While not on active duty, members of the Edgeley American Legion continue to serve their country and community.

“We all got out of the military, came home and joined the Legion,” said Jerry Lagodinski about the American Legion Henry Parthie Post No. 146, Edgeley, N.D. It is an essential part of the community’s history and is still active today, funding youth projects, families in need and cancer care.

This season, the group made its first gift to Jamestown Regional Medical Center to help patients in the JRMC Cancer Center receive care close to home. The $5,000 also supplies gas cards if home is still a few miles down the road.

The Legion does a variety of fundraisers but about a year ago got into electronic slot machines. This was a game-changer.

“Gaming is the only way these projects and help for families would happen,” said Joe Neis, a Legion member and president of the JRMC Foundation board.

Whether it’s funding a softball complex to buying a conversion van for a family with a child with a disability, members and players are making a significant impact on others’ quality of life.

For Lagodinski, it’s personal.

The last four years have been a battle between heart attacks and cancer. His first health incident was a heart attack, but it led to the discovery and diagnosis of Stage IV esophageal cancer. This is the diagnosis that had his doctor say, “Put your effects in order; you have only a few months to live.”

“It was a blessing in disguise because they would have never found the cancer, but they couldn’t do bypass and treat cancer at the same time.”

After participating in an experimental immunotherapy drug trial, he received the unpredicted news, “You’re cancer-free.”

There’s a “but” to the story.  It repeated itself, except for the cancer-free part. In the middle, his wife, a nurse, had the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and spent a week in the hospital.

Through all of this, Lagodinski remains positive. He’s now able to receive care at the JRMC Cancer Center.

“38 vs 425 miles?” smiles Jerry.

He didn’t need an answer to his question. He feels lucky to have care close to home and great nurses. “Those guys are great,” he said, referring to JRMC Cancer Center Registered Nurses K.C. Robison and Garret Hillius.

Lagodinski was also appreciative of community support.

“It feels a little weird getting money for travel, but am I thankful – you bet,” Lagodinski said. Although Lagodinski’s journey was long, he’s feeling fortunate he can now receive his chemotherapy treatments at JRMC.

The conversation wrapped up by Lagodinski, saying, “I like success stories. I like being one!”

Before leaving, Neis turned to the Sandi Horsager office manager of Farmers Union Insurance, Garitt Irey Agency office manager and said, “this one is for you,” as he handed her an envelope from the Edgeley American Legion. With tears, she says it’s been so hard. Her husband, Gary has been doing infusions at the cancer center too for a chronic health condition.