“E J” Knapik, front right, swore in officers on Thursday, April 19, for the newly formed Rotterdam AMVETS Post No. 35. Being sworn in, from left, are Judge Advocate Robert Becker Jr., Finance Officer Michael McGrath, Commander Angelo Santabarbara, First Vice Commander Douglas VanIderstyne, Provost Marshall Fredrick Whelan and Second Vice Commander Anthony Guzzardi.
ROTTERDAM The former Schenectady AMVETS Post No. 35 has made a comeback in Rotterdam after dissolving several years ago due to declining membership.
County Legislator Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, spearheaded the initiative to form an AMVETS post in Rotterdam after wanting to join a local veterans organization. He ran into a problem — there wasn’t one. Now, he is the elected leader of the first AMVETS post in Rotterdam.
“Any time you have a first it is always kind of exciting,” Santabarbara said. “The group deserves credit because they were very active in getting the word out. Everybody really worked hard to get our numbers up and the fact that it is the first post in Rotterdam, that means something to people, too.”
Santabarbara served in the Army reserves for eight years until 1998, but many veteran organizations don’t allow veteran reserve members to join. Eventually, he stumbled upon AMVETS, which is a veterans organization that includes members from every branch of the military, including National Guard and reserves members. Also, active duty members of the military can join.
“One of the things that drew me towards wanting to join AMVETS was that it had a broad umbrella of who could be a part of it,” Santabarbara said. “There were several other people in the group in my situation as well.”
About two years ago, Santabarbara reached out to “E J” Knapik, a past state commander of AMVETS. He said Knapik suggested he tried to form a post in Rotterdam.
Knapik, a Glenville resident, performed the oath of office for the newly sworn in post officers. He also nominated Santabarbara to be president of the post due to his resolve to form the group.
“(Santabarbara) was so insistent on starting the post I felt he deserved it,” Knapik said. “It is a high honor, so I convinced him I was going to nominate him for the post commander. I wanted him to be listed as the first post commander, because him and I spent two years trying to get this off the ground.”