A 1,700-mile adventure for members of Joseph Younghawk/Elmer Bear American Legion Post/Unit 253 of White Shield, N.D., began at the American Legion convention in Indianapolis. Al and Judy Wilson of Giles-Biondi Post/Unit 63 in Bound Brook, N.J., visited the Eiteljorg Native American Museum after sessions and struck up a conversation with Austin Gillette and a few Post 253 members in the museum café. The Wilsons mentioned a parade held in Sept. in Raritan, N.J., to honor Congressional Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone. They were surprised when Austin and his post members said they knew of Basilone and indicated that they might like to come and march in the parade one day. Al said he would provide Austin with information about the parade when he got home.
After returning from Indianapolis Al sent Austin the parade date, Sept. 22, along with contact numbers. Al and Judy thought that Austin would probably not attend this year because it was short notice, but hoped it would be useful for next year. They were amazed when Austin emailed back and said “Looks like we will attend. Advise nearest airport.”
The Wilsons notified New Jersey Department Commander Bob Newell that Austin, past commander of Post 253, and members of Post/Unit 253 would be marching in the Basilone Parade. They also notified Somerset County Commander, Don Caola, a member of Gerald S. Abrego Post 327 in Bradley Gardens, that they would have special visitors at their get-together after the parade. Post 327, Commander Bob Sedlak, their SAL and Auxiliary all contributed to the get-together. Unit 327 President Wendy Fine and Angie Papcun Levash made sure everyone had plenty to eat.
Five Post 253 members, including Commander Robin Fox, and nine Auxiliary members marched in the Basilone Parade in traditional Native American garb.
At the after-parade get-together, Madonna Azure, president of Unit 253, shared that they are members of the Arikara Nation and the oldest Auxiliary on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. It was a great honor for NJ to have visitors from Post/Unit 253, and it is hoped they will come back. While standing in the parking lot waiting for their van back to their hotel, one of the Post 253 members commented, “Look, we are from the Peace Garden State and they are from the Garden State.” On this special day, ND and NJ had more in common than “Garden State.” They were all members of a great American Legion Family.