The new leadership at Albertson VFW Post 5253, with Jack Hirsch as commander and Tom Rumore as senior vice commander, reverses the positions each veteran has served over the past several years.
Rumore has been commander of the Post 5253 for the past two years, while Hirsch served as senior vice commander for three of the last four years. Rumore previously served as commander in 2008 and 2009. Hirsch and Rumore were installed in their new positions during ceremonies at the Albertson VFW post on June 20.
Hirsch has also been the Post’s banquet manager for the past five years.
“I’m here just about every day,” Hirsch said. “It gives me a sense of giving back, trying to help other veterans.”
A member since 1982, Hirsch became more active at the Post in 2006 after he retired from the Metropolitan Transit Authority, where he had worked for 34 years. He said he started helping out at the bar, then became a trustee prior to serving as senior vice commander.
Rumore said he wanted to assist Hirsch in what he knows can be a demanding job.
“I wanted to support Jack as the commander as a back-up to run the place,” Rumore said.
Rumore, a VFW member since 1975, said he’s taken on an active role at the Post over the past decade after initially feeling uncomfortable there.
“I started out with good intentions like other veterans from the Vietnam era. But they had enough guys from World War II, so they didn’t really open up their arms to you,” Rumore said.
Hirsch said he particularly enjoys working with veterans from different eras.
World War II veteran Anthony Catalano is the current junior vice commander, and Vincent DeMartino, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, is the chaplain.
Hirsch said he is intent on drawing veterans of the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq in as members.
“We need to open up and be more receptive to new members,” Hirsch said.
Rumore said a couple of young veterans had joined the Albertson post, but “didn’t stick.”
“Some of these guys don’t even have full-time jobs. They’re working two or three jobs to make ends meet,” Rumore said.
Hirsch and Rumore are both Vietnam veterans, both drafted when they were 19 years old.
Hirsch enlisted after being drafted, serving as a specialist 5th class in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, in charge of switchboard maintenance repair for telephone communications at his company’s base near Saigon and in field base camps. He earned a bronze star for his one-year tour of duty in Vietnam.
Hirsch also served in the 8th Infantry Division in Germany after he completed his tour in Vietnam.
Rumore served as a medical corpsman in 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, attached to an air mobile artillery unit.
“We went through a lot of firefights. The unit I was with, we got hit two or three times and we saw some stuff,” Rumore said of his two years of combat duty that began in December 1969.
Rumore said a single Chinook helicopters could transport 30 men and six 105 millimeter artillery pieces to firebases in the field, where they would stay for weeks at a time.
“They were operating a different type of war than anybody else was used to. You were flying into everywhere in a half hour, 20 minutes, and did what you had to do, they picked you up and put you down at another fire base,” Rumore said.