Story and Photos by Tim Sproles
American Legion Post 1919 in Greenwood, Indiana, operates just like any other American Legion post, but Legionnaires here have made a habit of “thinking outside the box” to set them apart and make the post successful.
For instance, one of the first things you notice about the post is that it operates from inside of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Greenwood Post 5864.
For most, having an American Legion Post inside of a VFW is not something you see every day, but it has become the new normal for these Legionnaires and VFW members. In fact, Post 5864 has grown accustomed to sharing their facility.
“We have multiple organization meet here on a regular basis, said Post 5864 Commander Steve Milbourn. “Within our four walls we host fleet reserve meetings once a month, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is beginning to meet here and the Submariners will be meeting here. Realistically, all of our organizations have many of the same goals, so why not work together and build each other up?”
The story of how Post 1919 came to be and why it is inside of a VFW Post all started from a “small” issue that seems to be causing “big” divides in Legion posts across the nation: whether to allow smoking in the posts.
Many of the members of Post 1919 were previously members of another local American Legion post that allows smoking inside.
Some Legionnaires had voiced plans to transfer to new posts, but then someone asked the question, “Why don’t we start a new smoke-free post in Greenwood?”
“The conversation started between Commander Steve Milbourn and Post Judge Advocate Mike Delaney, who are both are dual members of The American Legion and VFW,” said John “Dave” Everett, commander of Post 1919. “They said we don’t smoke, why don’t we start a new Legion Post here at the VFW? It just took off from there.”
Many say that allowing smoking at an American Legion post could alienate a large portion of the Legion family from taking part in post events.
“There are a number of positive reasons for a post to go smokeless, but I believe one of the most important is for a post to provide a family-friendly environment,” said Ken Pridemore, the American Legion Department of Indiana 7th District Commander.
“A quick Google search of American Legion youth programs will show you the importance our organization places on building up our next generation,” Pridemore said. “To not take full advantage of getting more people into the doors to spread the Legion message just seems like a missed opportunity.”
On April 9, the post held their monthly meeting where it adopted the new Post No. 1919 by officially signing the post charter. The post was originally named Post 586, which was a play on the number of the VFW Post, 5864.
The Post’s number change came as part of the National Commander of The American Legion, Brett P. Reistad’s initiative to create a “Centennial Post” in every department.
“Through their hard work, we can brag that Indiana is one of the few states to actually have a Centennial post,” said Department of Indiana Commander, Rodney Strong. “This group is extremely motivated and I look forward to watching them continue to grow. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these wonderful Legionnaires.”
A quick scan around the room during a Post 1919 meeting shows a mix of both older and younger veterans with various options, but all of these Legionnaires share a common trait. The motivation to make this post a success and work together to achieve it.
The Post actively works to engage both members and potential members through different avenues to reach as many veterans as possible. One of the ways is through the use of Facebook Live to broadcast post meetings.
“I think the social media aspect is being missed by a lot of posts,” CMDR. Everett said. “We all have the ability to get our message directly to our members. You know, schedules get tight especially if you have children—we understand that. That’s why we are using technology to make it as easy as possible to take part in this post. Any of our Legionnaires who missed our meeting can log on to Facebook and catch up on what they missed at any time.”
The post currently has just over 40 members, but Commander Everett is positive that they can grow even bigger.
He said, “As far as area veterans with families, we look at the city of Greenwood as an almost untapped resource. If you bring in the families, the veterans will come too. We know there is a large population of vets—now we just need to make sure that they know we are here and the door is open.”
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