The annual Army vs. Navy football game is an chaotic affair for Kevin Kostuchowski’s family. His parents and brother all served in the Navy, while Kostuchowski took a different route, and decided to serve in the Army, so on the day of this particular football game, loyalties run strong.
Kostuchowski enlisted in the Army at the age of 19, and chose that branch over the Navy because a career in the Army offered the opportunity to travel overseas. He was stationed in Friedberg, Germany, at a military base made famous because that’s where Elvis was stationed. He spent two years abroad and two years serving stateside before he fulfilled his service commitment.
Now, Kostuchowski, 48, works in Public Works in the underground utilities division for the village, and has immersed himself in volunteer work with the American Legion.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I’m just kind of paying it forward for the guys who did it before me.”
Through the American Legion, he’s found several leadership positions. He’s heavily involved in the Maple Park Post 312, near his home. He’s also the commander of the Kane County Council, where he oversees 11 posts and 2,151 members. In addition, he serves as Sergeant-at-Arms at the American Legion district level, which encompasses Kane, DuPage, McHenry and Will counties.
“It’s an opportunity for me to meet some intelligent, experienced and talented people,” he said. “I cherish the time I get to listen to these guys.”
His volunteer work revolves around protecting and maintaining the benefits entitled to veterans. Since joining the American Legion in 2002, he’s seen the faces of the United State’s various wars reflected in the veterans he encounters.
“The younger guys are fighting a different war than have ever been fought before,” he said. “It’s an urban war. Every war is different.”
With the younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, he said their priority is to complete their education, settle their families and return their lives to the way they were before serving. At the same time, an identifying factor of the young veterans is numerous cases of post traumatic stress disorder, he said. In all of these cases, the American Legion can help.
The way veterans are treated has changed drastically from the time of Vietnam War, or even during the Cold War era, when he served, Kostuchowski said.
“I remember hearing horror stories about what it was like back in the day,” he said. “We’re getting the guys taken care of.”
He has about six months left in his term as commander of the Kane County Council, and after that he’s unsure of what kind of role he’ll play in the American Legion.
Although he’s planning on stepping back for a short time, he said he’s beginning to think about pursuing an advanced leadership role at the district level.
“Those pages have not been written, yet,” he said. “We’ll see where it all leads.”
As the holidays approach, he’s reminded of his own service in the Army, and his thoughts are with the active servicemen and women who are overseas and away from their families.
“The holidays are tough,” he said. “You’re away from family, it seems like a million miles away. You know you’re doing something of great importance, something that other people don’t have to do."