By: Danielle Incognito and Steve Sears
Whippanong American Legion Post 155 is full of history.
The American Legion, Inc, is a US wartime veteran organization formed in Paris, on March 15, 1919, by three officers of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). The American Legion was chartered by the US Congress on September 16, 1919. It is headquartered in Indianapolis Indiana, and has a legislative office in Washington, DC. The Legion played a leading role in the drafting and passing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the “GI Bill”
According to The American Legion Website, “The American Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with great political influence perpetuated by its grass-roots involvement in the legislation process from local districts to Capitol Hill. Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington. The Legion stands behind the issues most important to the nation’s veterans community, backed by resolutions passed by volunteer leadership.”
The American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives.
The group is recognized around the nation. Nationally, its efforts resulted in the establishment of the Veteran’s Bureau in 1921. That lead to The Veteran’s Administration, and eventually, it was elevated to cabinet-level status as The Department of Veteran Affairs after lobbying.
Michael McCorry is currently Senior Vice Commander. He is as well a three-time past commander of Post 155 as well as two-time past commander of the Morris County Committee of the American Legion. He speaks to the history of the post. “The Post was chartered in 1926,” he says. “The first Commander was James J. Tighe. The other officers were Adjutant David Jennings, Treasurer – John Tibus, Historian – William Knauss, Service Officer – Leo Glen Brown. There were 16 charter members when the Post was founded.” Meetings were originally held in the Whippany Fire Department. In later years, the meetings were held in the Tibus Building, the Post’s second home in Whippany. “In 1957, the construction of the Post’s current home on Legion Place was completed. Ground was broken for the building on July 31, 1955 and the building was dedicated on October 19, 1957. The Post was basically constructed by the members.” A women’s Auxiliary Unit 155 was formed on March 15, 1932 and the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 155 was chartered on August 6, 1958.
“One of the highlights in our Post’s history,” says McCorry proudly, “was that Anthony Lori, currently a 65-year member of our Post, has served as Department Commander of the State of New Jersey. He was our State American Legion Commander.”
The legion makes new membership accessible. Eligible veterans applying for first time membership must submit DD214 discharge and pay a membership amount.
McCorry adds, “We have 256 members and are constantly looking for new members. Congress recently revised the eligibility of membership to the American Legion. Now, anyone who has served one day on active duty from Dec. 7, 1941 to the current date and is honorably discharged is eligible for membership. Prior eligibility stated that the veteran had to serve during the war years, WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada/Lebanon, Panama, and the Middle East war. We are hoping this will assist us in gaining new members.”
“The biggest challenge we have is membership and we are working to address that.”
Post 155 holds many events for veterans. McCorry elaborates. “We have a picnic every year in September at Lyons Veteran’s Hospital. The Post 155 family, Legion, Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion, serve a typical barbeque of hamburgers, hot dogs, salads etc. to the patients. Many times, the number of patients is between 125 to 135. We also hand out coupon books that the patients can use in the cafeteria and store at the Lyons complex. Every February, we bring a bus full of Lyons patients to Post 155. We serve them a roast beef dinner, have music played for them and give them clothing that we purchased for them. We also assist the Auxiliary every March when they visit Lyons Hospital. The Auxiliary hosts a bingo for the patients in the hospital ward and provides sandwiches etc. to the patients. We will donate funds to various organizations who aid veterans and their families. For example, we donate to the State Commander’s Project every year. Each State Commander has his project which provides assistance to veterans. We donate funds to that. For 12 years, we have donated to The Christopher B. Cosgrove III Golf Outing. Christopher grew up in Hanover Township and was killed in Iraq in 2006 while in the Marines. The Marines Care Foundation runs the golf outing in his memory. All profit from the outing goes to assisting veterans and their families. We do the same for the Enlisted Person fund for the NJ National Guard. We also donate to the Veterans Fishing Day at Lake Hopatcong run by the Knee-Deep Fishing Club. The Club brings veterans to the lake for fishing, a tour boat ride of the lake and food.”
Also, Post 155, along with VFW Post 5351, and the Slattery Detachment of the Marine Corps League and the town fire departments annually plan the Hanover Township Memorial Day Parade. Annual Veterans Day services are also held onsite at the post, as are Pearl Harbor Services every December 7th to remember those killed in the attack in 1941.
The community appreciates all the legion has to offer them. “We sponsor a lot of community and children’s activities in our area,” says McCorry, beginning to list a number of ways the post gives back. “We send 5 boys from Whippany Park High School to Boy’s State, a program run by the American Legion. We donate to various school functions i.e. concerts and plays. We provide a $1,000 scholarship to a graduate of Whippany Park High School who is a descendent of a veteran, and also provide a $100 award to a Memorial Junior School graduate. We sponsor Boy Scout Troop 155 and donate to scouts working towards their Eagle Scout Project. We also send a scout to the National Scout Leader training program. We donate to the Morris County 4H, Project Graduation, local children’s sports teams in town, Fire and Police Departments, the town children’s fishing contest and Easter Egg Hunt, the Two Kids Foundation, and the VFW Children’s Holiday party. For years, we sponsored a Legion Baseball team.”
McCorry also adds that the post asks for nothing in return. Serving is their priority. “We don’t ask for the public to give back. As Legion members, we want to provide the support and that is all we need.”
American Legion Post 155 is located at 13 Legion Place, Whippany. The post can be reached at 973-884-2494.