A lifetime of dedication

As teenagers in pre-World War II America, they never imagined their military service would lead them to decades of membership in a veterans organization.

"These 60-year members were just getting home from World War II when they joined the Legion," said Ron Gutzman, post adjutant for American Legion Capitol Post 4. "They all saw some kind of action in World War II."

Ledo Buonamici, Andrew Butti, William Franklin, Charles Ryan and Mel Woodgate will be honored tonight at the Veteran's Annex of the Heroes Memorial Building with certificates for 60 years of service in Capitol Post 4.

"I'm just one of those guys, you join something and you just keep joining," said Buonamici. "It was for no particular reason. I know they need the funds and stuff. I just stayed with them."

The men, except Ryan, who lives in Tucson and retains his membership through yearly dues, will attend tonight's meeting of Capitol Post 4. The American Legion branch serves Carson City, Minden and Gardnerville.

"I think it's important to be involved in veterans organizations," Buonamici said. "(Veterans) don't get much help from the government, so someone has to help them. I also help with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I give them a little donation when I can. They don't get an awful lot of help either."

The 79-year-old, who served as a World War II pharmacist mate in the U.S. Navy, started boot camp in September 1942 and left the Navy in April 1946.

"I must have been 20 when I joined American Legion," he said. "I'll be 80 pretty soon. I wasn't that active. I just paid my dues."

Awarding certificates to the men tonight will be Capitol Post 4 Commander Tony Vaughn, who has been an American Legion member for nine years.

"It's amazing to me that for 60 years these men believed in the programs of the American Legion and because of their belief have continued to be members all these years," he said. "For me that says a lot."

Many of the men in Capitol Post 4, which formed in 1921, have been members for an average of 15 years. The post has a membership of 290 men, including it's five 60-year members.

"It's just the fact that these guys were in and stayed for so long," Gutzman said. "Only one other person I know has been recognized and that's with a 50-year pin."

American Legion membership is open to anyone who served in any military branch during World War II, the Vietnam, Korean or Persian Gulf wars, the Grenada/Lebanon conflict and service now. The Legion's motto is "Veterans Serving Veterans."

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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