By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – According to its national website, “The American Legion is the largest wartime veterans’ service organization with 2.4 million members in nearly 14,000 posts.” Among them is the Westborough American Legion Stowell-Parker Post 163, which currently has 30 members. Leading the mission to increase membership is its adjutant Rob Labriola.
“I was asked by the state and national offices if I could volunteer as adjutant at the end of last year,” he explained. “Starting the beginning of this year, I’ve been trying to reinvigorate interest in the Westborough veterans’ community to get them engaged and to join us. If you’ve served federal active duty in the United States Armed Forces and were honorably discharged, or are still serving, you’re eligible for membership in the American Legion.”
An American Legion member since 1994, Labriola is a Marine Corps veteran who joined the Stowell-Parker Post 163 when he moved to Westborough from Pennsylvania in 2001. He understands firsthand that juggling volunteerism with everyday commitments can be a challenge.
“When I joined the American Legion and the VFW, I was still serving reserve duty frequently, had a young family and was working a civilian job,” he said. “I had all these demands pulling me in different directions, so it was difficult to carve out time to get involved in something like the American Legion. I felt it was my obligation and a sense of duty. I served in the Marine Corps and now serve all our veterans and community through the American Legion.”
The Stowell-Parker Post 163 had been headquartered in the Spurr House on Parkman Street since its charter was formed Dec. 26, 1946. The town-owned building closed due to declining membership in 2014. At the time, there were 60 members.
After its home base closed, the town’s American Legion members met sporadically at various locations. Now, Labriola is helping to organize monthly meetings at the Town Hall, public library and other sites. The Westborough VFW Post 9013, of which Labriola is also a member, has offered assistance to its American Legion counterparts.
“The Westborough VFW owns two buildings, one on Milk Street and another on Summer Street,” Labriola noted. “We’ve been able to let everyone on the national, state and local levels know that for postal mailing paperwork or correspondence, our official mailing address is 24 Summer St., Westborough, MA 01581. Also, the VFW has been gracious enough to inform me they have a spare desk that I can use. So technically, the American Legion has a small office in their space. We might have meetings there in the future.”
Also, the Stowell-Parker Post 163 will once again become more active in the community. Its first step was reestablishing a longtime tradition. At this year’s town Memorial Day ceremony, they presented a certificate of academic achievement and a scholarship to Westborough High School class of 2017 graduate Audrey Von-Maszewski, who served as the National Honor Society president. She recited the Gettysburg Address at the ceremony.
“We’re a service organization,” Labriola noted. “We do care about veterans and we also care about the entire community.”
To reach more veterans including the younger generation, the Stowell-Parker Post 163 is currently creating a website and exploring other social media. Labriola envisions incorporating on its website the iconic World Wars I and II poster of Uncle Sam declaring, “I want you!”
“Our hope is to reach out to veterans to join the Westborough American Legion – we want, need and value them,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll attract membership of all ages.”
Contact the Westborough American Legion Stowell-Parker Post 163 by email at [email protected], or postal mail at 24 Summer St., Westborough, MA 01581.