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Greenpoint Vet Serves CWV As Commander

By Stefanie Gutierrez

On a recent sunny and crisp Friday morning, Fred Schwally walked a few blocks from the Greenpoint home he grew up in to his favorite local diner to talk over tea and oat­meal about his life growing up in the Catholic War Veterans

and his newly bestowed title of national commander.

It was just this past November that the Greenpoint native had break­fast with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in honor of Veterans Day. He called it “the thrill of a lifetime” as he attended with approximately 175 other veterans at the breakfast co-hosted by the Veterans Administration and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Afterwards, they went to Arlington Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It was Schwally’s first Veterans Day breakfast at the White House being elected 54th national commander of the Catholic War Veterans (CWV) in August 2009 at the organization’s national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. The honor came after 41 dedicated years of service to the CWV, at St. Elias Post No. 1618 in Greenpoint.

Founded in 1935, the CWV is the preeminent national veterans service organization representing Catholic military veterans. It is the only Catholic organization to have been granted an official charter by the U.S. Congress, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

The CWV began in Astoria, founded by Msgr. Edward Higgins, with permission of Bishop Thomas E. Molloy, when he realized that Catholics who served in the Armed Forces should continue to live their lives for the preservation of the U.S. and their faith. Msgr. Higgins gathered together parishioners who served in World War I and formed the first unit of CWV, Astoria Post 1.

In May 1935, Pope Pius XI blessed the American and Papal Flags of the CWV and bestowed his blessing on the organization. This year, the CWV is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Schwally related the detailed his­tory of the organization with ease, having been a part of it since the age

of 10, when his father joined the St. Elias Post after serving in the US. Army during World War II. The elder Schwally became a delegate for the CWV and traveled to the annual national conventions all over the country, bringing his wife Mary, son and daughter with him.

Schwally attended St. Alphonsus School, graduating in June 1960, and attended Eastern District H.S., gradu­ating June 1964. He went on to N.Y. Community College and completed an Associate Degree in 1972, majoring in Accounting, and then Baruch College in 1976, where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration.

Drafted into the Army in 1967, he was sent to Vietnam as a combat infantry­man, served as a mortar man with the 1st Air Calvary from July 1967 to July 1968, which includ­ed the 1968 Tet Offensive.

From 1971-92, Schwally worked as a computer program­mer and now runs his own Greenpoint Legal Running Services, which he started in 1996.

He joined the St. Elias Post in 1968, while still serving in Vietnam, becoming the first Vietnam veteran to join that post. He attended his first county convention in 1969, one week after being discharged. His first nation­al convention was in August 1969 in Boston, Mass. He became a life mem­ber of the St. Elias Post in 1982.

Before becoming national commander, he held many other positions including treasure and post commander. Since 2000, he has also served on the national board.

“Becoming national commander is a dream:’ he said. “If my father was alive today, we’d be sitting at a restau­rant, laughing, thinking this was crazy.” He added that after growing up in the CWV, his newly elected title is a wonderful culmination of his life­time of work and dedication to the organization.

In honor of the CWV’s 75th anniversary year, Astoria Post NO.1, the original Catholic War Veterans Post, has scheduled a Mass and dinner on May 15, and the national conven­tion is being planned for Aug. 15-22, in Buffalo.

For more information} visit www.cwv.org.