Local American Legion Post Gets National Exposure

Members of VFW Post 56 in Cheriton (from left) Bill Stramm, Jim Chapman, Bill Burton, Bob Roche, Ed DeAngelis, Don Mclvee, Steve Downs, Jack Woolley, Marvin Milton, Joe Vaccaro.

Members of American Legion Post 56 in Cheriton (from left) Bill Stramm, Jim Chapman, Bill Burton, Bob Roche, Ed DeAngelis, Don Mclvee, Steve Downs, Jack Woolley, Marvin Milton, Joe Vaccaro.

Special to the Cape Charles Wave

June 2, 2013

The oldest American Legion Post on the Eastern Shore was chartered on February 13, 1922, and originally located in Cape Charles. Older veterans recall it as a lively location where WW I veterans and their families frequently met to dance, attend diners and march in parades.

Over the years it became one of the most desirable meeting spots for WW II and Korean Veterans on the lower Shore until a fire completely destroyed the Post some five decades ago.

In 2007, Post 56 found a new home in Cheriton, and another chapter for this 91-year-old organization began.

Since 2007, the Post has boasted bragging rights as having the highest state membership, Commander of the Year, Legionnaire of the Year, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, an ongoing Boys and Girls State program, a Law Enforcement Junior Cadet Program and an Oratorical Contest.

All of this is in addition to a thriving and highly successful Sons of the American Legion and an American Legion Auxiliary program.

This award-winning American Legion Post is featured in the June issue of  the national American Legion magazine. The article notes how Post 56’s membership fell to 22 members and the charter was in peril of being revoked.


Instead of giving up, a cadre of local veterans came up with a plan to purchase their current building in Cheriton and pooled their talents to remodel it.

This group also crafted a new leadership model that allowed them to develop newer members’ talents and place them in key positions to address issues such as recruitment, service to the community, veterans programs and children and youth issues.

The magazine reports that current membership is 243, and the Post’s presence in the area has become more visible where “every new member feels a sense of ownership for the refurbished building” that once housed a car dealership and a grocery store.

To honor the culture and heritage of their new home, Post 56 hung the original Cheriton Supermarket sign inside the location as a reminder of their association with the area and the struggle to remain an active post.

In the magazine article, several members describe the Post’s commitment to the community and their fellow veterans.

Last year Post 56 members logged over 14,000 hours of community service in addition to sponsoring blood drives and a Boy Scout troop.

The article stresses that the Post is a gathering place for diverse groups who are connected through the common bond of service to their country.

One of the proudest moments for Post 56 was when Marine 4-star General James Mattis attended the grand opening in November 2007 as the guest speaker.

He gave a stirring speech on duty and obligation — a perfect way to re-start an American Legion Post that had slumbered for decades until its reawakening, thanks to the efforts of local veterans.



7 Responses to “Local American Legion Post Gets National Exposure”

  1. Marshall Timm on June 2nd, 2013 10:38 am

    Outstanding article about an outstanding Post and to top it off, General Mattis as guest speaker for the grand opening! Most people don’t know about General James “Mad Dog” Mattis so I will give you a short history lesson. General Mattis is one of the most decorated Marines in modern history, most outspoken and most loved by his troops since “Chesty” Puller (google him sometime).
    So, sign me up, I want to join! Where do I sign the dotted line?
    “Good night Chesty, where ever you are” and SemperFi, General Mattis!

  2. Bill Powell on June 2nd, 2013 2:49 pm

    In the 30’s and 40’s the Post hosted Troop 91 of Tidewater Council in the basement, which later became Troop 301 of the Delmarva Council. The Post building also served as a USO during WWII for the benefit of the Coast Artillery men at Ft John Custis.

  3. Joe Vaccaro on June 2nd, 2013 4:43 pm

    Mr. Timm,
    Thank you for the kind comments.
    General Mattis showed up in “utilities” (AKA Battle Uniform for those who don’t “speak” Marine) at the speech as per the Post’s request.
    He had another formal ceremony to attend to that night and we felt that he didn’t need to be “dressed up” for this event. We were just honored to have him at the Post with his extremely busy schedule.

    The General spoke without the use of notes and captivated the crowd with his wisdom, common sense, and humor.

    He took the time to talk to everyone, shake hands and pose for several dozen pictures with Post guests, an entire Boy Scout Troop and several police officers. Everyone he spoke to walked away from him in awe and another piece of history was made on the Shore.

    The grand opening on that blustery May afternoon had an outside crowd, numbered well over 120 people, who never sought shelter or moved indoors during the General’s speech despite the fact that it was raining heavy throughout that afternoon; including during the General’s speech.

    If you’re interested in joining American Legion Post 56 please contact the Post at 757-331-2123 for directions and additional information. Almost anyone there will be more than willing to help you.

    Welcome aboard.

    Semper Fidelis,

    Joe Vaccaro

    Assistant PAO, Post 56

  4. Joe Vaccaro on June 2nd, 2013 5:05 pm

    Mr. Powell,
    Thank you for your information.
    We actually have some photographs that were sent to us by Ms. Marion Naar from the Cape Charles Museum depicting the “old” Post 56 in Cape Charles.

    It was located at the foot of “the hump” crossing over from Mason Avenue onto Old Cape Charles Road.

    You can still see where the foundation was for the “old” Post 56 if you walk in that lot.

    If you have any older photographs of that location we would be deeply interested in seeing them.

    More important, if you have any stories or antidotes about the “old ” Post we would be grateful if you spoke to our Post Historian Denis Wood.


    Joe Vaccaro

    Assistant PAO, Post 56

  5. Joe Vaccaro on June 2nd, 2013 11:03 pm

    Post 56 actually had two Grand Openings; one in November 2007 for local residents to come in and acquaint themselves with their new neighbors and one in May (6 months to the day of the November event) to officially open the Post.

    General Mattis spoke at the May 2007 event

  6. Stefanie Hadden on June 3rd, 2013 10:16 am

    My husband is a member of Post 56, being an ex-Navy submariner, and always says how warm and welcoming it feels there. He’s a chief engineer with Military Sealift Command now, and as such is frequently at sea, but the post in Cheriton is the one he calls home.

  7. Joe Vaccaro on June 4th, 2013 7:44 am

    Ms. Hadden,
    We thank your husband for his service to this Country and we thank you for your support.

    Like most American Legion Posts, Post 56 is very family-oriented, and this is the reason why our Friday Night Dinners are so well received.

    The thing that makes these American Legion Posts so unique is the fact that everyone who is a member at the Post has “earned” the right to be there. So veterans, their families, and their guests are most welcome at Post 56.
    Joe Vaccaro
    Assistant PAO, Post 56