Windber American Legion picks first woman to lead post

·2 min read

Jun. 15—WINDBER — For the first time in its 100 years of existence, a woman has been picked to lead American Legion Post 137.

While the Windber legion's members recognized the moment as a historic first for the region, the decision to elect Joy Hamryszak, of Geistown, as post commander is just as much about the future, Legion Adjutant John Venzon said.

"It's really hard to find young veterans who want to get involved in organizations like ours, but Joy is an (Iraq) War-era vet," said Venzon, a Vietnam veteran. "She understands the younger generation, and I think she'll help guide us into the 21st century."

Windber's American Legion has more than 600 members, including "Sons" of the legion and social members. But only 240 of them are veterans, a number that has dropped as a wave of World War II veterans has passed away.

It's a challenge American Legions nationwide are facing — and to Hamryszak, technology is the key to addressing it.

Since joining the Legion's operating board last year, she spearheaded an effort to launch its website, windberamericanlegionpost137.com. She said she wants to further increase the post's visibility through active, engaging social media pages, too.

"That's what people use these days. When they want to see what's going on, they reach for their phone and start scrolling," she said. "It's a technology-driven world, and we have to adapt to that."

Hamryszak learned that after enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1995.

She began serving as a "radioman," only to see the duties incorporated into a growing, computer-driven information technology field, and she never looked back, she said. Today, she works for an international firm, helping to design internet-reliant "VOIP" phone systems.

Venzon said he's confident she's the right person for the job.

"And we're proud to have her," he said.

Hamryszak said she's optimistic about the future for the Windber legion and its ongoing role serving area veterans and the community they call home.

"But it's not just going to be me," she said. "It'll be about us working as a team to get things done."

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