Jack Jarzynka had driven past American Legion Post 39 in Gilbert “about 100 times,” so one Saturday night after he and his wife, Kathy, had dinner about six years ago, he decided to stop in for a 1950s and 60s dance.
And he’s glad he did as he has been active with American Legion Post 39 ever since.
“We were welcomed with open arms,” said Jarzynka, a retired machinist from an oil company who has been a member of a VFW or American Legion since 1969 and now is a lifetime member of the post.
It only seems appropriate that on Sunday — Veterans Day — Jarzynka, who served with the U.S. Army for two years, from 1966 to 1968, including one year in Vietnam (1967), will celebrate his birthday by turning 66.
A noticeably active veteran in the East Valley who was part of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division’s Delta 701st Maintenance Battalion retrieving and repairing damaged armored vehicles, Jarzynka was among a group of other veterans on Thursday who participated in the Veterans Day festivities at Gilbert Civic Plaza, and later served food for those in attendance. The event in Gilbert was just one of many Veterans Day festivities in the East Valley as many of them will be held throughout the weekend.
But next week, Jarzynka and others of American Legion Post 39 commanded by Skip Erickson hope other veterans — especially those who served in the Middle East conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will join the post and become active members as well.
In conjunction with Gilbert Days on Nov. 16 and 17, members of Gilbert American Legion Post 39 at 206 N. Gilbert Road have a table at the event and are holding a membership drive and also letting veterans know what services are available. Members of the post’s four different veterans groups — Legionnaires, Ladies Auxiliary, Legion Riders and the Sons of the Legion — also will be there to answer questions, including Ernie Lane Jr., the post’s director of services.
“We’re looking for some new blood, some young blood, and trying to get the word out,” said Jarzynka, a member of American Legion Post 39’s executive board. “We want to take care of our returning vets and do whatever we can to help them such as by letting them know about the services we have available such as for finding a job and benefits available to them and their families. We want to make sure that these veterans know that they are appreciated — that’s why I now do what I do.”
“The post is a place where you can come and where everyone has something in common,” Jarzynka added.
Right now, the post has about 550 members, mostly has older members, including a handful of World War II veterans.
When asked about his service in Vietnam, Jarzynka paused for a moment and said, “It’s something we don’t talk about, or talk about very often. It’s a hard conversation for me.”
Not saying much about whether he felt that Vietnam War veterans were appreciated when they returned, Jarzynka said, “That’s in the past, it’s what we’re doing now that’s important.”
Some of the activities the post participates in are: kicking off its drive to send packages and items to troops for Christmas, teaching American flag etiquette to students at schools, and on the third Thursday of each month, hosting a group of veterans and their aides from the Veterans Hospital for lunch.
“It’s one of my better days of the month,” Jarzynka said. “The guys get a break from the hospital. They come in and have a good meal and shoot pool and play the jukebox. There’s a lot of vets out there who need help, and we want to let them know we’re here to provide them with it.
“We’re maintaining, but we’d like to grow,” Jarzynka added. “Life is good here for me and my wife. We were tired of shoveling snow in Chicago. We both enjoy what we do here and hope to see others join us.”
Veterans post membership drive
What: Veterans membership drive for American Legion Post 39 in Gilbert
When: Nov. 16-17 during Gilbert Days, downtown Gilbert.
For more information: Visit www.gilbertdays.org/american-legion or call (480) 892-7038
Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org