Sunday, April 13, 2014
New American Legion honors Peterson war hero by adopting his name
by michael s. Humphreys Special to The Gazette -
Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler was considered a quiet hero by his family in Westminster, Md., but the nation's newest American Legion post honors his service, death and sacrifice by proudly taking his name.
Seidler was an explosive ordinance disposal technician assigned to the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base when he was killed in Afghanistan on Jan. 5, 2012, by a roadside bomb. One year later, Warffemius-Seidler American Legion Post 381 was founded in Brandywine, Md.
The founders of the new post wanted to honor American heroes new and old, said Ron Fischer, commander of the post. Hans Warffemius, who also died in 2012, was a decorated World War II veteran, a native of Washington, D.C., and a dedicated Boy Scout leader.
"We also wanted to honor our heroes from current conflicts," Fischer said.
The American Legion, founded in 1919 by a congressional charter as a patriotic, veterans organization, has earned the reputation in recent years as an "old, white man's organization," Henry Turner, first vice commander of post 381, said.
As a Maryland native, Seidler offered a younger face to American sacrifice. "We wanted to represent a younger, more diverse generation," Turner said.
For example, the nation's newest American Legion post is the first to offer online membership, making Post 381 the local post for veterans no matter where they live.
"The younger generation is into social media and computers. This allows us to interact with a younger generation and pulls them into our post.
"That is the biggest challenge for the American Legion, getting the younger veterans involved," Turner said.
Bryan Hoover, former second vice commander of the post and recently separated from the Air Force after 10 years, is one of those younger veterans.
Hoover, one of the founding members of Post 381, searched for names of local heroes that could be honored by the post and discovered Seidler's sacrifice.
It is fitting that a young veteran be honored by the first group to embrace online membership.
Online membership allows active-duty members, deployed service members and others to stay involved with this post, he said.
"We wanted to be one voice, one body, one idea. We wanted everyone to speak up and be part of something," Hoover said.