Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 in Grand Haven, Mich., has a long and rich tradition of instilling honor and pride into the post’s annual installation of officers ceremony. This year, however Legionnaires, family unit members, and the families of Post 28 officers-elect felt a heightened sense of honor and pride during the post’s July 2 installation ceremony. What facilitated the heightened sense of honor and pride? Attendees witnessed two historic moments: the installation of Janet E. Fonger as Post 28’s second female commander (#102) since the post was chartered in 1919, and the beginning of the first year -- of the second century – of Post 28’s mission of “veterans still serving veterans.”
From the posting of the colors to recognizing the dignity and leadership guidance of past Post 28 commanders, every detail of the ceremony – under the direction of Post 28 Honor Guard Committee Chair and past commander David “Mack” MacKellar -- was executed with grace, dignity and pride -- including the swearing-in of Commander Fonger by past Post 28 commander Jack Van Weelden. Each officer stood at attention with their right hand raised, committed to leading Post 28 as stewards and trustees of the membership good.
Born into a family of military servicemen and women (father Donald was a Marine, sister Karen and brother-in-law Air Force, brother Phil ‘who swore-in Fonger when she enlisted in 1978’ and brother Don, Air Force, and husband, Hoyt, Army), Commander Fonger enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1978. She served as an Aero Medical Evacuation Specialist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (first woman to do so) from 1978-80. Fonger then served at Andrews Air Force Base 89th Presidential Wing 1st Helicopter Squadron from 1980-82. After her service time with the Air Force, Fonger says she “stood committed” to serving veterans, veterans’ families, and her community. In 1990, Commander Fonger became a Post 28 Legionnaire.
After Post 28 Officers were officially sworn-in, Commander Fonger addressed the capacity crowd. Her words of determination and vision highlighted the contributions and importance of Post 28 family units (SAL Squadron 28, Auxiliary Unit 28, and Post 28 Riders). Fonger concluded her remarks by saying “as we begin our first year of the next 100-years, let us look to the future as a Post family, with the vision and fortitude, of our founding Charter members,"