Like many service-oriented organizations. AMVETS Post 35 saw its membership decline over the years and eventually didn’t have the numbers to sustain itself in Schenectady.
The group finally dissolved a several years ago, leaving Post 21 in Amsterdam as the last vestige of the veterans service organization in the Capital Region. That was until a group began organizing an effort to re-establish an AMVETS post in Rotterdam.
The initiative was spearheaded by county Legislator Angelo Santabarbara, a veteran of the Army Reserve, and took about two years to solidify. But on Thursday, Post 35 roared back to life with the swearing in of new officers and a group that now includes nearly two dozen members.
“And they show interest, which I like,” beamed “E J” Knapik, the state legislative leader for AMVETS and the organization’s past commander for New York.
AMVETS is among the nation’s largest Congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, representing nearly 250,000 veterans at more than 1,200 posts across the country. Formed in 1944 and chartered by Congress in 1947, the organization is often regarded as an influential advocate for veterans.
Unlike other organizations, AMVETS accepts veterans from all branches of the military, including the National Guard and reserves, provided they were discharged honorably. The organization also allows members from active duty to join.
Santabarbara joined the Army Reserve after graduating from Schalmont High School and logged eight years of service. But because he was in the reserves and never deployed in war, he wasn’t eligible to join other existing veterans organizations.
“This was one of the groups that does accept National Guard and reserves,” he said. “That right there for most of us in the group was a deciding factor.”
The post has been given a meeting space at the Sons of Italy lodge on Hamburg Street. Santabarbara said the group wants to be active in local veterans affairs and coordinate with other veterans’ groups on community service initiatives.
“We want to be involved with the local veterans community,” he said. “This is something we all wanted to do.”
Knapik is simply ecstatic to have another AMVETS post located nearby.
The World War II veteran from Glenville was impressed by the resolve of Santabarbara and the other veterans to help make the Rotterdam post a reality.
“I’m encouraged by what they’re doing,” he said.
Any veterans interested in joining AMVETS Post 35 can contact Santabarbara at 355-1022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.