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Spotlight: Nesquehoning VFW celebrates 75 years of supporting troops

In 1946, 43 men who had served in the United States Army, Navy and Marine Corps during World Wars I and II applied for a charter to create an organization in Nesquehoning to serve the veterans of the community.

On July 22 of that year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States approved their request and Nesquehoning Memorial VFW Post 8008 was formed.

Now, 75 years later, the mission of the organization continues through the hard work by a group of veterans and their families who are the cornerstone of the community.

Last week, the organization celebrated the milestone with a celebration that honored those past and present who made the Nesquehoning VFW what it is today.

For Skip Cox, a naval veteran who was awarded a charter life member during the ceremony and has served as a past commander, marking this milestone for the VFW was a momentous event that he was glad to still be around for. The Nesquehoning resident served in Vietnam.

“I’m choked up,” Cox said, noting that he has been a member of the Nesquehoning VFW for 55 of the 75 years. “I never thought I would make it this long, but here I am. It’s a great day.”

“It’s been a long road,” said Craig Strohl, commander of the post and Army veteran, noting that it was while he was serving in Iraq that he learned what it meant to be a member of the VFW. “This place is the greatest nonprofit organization in the area. Our hearts, our mission is for supporting our troops overseas, our local veterans and the community.”

Strohl also announced that this year, the post was awarded All American status for the first time ever and the second time it has received All State status. All American status is meant to recognize outstanding VFW posts and is based on participation in VFW programs as well as membership gains by posts, districts and departments.

Strohl said that to achieve this status, the post has been ranked second in the division of 634 posts. It has also donated over $51,000 to various community organizations, recognizes outstanding police officers and firefighters, organizes various events, maintains the Fred Knauf memorial on the Broad Mountain and hosts an annual Patriot’s Pen essay contest for students.

“This was such a team effort,” Strohl said, recognizing the men and women who have worked tirelessly over the years.

Nesquehoning Mayor Sam Kitchko awarded the post with a proclamation, while citations were received from the offices of state Rep. Doyle Heffley and Sen. John Yudichak.

The Nesquehoning VFW has been a central location for hundreds of veterans since its inception on the west side of town.

“I remember when we bought this building in 1957,” said member Paul Skodacek, whose father, Milan was a charter member and former commander of the post. “I was only 9 years old. (I remember) all the men who were my dad’s friends that helped put this place together because it was a car dealership. They made it into the post.”

Since then, the site has hosted numerous Memorial Day events, became the home of the Carbon County Navy Club and has been the landing site for veterans looking for a place to call home.

Most recently, the members of both the VFW and auxiliary utilized the pandemic to renovate the building once again to honor all branches of the military.

New tables and memorial seats now adorn the bar area, while memorabilia of times long past adorn the wall.

Charter members

The charter members of the Nesquehoning VFW Memorial Post 8008, who founded the post on July 22, 1946 are:

• Joseph Hydro

• Paul Lopata

• Joseph Pancoe

• Carl Marouchoc

• Frank Homcha

• Stephen Derkosh

• John Evanko

• Joseph Bango

• Herbert Davis

• Stephen Duffy

• George Thear

• Nicholas Sojak

• William Stickler

• John Polokovich

• Joseph Matsick

• John Kovatch Jr.

• Michael Paulakovich

• Stanley Sydorak

• Stephen Rincavousky

• Frank Yasson

• John Feane

• George Tomecek

• William Poshefko

• Joseph Koomar

• Bernard Butler

• John Malik

•John Bloszinsky

• Frank Melnick

• James Sweeney

• Robert Lazorchick

• Paul Hydro

• Paul Pudelka

• Robert Rizzo

• John Mosko

• Joseph Lakata

• Edward Hoffa

• Elwood Evans

• Harry James

• John Chodur Jr.

• William Hydro

• John Susko

• Robby Emanuel

• Joseph Mitzak

Information from the charter certificate that hangs in the post

Ladder trucks from Nesquehoning and East Penn Township hold the American flag over the Nesquehoning Memorial VFW Post 8008 during the post's 75th anniversary celebration on July 22. AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS
Post Commander Craig Strohl salutes during the singing of the national anthem.
Post members and veterans Frank Kattner, left; and Robert Paul, step forward to be recognized during the military branch songs medley. AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS
Cheri Santore, left; and Linda Paul, hold a new flag the VFW Auxiliary presented the post in honor or its 75th anniversary. At right is Christa Acciarito, auxiliary president, who announced the gift.
Skip Cox, who was presented with a charter life member to the post during the ceremony, wears a commemorative shirt for the post.
The Nesquehoning VFW honor guard do a gun salute at the end of the ceremony.
The 75th anniversary cake depicted the moment the newly formed post received the keys to the building.
Military emblems hang on the wall of the Nesquehoning VFW in honor of all the branches of the military. They are one of the new additions to the building.
Carbon County Director of Veterans Affairs Christine LeClair speaks during the 75th anniversary celebration.
Members of the Vietnam Veterans of Carbon County, bow their head during the benediction.