Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Heroes Welcome

The American Legion returns to Mendon after nearly a century

By Leslie Gartrell

Henry Drake served in the Army in World War I and was one of the 15 original mem. . .

MENDON - The American Legion is being revived in Mendon as a new charter opens 94 years after its first charter closed its doors and 100 years after the formation of the organization itself.
In 1993, Realtor Jim Shaffer found the original charter application and member list of the village's American Legion from 1919 in a building his father and grandfather owned.
The framed documents featured the signature of his grandfather Henry Drake, who served in the Army in World War I and was one of the 15 original members of the organization.
"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, Mendon had an American Legion!' I never knew that," Shaffer said.
Shaffer later rediscovered the documents this past winter, remembering that 2019 marks the Legion's 100th anniversary.
After contacting a membership official from the organization, Shaffer learned that every town surrounding Mendon has a Legion.
The American Legion Post 341 in Mendon opened in 1920, Shaffer said. However, the group disbanded in 1925 for unknown reasons.
Although Shaffer isn't a veteran, he felt the need to get a charter restarted to honor and support area veterans who must travel to other towns to be a part of the organization.
The Realtor emphasized the revival wasn't about him - it's about the veterans.
"It's not about me, it's just about honoring the veterans," he said. "I just thought maybe … there's enough guys to start a Legion in town, and it'll be up to them to get things started."
Shaffer reached out to friend and longtime member of the organization Alvie Louth. Louth, a recently retired member of the Army after 37 years of service,
had been a member of the Fort Recovery post for 18 years.
"They're the voice of the veterans," Louth said of the Legion. "There's a lot of excitement" for the start of a new charter.
The two set out to find the 25 veterans necessary to reopen. Shaffer wanted to name the post after his grandfather as well as his brother-in-law Army Sgt. Ricky Zizelman Sr.
Zizelman was a founding Night Stalker in the Army, who served as a crew chief until he died during a Black Hawk helicopter training flight crash in 1982.
One of his two sons, Bobby, later went on to join the Army and became a helicopter pilot. The warrant officer and Mendon native, now stationed in South Korea, was the first to sign up for the new charter.
After speaking with the Legion's membership official, Shaffer said the post number will be 2019 and be named the Henry Drake-Ricky D. Zizelman Post in honor of the 100th anniversary of the organization.
Louth said membership is like a double-edged sword. While times have been peaceful, something for which he and other veterans are thankful, membership has decreased over time. However, Louth stressed the importance of joining an organization such as the Legion.
"(The Legion) gives back to Mendon, Mercer County, Ohio," and beyond, he said. "A lot of people would be surprised at the volunteerism in their community. When you get involved, there's a different feeling than giving money."
The two collected 25 signatures, enough to fill an application and send it for verification. Louth said it should be formalized this month.
While Louth said they did not yet have a first meeting date set, they plan to meet at the old farm store in town once things are formalized. People are still welcome to join, Shaffer and Louth said.
Additional online story on this date
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