There was a changing of the guard at American Legion Post 86 as Bill Glass took over as commander from Don Hazzard, who served in that position for 10 years. The change occurred July 1 but was recognized in a ceremony at the post on July 17. Hazzard will continue serving the post as its financial officer.

A member of the post for 14 years, Glass is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and and Navy Reserve. He had just retired from the reserves when Bing Ventres recruited him, “and I’ve enjoyed it ever since,” Glass said. The American Legion, he said, “does a lot of good for veterans and the community.”

As commander, Glass told The Bulletin, he has a number of objectives including continuing outreach to and support of local veterans. “This is the nuts and bolts of what the legion is all about,” Glass said, adding that as of 10 years ago there were 350 to 400 veterans in Wilton.

Post 86 has about 70 members, which is a bit below the average of 100, but it is highly regarded by the legion’s Department of Connecticut, which has bestowed on it a number of awards over the years.

With the veteran population aging, and thus shrinking — the draft was eliminated in 1973 — Glass knows that recruiting new members will be a challenge, especially since membership is limited to veterans who served during specific times of conflict.

“Younger veterans are not joiners,” he said, viewing “the American Legion as being for older people.”

Still, he hopes to raise the post’s visibility by having public events and through networking. As the largest veterans service organization, “the Legion has an obligation to look after its members” as a resource of information, by its lobbying efforts, and through its annual convention.

Membership, he said, offers veterans “the ability to connect with other veterans of similar needs and interests.”

Community service


On a broader scale, Glass said he views membership in the Legion “as a continuation of our military service. We are here not only to serve veterans but also the community.”

To that end, Glass hopes to increase visibility and engagement of the post within the Wilton community. Past and future efforts include blood drives, food drives for Wilton’s food pantry, a flag retirement ceremony, and flag etiquette instruction. The post is also working with Wilton Library on a program that will address the end of World War I, 100 years ago this November. The post also presents a Veterans Day parade and is involved with planning the annual Memorial Day parade.

Reaching out to young people is also a priority, something that already occurs by fielding three American Legion baseball teams, working with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and presenting awards at Wilton High School and Middlebrook School. The post also sponsors participants in the Boys State and Girls State programs.

Of all these activities for youth, Glass said, “it’s important for them to develop an understanding and appreciation for veterans and what they’ve done.”


Important anniversaries


Right on the heels of a ceremony this spring to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of James B. Whipple, for whom the post is named, Glass said he is taking over at a time of additional significant commemorations including the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, which originated as Armistice Day, in 2019, and the 100th anniversary of the post in 2020.

“For us to be around continuously for 100 years says a lot about our members and our mission,” Glass said. “I look forward to being part of that as commander.”

In addition, 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II — VE (Victory in Europe) Day in May and VJ (Victory in Japan) Day in September.

Service


Glass joined the Navy after graduation from Northwestern University in 1976, where he served in the ROTC. He was assigned to destroyers and frigates, serving in engineering and operations, and qualified as an officer of the deck and navigator.

Of his service, he said, “I could assume responsibility at the age of 24 for a multi-million-dollar ship during my watch. That’s one of the things people don’t realize about the military. At an early age you are given responsibility to lead men and women.” He found that experience to be particularly valuable later in his professional career.

After his hitch was up in 1980, Glass joined the Navy Reserve with assignments up and down the east coast. During the first Gulf War, 1990-91, Glass was attached to a ship that provided training and assistance to the Coast Guard in the Caribbean.

“That’s where I got my ticket punched for the American Legion,” he said. In 2003 he retired as a captain.

Glass and his wife Susan have lived in Wilton 32 years. They have two grown children, Ginny and Eric, both graduates of Wilton High School.

Glass pursued a career in advertising, from which he is now retired, and he is also retired from Bridgeport Public Schools after serving five years as a senior naval science instructor in the Navy Junior ROTC program at Bridgeport Military Academy.

He found that experience particularly rewarding and challenging. “That’s why it’s essential to continue working with young people,” he said. “We’re not just a bunch of old guys who meet once a month.”

For information on Post 86, email legionpost86@gmail.com.