New VFW commander looking forward to growing membership, helping veterans



The new officers for VFW Post 3720 include, from left, Trustees Jim Helmka and David Roth, Quartermaster Leisly Harmon, Chaplain Tom Kerns, Vice Commander Jerry Wright, Senior Vice Commander Ted Henry, and Commander Krystal Harmon. Courtesy photo

The new officers for VFW Post 3720 include, from left, Trustees Jim Helmka and David Roth, Quartermaster Leisly Harmon, Chaplain Tom Kerns, Vice Commander Jerry Wright, Senior Vice Commander Ted Henry, and Commander Krystal Harmon. Courtesy photo

FLINT TWP. — With a new commander, a new name and new members, Swartz Creek VFW Post 3720 is ready to grow and tackle this milestone year with enthusiasm.

On Tuesday, May 11, Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class E7 Krystal Dowker Harmon was installed as the new post commander. In addition, the Swartz Creek Memorial Post was formally consolidated with the former Chevrolet Post 3087, which closed last year.

The new, combined post will retain the 3720 number but will have a new name, the Hammerberg Memorial Post, honoring Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Owen Francis Patrick Hammerberg.

Harmon has served for more than 20 years in the Army National Guard, including a tour in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. She plans to retire from the guard July 31. She has been a member of VFW Post 3720 since 2018.

Her primary goal is to “inspire young veterans to join the VFW” and access the resources available to them.

“I want to get the younger generations involved,” she said. “I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to the responsibility. I’m excited about the merger of the posts, as well.”

A Midland native who now lives in Flushing Township, Harmon works as an HR specialist with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

She said she joined the National Guard as a means to pay for college, then found that she loved the camaraderie and opportunities to help others.

“Being in the National Guard was a great choice and a great opportunity for me,” she said. “I have literally been able to travel the world, and get my college degree.”

Harmon has a bachelor of science in general studies from Grantham University.

“I want to continue growing the VFW in Swartz Creek and, hopefully, we can start doing some things to let the area know we’re here and we’re active,” she said. “We’re excited to start having some bigger events and be there for the veterans in need.”

Eric Johnson, the immediate past commander, said he is excited to see what Harmon and Quartermaster Leisly Harman will do to move the post forward.

“They are just go, go, go, go, go,” he said. “I think the post is in very good hands and I was happy to be able to step away and leave it in their hands.”

Johnson, who has served as commander off and on since 2008, said he appreciated working with the VFW Auxiliary, as well as the AMVETS and AMVETS Auxiliary, with which the VFW shares the post facility.

Hammerberg, for whom the consolidated post will be christened, was a Medal of Honor recipient.

He was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force, Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 1 in Pearl Harbor. In May 1944, one of several ships loaded with ammunition and fuel, and moored in the West Loch, mysteriously exploded, causing several other ships to catch fire. The incident is known as the West Loch Disaster.

Hammerberg was part of a team that helped raise the sunken ruins of the ships in February 1945. In an unfortunate turn of events, one of the teams became trapped in the murky depths. Hammerberg responded to the call for volunteers to rescue the men.

Hammerberg was crushed to death in a cave-in during the rescue mission.

In 1954, the Navy named a destroyer escort, the USS Hammerberg, in his memory. In addition, Hammerberg Road is named after him. There is also a monument dedicated to him in Menominee, and his medals and uniform are part of the exhibits at the Michigan Heroes Museum in Frankenmuth.