It's easy for American Legion Post 254 trustee Jim Conrad to look back with fondness upon parts of his tour of duty as an Army Sgt. 1st Class during the Korean War.
It’s easy for American Legion Post 254 trustee Jim Conrad to look back with fondness upon parts of his tour of duty as an Army Sgt. 1st Class during the Korean War.
Other parts, admittedly, he’d rather forget.
“You get the highlights, the good thoughts,” he said.
Conrad said veterans generally enjoy reminiscing about their tours of duty and sharing memorabilia they’ve collected through the years. While staying at a park in Florida some years back, he said, he and his wife, Sally, organized a veterans’ day where other veterans staying in the park could talk about their tours and experiences and share their memorabilia among themselves and the other park residents.
“It worked out real well,” he said. So well in fact, that Sally, Post 254 Ladies Auxiliary secretary, and Post 254 Commander Bruce Tolle decided to create an open house for all area veterans to “show and tell” and bring medals, souvenirs, pictures, and stories to Post 254 on Oct. 23. The combination open house and reception will run from 2 to 5 p.m.
“This is a good thing for people to meet their local veterans,” said Sally Conrad. She said one of the open house’s goals is to introduce high school students and younger people to the veterans and generate younger people’s interest in the American Legion.
Post 254 is extremely active in the Johnstown community, Conrad said.
“If there’s a need, they cover it,” she said.
Conrad said Post 254 is very established and its members make appearances at many funerals, both within and outside the Johnstown community. The post also sponsors regular pancake breakfasts, Toys for Tots, and Safety Town. Post members help with flag ceremonies at local high schools and assist area scout troops with flag ceremonies.
Decorated World War II paratrooper and author Don Jakeway wouldn’t miss the open house.
“Oh yes, I’m going to be there,” said the author of “Paratroopers Do or Die.” “I can have some books there.”
Jakeway, who fought in Normandy, Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, said it’s extremely important for vets to interact with young people and vice versa.
He said he was once speaking to a group of students and asked them about a convoy, the Blitzkrieg, and other military history.
“They didn’t know,” said Jakeway. He said the students have never lived in 23 below zero weather or spent many days in a foxhole, and they can benefit from hearing the stories of those who have.
Jakeway said reminiscing with fellow veterans is a very different thing than speaking to a young audience. He said he can swap combat stories and experiences with veterans, but he usually discusses training and history when speaking at schools or youth programs.
Jakeway has been a member of the American Legion for more than 60 years and he said Post 254 has roughly 159 members.
“We have a pretty good sized post,” he said, but as often happens, about 18 to 20 of them are consistently active. While the post has younger members from wars such as Desert Storm, they have full-time jobs, families, and other activities that occupy their time, so it’s usually the retired members who attend the military funerals and other events.
Jakeway said the Korean and Vietnam wars are well represented at Post 254 and, including him, there are about “half a dozen World War II vets.”