Once, Westport’s August Matthias American Legion Post 63 had over 100 members.
One of America’s original posts — it was chartered in 1919, a few months after the Legion was formed in the wake of World War I — the veterans’ organization thrived after the 2nd World War.
Now, however, Westport has only a dozen or so members on its rolls. Some spend much of the year in Florida.
Many are World War II and Korean War vets. They won’t be around forever.
The good news: Bill Vornkahl — Westport’s indefatigable veterans’ advocate, and a Post 63 member since 1954 — has pledged to build the post back up.
The American Legion is one of 2 veterans’ organizations in Westport. Named for World War I soldier and Westport native August Matthias, it — like the rest of the Legion — is open to anyone who served in the military in the United States.
The VFW — whose Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 is also named for a Westport veteran, and unlike the American Legion has an actual physical building, on Riverside Avenue — is open to veterans who served outside the US.
For many years, Legion meetings were held at the YMCA downtown. Then Leo Nevas gave part of Birchwood Country Club property to the organization. Eventually Nevas bought back the land. The American Legion used the proceeds for scholarships.
American Legion posts around Connecticut also support Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and send students to State Police Youth Week.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Here’s hoping it’s also the beginning of the revival of American Legion August Matthias Post 63.
(To learn more about Westport’s American Legion post, or to join, call Bill Vornkahl: 203-227-3512.)