American Legion helps veterans continue to serve across Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- “For God and Country we associate ourselves together for the following purposes: to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” said Charles Cathey, a retired U.S. Marine Corps first sergeant and commander of American Legion Post 28. “This is in the Preamble of the American Legion and it goes on to say, ‘to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation.’ Our purpose is to serve veterans and families of our armed forces.”
The American Legion was founded in 1919 by Congress as a veteran’s organization focused on service to veterans, active duty service members and communities.
Veterans of World War I originally formed the ranks of the Legion, but it quickly grew into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the U.S., which currently has more than 2.4 million members in 14,000 posts worldwide.
Being a member of the legion gives service members a chance to meet others with whom they can swap stories and support a common cause or interest, according to retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Rossoni, a program security manager with 18th Operations Group, 18th Wing, and member of the American Legion Riders attached to Wayne E. Marchand Post 28, the American Legion post for the Pacific.
“We go out and represent other veterans and causes we all believe in,” said Rossoni, a San Francisco, California, native.
The Legion welcomes all veterans and even active duty service members to join them, according to Paul Zackeroff, a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant major and the president and founder of the Ryukyu Riders, the branch of the American Legion Riders for Post 28.
“A lot of people don’t realize we allow active duty members to join,” said Zackeroff, a Warren, Ohio, native. “We welcome all members of the armed services, both past and present.”
On Okinawa, the Legion and the Legion Riders participate in several events to help the community, as well as assist veterans and active duty service members. They sponsor the monthly cleaning of Tomari International Cemetery, which is a joint effort by the Legion, active duty volunteers, and members of the Boy Scouts.
The Legion Riders make a yearly visit in April to the memorial of Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent who reported on World War II actions in Africa, Europe and the Pacific, which stands on the island of Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan.
Along with these, the Legion participates in events serving to better morale and support charities that offer assistance to the families of military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Having someone who is capable of providing that help is good for a person during a time of need, according to Zackeroff.
“It feels good to know there is someone that cares,” said Zackeroff. “That there is someone willing to help. We do what we can to provide aid while also trying to spread goodwill and give people a place to connect and have support when they need it.”
The American Legion stands as a support and a voice for the veterans and service members of the U.S., and will continue to strive to represent the best future for its members and the country for which they fought, according to Cathey, a Berthoud, Colorado, native.
“As long as there are veterans who love their country and are willing to put some time and effort into an organization that helps other veterans, there will be an American Legion,” said Cathey.