords these highly motivated young people an opportunity to consider law enforcement as a potential career choice.
“If this program changes one life, keeps one at-risk youth off the streets and out of a body bag if it redirects one Hoosier youth life from negative to positive, we believe it’s worth it,” said Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy Chairman Mark Gullion.
The academy was held on the campus of the University of Indianapolis (UI) from July 15-20, and more than 50 cadets came from different high schools across the state to take part.
A team of Hoosier Legionnaires volunteered to serve on the academy staff where they worked to support the instructors at every turn.
“I’m extremely happy that we made this partnership happen because it has made this a better program.” said Sgt. Danielle Elwood Henderson of the Indiana State Police. “The Legionnaires this week worked side-by-side and backed us up at every turn. Working together as one team is really going to help this program continue to improve.”
It was a very busy week with blocks of instruction that covered different aspects of a career in law enforcement. Cadets took part in simulated weapons training, driver training, crime scene investigation techniques, self-defense, physical fitness, drill and ceremony and many other activities.
Counselors and staff of the academy said that witnessing the change in these you men and woman over the course of just one week has been incredible.
“It was amazing just to see them grow.”, said Yvette Perry-Fancher, a Legion volunteer from Indianapolis Post 64. “When these cadets first arrived, they arrived as individuals. Flash forward to graduation day and all of these individuals have become a team. They have pushed each other to work harder and picked each other up if they fell short. Each one of them knows that they are taking part in something bigger than themselves.”
Throughout the week, when asked to describe the camp, none of the cadets used the word “easy.”
“This isn’t an easy program to get through. You have to work for everything you get and we don’t take it easy on them.” Said, Gullion. “I think that is what makes this program so special. Every single one of these young men and women put in the work and earned the right to call themselves graduates of the Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy.”
During the graduation ceremony, the Department of Indiana Cmdr., Rodney Strong told the cadets, “Every single one of you should be proud. Not only for your accomplishments this week, but also for this academy itself. We have huge plans for this program down the road and a lot of ideas that will keep this academy growing each year. We hope to continue and build a legacy of excellence at this academy. That legacy will always be traced right back here to you. Our first graduating class.”
Graduating cadets feel that they completed the academy and earned more than a certificate.
“I have no doubt that what we all experienced this week has changed all of us for the better.” Said, Cadet Logan Stirn. “I think we have a better understanding of what integrity and respect really are and how we can apply that to our daily lives.”
The American Legion Department of Indiana plans to work with the Indiana Troopers Youth Services to continue and develop the program to include more training events and a larger number of cadets for next year’s Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy.
For more information on the IYCLEA program, please visit:
Story and Photos by Tim Sproles
The American Legion Department of Indiana recently held the 100th Annual Department Convention, July 12th through the 15th at the Marriot East Hotel in Indianapolis. The Department’s State Convention is held annually for Legionnaires from across the state to discuss and vote on Legion business, recognize Legionnaires and local heroes for their service and conduct elections for new Department officers.
The Department held the first of three general sessions on Friday, where many state and local leaders brought greetings to our Hoosier Legionnaires including Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb and the Mayor of Indianapolis Joe Hogsett.
Senator Joe Donnelly also brought a message of thanks to all Hoosier Legionnaires.
“We are all so proud of you,” said Donnelly. You have done such an amazing job providing leadership for our state. To all of you, we are incredibly thankful for the tradition that you have given us. I am honored to serve as your senator and I will continue to work every day to make the lives of our veterans better.”
The Department Convention is also a time to honor local heroes in the fields of military service, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, and educators every year in communities across Indiana.
In the Military Person of the Year category, the Indiana National Guard’s Master Sergeant Christopher B. Knight, who was sponsored by Charlestown Post 335 in the 8th District brought home the National Guard award and Captain Matthew Heil, sponsored by Bloomington Post 18 in the 7th District won for the Active Duty award.
The Department also honors first responders from around the state for their service to their local community.
Jose Morales, who was sponsored by Kokomo Post 6 in the 5th District, was named the EMS of the Year. Chief Steve Stackhouse, sponsored by Kokomo Post 6 in the 5th District, was named Firefighter of the Year. Lieutenant Mark Hadley, sponsored by Boonville Post 200 in the 8th District, was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
In the Educators of the Year Category, Rick Hise, sponsored by La Porte Post 83 in the 3rd District, was named the 7th and 8th grade Teacher of the Year. Legionnaire Mark Gullion, sponsored by Indianapolis Post 500 in the 11th District, was named the High School Educator of the Year. Travis Griffith, sponsored by Post 185, from the 9th District, was named the Kindergarten through 6th Grade Educator of the Year.
“American Legion officers selected Griffith because of his continued work to educate the future of our state,” said 9th District Cmdr. William Scharold. “Unfortunately, our awardee, Travis Daniel Griffith passed away with his loving family by his side in March. He was only 46 years old and leaves behind 4 children and his wife of 21 years. Travis was loved by his students, fellow staff and parents.”
His wife, Amy Lynn Griffith was on hand to accept the award on his behalf.
The Department also honored State Senator Lonnie Randolph and State Representative Jim Lucas with Distinguished Public Service Awards for going above and beyond to work with Indiana Veteran Service Organizations to benefit our state’s Veteran community.
Story and Photos by: Tim Sproles
Rodney Strong was elected The American Legion, Department of Indiana state commander by delegates from the 11 districts throughout the state during the 100th annual Indiana American Legion Convention on July 14, 2018 in Indianapolis.
The American Legion is comprised of military service veterans who have served honorably during times of conflict in defense of their nation and has been active within Indiana since 1919. The Indiana American Legion has supported veterans from every major conflict since World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan within its membership.
Rodney is a proud member of Byron Cox Post 72 headquartered in Crawfordsville, Ind., where he has been a member for 28 years and served the post in various positions including membership chairman, Hoosier Boys State Chairman and post commander.
He has also served the Sixth District as a capable and proficient District Vice Commander, Sixth District Commander and is currently the 6th District Hoosier Boys State Chairman.
Rodney has served the Department of Indiana as Southern Vice Commander, Rehabilitation Commission Chairman, Americanism Commission Chairman and Internal Affairs Commission Chairman.
He is also a 54-year member of the Sons of The American Legion Squadron 72 and served as S.A.L. Detachment Commander of Indiana from 1993-94. Cmdr. Strong is the only person in Indiana to serve as both S.A.L. Detachment Commander and Department of Indiana Commander.
Rodney earned his American Legion eligibility by honorably serving in the United States Navy from 1980-84, where he completed two tours off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon and one tour off the coast of Grenada.
Rodney has a 100% American Legion Family. He has been married for 32 years to his wife, Sharon, who is an Auxiliary member of unit 72 in Crawfordsville and his three children, Ryan, Patrick and Nicole, who are members of are members of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 72 and Auxiliary unit 72.
His motto this year is, “A century of service and still going Strong.”
“This is an exciting year for us as we are about to celebrate 100 years of service here in the great state of Indiana.," said, Strong. " There is a lot of work to do and we need to build on the momentum of what Cmdr. Marty Dzieglowicz was able to do before us. We will work to secure The American Legion for another 100 years."
Strong’s “Commander’s Project” this year is to help the friends of Ernie Pyle World War II museum to raise $30,000 or more towards the $90,000 they need to make improvements to Ernie Pyle’s birthplace and a museum highlighting the famous journalist’s life and writings as a correspondent during World War II.
The historic site is owned and operated by the Friends of Ernie Pyle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of Pyle’s legacy in Dana, as well as throughout Indiana and the nation.
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