Roczynski is first woman to lead state's American Legion

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Aug. 1, 2011
Mary Ann Bergeron-Roczynski Connecticut's first female veteran to head the Connecticut American Legion. - Contributed Photo

Mary Ann Bergeron-Roczynski has been spent much of her life in the U.S. military. She's been stationed in Paris, Germany, Belgium and Italy. But with her most recent assignment, she's making history. Roczynski is the first female veteran to head Connecticut's American Legion.

Roczynski, 55, an East Hartford resident, was named to the post during a ceremony July 9 at the 93rd annual American Legion convention in Rocky Hill. She was senior vice commander and commander at Post 56 in Glastonbury. She was named District Commander of the Year in 2010. Her new title is Department Commander, and in that role she will oversee the state's 149 American Legion posts. There are approximately 24,000 American Legion members in the state.

Roczynski has also been a member of the American Legion's women's auxiliary for many years,  and held a number of posts within that organization. On the day of her election, members from all the legion's groups she has been a part of were present, in addition to post members from across the state. “There were about 500 people in the room,'' Roczynski recalled. “It was quite a moment.''

Any soldier who has served during wartime on active duty can be a member of the American Legion. Its members are veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon,  Panama, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. Roczynski's service, which began in 1975, came as an administrator, a JAG officer and re-enlistment officer on military bases in Europe.

In her new role, Roczynski “will be the face of the American Legion in Connecticut,'' said Everett Shepard, department adjutant for the Legion. “Her job is to be out in the public to promote the organization, and visiting districts and posts. She comes to the job with a long list of appointments where she has served.''

Roczynski's job is also to assist veterans with benefit claims and disability services. “We are the largest veterans' services organization in the country,'' she said. Some of the issues facing state veterans include family problems related to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and homelessness. We are seeing Vietnam vets who are homeless, and female vets who are homeless,'' she said. “We also have a 'Welcome Home' program for returning vets, and we make sure they are getting what they need.''

Another part of her job is to expand the reach of the organization. “We will be opening a post at UCONN [University of Connecticut], which will be our first college post,'' she said.

Roczynski, whose father served in the military and also held positions with the American Legion,  is married to a post commander, and their son is a member of Sons of the American Legion.  She recalls that she joined an auxiliary organization for women as a young girl. Families are very much a part of the legion, she said.

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