After Andrew Leibenguth was named Tamaqua's Citizen of the Year by the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce this year, legion and auxiliary members looked for ways to honor him as one of their own.
They found that opportunity in the Pennsylvania American Legion's John Ace Mann Blue Hat of the Year Award and on Friday the TIMES NEWS reporter received that prestigious honor at the state American Legion Convention.
Wisked off to King of Prussia in a stretch Hummer limousine, Leibenguth returned to the area in the afternoon for a whirlwind tour of local legion posts, including Lehighton, Lansford and Coaldale.
The tour concluded in in Tamaqua, complete with a fire truck parade along the length of Broad Street.
In addition to units from Tamaqua, fire companies from Hometown, West Penn, Tuscarora, Coaldale, Lansford and Summit Hill joined in the celebration.
Following the parade, Leibenguth was met at the Tamaqua Legion Post by local, state and federal government dignitaries, receiving citations from U.S. Congressman Tim Holden, State Sen. Dave Argall, State Rep. Jerry Knowles and Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison.
Leibenguth said he "wasn't doing anything special" and commended those in his own community, stating they are the ones who deserve to be honored.
"Giving back to the community is something my dad taught me as a kid," he said. "I've been to the other side of the world and all I can say is Tamaqua is the smallest town with the biggest heart in the whole world.
"I volunteer my time because of you. Look around and what do you see? Everyone is smiling. I love this town and do what I can to help keep those smiles in place."
A member and historian of the legion's C.H. Berry Post 173, Tamaqua, Leibenguth was selected from over 188,000 Legionnaires in the state.
More than 100 testimonials from organizations and individuals throughout the greater Tamaqua area gave him the nod over the the other Legionnaires in the state.
The John C. 'Ace' Mann Blue Cap of the Year Award is presented annually to the legionnaire who best exemplifies the goals and objectives set forth by the American Legion.