New Legion post leader taking on challenges
Bob “Rambo” Milliken is a man with a mission.
Since September, he's been learning what it takes to be commander of American Legion Post 54 in Bridgeville. It's a larger job than he had thought, but he's working his way through maintaining the post and building membership.
“If it's worth doing, it's worth doing it right,” said Milliken, 63, of Bridgeville.
The post, established in 1919, was close to closing early last year, Milliken said. Members stepped up to increase their numbers. Fourteen men joined, and the Bridgeville post now has 100 veterans as members, plus 206 social members.
Benefit parties and special dinners were held, and proceeds from a gun raffle paid for new bar stools and a juke box.
Emile Vettorel, 51, of South Fayette, stopped in at the post when he worked in Bridgeville. He has been a social member for two years, and he now visits two or three times a week.
“It's very calm here,” he said. “It's easy to get to know the guys.”
The post held a pig roast for the Pittsburgh Steelers' first home game of the season, and 500 to 600 people attended. The event will return this season.
“Through community support and extra rentals (of the hall), we're in the black,” Milliken said. “We're afloat now. Last June and July, it was dismal. There was a lot of red ink.”
A roast beef dinner is planned April 26 to raise additional funds.
Milliken is starting to organize Memorial Day festivities, including helping out with the borough's parade along Washington Avenue.
Tom Hughan, the previous commander, is acting as a mentor, he said.
Older veterans can count on assistance from fellow legion members. This winter, members shoveled sidewalks and driveways, and a fundraiser was held for an ailing member.
“We take care of our own,” said Milliken, who has been with the post for 11 years.
A 17-year U.S. Army veteran, Milliken served in Vietnam. He said his mother gave him two career options: the J&L steel mill in Aliquippa, where he grew up, or the Army.
He was just 18 when he landed in Vietnam. He remembers the 110-degree temperatures and 100 percent humidity. With the passage of time, talking about wartime events has gotten easy. His colleagues make it easy, too.
He and others come to the post for the camaraderie that he invites younger veterans to share. Milliken keeps membership applications in his car. Fees are $25.50 a year, or $20 for a social membership.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.