American Legion Post celebrates 100 years
It’s a huge anniversary for the American Legion this year, with Post 38 bringing the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to JetBlue Park in the September.
“We are pretty excited. The American Legion post here in downtown Fort Myers was formed Sept. 5, 1919. It’s been a great ride since. The history of this Legion has gone back for many, many years,” Post 38 2nd Vice Commander George Tice said. “We are celebrating our 100 year anniversary. I asked my commander how big we can make this, he said ‘really big.'”
Tice anticipates about 10,000 people to visit the Vietnam Traveling Wall from Sept. 6-8.
“We are reaching from Clearwater, Daytona to the Keys to try to bring people in,” he said. “We have a Holiday Inn at Gulf Coast Town Center that is going to offer rooms at a great rate for those who want to spend the night.”
Post 38 Commander Kevin Boyd said the post has a rich history with the City of Fort Myers. He said the first Post Commander was Captain Channon Page.
“Page Field is named after him,” Boyd said.
To celebrate the post’s 100th anniversary they are doing a time capsule at the post, while also receiving the proclamation from the City of Fort Myers mayor, from Lee County and the state.
“Before we kick off the festivities, the sixth (of September) is the kick off party for the sponsors and local politicians that can attend,” he said.
Some of the posts rich history includes Fort Myers High School putting on the first Veterans Day parade in 1971.
“Forty-one years later we put on the second one. This will be our seventh parade this year that we have done,” Boyd said.
The rich history has been made possible through it becoming more immersed in its community. He said they went from doing nothing to opening up a food pantry.
“We have a food pantry where we provide food to veterans and non-veterans,” Boyd said.
The pantry spans from providing meats to the many staple items. He said they have a chest and freezer full of bacon, sausage, chicken, turkey, pork chops, fish and steaks. Other items include butter, milk, Gatorade, water, beans, instant mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
“They can pick out what they want and take it out to their car. They will always have an adequate supply. It is amazing the look on their face,” Boyd said. “After noon, the general public can come in. We provide for non-veterans, which is part of the mission of the American Legion. Support troops, take care of veterans and support our community.”
The food pantry receives assistance from the Harry Chapin Food Bank, and some of the local schools. He said Harns Marsh Elementary provided them with more than 40,000 canned food items.
“It’s nice to know you are doing something really good,” Boyd said.
Post 38 also has the first International Art Gallery, which features artwork from the Vietnam era veterans. The crown jewel is a flag from a concentration camp that was made with scraps of what they had to hide themselves.
“When you stop and think of it, all hope is lost, but they still believe Americans are going to save them,” Boyd said.
The American Legion Auxiliary has also made an impact in the area.
Thirteenth District of the American Legion Auxiliary President Jeanne Nadeau said the American Legion Auxiliary is the largest auxiliary in the world. There are about 60 members at Post 38 – small, but mighty.
“We serve our veterans, our troops and our communities,” she said.
The Auxiliary works with schools to provide them with school supplies and toys during Christmas time. The school also works with the Auxiliary to collect items for the troops.
The Auxiliary also educates the community about what a veteran is, flag etiquette and what the poppy means.
Post 38 is keeping busy through the next few months, which Boyd said really states what the organization is all about and the tenacity of their people for being out in the community.
“By helping one person at a time, we are doing our job and making a difference,” he said. “We do it from the love of our heart.”
One of the planned events is a jersey auction with the Fort Myers Miracle on July 4.
“The American Legion will be wearing a special jersey with a special logo on the sleeve. We will be talking about the history and the Wall coming in,” Tice said.
This is the 11th year Boyd has been the commander of the post. He said there have been some major improvements during his time. Ten years ago in 2009 the American Legion building was up for sale due to taxes not being filed in four or five years.
With the help of other nonprofits in the community, and working with the Fort Myers Police Department, the problem was solved.
“Once we took the for sale sign down, it’s not going back up,” Boyd said.
In that 10 year span, the Legion changed its stigma of being the place where old people drink, to now being the “pillar of the community,” he said.
“The Legion has been very involved in what goes on in downtown,” Boyd said. “You never know what you can do until you can do it. Our motto for this year has been listen, learn and lead. If you do that you are able to project what this post is about, whether it’s the Sons of the American Legion, the Auxiliary, or the Legion. We all stand as one family unit to make a better post for what we can provide out there for the people.”
The total membership for the American Legion Post 38 is in the ballpark of 310 people within the Auxiliary, Sons and the Legion.
“We have made a tremendous difference in the community. That shows we are putting the right message out there,” Boyd said.