Organizers reboot American Legion post (12/10/09)

Members consider community service projects

Dec. 10, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Local American Legion leaders hope to rejuvenate a long-dormant post by boosting membership and launching community service projects.

Post 45 has been inactive in recent years, said post commander Deb Beckett, who is also Williston’s town clerk and serves in the Vermont Army National Guard.

The post, which has members from Williston, St. George, Richmond, Essex and Colchester, will meet on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. The meeting takes place in the community room at the Williston Police Department, which is located next to Town Hall on U.S. 2.

Beckett said it “would be great” if publicity about the meeting could draw new recruits and motivate current members to actively participate. All veterans, as well as current military members, are invited to join.

Beckett and Stephen Bove, the post’s adjutant, acknowledged the perception that the American Legion is an organization geared toward older veterans. In fact, Bove said the majority of the local post’s 36 members served in World War II, Korea or Vietnam.

“To be more responsive to the needs of our community we need to attract a more diversified age group that is willing to become more involved in the Post and its efforts,” Bove wrote in an e-mail. “Younger vets and those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan would be welcomed into Post 45 membership.”

The post is considering “community building” projects such as placing flags in classrooms, starting a scholarship program and assisting Boy Scouts, he said.

Service is at the heart of the American Legion’s mission. Chartered in 1919, the organization claims to be the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization.

Assisting youth programs is a major focus, most famously with American Legion Baseball, but members also support Boy Scout projects and school activities.

The organization advocates for veterans and lobbies Congress on issues related to patriotism and national defense. It has pushed for flag protection laws and most recently a continued commitment to keep troops in Afghanistan.

The American Legion also operates the Heroes to Hometowns program, the only nationwide service that helps wounded veterans readjust to civilian life.

Post 45 is a relative newcomer to the organization, receiving a temporary charter in September 2005, Bove said. Efforts have been made since then to hold regular meetings and recruit members. But Bove said few of the post’s members have been active.

Beckett said the post has existed mainly on paper, but she hopes that will change. The key is to get people involved and generate ideas for service projects.

“It’s true for the American Legion or any other organization,” Beckett said. “It has to keep finding new members, and it has to set goals to accomplish.”