Westfield American Legion gets new leadership

Back row: Paul Nimchick chaplain, Gary Fontaine adjutant, Todd Gannon finance officer, state rep. John Velis Front row: Martin Christian senior vice commander, Sharon Ambrose historian, Cindy Lacoste commander, Ted Gage junior vice commander, Joe Delaney sergeant at arms.

Back row: chaplain Paul Nimchick, adjutant Gary Fontaine, finance officer Todd Gannon, state rep. John Velis
Front row: senior vice commander Martin Christian, historian Sharon Ambrose, commander Cindy Lacoste, junior vice commander Ted Gage, sergeant-at-arms Joe Delaney.

finance officer

WESTFIELD—The city’s American Legion post named a woman to its top spot for the first time in its 97-year history last week.

Post 124, which is Westfield’s American Legion post, named Cindy Lacoste post commander Aug. 14. As commander, Lacoste will oversee the day-to-day functions of Westfield’s Legion, as well as plan and coordinate functions and fundraisers.

Lacoste was one of eight individuals appointed to new positions within Post 124, which changes those in power annually every August. The others appointed were vice commander Martin Christian, second vice commander Ted Gage, adjutant Gary Fontaine, finance officer Todd Gannon, sergeant-at-arms Joseph Delaney, chaplain Reverend Paul Nimchick, Jr. and historian Sharon Ambrose.

“I am really excited to do my year as commander and being the first female is nice, but that’s not why I’m doing it,” Lacoste said. “I’m doing it because I’m a veteran and I want to serve my country and my brothers and sisters in-arms.”

Prior to becoming post commander, Lacoste served in the US Navy for 22 years, on-and-off since 1975.

“My father was in the service–he was in the sub service a long time ago–and I wanted to be like my dad,” she said. “I signed up as a senior in high school and left in June right after my graduation.

“I never knew I was going to make a career out of it and it was the best thing I ever did,” Lacoste said.

Lacoste eventually made it to the rank of chief petty officer, which she said is rare for those in the Navy to achieve.

Lacoste said that she was not going to make any significant changes as post commander, but said that she wants to increase membership for the American Legion overall.

“I want to bring in new members so I can continue this tradition well into the future, both male and female,” she said. “I’ve been seeing more female veterans coming back who want to add to something, as well as males.”

To Bill Spradlin, public relations officer and past commander of Post 124, the decision to choose Lacoste was an obvious one and also helped their post catch up with the times.

“It was time for our post to finally get a female commander,” Spradlin said. “I thought she was an excellent choice and she will do an excellent job.”

Post 124 is one of the oldest in the nation. It started when the American Legion formed in July 1919, following World War I. It is the third largest Legion group in Massachusetts, boasting approximately 600 members.

As a whole, American Legion reportedly has 2.5 million members, or Legionnaires. In order to join, you must be a veteran that has served in the military during a time of conflict.

Spradlin said that the group focuses on providing for the community through charity and fundraising, in order to give back and help youth, veterans and families of veterans, as well.

“We like to take care of the veterans, the youth and promote Americanism,” he said.

Lacoste will be overseeing many of the group’s functions, including casino nights with veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers Home, scholarship fundraising and community outreach. Additionally, she will be in charge of the 70th anniversary of the relationship between March of Dimes and Post 124. Every year they have a spaghetti supper to help raise funds for the charity.

“We don’t want to have this tradition end because this was set up by our forefathers,” Lacoste said of the March of Dimes spaghetti supper.

“It’s pretty amazing that it’s been going on for 70 years,” she said.

According to Spradlin, the relationship is one of the longest between anyone and the March of Dimes. Over the 70 years, he said that post 124 has donated over $75,000 to the charity.

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