Sons of the American Legion Squadron #347
Lady Lake, FL

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Office (352) 750-2099
9AM - 4PM, Mon - Fri

Lounge (352) 750-0639
12PM - closing

News - Last Updated 8/21/2018

Below are some recent happenings involving The Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347, Lady Lake, FL.

Recent Stories

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Squadron #347 Judge Advocate Reviews Changes to Sons' Constitution and By-Laws
     Sons' Judge Advocate Mike Shebel has completed the first draft of the 5-year review to the Sons' Constitution and By-Laws.  Mike read the proposed changes during the September 19, 2018 General Membership Meeting.  You can see the proposed changes to each document at these links:

Squadron #347 Constitution Proposed Changes
Squadron #347 By-Laws Proposed Changes

If you have any suggestions or corrections, please email The Sons at <SAL-347@comcast.net>.

Changes in the final Executive Committee approved version will be read at our October 17, 2018 General Membership Meeting and will come up for a Membership vote.

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Sons Active Duty Member Presented with Autographed Photo

     We have a few active duty Sons members in our Squadron, one of whom is Dan Goteski, the grandson of Legionairre Sheldon Goteski. Dan is a sailor on the submarine “Providence”, SS-719, stationed at the Submarine Base in Groton, CT. When Dan's shipmates found out he was a Son at our Squadron they got together and autographed a framed photo of their sub and presented it to The Post.

Pictured here are: George Worton-Past Commander of our Squadron; Tim Tierney-Past Commander of The Post; Ed Lawson-Lounge Manager and SeaDragon Base member; Fred Briggs-Commander of SeaDragon Base USSVI; and Sheldon Goteski.

The photo is now hanging in the lounge along side the other submarine memorabilia.

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Squadron #347 Awards $8,000 in Scholarships for 2018


Bill Gray Presents Scholarship to Matthew Duncan.
     For many years now Squadron #347 has awarded scholarships to well-deserving High School students in our area.  This year we selected eight winners; 4 from Lake Weir HS and 4 from Belleview HS, and awarded a total of $8,000.  Bill Gray, our Squadron's Scholarship Chairman, presented all of the awards in person.  Pictured to the left is Matthew Duncan, our Squadron's own Children & Youth chairman and Sunday kitchen coordinator, being presented a scholarship by Bill.  Matthew was also an officer in his HS JROTC program this year!  Matt will be attending the Marion Technical College in Ocala.  FYI, the award checks are made payable to the school, not the student.

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Casino Night Event is a Huge Success

     The Casino Night event held on June 8th was a roaring success!  Thanks to our 2nd Vice Cmdr David Booth for organizing this fun evening of games, prizes, and socializing with friends.  Many thanks also to Richard Duncan and David Callies who took the lead on selling lottery board tickets and rounding up gifts from local businesses.  The lottery board raised over $2,000 profit, by far a record for such a fundraising effort.  The event netted over $3,700 which will go directly to supporting Veteran, youth, and local community causes.  We plan on having more Casino Nights in the future, so keep an eye out for more Sons' news.
Ron Eichner (center) was the winner of the Lottery Board, presented by Cmdr Worton (left) & master salesman Richard Duncan (right).

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Sons Squadron #347 Chaplain Jack Dirga Passes Away


     Squadron #347 Chaplain Jack Dirga, our good friend, passed away peacefully on June 4th. Jack was active up to the last few days of his life, having even attended our May meeting just over 2 weeks before. I spoke with Marty, his wife of 45 years, and she relayed that Jack did not suffer at all. She wanted to express her deepest thanks to our Squadron and the Post, as this was his second home. He loved to help in the kitchen, or out front taking orders, or just talking it up with all of his good friends at the Post.
     Jack was born on May 4, 1943, married Marty in 1973, and they have two sons, Bob and Chris. They have 2 granddaughters with son Bob and one grandchild on the way with son Chris. Bob is a Commander in the Navy and Chris is an Engineer with the State of Connecticut. Jack and Marty enjoyed RV'ing for many years and doing as much cruising as possible. Jack retired from Pratt & Whitney after a career of 35 years and has been our Squadron's Chaplain for the past 12 years, since we were formed in 2007. Jack visited and comforted many Veterans and others in his role as Chaplain. He also officiated at our Executive Committee and General meetings, giving us blessings to help us make the right decisions and keep our great organization growing in goodness and forever striking for truth.
     We honor the memory of Chaplain Jack Dirga, who is now enrolled in that Great Spirit force, whose steps cause no sound but in our memory, his soul goes marching on, sustained by pride in our country. Our Heavenly Father, in His everlasting wisdom, has called Chaplain Dirga to membership of the Squadron Everlasting of the Sons of The American Legion. May He in His ever-loving mercy grant him eternal rest and peace. We render a silent salute to our departed comrade. He will be missed.

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Sons Squadron #347 Presents Certificate of Appreciation to Wal-Mart of Summerfield


Ruthia of Wal-Mart and Gary Blanchard of The Sons.
     Our Sons' Veterans Affairs Chairman and Sergent-at-Arms Gary Blanchard proudly presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Wal-Mart manager Ruthia on March 30, 2018. Ruthia has been instrumental in arranging for the Summerfield Mal-Mart to provide a deep discount on donuts one day per month to The Sons. Sons' volunteers distribute the donuts at the Villages VA Clinic on CR42 to veterans who, in many cases, just finished giving blood for tests and have not eaten in 12 or more hours.

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Sons Squadron #347 Once Again Cooks Entrees for Lake Weir HS JROTC Ball

     The Lake Weir HS JROTC held their 2018 Ball on March 24th and enjoyed a delicious custom-prepared meal by the Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 in Lady Lake, FL. There were over 200 attendees including the cadets, their dates, and honored guests. There was also a ceremony to transfer command from the outgoing student leadership to the incoming 2018-2019 leadeship.

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Sons Squadron #347 Donates Holiday Gifts to Ailing Vets at Gainesville VA Hospital

     At their November 2017 general membership meeting about 20 volunteers wrapped small Christmas gifts that were delivered in December to Veterans recovering in Gainesville's VA Hospital.  Several Sons officers, and a couple Auxiliary members, visited patients at the Gainesville VA Hospital.  They visited about 50 veterans and got to know their stories of service and about their recent battles with health.
     Sons' Commander Worton said of the visits, "These heroes being treated at our VA Hospitals are inspiring both for their past service to our country and their subsequent service in their communities. These men and women deserve our respect and gratefulness. Participating in this small token of our appreciation as a Squadron has helped me and the other Legion volunteers put into perspective the work that we do all year to help provide various forms of assistance to Veterans organizations and also community and youth organizations."

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Sons Squadron #347 Hosts Successful Hermit Crab Race Event


About 100 crabs were in three race flights.
     On September 25, 2017 over 120 guests enjoyed an evening of food, fun, and crabs; yes, crabs.  Live hermit crabs that is, each sporting a custom designed large shell (about 1-2" across) themed with sports logos, fancy patterns, and colorful shapes.  Guests paid $5 each to sponsor a crab in each of three race flights that included three heats until a final crab crossed the checkered flag.  The event was displayed on the 8 large-screen TVs so everyone had the best seat in the house.
The event raised over $1,700 profit that will go directly to support Veterans, their families, and our community's youth.
The Sons will be hosting two more Hermit Crab Race events this fiscal year, on January 15th and March 12th, 2018.  Look for more information on our Events Page about the upcoming races.

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Sons Squadron #347 Officers are Installed for 2017-2018


L-R: Bill Gray, Dave Callies, Davey Kemper (Sq 286), Gary Blanchard, Danny Adams, Jr.
     The 6th District performed the Officer Installation ceremonies at Legion Post #347 for all Post family organizations, including The Sons.  In attendance was Outgoing Sq #347Commander Gary Bishop, Incoming Commander George Worton, Bill Gray, Dave Callies, Cory Meloni, Gary Blanchard, Danny Adams, Jr, and Matthew Duncan, Sq #347 Youth Chairman.  Officer charges were delivered by District 6 Officers.

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Sons Squadron #347 Member Wins VA&R Volunteer of the Year Award


Sgt-at-Arms Gary Blanchard & Commander George Worton
     Gary Blanchard, our VA&R Chairman and incoming Sgt-at-Arms, volunteered over 1,000 hours visiting Veterans in VA hospitals and homes and providing other Veteran assistance during the 2016-2017 year.  He was awarded the VA&R Volunteer of the Year award by the Florida Detachment at their 2017 convention in Orlando. We're all very proud of Gary and hope he has the energy to keep up with this very important and meaningful endeavor. If you wish to help Gary in some of his efforts, give him a call at 352-636-8004.

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Squadron #347 Youth Chairman Elected to 2 Florida Boys State Offices
     Richard Duncan, past Squadron #347 Commander, reported that his grandson, and Squadron Youth Chairman, Matthew Duncan, was elected to both County Commissioner and House Representative offices at Florida Boys State.  Boys State is an American Legion sponsored participatory program in which students become part of the operation of a mock local, county, and state government.  It is recognized as one of the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students.  More about Boys State can be found at this website.  Matthew is headed into his senior year at Lake Weir High School where he is the Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM) in the school's Army Junior ROTC program.  If that is not enough, Matthew is also a candidate for potential enrollment at the Air Force Academy in 2018.  Squadron #347 Commander Gary Bishop said, "We're all very proud of Matthew and his accomplishments.  He is a fine upstanding young man and a shining example of what is great about the future of our country."

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Sons Squadron #347 Donates to Assist Veterans

     As the 2016-2017 fiscal year is coming to an end The Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 has been making many donations to causes and organizations that support veterans, their familieis, and the youth in our community.  A $1,000 donation was presented to David Booth, the President of Combat Veterans-to-Careers (and also incoming 2nd Vice Commander for Squadron #347).  A $500 donation was presented to Alvin Corenblum and Tom Miller, who run the Veteran's Urn project at The Villages Woodworkers Club.  Over the last 2 1/2 years they have produced over 350 hand-crafted urns used mainly to inter the ashes of indigent veterans.
Commander Bishop presents donation to David Booth of Combat Veterans to Careers.

Adjutant Doug White presents donation to Alvin and Tom of the Villages Woodshop Veteran's Urn Project.

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Sons Squadron #347 Participates in Local Memorial Day Ceremony


Commander Gary Bishop places memorial flag.
     Memorial Day for the Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 in Lady Lake, FL was commemorated on May 30th at the Lady Lake Cemetery.  Newly appointed Commander Gary Bishop placed a memorial wreath during the ceremony.  Lady Lake Boy Scout Troop #244, which is sponsored by the Sons' organization, also participated in the ceremony.  The Villages Daily Sun reported on the ceremony.   You can download a copy of the full article by clicking HERE.

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Sons' Squadron #347 Donations are Building Up
     As of April 2017 The Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 in Lady Lake, FL has donated over $14,000 to local, regional, and national programs and causes.  This includes Villages Honor Flight, Gainesville Fisher House, Habitat for Humanity of Lake/Sumter Veterans Village, the Lake Weir HS NJROTC, and others.
     There is an approved plan to donate an additional almost $20,000 by the end of June 2017.  These future programs and causes include eight (8) college scholarships, Combat Veterans to Careers, local food pantries, and local community sports groups.
     Acting Commander Gary Bishop says, "The main mission of The Sons' organization is to donate to these programs and causes that support our veterans, their families, and our youth.  We have close to 600 members and most of our funding comes from preparing and selling dinners at the American Legion lounge Monday and Thursday evenings, and Sunday afternoons during NFL season.  A core group of our members volunteer their time and skill in the kitchen and as servers or order-takers to generate over $35,000 this fiscal year.  It's an excellent way to give back to our soldiers and their families."

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Sons Squadron #347 Cooks Meal for Lake Weir HS JROTC Ball

     The Lake Weir HS JROTC held their 2017 Ball on March 4th and enjoyed a delicious custom-prepared meal by the Sons of The American Legion Squadron #347 in Lady Lake, FL. The meal included ham w/pineapple, baked ziti, green beans w/diced tomato, rolls, and more. There were over 200 attendees including the cadets, their dates, and honored guests. The was also a ceremony to transfer command from the outgoing student leadership to the incoming 2017-2018 leadeship. The incoming 2nd-in-command is our own Matthew Duncan, who is Chairman of Youth Activities for The Sons and is also the grandson of Richard Duncan, our Past Commander and currently Member-at-Large. As part of the ceremonies the JROTC sword team used their brand new parade swords, donated by The Sons, to create a sword tunnel for honored couples entering the hall. See a video of the sword tunnel in action HERE.

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Sons' Squadron #347 Donates Parade Swords to Lake Weir HS JROTC Program

     Sons' Squadron #347 presented 9 parade swords (8 Cavarly and 1 Officer replicas) and a custom-made wooden carry case to the Lake Weir High School Junior ROTC program.  The donation was dedicated to the late Nicholas Watke, the JROTC student cadet leader who was killed in a tragic accident in November.  Nicholas's Mom, Maria Watke, and JROTC instructor, retired Sergeant-Major Michael Kelsen, accepted the generous gift during a dedication ceremony at The Sons' February Membership meeting.  The JROTC program at Lake Weir HS is an Army-themed student organization that instills positive behaviors in its over 250 student cadets.  The cadets learn and practice all aspects of patriotism, Americanism, citizenship, self-confidence, and community service.  The presentation of the swords was covered by the online news service Villages-News.com.

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Sons' Squadron #347 Donates to Gainesville, FL Fisher House
     At their January 2017 general membership meeting The Sons' Squadron #347 was honored to have Patti Fabiani as guest speaker.  Patti is Executive Director of the Fisher House in Gainesville, FL.  This national organization provides free accomodations to families of veterans being treated at VA Hospitals.  The Gainesville Fisher House served 1,700 families during 2016 alone, an amazing service to our veterans and their families!  The Sons' presented Patti a check for $2,500, that will go directly to supporting the Gainesville Fisher House.

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Sons' Squadron #347 Wraps up 2016 with Gifts for Veterans
     At their December 2016 general membership meeting about 20 volunteers wrapped small Christmas gifts that were delivered over the following days to veterans recovering in our local VA Hospitals.  Several officers visited patients at the newly opened VA Hospital in Orlando, a beautiful facility staffed with top-notch dedicated individuals.  They visited about 20 veterans and got to know their stories of service and about their recent battles with health.  Our Commander, Bill Preston, even ventured out on his own on Christmas Day, somewhat of a tradition for Bill, to visit patients at the Gainesville VA Hospital and some Central Florida nursing facilities.
     Our Adjutant said of the visits, "The heroes we visited were so strong and inspiring, trying so hard to heal but still showing a cheerful and thankful attitude. It was an honor to help bring them the tiniest token of our appreciation for their past service to our country.  I joined The Sons' in large part to help veterans and their families, and this few hours of my time was a potent dose of reality that veterans are real people, and sometimes in need of a helping hand. To have the opportunity to help, since I did not serve myself, made the holidays a great deal more significant for me this year.  Next time you have a chance to help a veteran out, give it some serious thought, it is well worth the effort for both the veteran and for you."

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Sons' Squadron #347 Reaches 100% Membership Milestone on December 21, 2016
     Several Sons' Squadron #347 officers hand-delivered the December 21st membership submittal to Detachment Headquarters in Orlando. This submittal brought the Squadron to 100% of it's previous year's membership level. This is remarkably early in the membership cycle to have reached the 100% goal, especially for a Squadron that has over 500 members! Thanks to our membership for sending in their renewal dues, and to the hard work of our executive team to help communicate the importance of renewing memberships as early as possible. Renewing early is critical because we want to replenish our treasury as early as we can so that we can make donations to our worthy causes as early as possible during our year in office.

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Sons' Squadron #347 Participates in Special Olympics Event in Orlando

     Several Sons' Squadron #347 members travelled to Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando to volunteer their time by helping out at the 2016 Special Olympics Bowling Championship.  Pictured are: Commander Bill Preston, Adjutant Doug White, Treasurer Danny Adams, 2nd Vice Commander George Worton, and the grandson of Bernie Wildrick, who is the Detachment's Special Olympics Committee Chairman.  Volunteers helped out with security, as well as doing some announcing of the competition results.  It was a rewarding experience to help out with an event of this magnitude.  Several hundred bowlers participated along with countless staff and volunteers.

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2016 Halloween Dance was a Howling Success
     The annual dance organized by Member-at-Large and Past Commander Richard Duncan was a great success.  Nearly 180 people attended and a net profit of almost $1,800 was earned for The Sons' worthy causes.  Several prizes were awarded for best costumes in different categories.  Entertainment was provided by Danny & Johnny, a very talented singing duo who crooned all the popular music from the 60's to the 90's.