Saturday, October 6, 2018

First Vice Commander of American Legion hopes to build bridges and maintain traditions

By Lorraine Glowczak

Windham resident and veteran, Rebecca Cummings was recently elected as the First Vice Commander for American Legion Post 148. She is also the President of the Windham Veteran’s Association, the fiscal and property care taking agent of the Windham Veterans Center.

Cummings is a paid-up-for-life Legion member and she states she wanted to be a part of an important
First Vice Commander, Rebecca Cummings
organization. But in addition to that, it is her goal to get more veterans involved in their local posts and associations. “We are losing members and I want to help more veterans become involved,” Cummings stated. “Traditions and values are going away as we lose our older veterans and I would like to see younger veterans step up and help continue the traditions that we cherish and are so important. I would especially like to see more women veterans join us.”

To accomplish that, Cummings shares American Legion Posts events, fundraisers and meetings on various social media platforms such as Facebook, in an effort to connect with the younger population. “It’s an attempt to bridge the new and old ways – to connect the generations.”

One of the main purposes for veteran associations and posts is coming together to share stories and to be there for one another.

Cummings, much like every veteran in the American Legion Post, has a story to share. Hers is a tale of how a woman chose to fight for her Country.

“I was in Middle School during Desert Storm,” began Cummings, who lived in Portland at the time. “I became very interested in learning about our involvement and I immersed myself in the daily political events. With the encouragement of my teachers, I began writing to soldiers deployed to the Gulf. They wrote back, and we continued the correspondence for a while.”

Her keen interest in the Gulf War led her to study history while in high school, which fanned the flame for patriotism. However, entering the service was not her initial choice.
“I wanted to be in the medical profession,” she explained. “I was considering either becoming a doctor or a nurse.”

But realizing the cost was above what she could afford, she decided to combine her passion for medicine with patriotism and talked to a recruiting officer in Portland. “When I walked in, I explained what I wanted to do and asked what my options were,” Cummings said. “I don’t think they knew how to respond to me. This was the mid-1990’s. They seldom had a young high school student who was a girl who walked in off the streets and asked to join.”

Because she was under the age of 18, she needed her parents’ approval. However, her mother was not pleased with her decision. “My mother told me that she had prayed and prayed she would give birth to daughters, so she wouldn’t have to send her child off to war – and then I had to go and do something like this,” Cummings smiled.

At first, her mother refused to sign the approval. However, after realizing how determined her daughter was and that she would join the armed forces anyway when she turned 18, both her mother and her father reluctantly signed the required forms. Within two weeks, Cummings was on a plane and away from her family for the first time, heading to Fort Leonard Wood, MO for basic training.

Cummings spent four years in Germany at the Mainz-Finthen Airfield Base and was a Medic at the battalion aid station. It is there where she met her husband who was in the same unit. The story goes that he faked an injury to see the cute, blonde medic. “We met over Motrin,” Cummings laughed.

After they married, and her service contract was completed, they had two sons. She stayed at home to raise their family, while her husband remained active. They were relocated to Fort Riley, Kansas and then to Fort Bliss, Texas.

It was during this time she took online courses that were paid for by the GI Bill and eventually obtained her bachelor’s in nursing.  Accomplishing what she had set out to become, she chose school nursing as her career. “I chose to be a school nurse because my husband was deployed, and I needed to have a job that would allow the same schedule as my sons,” she explained.

Once her husband retired from the service, they moved to Windham where her parents currently reside. She quickly joined in the community efforts that not only included her membership with the American Legion Post but her campaign and election to the Windham Town Council.

Among all her many activities, you will find Cummings taking the time commiserating with fellow veterans every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Veterans Coffee Hour located at the Windham Veterans Center.

She hopes other women and younger people will take the time to join her – to share stories, to connect and to support one another as they keep traditions and values alive.

For more detailed information on events, activities or how to become a member, contact Rebecca Cummings at 207-893-8020.

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