AUBURN – The national commander of the American Legion, Martin Conatser of Illinois, plans to stop at two local posts Saturday on a visit to Maine.

In the morning, Conatser is scheduled to award 14-year-old Geoffrey Briggs of Winthrop with a heroism medal for saving a buddy, Matthew Cross, from possible drowning in Lake Maranacook.

After stopping at Winthrop’s lakeside post, Alfred W. Maxwell Jr. Post 40, Conatser is scheduled to move on to New Auburn Legion Post 153, where members will host a reception.

At both halls, the visit is expected to be one of the biggest events of the year.

“It’s not every day that someone comes who has access to the president and Congress,” said Donald Chase, adjutant of the Winthrop legion.

It’s made even more special by the award, Chase said.

“In my 20 years here, I’ve never seen a medal like this,” he said. It’s much deserved, though.

This summer, Briggs was swimming with Cross when the latter boy had a seizure. Briggs lifted his friend out of the water, brought him to safety and went for help, Chase said.

Cross recovered, said the Winthrop legionnaire, who is also his grandfather.

“We’re not doing this because this was my grandson,” Chase insisted. The boy deserves the medal, he said.

The public is invited to the reception in Auburn. Conatser is scheduled to arrive sometime between 1 and 1:30 p.m., said Emmett Stuart, commander of the New Auburn post.

Conatser was elected the national commander on Aug. 30 by legionnaires at their national convention in Reno, Nev.

A native of Champaign, Ill., Conatser served during the Vietnam war era in the Army as an infantryman and a recruiter.


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