Strength in numbers


Post commander on a mission to grow ranks

American Legion Post 17 Commander Ron Fischer stands in front of the post on Cedar Street in Naugatuck. Fischer, a 74-year-old veteran, is working to increase the legion’s membership. –LUKE MARSHALL
American Legion Post 17 Commander Ron Fischer stands in front of the post on Cedar Street in Naugatuck. Fischer, a 74-year-old veteran, is working to increase the legion’s membership. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — A familiar face at the American Legion Post 17 is hoping to lead the post into a future with more members.

Ron Fischer, 74, of Naugatuck was installed again as commander of Post 17 during a ceremony in September.

Fischer served as commander of Post 17 for several years in the past. He has also served as a district officer for the American Legion’s second district in Connecticut and as district commander in 2014.

Fischer thought he was done in leadership roles at the American Legion, but felt the need to step into the top spot at Post 17 one more time.

“The participating members are dwindling. We couldn’t find anybody that really wanted to step up, and although I had decided that I was done, I said let me step back in and get it back on its feet,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the decline in members is a problem the legion has been trying to solve for years.

“The younger people are working, they are raising families, and involved in so many things that it is tough to get them to come out and join,” Fischer said.

Fischer said one of the ways the legion is trying to get veterans to join is simply by letting them know the organization exists. Veterans are invited to stop by the post, 21 Cedar St., Monday through Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. to learn more about the legion, he said.

“I am also a producer with Comcast Access. Sometimes I will have a show on what we are doing as veterans’ organizations. I just did one that hasn’t aired yet that covered what the American Legion is and what we are trying to do,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the post is also hosting events that are open to all veterans and their families.

“We are trying to bring these things back. Things that will bring the families in and things that are open to the public, so people can come in here and maybe we gain a new member or two each time,” Fischer said.

Post 17 is heavily involved locally, including volunteering, holding a POW/MIA vigil on the Naugatuck Green every year, providing honors at a veteran’s funeral, and placing flags at the graves of veterans each Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Later this month, the post will hold a ceremony recognizing veterans who served during the Vietnam War in honor of the 50th anniversary of the war, Fischer said.

Post 17, which was founded in 1919, is also preparing for its 100th anniversary, he added.

Fischer said one of the most difficult groups to attract is female veterans. Fischer said he recently spoke with a woman who had served in Iraq.

“I asked her how come you haven’t joined the American Legion. She said, ‘You have to be a veteran,’” Fischer said. “She was under the impression that only men could be veterans. That’s silly. They wear the uniform, they put in the time, they are veterans.”

Fischer said the American Legion has much to offer veterans, including the Soldier Sailor Marine Fund. The fund helps veterans who have fallen on hard times, have disabilities, or any other hardships.

“Any time there is a veteran in need, they run into hard times, they come down to an American Legion post and they can apply for what they need. Provided they are eligible we get them taken care of,” Fischer said.

Even if a veteran may never need the fund, by joining the American Legion they can help their fellow veterans locally and across the country, Fischer said.

“The more people that belong, the more clout we have in Washington, and the more chances we have to get laws passed to help the veteran community,” Fischer said.

Fischer pointed to the GI Bill of Rights and the creation of the Veterans Administration as things the American Legion has been able to accomplish.

“The list is formidable for the things we have accomplished simply because we have the numbers. People know there are several million people behind this idea so it makes them listen a little more,” Fischer said.

For Fischer, working for the betterment of the post and veterans was worth coming out of retirement for.

“My main interest is to keep the post going and to grow the post. So I felt it was necessary for me to step back in as commander to do this,” Fischer said.