DARLINGTON—Following a tradition that dates back to the founding of its membership, the Darlington American Legion Post 214 was renamed on Wednesday, March 7.
According to Post 214 Commander Dan O’Brien, after the first World War, when the post was founded, the members decided to name the Darlington post after the first serviceman from Darlington to be killed in the war—Harold Bates. The tradition continued with Henry O’Brien honored after World War II, Bernard Howe after the Korean War and Lloyd Wiegel after the Vietnam War.
Forty years after Wiegel was killed in Vietnam, Darlington once again lost a soldier on foreign soil when Sgt. Jakob Roelli was killed in Afghanistan in September 2011. At a post meeting, legion member David Gough made a motion to add Roelli to the post’s name. The motion was unanimously approved by the members, discussed with the soldier’s father, Rich Roelli, and the change was set in motion.
“Usually the approval to change the charter name takes several months as it moves up the chain of command to the national level,” O’Brien said.
A brief month-and-a-half later, the change was approved at the national level and State American Legion Commander Denise Rohan attended the Post 214 meeting on March 7 to officially change the post’s name from “Bates-O’Brien-Howe-Wiegel Post 214” to “Bates-O’Brien-Howe-Wiegel-Roelli Post 214.”
“While the community was here when Jakob came home for you [Rich Roelli] and your family, the post continues to be here for you forever to make sure that what Jakob fought for is never forgotten,” Rohan said. “While we can’t understand God’s plan for all of us and for our country, or what our lives really mean, the men and the women who are fighting this current war know that they are making a difference for us, for our country and for our future. They know that they are writing a page in history for us to never forget. They know it and it lives large within them. As hard as it can be for some of us to understand, they believe in what they’re doing and they are the best of the best.”
Rohan said a soldier needs to believe in his heart that what he is doing is right. He has to trust in his commander and his mission.
“And they need us to be here at home to believe in them, too,” Rohan said. “While we mourn their loss, we also need to celebrate their life and the life we are privileged to live because of their sacrifices.”
Rohan said the future veteran’s memorial planned for Darlington and the act of naming the post after a fallen solider are everlasting ways to show appreciation for what they gave for this great nation.
“We are thankful for all of our veterans who are often ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things,” Rohan said.
She said she appreciates the Darlington American Legion for continuing the love and support of the Roelli family, the community and the country.
Rohan presented the charters for the American Legion post and the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) unit, both of which were changed at the same time.
“It’s a great honor that you [the legion] bestowed upon my family for my son and our community,” Rich Roelli said. “I will never forget what you have done.”
Rich Roelli said he appreciates the love the legion has shown for him and his family and especially their service to the country.
“Post 214 [is grateful to] Rich and his family for giving us the privilege to add Roelli to our post charter to honor Jakob,” O’Brien said.