MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mahopac’s VFW Post 5491 hopes to start a new patriotic tradition in town and it began last week with a red, white and boom on the Fourth of July.
Post 5491 wants to become more engaged with the community, particularly its neighbors along the shores of Lake Mahopac, so its members held a special event on Independence Day—a flotilla of boats festooned in flags and red, white and blue bunting that paraded across the lake while playing patriotic music. Neighboring boaters were encouraged to join the procession.
The event kicked off with the playing of the national anthem, followed by a four-gun salute by the VFW color guard, which fired off three volleys from the bows of the boats docked in the slips behind the organization’s headquarters at 154 East Lake Blvd. The flotilla then headed out for a 20-minute ride around the lake before returning for the VFW’s annual clambake.
Stephen Scerra, house chairman for the Post, said he came up with the idea when the VFW did something similar this past Memorial Day.
“The Fourth of July was coming, and it dawned on me that this might be something that we might want to do as a tradition,” he said. “We wanted to get our neighbors around the lake involved. People come in here all the time and say, ‘We’ve lived here for 50 years and never knew you were here. So, I thought that this would be a good way we could tighten things up with the community and the folks around the lake. I am hoping next year we can get more people involved and maybe get the docks decorated.”
Post Commander Ben Boccia said he thought it was a great idea.
“We get out in the middle of the lake; show people who we are,” Boccia said. “Our goal is to be completely involved with the town and get the community involved with us.”
Charles Monte, past commander, was on hand with a book from the Putnam County historical archives that told the story of Post 5491. It was instituted in 1947 by 27 local veterans. It started at the Methodist Church and moved to several locations, including the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department and a storehouse in Secor before moving to its current location. They were able to raise money to purchase 154 East Lake Blvd., and in 1954 it became their permanent home.
Scerra said he hopes the event will grow and become a Mahopac tradition.
“When I thought of it, that was the goal,” he said. “It keeps us close to the community; people know we are here. We have all put 25-foot flag poles on our boats. If people are on the lake and see our boats out there, they can stop by and say hello.”
Boccia said that the Post is trying to get younger and increase its membership, and events such as these can help.
“This was mostly Vietnam vets; we didn’t have any Iraq or Afghanistan vets, but now they are starting to trickle in,” he said. “We are finally getting younger people in. We are getting re-energized as they move up through the ranks and help keep the traditions alive. They want to make it better and keep a family post. This building has undergone improvements—handicapped bathrooms; we improved docks to include 10 boat slips and had a fence installed as an Eagle Scout project. All that has helped bring in a younger crowd.”
Ann Marie Vicario, president of the Post’s ladies’ auxiliary, said the auxiliary played a pivotal role in helping to put the event together.