The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a terrific story in Sunday’s edition about the efforts of two local American Legion Posts to keep the memories of World War I veterans alive.
One of them is right here in South Milwaukee: Van Eimeren-Kolonka Post 27.
From the story:
Cudworth Post 23 was housed in a mansion on Milwaukee’s east side for many years. When it burned down, the post built another in the same block of Prospect Ave., but it was sold two decades ago. Now the post’s offices are above a restaurant in Glendale. Members meet each week for breakfast.
While the Van Eimeren post — it still is in the same building across from the Caterpillar factory in South Milwaukee — was and is known as a blue-collar, working-class post, Cudworth’s membership drew from the ranks of lawyers, doctors, businessmen and judges who had served in the military.
Cudworth boasts some famous members — Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Billy Mitchell and Ken Keltner, the Cleveland Indians third baseman credited with making two impressive defensive plays that helped snap Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
Cudworth post members helped start Badger Boys State, Camp Legion in northern Wisconsin and American Legion baseball leagues in Wisconsin. Like all American Legion posts across the U.S., both the Van Eimeren-Kolonka and Cudworth posts continue to work on behalf of veterans by furnishing honor guards for funerals, organizing educational programs for youths and lobbying for veterans issues.
Membership in both posts is dwindling as World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans die and younger veterans don’t join, a problem for all veterans organizations.
At its peak in the 1980s, the Cudworth post had more than 5,000 members. Now it’s around 400. Van Eimeren-Kolonka’s membership is 235, half the size during the 1950s.
“Every generation of veterans thinks their war is unique and their problems are unique, which is true, but what you have to go through is pretty much the same,” Ludka said. “Veterans organizations are places where you can meet people who have had the same experiences.”
Thank you to our local veterans for this important work … and for their service.