Hricak-McAndrew American Legion Post 869

Hricak-McAndrew American Legion Post 869 members, from left, Al Picchini, Commander Gerald “Gerry” Heid and Tom Picchini. The post is working on getting a decommissioned M114 Howitzer to display at the post in Archbald.

When an organization chooses to spruce up their headquarters, they will usually opt for something tame — a garden, perhaps, or a plaque in honor of a former member.

Hricak-McAndrew American Legion Post 869 is planning something a little different.

The Archbald post is planning to install a cannon in front of their building. The members have been discussing the project for over a year, according to Post 869 Commander Gerald “Gerry” Heid.

“I wound up bringing it up to the Board of Directors and we brought it up to the body, everybody seemed to be in favor of it,” Heid said.

Three-year post member Al Picchini pointed out that plenty of other groups around the region have similar items on site or in their town.

“I think it could be something for people to stop and see,” he said. “I would think the kids would like it, too.”

The Legion plans to secure a decommissioned M114 Howitzer. The weapon was first introduced in 1942 as medium artillery, according to the FAS Military Analysis Network. It was used in war until it was replaced by the M198 Howitzer in 1979.

While the one at the Hricak-McAndrew American Legion post won’t be operable, this type of cannon used standard 155mm ammunition and it has a firing range of about 14,000 meters. Its sustained rate of fire was 40 rounds per hour.

“It was used in World War II, the Korean War and I believe it was still used in the Vietnam War,” Heid said.

To help pay for the installation, the Legion recently received a $5,000 County Reinvest Grant. Heid said they’ll use that money to install the pad that cannon will rest on. The Legion will pay for the rest of the project. Post 869 is also planning on installing three flagpoles next to the cannon flying the American flag, the state flag and the POW flag.

Heid hopes that the installation of the cannon will make the building look like more of a “veteran’s place.”

“That’s what our goal is,” said Heid, who served in the Army from 1972 to 1976. “We’re a veteran’s organization, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Hricak-McAndrew American Legion Post 869 was established on Dec. 22, 1947. Currently, they have 248 members. Many are from the area, but there are members that live as far away as New York, Florida and Texas.

When the National chapter of the American Legion was formed, their main goals were a devotion to mutual helpfulness and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, according to their website. Post 869 maintains that commitment to the communities through charitable donations, according to members.

In 2019, the post donated $2,000 to the Archbald Borough Police Department for a new police van. Every year, they donate $2,000 to Jenny’s Closet, a charitable organization that provides needy families in the area with donated food and clothing. Other past services have included a Veteran’s Day ceremony and a Santa Visit.

It was during one of these Veteran’s Day ceremonies that Heid recalled meeting a woman and her three grandchildren.

“She told me they didn’t have money for Christmas, and that weekend we were having a Santa visit. I told her ‘bring the kids there and we’ll donate $100 to you for gifts,’” he said. “We want people to know who we are and know that we’re out here for the needy.”

Along with the cannon project, the Legion is also sponsoring a veteran’s monument on Kennedy Drive in Archbald. The project will involve building a wall containing more than 2,000 tiles. The tiles can be bought and inscribed with a veteran’s name.

For more information about that project, visit archbaldboroughveteransmonumentpark.org.

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