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A 'pillar in the community' gets rewarded

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In 1999, Air Force and Vietnam War veteran Bill Cruice was asked by Department of New Jersey leadership to form an American Legion post in Ocean City, N.J.

Cruice, now a Paid-Up-For-Life member, went knocking on doors and soon encouraged other Legion members to do so. The post’s membership grew, as did its exposure in the community. But one thing was missing: a post facility.

Until now. On April 14, community leaders came together with national, department and local Legion leaders to celebrate the grand opening of the 4,800-square foot Morvay-Miley Post 524. A grand opening just for Legion Family members took place April 7, while another for vendors is scheduled for April 21. The April 14 event also included Department of Veterans Affairs staff to announce that the post would provide VA virtual care at its facility.

More than 300 showed up for the April 7 event while a large turnout also came on April 14, including American Legion National Vice Commander Larry Marcouillier, Department Commander Darryl Reid, National Executive Committeeman Chuck Robbins and Alternate National Executive Committeeman Berley Hanna Jr.

Dozens of Legion Family members also attended, including members of the American Legion Auxiliary, the Sons of The American Legion and the Legion Riders.

“This is just what our national commander is promoting: Legion Family, involvement in the community, and this post is all about that and has been all about that for many, many years,” Robbins said. “They just continue to be a pillar of this community.”

Cruice, a 29-year member of the Legion, said that at one time the post’s executive board was meeting at Cruice’s house. “Every month I would have to go to City Hall and say ‘where can we meet?’” Cruice said. Later, Post 524 would conduct meetings at a VFW post and then in a county building.

But Cruice said that when Jay Gillian was elected mayor of Ocean City, the mayor was able to convince the city to lease the post land at 46th Street and West Avenue. The price tag: $1 a year for 50 years.

Cruice also said two particular events the post conducted – a 9-11 anniversary ceremony in 2002 and a remembrance ceremony in 2005 for the 30-year anniversary of the fall of Saigon – cemented its reputation in the community.

“We did a parade to welcome home Vietnam vets, which had never been done in New Jersey,” Cruice said. “With those two events, the city administration saw how sincere Post 524 was in its support of veterans. I think those two events are what solidified the community with Post 524. Anything we wanted after that, we just had to knock on the door.”

When the post began staging fundraisers for the facility six years ago, the community bought into it. “The American Legion has been around since 1999,” Post 524 Commander Bob Marzulli said. “As we started to get bigger, we started making a name for ourselves in Ocean City. I think when we decided to do this that (the community) recognized who we are and what we do. At that point, we had the backing of the city council and mayor. And then everyone chipped in.”

In addition to members of the community donating funds, Marzulli said work was done at the post by union apprentices. “Instead of working in the classroom, they worked on our building,” he said. “Plumbers, drywallers, floorers, bricklayers – all those locals came to our defense. They were already getting paid by the union. We just gave them an opportunity to do real work.”

The post raised more than $500,000 for the facility, meaning there is no mortgage on the building. The facility has a large kitchen and dining hall and sits just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean.

The post – named for Jon Richard Morvay and Bruce Michael Miley, two local residents killed in action during the Vietnam War – currently has 425 members, along with an Auxiliary unit and SAL squadron both numbering 125 members or larger. During the April 14 event, the department commander presented the post with awards for the post reaching an all-time high in membership for eight consecutive years and exceeding the previous year’s membership for eight consecutive years.

“I think it will be a draw for people,” Reid said. “You have a lot of visitors coming down each year to Ocean City during the summer. I see they could be prospective members real easily. When you have a facility like this, people come.”

State and local government officials attended the April 14 opening. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew presented the post with a resolution from the New Jersey Legislature honoring the post for building the facility and giving area veterans a place to gather and relax. “To actually get it done and have a tangible effect on people’s lives is what you’ve done,” Van Drew told the post’s membership. “That makes a difference.”

Ocean City Councilman Keith Hartzell, the son of a World War II and Korean War veteran, said his father didn’t step into a Legion post for almost 50 years after his service. “He realized that this interaction that you offered my father meant the world to him,” he said. “And then when my father passed away, the way you treated my mother – she was family to everyone in this building. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”

Cruice likely won’t forget seeing the post get its first home anytime soon. “I did not think that I would be around long enough to see this happen,” he said. “What you see here today is the completion of an effort by a whole bunch of people.”


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Legion looking for veterans in Monterey County, Calif.

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Wartime veterans in and around Monterey County, Calif., are invited to a veterans outreach and district revitalization effort being conducted April 26-28 by American Legion national staff and the Department of California.

The effort will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 26-27 and 9 a.m.-noon April 28 at Prunedale American Legion Post 593, 8300 Prunedale Road, Prunedale.

A veterans service officer will be available all three days to assist with Department of Veterans Affairs-related issues and other veterans benefits questions.


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Veterans outreach headed to Montana

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American Legion national staff and Department of Montana Legionnaires will team up for a veterans outreach and district revitalization effort April 25-27 in Missoula. Wartime veterans in the area are invited to attend to learn more about American Legion programs and receive veterans benefits assistance.

The effort will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. all three days at Hellgate American Legion Post 27, 825 Ronan St., Missoula.

A veterans service officer will be available all three days to assist with Department of Veterans Affairs-related issues and other veterans benefits questions.


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Multi-county membership effort headed to Oklahoma

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Department and Oklahoma Legionnaires and American Legion national staff will conduct a multi-county district revitalization and veterans outreach effort April 26-27 in Bristow, Okla. Wartime veterans in and around Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Nowata, Ottawa, Washington, Osage, Pawnee, Rogers, and Tulsa counties are invited to attend to learn about Legion programs and get veterans benefits assistance.

The effort will take place from 9 a.m.-3:30 a.m both days at Klingensmith-Long Post 126, 132 W 8th St., Bristow.

A veterans service officer will be available both days to assist with Department of Veterans Affairs-related issues and other veterans benefits questions.


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R. Lee Ermey dies at 74

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R. Lee Ermey, who called upon his own experiences as a Marine Corps drill instructor for his famed role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” died Sunday morning from pneumonia-related complications at 74.

Ermey was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor for his performance as the intense Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film. His many other acting credits include a police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, and Sheriff Hoyt in the 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

His co-stars from “Full Metal Jacket,” Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio, were among those who tweeted their condolences after Ermey’s death.

Modine wrote, “#SemperFidelis Always faithful. Always loyal. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. RIP amigo. PVT. Joker.”

“Ermey was the real deal. The knowledge of him passing brings back wonderful memories of our time together,” D’Onofrio wrote.

Ronald Lee Ermey was born March 24, 1944, in Emporia, Kan. His family moved to Washington when he was 14, and he joined the Marines after graduating high school. He received a medical discharge in 1971 due to injuries, and used the GI Bill to enroll at the University of Manila in the Philippines where he studied drama.

Ermey appeared in an uncredited role as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” which was filmed in the Philippines. He was initially hired as a technical consultant for “Full Metal Jacket,” but filmed his own audition tape for the role of Hartman and impressed Kubrick enough to earn the role.

In May 2014, The American Legion Magazine asked its readers, website visitors and social media followers to select from a list of 100 beloved U.S. veterans; Ermey was 44th. An American Legion life member, Ermey was also profiled in the October 2003 edition of the magazine.

Ermey is survived by his wife, Nila, and four children.


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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at www.archives.gov