'New blood' at Geneva American Legion Post hungry to help others
Josh Engel served four years in the U.S. Marines as a logistical vehicle system operator, or, as he likes to say, a "heavy truck driver."
From 2006 to 2010, Engel was twice deployed to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
Now, helping others through volunteering at American Legion Post 75 in Geneva is one way the 34-year-old Aurora native keeps his motor running.
"If you're not doing stuff for people around you, what's the point of being around?" Engel, who now lives in Elburn, asks rhetorically.
Engel joined the Geneva post about a year and a half ago after meeting the post commander, Brian Noonan, at an area CrossFit gym that is also owned and operated by a veteran.
Engel volunteers at the post during Geneva's annual Swedish Days festival and at other functions.
And with his background as a carpenter, laborer and certified arborist, he does a little of everything. He's currently tackling a remodeling project of the post's basement and bar area.
"It's really cool down there, a lot of history," he said of the basement and bar. "A lot of people don't know it's there. It's been dormant."
Engel said before joining the Geneva post, he didn't have connections to local veterans after his service ended in June 2010 with the rank of corporal.
Now, he's helping recruit younger veterans to the post and sees his association with it and its members as a continuation of sorts of his service.
"Being a member there feels like your service is still going. You're working with like-minded people, guys who have been there decades," he said. "When I got out, I didn't really have anybody to give me a helping hand. I just want to make a difference in the community."
Engel, a 2006 Aurora Christian High School graduate, and his wife, Sonya, also give of their time each spring to participate in the school's "Mission Impossible" ministry.
Working with Aurora Christian students, Engel and his wife are part of a team with building trades experience that uses student labor to complete projects, trim trees and other tasks at an Arkansas camp.
One year, the team completed a cafeteria expansion and another year, built a house in a week, Engel said.
Noonan lauded Engel for his willingness to help out with post projects and events, and for taking the extra step to assist other post members.
"Anything I ask of him, he's willing to do," Noonan said. "He's new blood. He's hungry to help out his fellow veterans."
For example, Engel built a portable, wooden stand-alone bar as a prize item at the legion's Turkey Raffle last month.
"He did it on his own accord. That's really cool, the initiative he took," Noonan recalled. "Everybody wanted it."