Located approximately 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities, Montgomery, Minn., was platted in 1877. Four decades later, American Legion Post 79 was chartered and has been an integral part of the city ever since.
On Aug. 10, the post again opened its doors to its community, this time to celebrate 100 years of that strong relationship. The event included live bands, food, a corn hole tournament and an opportunity to view the post’s history through pictures and documents on display. Dozens of members of the community attended the event.
Past Post Commander and current Department of Minnesota Vice Commander Mike Maxa said the relationship between the post and Montgomery made opening the centennial celebration up to the public an easy decision.
“Our community here supports our veterans,” Maxa said. “I’m really proud of Montgomery because they do step up and support Post 79 and their veterans. The city was instrumental in developing our Veterans Memorial Park. They donated the land for us and we put up the rest. Montgomery really stands behind its veterans.”
Post 79’s 42-year-old commander, Corey Kotek – who grew around the Legion with his father, Ed, a member of Post 79 – said that relationship was critical in the post being able to celebrate the centennial. “For us to last 100 years in the community, we had to be joined – both of us together,” he said. “We need the support from the community, and the community benefits from us being a part of it.”
Being commander as The American Legion turned 100 has led Kotek to imagine “how it started 100 years ago. One of the founding fathers of The American Legion was born and raised here in Montgomery, George Washington Bentley. So thinking about 100 years ago, the end of World War I, they were there and starting this. Thinking about that and the nostalgia with it is pretty amazing.”
World War II veteran and 73-year Legionnaire Edward E. Holicky understands that nostalgia. His father – Edward T. Holicky – was a founder of Post 79. Seeing what his father started celebrate a 100th birthday “is neat to see,” Holicky said.
Fellow Post 79 member and World War II veteran Buck Zahratka, a Battle of the Bulge veteran, joined the post more than 60 years ago. Being a part of the 100-year celebration “is pretty great. It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “There aren’t very many (organizations) that can celebrate 100 years.”
Inside Post 79, Post Historian Andy Regenscheid has set up a wall display in the post’s club area that honors a member of the post and include photos of the veteran during his time in the military, with his family and while participating in American Legion activities. He said the reason behind the display, which changes every two months, is to honor those veterans while they are still alive.
For Regenscheid, the centennial event was a chance for the public to do something similar – “to give the community the opportunity to meet some of the veterans and share an appreciation for what they have done for them.”
Serving as post historian has been “eye opening” for Regenscheid, who found a book that contained the minutes from Post 79’s very first meeting. “I’m very proud to be a part of (the centennial),” he said. “And an event like this gives people a chance to see what we do and who we are.”