PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Pleasantville resident Bert Ruiz served his country in Vietnam and later helped fellow veterans when he came home.
Ruiz was honored this week for his 10 years of service as commander of American Legion Post 77 in Pleasantville. Ruiz is stepping down, being replaced by Scott Elliott, who served in Iraq.
"It's bittersweet," Ruiz said. "I have a real attachment to Pleasantville. This post has a lot of deep roots in the community."
When Ruiz took over, the post had only four active members.. Ruiz said he'd be only commander for one year and began recruiting new members.
Ruiz said American Legion headquarters told him to throw out the manual. He got rid of the onerous requirements like having veterans wear Eisenhower jackets and uniforms.
"Forget the uniforms, wear baseball caps," Ruiz said. "All you needed was 100 days of active service."
"We are in great shape," said Ruiz, who did two tours in Vietnam, said.
Mayor Peter Scherer praised Ruiz's time at the American Legion.
"He has been energetic advocate," Scherer said. "He's given new life to the American Legion. He's given our veterans an opportunity to share their stories."
Scherer said one of his pleasures as mayor has been getting to meet Pleasantville's veterans.
Pleasantville's American Legion has been very community oriented donating to many area charities and organizations, along with Wounded Warriors.
County Legislator Michael Smith presented Ruiz with a proclamation, joking he'd never seen a proclamation with so many whereas'. June 17 was declared Bert Ruiz Day in Westchester.
"Thank you Bert for all you've done," Smith said.
Elliott thought he was done with the military when he came home from Iraq before a chance meeting with another member at Pace University.
"It was a cool group of guys," Elliott said. "They were very low maintenance. I'm glad it was so low key."
Elliott said his goal is to retain membership, noting it is hard to recruit new members since not many people from the area have served in a recent conflict.
"I'll keep my eyes open," Elliott said. "We want to keep it simple."