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Towanda Legion Post, Commander Reap Honors

Charlie Davis, right, receives his Commander of the Year plaque from District 15 Commander Manny Mirailh.

For a guy who didn't join the American Legion until five years ago, Charlie Davis has come a long way as an advocate for veterans. The Ulster area resident is in his second year as Commander of Post 42 in Towanda, and last week he continued a tradition by being named the "Commander of the Year" of District 15, comprised of 30 posts throughout Bradford, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties.

That puts Davis, who was pleasantly surprised to receive the award from District Commander Manny Mirailh, in the running for the state award. He follows in the footsteps of his predecessor as Post 42 Commander, Cornelius "Corny" Blokzyl, who was a previous District 15 Commander of the Year. Davis has also learned he is a candidate for the American Legion's prestigious Public Relations Award, which honors those legion leaders who have done the most to promote the veterans' organization and its posts.

The award came at district installation of officers hosted by the Towanda Post 42 and attended by members of posts from Canton, Sayre and Athens. Davis was hoping to get other Bradford County American Legion Posts, including those in Towanda and Troy, to attend but hopes to get the invitations out earlier next year. The Towanda Post was also presented with the Post Home Award for the Central Section, which included several districts, District 15 among them.

The last couple of years have been ones of growth and recovery for Post 42. A few years ago there was much conflict between factions of the membership, with not much getting accomplished. The once impressive and stately post home overlooking York Avenue was deteriorating and in disrepair. Thanks to the efforts of Commanders Blokzyl and Davis, as well as a nucleus of members willing to pitch in, the refurbished post home, with tens of thousands of dollars in renovations and additions, is once again a showplace.

It was their efforts that earned the Post Home Award and certainly contributed to the honors afforded to Davis.

"We've got a lot of help," says Davis, who is particularly encouraged by the interest of a new generation of veterans. "Thank God for the young blood."

You could say Post 42 is on the rebound from hard times not that many years ago. After boasting a membership of about 1,000 at one time, the membership, comprised mostly of World War II vets, was aging. Those who weren't dying off were no longer able, due to retirement or infirmity, to be as active as they once were.

"All you have to do is look at our post color guard," says Davis, a Korean-era veteran of the early 1950's. "I'm the youngster in the group."

This is a plight of many local legion posts. Many Vietnam-era veterans didn't join in the years after their service but gradually became involved as they reached middle age. Young veterans from the past couple of decades have been joining, but not at a rate that would replace the huge number of World War II veterans lost. After hitting bottom, Post 42 is coming back, says Davis. There are currently 523 members, 207 auxiliary members and 57 Sons of the American Legion (SAL).

"They keep me pretty busy," said Davis of the demands of his job. "My main concern was to get the renovations done."

The only significant project remaining is a handicapped parking area on the south side of the building.

"Buildings and programs are great, but what is most important is taking care of our veterans," says Davis, who credits Gene Osmun, Director of Veterans Affairs in Bradford County, with assisting many vets in everything from getting benefits entitled to them to keeping them informed.

Davis's military service was a three-year enlistment in the Army starting in 1954. His most dangerous duty was a stressful few months on the DMZ separating North from South Korea. He completed his duty stateside as a mail clerk at the Army Airborne School and takes pride in being there at the same time a young Second Lieutenant named Norman Schwarzkopf took his training there.

As a civilian, the native New Yorker was a printer by trade, working mostly in the commercial arena himself but with family members working for metropolitan newspapers like Newsday and the New York Daily News. He has lived here in the Endless Mountains for more than 15 years.

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