Flood insurance or no flood insurance, what undeniably cannot be replaced is memorabilia. Things of sentimental value like photographs, letters, and souvenirs are impossible to buy back. So what happens when your memories date back to World War I? Or when the photographs are of men who perished in Vietnam? Or when the souvenirs were hundreds of flags collected over decades?
This is what the veterans of American Legion Post 107 are currently facing. Their post at 308 Second St. was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. It still houses several inches of flood water, even now. They have no flood insurance, and all of the contractors they have tried to call have been busy with other cleanup efforts.
Post 107 says they have never asked for anything in all these years, but they are asking now.
“We have never, ever asked for anything in all these years.” – Tom Brereton
“I am quite confident that other organizations will want to help them as well,” said Zimmer.
A battle lost
Commander of Post 107 Tom Kennedy and past County, VFW and Post 107 Commander Tom Brereton looked around the American Legion on Monday with hurt in their eyes. Both men were born and raised in Hoboken and both served our country.
“I was born here, I’m gonna die here,” said Brereton.
They and other Post 107 vets have lost desks filled with records, flags, photographs, and other World War I and World War II memorabilia. The walls of the American Legion are lined with pictures of uniformed men, both living and deceased. Everything below the lines of picture frames on the walls has been ruined. The refrigerator floated to the middle of the room.
“I’m not a sentimental person,” said Brereton, “but when I walked in I was crying. Everybody had tears in their eyes. Especially the old-timers.”
Brereton and Kennedy explained that the site of the old post was at Willow and Thirteenth streets. The old post 107 was opened at the time of World War I. In the late 1980s, they moved to the downtown location because they could no longer afford uptown, they said.
“In the first World War, we lost 71 men just from Hoboken,” said Kennedy. “They left [for war] from Hoboken. We’ve lost pictures of the Doughboys going over [to war].”
In World War II, Hoboken lost even more men.
A picture of Raymond Brereton, cousin of Tom, still hangs on the wall. He was one of Hoboken’s lost during Vietnam.
“Everything needs to be gutted,” said Brereton. “There is mold forming and memorabilia is contaminated.”
Brereton and Kennedy pointed to an antique desk that no longer has drawers. The flood waters rotted the inside of the desk, ruining all of the contents.
They also explained how prepared boxes for the Adopt-A-Soldier program were destroyed. The program, founded by Joann Peluso, sends goodies overseas to the troops. The ready-to-go tubs were also lost in the flood.
“We have never, ever asked for anything in all these years,” Brereton said. “We have given a lot. But we have never asked for anything in return. Now we’re asking for help. We can’t even have meetings down here anymore.”
Aside from the obvious loss of memories, the lack of meetings has disabled the veterans from meeting and sharing their stories.
“We had fun here. We told stories here,” said Brereton.
Kennedy and Brereton would greatly appreciate any help they can get to rebuild the American Legion space.
If you would like to donate, make checks payable to American Legion Post 107 and send to American Legion, 308 Second St., Hoboken, NJ, 07030. The space is still in need of a contractor to help with the project as well.
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.