New York Legionnaire concludes centennial challenge atop 46th mountain

Keith Koster capped off his special celebration of The American Legion’s centennial year atop Saddleback Mountain in the Adirondacks on March 17, a year to the day after he started.

It was the 46th and final climb of a mountain in the eastern New York range for Koster, who started his journey on Mount Basin. More importantly, the three-time cancer survivor and Navy veteran achieved his goal of climbing all the peaks and displaying the Legion’s flag at the summit by the organization’s 100th birthday.

“Wow! It was epic — that’s the only word I can come up with,” said Koster, 58, chaplain of American Legion Post 70 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “It was a nice day with some snow some sun. A little breezy at the summit, definitely cool.”

Koster made the final climb with two friends, Dan Moellman and Scott Hayes, also a member of The American Legion. “It meant a lot to me to have them, and I think it meant a lot to them too,” said Koster, who raised The American Legion flag atop Saddleback as he had done on all the other 45 mountains. “It was cool. It was a long day, a steep climb. We had a great day.”

The symbolism was not lost on Koster. “Basin and Saddleback are side-by-side,” he explained. “I could see the summit of the mountain I started on from the mountain I finished on.”

So what’s next? Koster will be using his achievement to encourage other veterans to get active and join his 4th District American Legion Family Athletic Club. He is planning on involving members of the athletic club in a 5K in every county in the district.

“We’re going to get the 5Ks started and spark interest in The American Legion among our younger veterans,” Koster said. “We’re going to promote the athletic club even more to bring in more members. Now that I am done with all this hiking stuff, I can put more focus into that.”