Veterans Memorial Post 347

Squadron 347 Donates to the Lady Lake Little League

     Amy Fleck, Lady Lake Little League President, accepted a $500 donation from Sons Squadron #347 in October 2019.  The league has 200-300 children participating during two seasons each year, spring and fall.  Pictured are Doug White, Sons Vice Cmdr, and Amy Fleck.  Doug stayed for the early evening game and commented, "These kids were totally engaged in the sport; running, diving, stealing bases, and hitting the ball hard.  It takes me back to when I played Little League many many years ago.  The coaches, the fans in the stands, and the kids all had a fabulous time!"



Squadron 347 Donates to the Lady Lake Boy Scout Troop 244

     Boy Scout Troop 244 in Lady Lake received a $500 donation from The Sons Squadron 347 in October 2019.  Troop #244 is the home for a couple dozen young men and boys from Lady Lake, who have fun and donate their time and energy for many community functions.
     Pictured left to right are: Jonathan Tempesta, Sylvia Kissick, Doug White (Sons Vice Commander), Michelle Davis, and Kern Davis.


Young Sons Squadron 347 Member Wins Americanism Essay Contest

     John Thomas “J.T” Costello, a Squadron #347 Sons member, and grandson of Joe Muraida, a Post 347 Honor Guard member, was selected as the winner of the Post #347 Americanism Essay Award.  Presenting the award was Joan Suelter, past Post 347 Honor Guard Cmdr and current 1st Vice Cmdr. Joan was very impressed by 'JT' and simply said, "He gets it!" The essay is about when JT attended a Military Honors ceremony at Florida National Cemetery on April 23, 2019 with his grandfather.

The essay can be found HERE.


The Sons Hold Annual State Convention in Orlando

Pete Puzzo, District #12 Vice Commander, 'wins' the Golden Bowl Trophy for 2nd place in District membership; presented by George Worton, District #6 Vice Commander
     The Sons Annual Convention was in Orlando, June 27-29, 2019.
     District #6, the home of Squadron #347, was the big membership drive winner this past year, beating out District #12 by a hair.  It was enough to allow Distrct #6 to 'award' District #12 with the Golden Bowl trophy for their 2nd place finish.  George Worton, pictured here, is the new District #6 Commander.  George was our Squadron #347 Commander for part of last year, and we are very proud of him!

     Squadron #347 is also proud of our member, Richard Duncan, for taking over the reigns of the Eastern Area as its new Commander.

     We wish George and Richard the best of luck and smooth sailing as they guide our organization for 2019-2020.

Richard Duncan of Squadron #347 takes the Eastern Area gavel from Randy Chilcott of Squadron #117, the outgoing Area Commander.  John Jennings, National Executive Committeeman, looks on.


Sons Squadron 347 Donates to Operation Shoebox

Doug White Presents Donation to Camille of Operation Shoebox
     The Sons Squadron 347 donated $1,000 to Operation Shoebox in June 2019.  1st Vice Commander Doug White presented the check to Camille of Operation Shoebox in The Villages.

     Founded in 2003 by military mom Mary Harper, she continues her mission at Operation Shoebox headquarters in Belleview, Florida. The organization ships between 800-1,000 care packages a week.

For more information on Operation Shoebox, visit their website.

Volunteers working for Operation Shoebox


Sons, and Many Others, Place Flags at FL National Cemetery

     Thanks to the many American Legion volunteers who reconditioned about 140,000 flags in January 2019 so that hundreds of volunteers could place them in front of every grave marker on May 26, 2019.

     One of our own Sons Squadron #347 members, Jeff Taffuri, pictured here, was a bus coordinator for the trip down to Bushnell and back.  The published a fine article about the event.


Sons Donates to Habitat for Humanity Veterans Village

     Kent Adcock, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter counties visited The Post on May 20, 2019 and was presented with a $2,500 donation for their Veterans Village project.  The Sons have been long-time supporters of their Veterans Village projects.  In fact, over the past 5 years we have donated $11,500 to this very meaningful cause.  They directly impact the lives of Veterans and their families by helping them get into decent housing and they also receive other life-skills assistance.  Our hats are off to Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter counties, thanks for all that you do!


Special Olympics and The Sons

Thomas Linn and his Special Olympics Champions
     Thomas Linn, one of our Squadron #347 members, is an active volunteer with Florida Special Olympics as a mentor/coach. He volunteers approximately 12 hrs a week during April - July. Last year his team qualified for State and came in 2nd in a tournament at DisneyWorld. We thank you Tom, for taking your time and applying your talent to help out such a worthy cause.

     Did you know that Special Olympics is a targeted cause of The American Legion, and more specifically by The Sons. Each year Sons Squadrons around Florida donate well over $100,000 to the Special Olympics, and members like Tom donate countless hours of their time as well. We salute you!


Click for Squadron 347 Officer Election Results for 2019-2020


Sons Hosted Vegas Night, a Dinner Show with Elvis and Patsy Cline Tributes

Elvis (Greg Bastin)

Patsy Cline (Rebecca Mills)

     Sons of the American Legion Squadron 347 hosted a Vegas Night Dinner Show. Held March 1, 2019 at The Post, was open to the public and included a dinner and a show featuring singers Greg Bastin and Rebecca Mills paying tribute to Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline. Greg is a Sons member at Post 90 in St Cloud.

     We had an overflow crowd, a 50/50 drawing, and everyone had a grand time!


Sons Commander Leads Wreaths Across America Ceremony

     The Sons Squadron 347 Commander, John Gorsuch, was the Master of Cermonies for the December 2018 Wreaths Accross America commemoration. Over 100 wreaths, provided by the Wreaths Across America organization, were placed at veterans headstones in Lady Lake Cemetery. John gave a nice speech honoring our Veterans' service.  The Post Honor Guard presented the ceremonial flags for each branch of service and the POW/MIA flag. Volunteers retrieved the wreaths a week later.


Sons Commander Steps Down for Personal Reasons

Incoming Cmdr Gorsuch and Outgoing Cmdr Adams
     Squadron 347 Commander Danny Adams, Jr decided he had to step down in mid-term due to his on-going battle with MS.  Danny and his family are moving up north to Indiana, cloe by to a VA hospital that has better services for his needs.  Outgoing Commander Adams handed over the gavel to incoming Commander John Gorsuch at the December 2018 General Membership meeting.  John had been 2nd Vice Cmdr and 1st Vice Cmdr prior to the appointment as incoming Cmdr.  John recently moved his family to Florida from Maryland.

     The Sons Post leadership and members all wish the best for Danny and his health, and for John in his new role.


Sons New Member Initiation Held Sept 19, 2019

     Sons Squadron 347 held it's bi-annual new member initiation ceremony on September 19, 2019.  A dozen initiates and their guests were treated to a pizza dinner prior to the ceremony.  During initiation they received a Sons membership pin, a flag and flag etiquette manual, a Sons membership manual, and a copy of the US Constitution. 

     Did you know that as of May 15, 2019 our Squadron has approved 145 new members for fiscal year 2018-19, which is a record for us!


Squadron #347 Donated to Local Food Pantry

Volunteers of the Village View Community Church Food Pantry
     Squadron #347 donated $750 to the Village View Community Church Food Pantry in Summerfield.  Fellowship/Associate Pastor David J. Brett said, "We are so very appreciative of the generosity of the Sons of the American Legion. Please let them know that 100% of their gift goes to feeding families in the area. There are many families that are struggling in this area, and your financial gift will help feed them."


Sons Active Duty Member Presented with Autographed Photo

     We have a few active duty Sons members in our Squadron, one of whom is Dan Goteski, the grandson of Legionairre Sheldon Goteski. Dan is a sailor on the submarine “Providence”, SS-719, stationed at the Submarine Base in Groton, CT. When Dan's shipmates found out he was a Son at our Squadron they got together and autographed a framed photo of their sub and presented it to The Post.

     Pictured here are: George Worton-Past Commander of our Squadron; Tim Tierney-Past Commander of The Post; Ed Lawson-Lounge Manager and SeaDragon Base member; Fred Briggs-Commander of SeaDragon Base USSVI; and Sheldon Goteski.

     The photo is now hanging in the lounge along side the other submarine memorabilia.


Squadron 347 Awards $8,000 in Scholarships for 2018

Bill Gray Presents Scholarship to Matthew Duncan.
     For many years now Squadron 347 has awarded scholarships to well-deserving High School students in our area.  This year we selected eight winners; 4 from Lake Weir HS and 4 from Belleview HS, and awarded a total of $8,000.  Bill Gray, our Squadron's Scholarship Chairman, presented all of the awards in person.  Pictured to the left is Matthew Duncan, our Squadron's own Children & Youth chairman and Sunday kitchen coordinator, being presented a scholarship by Bill.  Matthew was also an officer in his HS JROTC program this year!  Matt will be attending the Marion Technical College in Ocala.  FYI, the award checks are made payable to the school, not the student.


Casino Night Event is a Huge Success

     The Casino Night event held on June 8, 2018 was a roaring success!  Thanks to our 2nd Vice Cmdr David Booth for organizing this fun evening of games, prizes, and socializing with friends.  Many thanks also to Richard Duncan and David Callies who took the lead on selling lottery board tickets and rounding up gifts from local businesses.  The lottery board raised over $2,000 profit, by far a record for such a fundraising effort.  The event netted over $3,700 which will go directly to supporting Veteran, youth, and local community causes.  We plan on having more Casino Nights in the future, so keep an eye out for more Sons' news.
Ron Eichner (center) was the winner of the Lottery Board, presented by Cmdr Worton (left) & master salesman Richard Duncan (right).


Sons Squadron 347 Chaplain Jack Dirga Passes Away

     Squadron 347 Chaplain Jack Dirga, our good friend, passed away peacefully on June 4, 2018. Jack was active up to the last few days of his life, having even attended our May meeting just over 2 weeks before. I spoke with Marty, his wife of 45 years, and she relayed that Jack did not suffer at all. She wanted to express her deepest thanks to our Squadron and the Post, as this was his second home. He loved to help in the kitchen, or out front taking orders, or just talking it up with all of his good friends at the Post.
     Jack was born on May 4, 1943, married Marty in 1973, and they have two sons, Bob and Chris. They have 2 granddaughters with son Bob and one grandchild on the way with son Chris. Bob is a Commander in the Navy and Chris is an Engineer with the State of Connecticut. Jack and Marty enjoyed RV'ing for many years and doing as much cruising as possible. Jack retired from Pratt & Whitney after a career of 35 years and has been our Squadron's Chaplain for the past 12 years, since we were formed in 2007. Jack visited and comforted many Veterans and others in his role as Chaplain. He also officiated at our Executive Committee and General meetings, giving us blessings to help us make the right decisions and keep our great organization growing in goodness and forever striking for truth.
     We honor the memory of Chaplain Jack Dirga, who is now enrolled in that Great Spirit force, whose steps cause no sound but in our memory, his soul goes marching on, sustained by pride in our country. Our Heavenly Father, in His everlasting wisdom, has called Chaplain Dirga to membership of the Squadron Everlasting of the Sons of The American Legion. May He in His ever-loving mercy grant him eternal rest and peace. We render a silent salute to our departed comrade. He will be missed.


Sons Squadron 347 Presents Certificate of Appreciation to Wal-Mart of Summerfield

Ruthia of Wal-Mart and Gary Blanchard of The Sons.
     Our Sons' Veterans Affairs Chairman and Sergent-at-Arms Gary Blanchard proudly presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Wal-Mart manager Ruthia on March 30, 2018. Ruthia has been instrumental in arranging for the Summerfield Mal-Mart to provide a deep discount on donuts one day per month to The Sons. Sons' volunteers distribute the donuts at the Villages VA Clinic on CR42 to veterans who, in many cases, just finished giving blood for tests and have not eaten in 12 or more hours.


Sons Squadron 347 Once Again Cooks Entrees for Lake Weir HS JROTC Ball

     The Lake Weir HS JROTC held their 2018 Ball on March 24, 2018 and enjoyed a delicious custom-prepared meal by the Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 in Lady Lake, FL. There were over 200 attendees including the cadets, their dates, and honored guests. There was also a ceremony to transfer command from the outgoing student leadership to the incoming 2018-2019 leadeship.


Sons Squadron 347 Donates Holiday Gifts to Ailing Vets at Gainesville VA Hospital

     At The Sons' November 2017 general membership meeting about 20 volunteers wrapped small Christmas gifts that were delivered in December to Veterans recovering in Gainesville's VA Hospital.  Several Sons officers, and a couple Auxiliary members, visited patients at the Gainesville VA Hospital.  They visited about 50 veterans and got to know their stories of service and about their recent battles with health.
     Sons' Commander Worton said of the visits, "These heroes being treated at our VA Hospitals are inspiring both for their past service to our country and their subsequent service in their communities. These men and women deserve our respect and gratefulness. Participating in this small token of our appreciation as a Squadron has helped me and the other Legion volunteers put into perspective the work that we do all year to help provide various forms of assistance to Veterans organizations and also community and youth organizations."


Sons Squadron 347 Present Certificates Honoring Veterans at Local Nursing Home

     On November 9, 2017, in honor of Veteran's Day, Squadron #347 Adjutant Doug White presented a Certificate of Appreciation to 16 Veterans who are living at the Brrokdale Leesburg Assisted Living Center.  The Post #347 Honor Guard presented the colors of our country and patriotic music was played, including the Star Spangled Banner.

     "It was a real honor for me to present these brave men and women with a Certificate of Appreciation", says Adjutant White.  "I was especially moved when, at the playing of the National Anthem, most of the honorees stood up and saluted the flag, even though their bodies may have ached!"


Sons Squadron 347 Hosts Successful Hermit Crab Race Event

About 100 crabs were in three race flights.
     On September 25, 2017 over 120 guests enjoyed an evening of food, fun, and crabs; yes, crabs.  Live hermit crabs that is, each sporting a custom designed large shell (about 1-2" across) themed with sports logos, fancy patterns, and colorful shapes.  Guests paid $5 each to sponsor a crab in each of three race flights that included three heats until a final crab crossed the checkered flag.  The event was displayed on the 8 large-screen TVs so everyone had the best seat in the house.
The event raised over $1,700 profit that will go directly to support Veterans, their families, and our community's youth.

     The Sons will be hosting one more Hermit Crab Race event this fiscal year, on January 15, 2018.


Sons Squadron 347 Officers are Installed for 2017-2018

L-R: Bill Gray, Dave Callies, Davey Kemper (Sq 286), Gary Blanchard, Danny Adams, Jr.
     In July 2017 the 6th District performed the Officer Installation ceremonies at Legion Post #347 for all Post family organizations, including The Sons.  In attendance was Outgoing Squadron #347Commander Gary Bishop, Incoming Commander George Worton, Bill Gray, Dave Callies, Cory Meloni, Gary Blanchard, Danny Adams, Jr, and Matthew Duncan, Sq #347 Youth Chairman.  Officer charges were delivered by District 6 Officers.


Sons Squadron 347 Member Wins VA&R Volunteer of the Year Award

Sgt-at-Arms Gary Blanchard & Commander George Worton
     Gary Blanchard, our VA&R Chairman and incoming Sgt-at-Arms, volunteered over 1,000 hours visiting Veterans in VA hospitals and homes and providing other Veteran assistance during the 2016-2017 year.  He was awarded the VA&R Volunteer of the Year award by the Florida Detachment at their 2017 convention in Orlando. We're all very proud of Gary and hope he has the energy to keep up with this very important and meaningful endeavor.  If you wish to help Gary in some of his efforts, give him a call at 352-636-8004.


Squadron 347 Youth Chairman Elected to 2 Florida Boys State Offices
     Richard Duncan, past Squadron 347 Commander, reported that his grandson, and Squadron Youth Chairman, Matthew Duncan, was elected to both County Commissioner and House Representative offices at Florida Boys State.  Boys State is an American Legion sponsored participatory program in which students become part of the operation of a mock local, county, and state government.  It is recognized as one of the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students.  More about Boys State can be found at this website.  Matthew is headed into his senior year at Lake Weir High School where he is the Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM) in the school's Army Junior ROTC program.  If that is not enough, Matthew is also a candidate for potential enrollment at the Air Force Academy in 2018.  Squadron 347 Commander Gary Bishop said, "We're all very proud of Matthew and his accomplishments.  He is a fine upstanding young man and a shining example of what is great about the future of our country."


Sons Squadron 347 Donates to Assist Veterans

     As the 2016-2017 fiscal year is coming to an end The Sons of The American Legion Squadron 347 has been making many donations to causes and organizations that support veterans, their familieis, and the youth in our community.  A $1,000 donation was presented to David Booth, the President of Combat Veterans-to-Careers (and also incoming 2nd Vice Commander for Squadron 347).  A $500 donation was presented to Alvin Corenblum and Tom Miller, who run the Veteran's Urn project at The Villages Woodworkers Club.  Over the last 2 1/2 years they have produced over 350 hand-crafted urns used mainly to inter the ashes of indigent veterans.
Commander Bishop presents donation to David Booth of Combat Veterans to Careers.

Adjutant Doug White presents donation to Alvin and Tom of the Villages Woodshop Veteran's Urn Project.


Sons Squadron 347 Participates in Local Memorial Day Ceremony

Commander Gary Bishop places memorial flag.
     Memorial Day for the Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 in Lady Lake, FL was commemorated on May 30, 2017 at the Lady Lake Cemetery.  Newly appointed Squadron #347 Commander Gary Bishop placed a memorial wreath during the ceremony.  Lady Lake Boy Scout Troop #244, which is sponsored by the Sons' organization, also participated in the ceremony.  The Villages Daily Sun reported on the ceremony.   You can download a copy of the full article by clicking HERE.


Sons' Squadron 347 Donations are Building Up
     As of April 2017 The Sons of The American Legion Squadron 347 in Lady Lake, FL has donated over $14,000 to local, regional, and national programs and causes.  This includes Villages Honor Flight, Gainesville Fisher House, Habitat for Humanity of Lake/Sumter Veterans Village, the Lake Weir HS NJROTC, and others.
     There is an approved plan to donate an additional almost $20,000 by the end of June 2017.  These future programs and causes include eight (8) college scholarships, Combat Veterans to Careers, local food pantries, and local community sports groups.
     Acting Commander Gary Bishop says, "The main mission of The Sons' organization is to donate to these programs and causes that support our veterans, their families, and our youth.  We have close to 600 members and most of our funding comes from preparing and selling dinners at the American Legion lounge Monday and Thursday evenings, and Sunday afternoons during NFL season.  A core group of our members volunteer their time and skill in the kitchen and as servers or order-takers to generate over $35,000 this fiscal year.  It's an excellent way to give back to our soldiers and their families."


Sons Squadron 347 Cooks Meal for Lake Weir HS JROTC Ball

     The Lake Weir HS JROTC held their 2017 Ball on March 4th and enjoyed a delicious custom-prepared meal by the Sons of The American Legion Squadron 347 in Lady Lake, FL. The meal included ham w/pineapple, baked ziti, green beans w/diced tomato, rolls, and more. There were over 200 attendees including the cadets, their dates, and honored guests. The was also a ceremony to transfer command from the outgoing student leadership to the incoming 2017-2018 leadeship. The incoming 2nd-in-command is our own Matthew Duncan, who is Chairman of Youth Activities for The Sons and is also the grandson of Richard Duncan, our Past Commander and currently Member-at-Large. As part of the ceremonies the JROTC sword team used their brand new parade swords, donated by The Sons, to create a sword tunnel for honored couples entering the hall. See a video of the sword tunnel in action HERE.


Sons' Squadron 347 Donates Parade Swords to Lake Weir HS JROTC Program

     Sons' Squadron 347 presented 9 parade swords (8 Cavarly and 1 Officer replicas) and a custom-made wooden carry case to the Lake Weir High School Junior ROTC program.  The donation was dedicated to the late Nicholas Watke, the JROTC student cadet leader who was killed in a tragic accident in November.  Nicholas's Mom, Maria Watke, and JROTC instructor, retired Sergeant-Major Michael Kelsen, accepted the generous gift during a dedication ceremony at The Sons' February Membership meeting.  The JROTC program at Lake Weir HS is an Army-themed student organization that instills positive behaviors in its over 250 student cadets.  The cadets learn and practice all aspects of patriotism, Americanism, citizenship, self-confidence, and community service.  The presentation of the swords was covered by the online news service


Sons' Squadron #347 Donates to Gainesville, FL Fisher House
     At their January 2017 general membership meeting The Sons' Squadron #347 was honored to have Patti Fabiani as guest speaker.  Patti is Executive Director of the Fisher House in Gainesville, FL.  This national organization provides free accomodations to families of veterans being treated at VA Hospitals.  The Gainesville Fisher House served 1,700 families during 2016 alone, an amazing service to our veterans and their families!  The Sons' presented Patti a check for $2,500, that will go directly to supporting the Gainesville Fisher House.


Sons' Squadron #347 Wraps up 2016 with Gifts for Veterans
     At their December 2016 general membership meeting about 20 volunteers wrapped small Christmas gifts that were delivered over the following days to veterans recovering in our local VA Hospitals.  Several officers visited patients at the newly opened VA Hospital in Orlando, a beautiful facility staffed with top-notch dedicated individuals.  They visited about 20 veterans and got to know their stories of service and about their recent battles with health.  Our Commander, Bill Preston, even ventured out on his own on Christmas Day, somewhat of a tradition for Bill, to visit patients at the Gainesville VA Hospital and some Central Florida nursing facilities.
     Our Adjutant said of the visits, "The heroes we visited were so strong and inspiring, trying so hard to heal but still showing a cheerful and thankful attitude. It was an honor to help bring them the tiniest token of our appreciation for their past service to our country.  I joined The Sons' in large part to help veterans and their families, and this few hours of my time was a potent dose of reality that veterans are real people, and sometimes in need of a helping hand. To have the opportunity to help, since I did not serve myself, made the holidays a great deal more significant for me this year.  Next time you have a chance to help a veteran out, give it some serious thought, it is well worth the effort for both the veteran and for you."


Sons' Squadron #347 Reaches 100% Membership Milestone on December 21, 2016
     Several Sons' Squadron #347 officers hand-delivered the December 21st membership submittal to Detachment Headquarters in Orlando. This submittal brought the Squadron to 100% of it's previous year's membership level. This is remarkably early in the membership cycle to have reached the 100% goal, especially for a Squadron that has over 500 members! Thanks to our membership for sending in their renewal dues, and to the hard work of our executive team to help communicate the importance of renewing memberships as early as possible. Renewing early is critical because we want to replenish our treasury as early as we can so that we can make donations to our worthy causes as early as possible during our year in office.


Sons' Squadron #347 Participates in Special Olympics Event in Orlando

     Several Sons' Squadron #347 members travelled to Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando to volunteer their time by helping out at the 2016 Special Olympics Bowling Championship.  Pictured are: Commander Bill Preston, Adjutant Doug White, Treasurer Danny Adams, 2nd Vice Commander George Worton, and the grandson of Bernie Wildrick, who is the Detachment's Special Olympics Committee Chairman.  Volunteers helped out with security, as well as doing some announcing of the competition results.  It was a rewarding experience to help out with an event of this magnitude.  Several hundred bowlers participated along with countless staff and volunteers.


2016 Halloween Dance was a Howling Success
     The annual dance organized by Member-at-Large and Past Commander Richard Duncan was a great success.  Nearly 180 people attended and a net profit of almost $1,800 was earned for The Sons' worthy causes.  Several prizes were awarded for best costumes in different categories.  Entertainment was provided by Danny & Johnny, a very talented singing duo who crooned all the popular music from the 60's to the 90's.