An American Legion color guard honors veterans at the 2019 Memorial Day ceremony at the courthouse.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a lot of organizations very hard in 2020. The Dennis Strong Post 457 American Legion, Tunkhannock is no different. The Legion was not able to host its annual Veterans Day ceremonies and events, just one of the many casualties that have taken place in 2020.

Jerry Beausheane serves as First Vice Commander of the Dennis Strong American Legion Post 457, and he is trying to stay optimistic about the future.

“What’s going on in the world with the virus is out of our hands, everything has been completely knocked on its ear this year,” Beausheane said. “However, on the positive side, we did just get a new member the other night, a man from Vermont who recently moved back to Nicholson. We’re really excited about that.”

The Dennis Strong Post 457 American Legion has been around since 1919. It officially got its charter less than a year after the end of World War I. Beausheane says that there are currently about 80 people who belong to the post, and that around 90 percent of the people are currently 70 or older.

Beausheane said it has been tough to get together for regular meetings because of social distancing rules. The legion has been holding its monthly meetings at the Moose Lodge in Eaton Township, but attendance has still been sparse.

“I’d say we have only been getting around 18 to 20 people at the meetings every month,” Beausheane said. “With social distancing, we really can’t find a place big enough to hold everybody, and a lot of the guys are older, so they might not feel comfortable being around too many people just yet, which is completely understandable.”

Despite the struggles, Post 457 has continued to perform duties to support veterans and veterans organizations all throughout the county. It also continues to honor departed service men and women by placing over 750 flags in area cemeteries and properly disposed of over 3,000 flags that had become torn and worn out.

“We feel like that’s one of the least things we can do, especially for people who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Beausheane said. “Another thing we are going to be doing is taking down the military banners in Tunkhannock. We noticed that some of them are starting to fall apart, so we are going to take them down in the next couple of weeks and see what we could do to possibly touch them up.”

The organization has not been able to host any of its fundraisers this year, which has led to lost opportunities for recruitment. Beausheane says events like chicken barbecues, Founders Day, and Christmas In Our Hometown are some of the main events where the Legion helps out the community.

“Not having any of our fundraisers or community events hurts a little bit,” Beausheane said. “We like to give back to the community a lot by donating a portion of our funds to area Little League teams, other youth organizations, or anything we can do to help out the schools and the kids in our community.”

When the pandemic is over, the Legion expects to kick it back into high gear by going back to its normal schedule of fundraisers and putting on recruitment events again to try and get younger members to join.

One thing that Beausheane says can continue even during a pandemic is the way that the public can treat our veterans. Just a simple “thank you for your service” can go a long way in making a veterans day.

“T he Vietnam War veterans were treated terribly when they came home. Now I think that overall as a nation, we are treating veterans well. I see little kids going up to people wearing any type of military uniform and they go up and say ‘thank you for your service’,” Beausheane said. “I remember the first time that someone ever said that to me it was one of the best feelings in the world. It really makes your day, and we need to be doing nice things for people in these times.”

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