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'First male president': Historic feat for Waunakee American Legion Auxiliary
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'First male president': Historic feat for Waunakee American Legion Auxiliary
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'First male president': Historic feat for Waunakee American Legion Auxiliary

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Kubiak

Ted Kubiak said he was inspired to join the formerly all-female American Legion Auxiliary by his wife, Shirley, who served for 26 years in the Army National Guard and Reserves.

It’s not often that you hear the term “first male president,” but in a history-making election, the president of a local unit of the American Legion Auxiliary — historically an all-female organization — is a man.

Ted Kubiak joined Waunakee American Legion Auxiliary Unit 360 as the group’s first male member last August after the national Auxiliary began accepting spouses of current members. Installed as president on June 18, he’s one of the only male Auxiliary members in the state and serves as one of the first male presidents in the country.

Kubiak was inspired to join the Auxiliary by his wife, Shirley, who served for 26 years in the Army National Guard and Reserves and retired as a colonel. As former service people, both Ted and Shirley Kubiak have a lot of appreciation for the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary’s commitment to bettering the lives of veterans through service.

Waunakee American Legion Auxiliary Unit 360 Members

Officers of the Waunakee American Legion Auxiliary Unit 360 include, from left: Joyce Endres, Bonnie Phaneuf (first vice president), Diane Phaneuf (outgoing president), Linda Marty-Schmitz (historian), Ted Kubiak (president), Karen Knudsvig (chaplain), Nancy Thomas (second vice president), Carol Endres (treasurer), Terri Frederick-Ripp (executive committee).

“We had talked about it before, because I heard the rumors that the Auxiliary would welcome male members and he was open for it,” Shirley Kubiak said. ”He said to me, ‘You joined the Auxiliary to support me, and I’ll join the auxiliary to support you and your service.’”

The American Legion Auxiliary was founded in 1919 to support members of the all-male American Legion, which was formed to honor the sacrifice of service members by advocating for veterans in the United States and abroad, educating people about veterans’ issues, mentoring youth and promoting patriotism.

Many women who had served at home during World War I wanted to continue their service, and several women’s organizations across the country came together to form the American Legion Auxiliary. After affiliating with the American Legion in 1919, the women began their work serving and amplifying the voices of veterans across the country.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 360

Former Unit 360 President Bonnie Phaneuf makes a donation to Waunakee Emergency Medical Services at a fundraising event.

While America’s military was almost entirely male when the American Legion Auxiliary was created, many more women are joining the armed forces today. In 2018, 16 percent of the enlisted forces and 19 percent of the officer corps were women, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a significant increase over the past half-century.

The decision to allow male spouses of female service members to join the auxiliary was seen as a step toward creating a more inclusive coalition of community members to lead and serve the group.

Though Kubiak ran unopposed for his position, fellow members, like his wife, are excited about joining in the historic moment.

“My wife said, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if you were the first male president of an Auxiliary unit in the United States or in Wisconsin?’ so she nominated me and I won,” Kubiak said.

As president, Kubiak hopes to continue increasing membership in his unit and advocating for more men to join the ALA. Throughout the course of the pandemic, members of the unit have made masks for community members and are preparing for their annual mother’s appreciation baby shower event, in which they host and give gifts to servicewomen who are having children this year.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 360 Mother's Appreciation Event

Former President Diane Phaneuf with annual baby shower donations for the VA Hospital.

“Men and women have different ways of looking at things, and I find that interaction just wonderful,” said Kubiak.

Asked if he thought the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary would ever merge, Kubiak said, “That’s a possibility. We still have a lot of egos involved since we served in the military, the men, but that may be a possibility sometime in the distant future. We are trying to join together and call ourselves a family.”

Kubiak will serve through 2021, while his wife will serve as secretary.

“In service, we have a common ground, and any differences in opinion go to the wayside,” Kubiak said. “We have a common ground of serving the veterans.”



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