On March 9, 2019, a sense of pride and honor radiated through Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 (Grand Haven, Mich.) Legionnaires, SAL, Auxiliary, Riders and guests during the post’s “99th Birthday Dinner Celebration.” While the post’s birthday milestone alone was cause for celebration, a very special evening ensued where history was made and transferred to new generations of servicemembers.
Upon entering Post 28, guests were greeted with the aroma of succulent prime rib, dinner sides and dessert prepared by Post 28 Chef Cindy Scheele and Post 28 Auxiliary and SAL volunteers. During the social hour, attendees shared greetings and introductions while witnessing something very special. In attendance were three WWII veterans/Post 28 Legionnaires -- along with U.S. Coast Guard WWII veteran and honorary guest and speaker Tony Gianunzio -- and three Korean Conflict veterans/Post 28 Legionnaires. After the 100-plus guests were seated, Post 28 Commander John Bilski called the event to order with the posting of colors led by Post 28 Honor Guard Committee Chairman David “Mack” McKellar. Post 28 Chaplain Duane Smith gave the invocation and blessing, followed by Bilski welcoming and reminding attendees about the importance of The American Legion's founding and the key role Legionnaires and Family units serve in fulfilling the Legion's mission and keeping Legion traditions of serving veterans and their families alive and well. Guests were then served a delicious prime rib dinner with dessert.
Tony “Buzz” Gianunzio (95 years young) served in the U.S. Coast Guard aboard USS Machias, which transported task groups and antisubmarine patrols during the war. What few people know about Tony is that prior to the military draft, he signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs to try out as pitcher. However, when the military draft age was lowered to 19, Tony sacrificed a promising career in professional baseball to serve his country. Something Gianunzio says he has “never regretted.” Gianunzio noted that The American Legion first sparked his interest and desire to play baseball. When Tony was a young boy, the Legion provided baseball uniforms for his first baseball team. Gianunzio reminisced about his days playing baseball and how baseball taught him valuable life lessons. Then Gianunzio made an announcement, and presented a flag from Machias to Grand Haven U.S. Coast Guard Station.