Sept. 16, 2007 — While most folks think of Veterans Day and Memorial Day parades when they think of Viggo E. Sewer Post 131 of the American Legion, the St. John-based organization has gotten more involved with the community by organizing a flag football team league for young people.
"It's part of our way of giving something back to the community," Post Commander Jerry Runyon said.
The flag football program has six teams with nine youths in their early teens on each team, Runyon said. Each team has a coach and assistant coach. The program also as about a half dozen referees. He said that all the coaches, assistant coaches and referees are volunteers, not all of them American Legion members.
He also said that the American Legion post is trying to establish scholarships for St. John youths, and its members and auxiliary members work with youths at Guy Benjamin School.
Runyon said the post originally formed in 1966, but had gone dormant by 1993. In 2001, the group began to reorganize with Harry Daniel as the first commander. Runyon, Daniel, Dave Matthias, Paul Devine, Rupert Marsh, William J. Henderson, Aubrey Sewer, Henry Powell. Ray Joseph, Samuel Morch and Ira Wade were the initial members.
In 2005, the group got its charter from the national American Legion organization and obtained non-profit status in 2006. Runyon said that when the organization reached those two milestones, it began to grow.
He said the post wants new members. To qualify, members must have served in the military. Family members of veterans can join the auxiliary.
Currently Aubrey Sewer serves as vice commander, Paul Devine as post adjutant, and Doug Benton as treasurer.
The post is named after Sewer's brother, Viggo Sewer, who was the first Virgin Islands resident to die in the Korean War, on Feb. 5, 1953.
Runyon said members have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, the first Gulf War and Iraq.
He said the organization currently has 38 members, up from 31 in 2001. Runyon said membership is important because it could help improve Veterans Affairs Department services for St. John. Runyon said that 42 St. John residents signed up for Veterans Affairs health services at the St. Thomas office, but he's sure many more veterans live on St. John.
Runyon said the fact that veterans have to travel to St. Thomas and sometimes to Puerto Rico for health care is a deterrent, but he also noted that some veterans don't want to provide the financial information required when signing up.
He said services are provided on a financial need basis with those who have the least resources getting the most in the way of free care.
Runyon said the financial structuring of veteran's care could change, so it was important that veterans be registered.
"The numbers game comes into play," he said.
According to the organization's website, the American Legion is a national organization that began in 1919. It was founded in Paris by the American Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Congress granted the organization a charter later that same year.
Today, the organization has 2.6 million members around the country who belong to about 15,000 local posts like the one on St. John.
Its efforts resulted in what is now called the Veterans Affairs Department, a federal agency.
The post meets at 10 a.m. every second Saturday at Sputnik Bar in Coral Bay. The auxiliary meets at 10 a.m. every third Saturday at 10 at Mooie's Bar in Cruz Bay.
Call Runyon at 776-6445 for more information.
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