By Jessica Oates
Every year, the lights in the hall of American Legion Post 414 dim in solemn remembrance of members who have passed away during the previous year. The moment of remembrance is part of the annual Post Everlasting Ceremony, this year held April 24, which honors the Post members’ fallen comrades and their families.
On the same date, Post 414 also holds its annual awards ceremony in recognition of the outstanding service provided by community members who went above and beyond their job descriptions to make a difference in Lawrence Township, including firefighters, police officers, a veteran and a civilian.
“We try to pick people in the community who have gone out of their ways to help people,” Post 414 Commander Sam Alphin said.
At this year’s ceremony, Post 414 presented Dave Snedeker and Steve Groeger with the awards for veteran and civilian, respectively.
“Dave is the kind of person, who, if he feels he can help, he is there,” Alphin said.
Snedeker is the chief information officer and director of information and administrative services for the N.J. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The Lawrenceville resident currently serves as a signal corp chief warrant officer with the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He is a decorated combat veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom with over 34 years of combined service in the US Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard.
“I always had an interest in the military. My family has a military background. Both my father and my father-in-law were in the army and the reserves. I wasn’t really focused on going to college, and joining the army seemed like a good opportunity. I thought I would be there for a short time and then get out, but it kept my interest and I stayed.”
Working for the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, Snedeker plays an important role in providing outreach to veterans, including those who may need transitional housing. The former post service officer of American Legion Post 414 was also a member of the Lawrence Township Patriotic and Veterans Memorial Committees and was highly involved in township planning. In these roles, Snedeker worked hard to help plan ceremonies for Veteran’s and Memorial Day. He worked with the department of recreation to organize parades and coordinate guest speakers in honor of these national holidays.
“I’ve lived in Lawrence just about my whole life,” Snedeker said. “The American Legion is a very community based organization that helps not only veterans, but their families, too. They provide scholarships and encourage people to be involved in the community and help people in a variety of ways. It’s a good service organization.”
Alphin said Snedeker went above and beyond in his roles with Post 414.
“Even during trying times when his wife was ill, he made himself available to the community,” Alphin said.
As the superintendent for the department of recreation, Steve Groeger has been involved in planning and putting on countless community events.
“He goes above and beyong to make it happen,” Alphin said.
Groeger grew up in Lawrence and graduated from Lawrence High School. After earning a degree in engineering from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, he came back to town and got involved in township sports. He found himself increasingly drawn to recreation and began to pursue it wholeheartedly, starting with a Masters Degree in Recreation from Temple University.
In 1982, Groeger assumed the role of recreation, retiring in December 2014. During his 32 years as director, Groeger helped the Lawrence Township rec department expand and flourish, starting with the building of a pool at the high school and the introduction of an aquatics program, swimming lessons, and a high school swim team. Under his directorship, the town saw the establishment of the senior citizens department and senior center, and the construction of new parks including Village Park and Twin Pines.
“When it comes to recreation, people have different ideas about what it entails,” said Groeger. “It could include nature, athletics, and art, and we did our best in as many areas as we could.”
As a member of the Spirit of Lawrence Patriotic Committee, Groeger was highly involved in Memorial Day event planning, alongside members of American Legion Post 414 and the VFW. The organizations also worked together year after year to help the town celebrate Flag Day. When the township stopped funding 4th of July fireworks years ago, Groeger spearheaded several fundraising efforts to help put them on.
“I certainly feel honored to receive this award,” he said. “You do the best job you can, and there is always room for improvement, but it’s nice to know that the community thinks you did a good job.”
Others set to receive recognition at the ceremony were Richard Johnson of Slackwood Fire Company, Richard Godlewski of Lawrenceville Fire Company, Pat Kent of Lawrence Road Fire Company, and Patrolman Andres Mejia of the Lawrence Township police department.
Nicholas Loveless was also set to be recognized for 70 years of membership, and Edward Roweotsky was set to be recognized for 50 years of membership. Certificates of appreciation were also set to be presented to Quick Check Store 107 and the Sunshine Foundation.
Honoring veterans and community members is just one of many ways the American Legion Post 414 serves the community, Alphin noted.
Alphin, who served in the army during the Vietnam war, has been involved with the American Legion since 1998 when he first joined Headquarters Post 1000.
Following the advice of his mail man, who was the commander of Post 414, Alphin started attending meetings for the Lawrence Township post and held various positions until finally becoming its commander. As the economic and employment chairman for Mercer County and Post 414, Alphin is focused on helping veterans who are coming back from employment to find new jobs or get their old ones back.
After the April 24 Post Everlasting and Awards Ceremony, the township can look forward to the May 16th Trenton Thunder baseball game in honor of Military Appreciation Night. The event will raise funds that the legion will use to benefit veterans in a variety of ways.
“This year will be the 95th anniversary of World War II,” Alphin said. “So this is going to be a big event. If it wasn’t for the veterans, we wouldn’t be doing what we do now. It’s important to remind the community of the sacrifices they have made and let them know we care.”
For more information about American Legion Post 414, go online to alpost414nj.org, call (609) 771-4143, or stop by the post at 100 Berwyn Place in Lawrence to learn more about the services and opportunities the legion provides.