Limestone man is Legionnaire of the Year

Donald E. Scacchi, 81, of Limestone (center) was recently named the 2019 American Legionnaire of the Year for the American Legion’s Eighth District. At left is Allie Burdick, Cattaraugus County American Legion Commander, and at right is Steve E. McCord, 8th District Service Officer.

A 42-year member of the American Legion from Limestone was honored this month for his life of service — to his country, to his community and to his Legion post.

Donald E. Scacchi, 81, is the 8th District’s 2019 Legionnaire of the Year and received his new hat from the Cattaraugus County American Legion. The 8th District represents Legionnaires across the eight counties of Western New York.

Scacchi, a retired U.S. Navy petty officer first class, joined the American Legion in 1976, shortly after returning home from military service. During the next 42 years, he would serve five terms as the commander of Limestone Memorial Post 1560 and four terms as post adjutant. He has also served as finance officer, Boy’s State chairman and membership chair.

During his tenure as the post membership chair, the Limestone post met its 100% membership recruitment and retention goals each time.

“(Don) is the epitome of the New York State American Legion,” says Steve McCord, 8th District service officer and director of the Cattaraugus County Veterans Service Agency.

Scacchi has promoted Americanism and worked with local schools to present programs on Memorial Day, Flag Day and Veteran’s Day. He also recruited candidates from local schools to participate in American Legion Boys State, a selective participatory program in which high school students become part of the operation of local, county and state governments.

In his military career, Scacchi logged about 1,000 hours as an aircrew member and aviation structural mechanic, flying search and rescue missions with Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 2 aboard the U.S.S. America, posted at Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam.

During the sailor’s two-decade career, he would serve more than six years overseas. In addition to a Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze campaign star, he also earned the Antarctica Service Medal.

Scacchi was among the original cadre that was instrumental in forming the Cattaraugus County Joint Veterans Council, a consortium of local veteran’s organizations that work to solve local veterans issues and operate a van service providing free transportation to veterans who have appointments at the Bath and Buffalo U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

In addition, Scacchi has donated his own time supporting other local veterans organizations and mentored the officers.

“Our Legionnaire works tirelessly to help veterans,” McCord says. “Through the New York State Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, (Scacchi) has logged 8,000 hours as of Jan. 1, 2019. All 8,000 hours have been in support of veterans and most of (that) in direct support of the regional VAMC.”

Scacchi is married to the former Barbara Kessel of Limestone — the couple has been united for 59 years. The Scacchis have one daughter and four grandchildren. In addition to helping her husband cook and prepare meals for needy veterans and shut-ins, at their own cost, Barbara served for two decades as a Carrollton town justice.

Chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919, the American Legion is a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. With 2 million members, it is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.

On July 30, President Donald Trump signed the Legion Act, which opens membership to all honorably discharged former servicemen and women, from Dec.7, 1941, to the present. The Legion had sought a designation that the U.S. has been in a state of war since the attack on Pearl Harbor as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. service members who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared conflicts.

That change opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access the organization’s programs and benefits for which they had previously been ineligible. Veterans seeking more information about Legion membership are invited to contact McCord at 701-3297 or Charlie Nobles, county membership task force chairman, at 988-3251.