By: Tim Sproles, The American Legion Dept. of Indiana
It was a three-day trip that covered close to 1,000 miles across the Hoosier state and collected hundreds of membership cards.
The membership drive-around called, “Operation Snowball Express” was put together by The American Legion Department of Indiana Commander, Marty Dzieglowicz, and Membership Chairman Ron Byrley to not only collect membership cards but to also give Legionnaires across the state an opportunity to meet with their department leadership.
“There are a lot of Legionnaires around the state who possibly haven't met any of their Department officers,” said Byrley. “With this drive around, we have an opportunity to tell them face-to-face that we appreciate what they are doing to keep the American Legion strong.”
The Express traveled to each of Indiana’s 11 districts and stopped at 16 posts along the way.
The Department officers didn’t travel alone. Cmdr. Dzieglowicz said, “A road trip just isn't fun without your family, so that’s what we did. We are traveling in a convoy with leaders from the Sons of The American Legion, the Women's Auxillary, and the Legion Riders”.
President of the Auxillary Department of Indiana, Judy Morris, Said, “This has been a wonderful experience. Working for our nation’s veterans will always be a family affair, and that’s what people along the route saw. Their Legion family is working together in a united front.”
As the Express traveled along the state, there appeared to be more and more community involvement in the post visits.
“We had the opportunity to meet with the leadership of local fire and police departments and also state and local lawmakers,” said Cmdr. Dzieglowicz. “We were able to speak with these leaders about veterans issues and what the Legion is doing in Indiana.”
“It was great to see these lawmakers come out to greet us,” said Mike Brady, Assistant Director of the Indiana Legion Riders. “We seem to be on the same page with a lot of them. It was great to hear about what they are doing to not only back up the Legion Family’s efforts but to fight for veterans issues.”
Operation Snowball Express also saw the addition of hundreds of new members for The American Legion Family.
The American Legion Department of Indiana collected 723 membership cards during the drive. The Sons of The American Legion Detachment received 350 cards, and the Women’s Auxiliary collected 533 cards.
Jenny Gump, Membership Chairperson for the Auxillary also made a few presentations of the “One More Stitch” award to some of the posts. What makes this award unique is that the awardee is presented a hand-made quilt to display.
Gump said, “For each stitch added to a quilt, the quilt gets stronger. That’s how we came up with the “One More Stitch” award. We have challenged our units to get one more member than what they had last year. The one member makes the Auxillary stronger.”
Although the trip was long, there were no regrets about boarding the Snowball Express.
“I think we need to do more of these,” said Jeff Coulter, Southern Vice Commander of the Sons of The American Legion Detachment of Indiana. “Whether it’s a drive-around or just an event to get together, the Legion Family learns from each other. The more we learn and work together, the more efficient we will be able to help Hoosier veterans.”
With all of the miles traveled and all of the hands shook, Cmdr Dzieglowicz hopes that the message of the Snowball Express is clear.
“We covered a lot of ground, but we didn’t get to every post. I hope each Legion Family member, especially at the posts we didn’t visit, know that we appreciate what they do for our nation’s veterans. Because you are there for our vets, the Legion Family will always be there for you. ”