TEWKSBURY — The meeting was called to order as the gavel was banged and the flag was saluted. Members of the American Legion Post 259 were conducting their monthly meeting, held at the Tewksbury Police Station meeting room.
The group meets the first Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. and is open to any and all veterans who served from 1941 to the present, male or female, and have been honorably discharged. The Tewksbury post welcomes residents who served in any branch of the military to attend one of their meetings.
The post has more than 100 members but would like to see more folks at their monthly meetings.
“We’d like to welcome any veteran in town to the meetings,” said Joe Zangri, the district commander. “The Legion is an important and vital veterans organization.”
The group is active in the community, hosting veteran events at the Bedford VA hospital and making visits at Blaire House in Tewksbury, collecting for the food pantry and donating to a gift fund at Bedford, VA, among other activities. One of the most important functions the Legion supports is being present at funerals of veterans to provide salutes, marching in parades honoring Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and such, and also managing flag retirements.
The group does firings, a chance to try some vintage rifles and maintains a white flag deposit “mailbox” at 180 Pond St. where residents may put an American flag to be disposed of properly. The Legion holds a burning each October, the approved method of flag disposal. Deposit sites are also available at the American Legion in Billerica and other Legions in the area, according to the group.
Member Richard Frank, an Army veteran who served from 1970-72 as a construction engineer in Vietnam, encourages veterans to come to any number of weekly events.
“We don’t just sit around and share war stories,” he said, rather explaining that valuable veterans benefit and contact information is a large piece of the connection. “Veterans may not realize all services that are available to them.”
For example, Zangri said that a new ruling allows veterans to go on any base and use the commissary, buy tickets for events at a discount, etc. DD214 discharge papers must be in hand.
The group also praised Tewksbury Veterans Agent Lisa Downey as an excellent resource for veterans and their families. The American Legion is open to all branches of the military.
Treasurer Tom McNaught served in the Marines from 1959-1962 in Japan, and participates in the Veterans Day services on town common and also volunteers in the Ryan School library.
“We’d like to have more veterans in town join our group,” he said.
The veterans often have guest speakers and connect with other Legions for charity work. Some members have affiliations with other veterans’ groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Disabled American Veterans.
Among the attendees were Ed Pickering, a Navy airdale from 1966-1970 who was a jet mechanic and served on the USS America in the Tonkan Gulf; Paul Riessle, a Navy airdale from 1960-64 who was a flight engineer working on anti-sub patrols; Earl Livingstone, a Naval supply clerk in the armored division at Fort Knox, Kentucky from 1952-54 and 1956-58; Ken Walsh who worked in the Naval amphibious construction battalion, or Seabees, from 1962-65; Ed Flanagan who served in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1957-65 and completed time in the reserves and worked with ROTC, also working with missile support and fleet air defense; and Joe Zangri, an Air Force veteran who worked as a crew chief from 1960-64 and worked on ground defense and intercept technology.
Zangri is the sub-district 5 commander and deputy ROTC chairman. The members wear their Legion hats at meetings and also at public events. Many had intricately embroidered jackets and shirts bearing the names of their units or aircraft.
In addition to contacting Veterans services in Tewksbury at 978-640-4485 with questions, Tewksbury veterans are welcomed for coffee and socializing every Monday at Bayberry at Emerald Court at 9 a.m., free coffee on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. at High Octane Harley Davidson on Route 129 in North Billerica, and free bowling for veterans at Collins Bowladrome in Billerica on Thursdays at 1 p.m.
Gentlemen, we thank you for your service!