For nearly 100 years, Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk has been a unique place for veterans of the U.S. military to visit.
Established in 1925 on land leased from the forerunner of what is now the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in recent years there's been a robust effort to expand the facility's "customer base" for not only veterans but their family members as well.
Part of that effort included the recent groundbreaking ceremony for what will be called "The American Legion Family Cabin," designated primarily for the families of U.S. military personnel lost while still in the service.
It's against that backdrop that Frank Kostka, the current commander of the Wisconsin American Legion, made an announcement at the end of the groundbreaking ceremony.
He told those gathered the Wisconsin American Legion was starting a new post and it will be at Camp American Legion.
"We're looking at giving it the title of ... Post 1925," he said. "That's when the American Legion camp was first established."
In an interview, camp director Don Grundy said he recently learned something new.
"To start a post, you have to have 15 brand new Legion members," he said.
Across the country, many American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts are facing difficulty because of aging memberships.
In most cases, younger veterans in a given area, who are often still working, find it difficult to get to regular post meetings, most of them monthly.
American Legion Post 1925, Grundy said, will be a little different.
"It won't be the traditional post," he said. "We're not going to have monthly meetings and that sort of thing. But it'll be for people - veterans - who want to support Camp American Legion."
The recruiting effort for the new post began toward the end of May and, as of June 10, there are at least four new members for the Post 1925 roster, Grundy said.
"The belief in the past was not to use Camp American Legion as a recruiting mechanism," Grundy said. "I asked at the time I started (in 2017) 'Why not? It's the best recruiting tool for the Legion you have in the state.' Now, they (Wisconsin Legion leadership) have shifted gears and realized the camp is the Legion's crown jewel in the state and we need to show people what it is we can do."
Wisconsin American Legion adjutant Amber Nikolai said a temporary post charter is being put together and the new members are essential.
"We can't actually get anything started up until we have those 15 brand new members," she said.
According to the Wisconsin American Legion's census reports, over 85 percent of veterans who attend Camp American Legion aren't members of the American Legion, Nikolai said.
"And they don't become Legion members," she said. "I'm guessing their affinity is for camp and what camp has to offer."
Nikolai said interested veterans who currently aren't Legion members but would like information regarding not only information regarding membership in the American Legion and more specifically, Camp American Legion Post 1925, may call Chris Schmidt, the Wisconsin American Legion's membership coordinator, at 608-745-0336. Email is Chris@wilegion.org.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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