by Jim Boyle
Mike Beyer lowers the average age in the room just about every time he walks into the banquet hall or bar of the Elk River American Legion.
In some ways he’d like to change that, but for now he’s happy that local veterans and the community still have a place to go for Friday night dinners and all sorts of the other community happenings and family gatherings.
The Elk River American Legion almost went the way of dinosaurs, but for guys like him and others who banded together, the club is still there for veterans who have served their country. And, as Beyer is always quick to point out, it’s there for the entire community.
Beyer took an interest in the Legion about five years ago and when rumblings of its potential demise surfaced, he stepped into action.
He and Mike Leistico played key roles. Plus, the community really stepped up, Beyer will tell you.
He’s now the Elk River American Legion commander, with a full slate of goals and an outstretched hand to greet everyone whose path he crosses on this adventure he holds in high regard.
“We were struggling, but we’ve got things moving in the right direction now,” Beyer said. “We’re not here to get rich. We just want to pay our bills and be there for the community.”
Beyer himself joined the U.S. Navy in October of 1983.
The first ship he served on was the USS Orion AS-18 in La Maddalena, Italy from April 1984 to April 1986.
He also served on the USS Waddell in San Diego, Calif., from May 1986 through May 1988. He went to the Persian Gulf for Desert Shield, and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for fighting fires on the USS Stark.
He was a member of the Rescue and Assistance Detail dispatched by motor whale boat in aid of the USS Stark on May 18, 1987.
Beyer was credited with professional achievement in the superior performance of his duties while serving on the USS Waddell. In a letter of commendation from H. J. Bernsen on behalf of the secretary of the Navy, Beyer was credited with displaying exceptional leadership and resourcefulness.
Petty Officer Beyer fought fires in the amidship’s superstructure and the forward second deck, extinguishing a major fire that had been out of control for several hours.
“In the face of grave danger, (Beyer) provided inspiration to other firefighters and contributed to the rescue of the USS Stark,” Bernsen stated in his letter presenting Beyer with a Navy Achievement Medal.
Beyer went on to work at the Recruit Training Center in San Diego, Calif., from May 1988 to May 1990.
He also served on the USS Rushmore pre-com unit in New Orleans, which was later moved to San Diego, Calif., from May 1990 to October 1992. He was honorably discharged in October 1992.
The Navy man now works as an operations manager for Supply Technologies. While working there and living in Elk River, he began to feel he needed to give back more to the community.
Beyer’s in it primarily for the veterans who have made the United States what it is today. If they didn’t have a place to go for a social time, that would be a shame, he said.
“The thing is these veterans can’t do as much as they used to. They have done their time. It’s our turn,” he said.
One problem is the club only added eight new members last year. Beyer would like to double that this year during his yearlong stint as commander. The overall goal is to meet and exceed the club’s membership goal of 412.
His No. 1 goal is to help improve the position of the club in the community, so it can support other activities in the community.
Beyer’s other goals are right in line with that. They include:
•full sponsorship of at least two high school students for Boys State
•have a positive influence in the community, and promote the Legion’s four pillars (Veterans, National Defense, Patriotism and Youth)
•increase member and community participation in veterans’ events (Membership Dinner, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, etc.)
•work closer with the VFW and partner on some projects (Beyer is a member of the VFW as well)
•continue to work closer with youth in Elk River (high school, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Legion baseball, etc.)