Mosolino takes charge of Oak Harbor’s Navy League

Practically every new president of an organization lists increasing membership as one of their first goals.

Joe Mosolino agrees, but cites increasing active membership as a secondary goal. Taking care of Sailors, Marines and their families is his primary goal.

“First, we will be doing what we’ve done for years,” Mosolino said last week. “We’ll be taking care of local military and their families.”

The Oak Harbor resident and Realtor became president of Oak Harbor Council of the Navy League Jan. 27. He took the leadership position from Beth Munns, who, with her husband Larry Munns, had divided the two-year presidency.

“It can keep you busy all day, every day,” Beth Munns said of the league presidency. “I hope Joe enjoys it, embraces the work and keeps his ear to the ground finding out what sailors and their families need.”

Mosolino said he’s ready for the challenges of the position. He credited Beth and Larry Munns for developing Oak Harbor’s Navy League into its current prominence.

“Beth and Larry have made us one of top the councils in the U.S.,” Mosolino said. “Their work and guidance has also made Oak Harbor one of the most admired councils in the nation.”

“I want the Navy League to continue as an organization that stands out for its activity in the community,” Mosolino added. He said he hopes to increase active membership as well as make the group even more visible in the community.

He plans on recruiting more Navy Leaguers to attend changes of command as well as welcome home fly-ins for squadrons. He said attending such ceremonies and functions mean a lot to people who may never have been involved with any branch of the military.

“At a change of command, people get tears in their eyes,” he said. And when squadrons return, people get caught up in the excitement — even if they don’t know anyone coming home.

Since 1965, the Navy League has been active in Oak Harbor.

Mosolino joined soon after his family relocated to Whidbey Island from Rota, Spain, when Cmdr. Laurie Mosolino, M.D., in 1999 was transferred to NAS Whidbey Island. Rick Schulte was president of the Navy League and Mosolino said he was impressed by Schulte’s “quiet leadership” and the “care he conveyed.”

One of first things he recalled about membership was in 2000 when Oak Harbor’s Navy League reacted to the Navy’s reduction in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates for people stationed here. Military members who live off base receive BAH to offset housing costs.

Mosolino recalls members contacting elected officials in Washington, D.C., and pointing out the faulty information contractors had used to calculate BAH.

“We couldn’t let our military families down,” he said.

The Navy League’s support of military families happens locally as well as overseas.

“We get amazing community support,” out-going president Beth Munns said. The Navy League does little formal fundraising, but Munns said “the community always come through” whenever the Navy League asks for donations.

In 2002, Munns said the league wanted to recognize everyone who had served during Operation Enduring Freedom. When the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln returned from an almost 12-month deployment, the Navy League threw a Support the Troops picnic at City Beach Park.

Beth Munns recalled Oak Harbor being “a ghost town” with all the units and commands serving in Southwest Asia.

Donations from individuals and local businesses funded the picnic that fed more than 1,500 people that first year.

Most recently, the league collected items to send to a hospital in Baghdad.

The EA-6B Prowler Wing at NAS Whidbey provided storage space and shipped the materials. Munns said the “Wings for Iraq” effort collected pajamas, fleece clothing, shower shoes and children’s toys, among other items.

“People heard of our need and donated so much,” Munns said. “It was wonderful.”

While support of the military on Whidbey Island has been strong, Munns and Mosolino have noticed significant changes locally.

“People have a need, and a desire, to do something for local military,” Mosolino said.

The Navy League’s most prominent function is sponsoring Sailors and Marine of the Year awards in the fall. Munns said fewer than 50 people attended the first awards. Now several hundred attend the ceremony and many businesses donate services to the winning sea and shore-duty sailors and Marine.

Besides supporting sea services, Mosolino said Navy League meetings can help control rumors as well as giving people information they might not see on national or even local television news.

At each meeting, an invited speaker gives an intelligence brief on their command’s latest missions and accomplishments.

All the briefs are unclassified but Mosolino said Navy League members hear different points of views that can help them develop a more balanced understanding of current events.

Mosolino said he’s noticed more people donating to the Navy League but asking the donations remain anonymous.

Beth Munns said every donation has an effect on local service members. The Navy League hosts welcome home receptions for commands.

“Young men and women, not much older than 18, get the biggest grins on their faces,” Munns said.

“They realize we don’t want anything from them, just to welcome them back. And they know someone really cares.”

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