WAYLAND —The community is no stranger to war, and have honored the military for several generations.
Wayland has seen its fair share of hardships and obstacles in the face of doing what is right for their country.
A historical document entitled “For God and for Country” is an outline of the rich military history found at the Theodore Van Tassel Post 402.
Wayland gave 143 of her sons to the US Army and US Navy, three of her daughters enlisted as nurses, and invested $432,000 in government securities and thousands more in relief. This was Wayland in The Great War of 1918. Wayland lost eight of its sons in The Great War. The first being Theodore Van Tassel.
The Wayland American Legion honored its fallen son by naming itself after a true American Hero. This historic building came into existence with granting from National Headquarters of American Legion on Sept. 9, 1919. Before the legion was complete in 1922 it was decided that the post would be named Theodore Van Tassel.
Who was Theodore Van Tassel? What mark did he leave on the community? What caused him to want to pick up that rifle and charge into the hellfire of battle?
Theodore Van Tassel was born in Brooklyn on November 20, 1898, and was named for then Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1902 young “Teddy” was brought to Wayland and grew up in the village.
When the war broke out he was the first to enlist by joining the Marine Corps. He trained at Parris Island and sailed overseas to be a private in the 73 Co. 6th Marines. Once this unit engaged the Germans on Chateau Thierry he was mortally wounded and died on June 13, 1918.
Among the white crosses in the cemetery of Romagne one marks the local fallen hero, and his final resting place is thousands of miles from the village he roamed as a child. The community lost a son, hero, and friend in The Great War.
The legion had its hardships along the way as every concern and criticism of the community was met with blow after blow of defeat. This legion wasn’t just a way to honor the fallen soldiers, but would be a sanctuary for the boys and girls who came home after a long battle.
After lots of hardwork and years of frustration the community gathered to see the laying of the cornerstone in May 1922. Thousands of people witnessed this history unfold with soldiers from Dansville, Atlanta, Cohocton, Bath, Corning, Hornell, Addison, Brockport, Naples, Painted Post, Buffalo, Mount Morris, Geneseo and Brockport coming to honor the day. Some soil from Chateau Thierry was placed in the cornerstone. It was a fitting way to honor Theodore Van Tassel.
For awhile the legion served as a family-fun environment with a state-of-the-art Picture Theater. It still holds several fundraisers, charity events, and community events within its walls. The Wayland American Legion continues to honor its rich military history, and hold true the values of what it means to be an American Hero.
In 2022 the legion will celebrate its centennial, and remember the young soldier who lost his life in the valley of France. France will forever hold a piece of Wayland among the rows of white crosses and fallen warriors.