The Pennsylvania American Legion has announced that a Tamaqua man will be accorded the state association's top honor.
Andrew Leibenguth, a member and historian of the C. H. Berry Post 173, Tamaqua American Legion, will receive the John C. 'Ace' Mann Blue Cap of the Year Award. Leibenguth beat out tens of thousands of members of the Pennsylvania American Legion in achieving the prestigious honor.
The award recognizes a legionnaire who exemplifies the goals and objectives set forth by the American Legion.
Edward Smith, deputy commander, 13th District, American Legion, and officer of the Tamaqua American Legion, announced that the award will be presented to Leibenguth on Friday, July 15, at 9:30 a.m. during the annual Pa. American Legion convention in King of Prussia.
Smith said the award is not just an honor to Leibenguth, but to the Tamaqua American Legion, which is honored to have such a dedicated member among its ranks.
"Everyone that knows Andy in Tamaqua and surrounding towns knows his dedication to his town and everyone in it," said Smith.
Smith said Leibenguth has earned the distinction by meeting four pillars of the American Legion: 1. National Security - Leibenguth was a Marine during the Iraq War who came home and reinvigorated the Tamaqua Crime Watch program. 2. Veterans Services - Leibenguth now holds the office of historian and assists the Toys for Tots program. He also visits with veterans in local nursing homes and veterans hospitals. 3. Mentoring Youth - Leibenguth took it upon himself to clean up the skate park on Spruce Street and paint it. He also started the website tamaquaarea.com, which features thousands of Tamaqua area photographs and videos. 4. Patriotism - Leibenguth can be seen showing people how to hang the American flag the correct way, and also helps Smith in coordinating the annual American flag retirement ceremony.
With the help of Pat Clemens, a member of the American Legion Ladies Council, Leibenguth drew over 100 letters of commendation from local police departments, mayors, fire companies, Rep Jerry Knowles, Sen. David Argall and Congressman Tim Holden, along with churches and other organizations in the surrounding areas. Smith said the letters were high in praise of his dedication. Smith said the Tamaqua American Legion will show its gratitude to Leibenguth by taking him down to the ceremony in a stretch limousine accompanied and escorted by officers of all departments within the local legion, as well as regular members, women's auxiliary, and Sons of the Legion.
"We are leaving Tamaqua at 7 a.m. sharp on Friday the 15th, arriving at the convention and meeting top officers of the Pennsylvania American Legion to include the Pennsylvania Commander Pete Wasco who will present Leibenguth the award," said Smith. Leibenguth will also meet the Eastern Section Commander Joe Coco of Shenandoah; 13th District Commander Robert Bedford of Pottsville; and incoming District 13 Commander Mary Zelonis of Mahanoy City. Smith will escort Leibenguth to the ceremony to meet the officers, along with the Commander of the Tamaqua Post 173 Joel Perry, Tuscarora.
After receiving the award and presentations, the contingent will depart the convention and ride to the Lehighton American Legion for snacks and refreshments. They will visit with officers and introduce the Pennsylvania Blue Cap Award winner. They will then depart Lehighton and proceed to the Lansford American Legion and do the same where also they will meet up with the Lansford American Legion Riders group who will escort them to the Coaldale American Legion. They will depart the Coaldale Legion about 4 p.m. and head to Tamaqua. At Jamesway Plaza, they will meet local and surrounding fire companies in which everyone is encouraged to turn out and show appreciation to Leibenguth.
The procession will move down Broad Street, up around the Tamaqua Area High School and back down, returning to the front of the Tamaqua American Legion on West Broad Street.
"Everyone in the area is invited to share this award with Andy at this time," said Smith. "Andy made this statement: 'Lets have a party and invite everyone.'" Refreshments and snacks will be available.
Smith said there will be some remarks made in front of the Tamaqua American Legion along with presentations by local officials.
"Let's show up and say thank you to Andy and thank you to the Tamaqua American Legion, with this being the last veterans organization in Tamaqua that will not fail," Smith added.
Smith said he would like to see huge support as Leibenguth is not only the winner of the Blue Cap award but is Tamaqua's Citizenship winner.
"This is the year of Andrew Leibenguth," said Smith. "It's time to show Andy our gratitude for everything he does that is unseen and unheard and never asking a penny in return."
Leibenguth is employed as a reporter in the Tamaqua Bureau of the TIMES NEWS.