After serving for five years, American Legion Post 269 commander Jon Ralph plans to step down, handing the reins to first vice commander Richard Wahl.
“I am very happy to be commander of the post. I hope I will be a good commander and I hope to do more for our veterans,” he said, including plans to work more closely with the local VFW Post 2913 as his goals.
Wahl served from 1966 until 1972 with the United States Air Force. He also spent a year in Mississippi as a law enforcement K-9 unit and did a tour in Vietnam, serving as a perimeter guard for the airways.
He went on to the Plattsburgh Air Force Base as a squad leader handling K-9s. He then spent a year out of the service before returning in 1986 as a Bradley gunner in the cavalry until 1991, when he was hurt in a vehicle accident. After the war broke out in Iraq and he healed, he was put in National Guard status until he left service again.
“I am very proud of my service, especially my time in Vietnam,” he said.
Wahl enlisted at 19 years old and served as a sergeant and corporal. He now lives in Medford.
“They’ve been thanking the veterans pretty good lately. It wasn’t like it was when we came home from Vietnam,” he added. “I am proud to be a veteran. I am proud I served my country.”
Ralph plans to remain with the post and indicated that his reason for stepping down is just having time to take a break.
“I am sure he will do a good job and I know everyone will support him,” he said of Wahl as commander.
Previously, the late John Matuszak passed the torch to Ralph in 2016. Matuszak was a member of the legion going on 10 years and was a Vietnam-era United States Army veteran who served three years, including 18 months in Panama in the 1960s.
Ralph is also a Vietnam-era United States Army veteran who served three years active duty, with two years in Germany and then in the Reserves. He grew up in Iowa and moved to Patchogue to follow a job in computers.
Before that, George Egan ran the post with Matuszak as his understudy of sorts. He learned the ropes from Egan and after many years of serving, saw potential in Ralph. Ralph then began learning under Matuszak as Wahl did under Ralph. Now, he is ready to take the lead.
Though the commander position does not carry any more weight than any other member or officer, that person is charged with the responsibilities of leading the post, including encouraging membership, planning events, and caring for the building.
The legion is completely self-funded through donations, fundraising, and whatever grants can be obtained. All members and officers are volunteers. The induction ceremony will take place in June at the American Legion Post 269 in Patchogue.
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