| 3 min read | By Lonnie Huhman, email@example.com |
For the past 100 years, American Legion Posts have stood as a second home for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
This year marks the centennial anniversary for the national organization established in 1919. This moment and with Veterans Day coming up on Nov. 11, the Dexter American Legion Post 557 wants to honor its mission and those it serves.
However, the anniversary also has Post 557 thinking about its past, present and future.
It all starts with who the organization was created for and who will help it serve in the future.
The Sun Times News sat down recently with Bill Burgess, Jr. vice commander of Post 557 and Bob Turelli, the post’s historian, to talk about the post and its hopes for the future.
Both said the national organization is made up of 2 million veterans who promote patriotism and national security, as well as supporting youth and community programs while always advocating for veterans and active-duty military personnel and their families.
The Dexter post is involved with a number of activities to support both veterans and the community. The legion’s support, according to Burgess, comes in the form of personal assistance, cash grants, donated goods, disaster relief, networking, volunteerism, and advocacy.
Examples include supporting the Ann Arbor VA Hospital in different ways; providing charitable donations to veteran and community organizations; supporting Michigan Boys State and local Boy Scout Troop 442; participating in Dexter community events; placing and maintaining flags at veteran grave sites in Dexter and awarding annual scholarships to local high school students.
“The organization belongs to the people it serves and the community in which it thrives,” both Burgess and Turelli said.
However, for all of the good it does and its importance, the Dexter post and many like it are struggling to find members. The Dexter post had at one time 300 members, but now that number has been cut in half to 150.
“We are actively seeking new members as we are losing our World War II and Korean era veterans at an alarming rate,” Burgess said.
Post 557 has been an active member of the American Legion national organization for the past 60 years.
Turelli said the Dexter group first gathered just after World War II, and on the evening of Jan. 18, 1946, 100 recently discharged veterans of the Dexter area formed an organization known as the Dexter Ex-GI Club.
During the first few months of their existence, he said they met at the Knights of Columbus and in rooms over stores in the downtown Dexter area. In 1948, they purchased the historic 6 and a half acre Steinbach property adjacent to the village, and this is the site of their current location.
On December 17, 1948, Turelli said the EX-GI Club was granted a charter from the American Legion national organization and became Dexter American Legion Post 557. Shortly thereafter on April 28, 1949, the Dexter American Legion Auxiliary was chartered.
In addition to all of its support and advocacy, the Dexter post is also a full-service facility with a lounge, banquet facility, meeting rooms, kitchen, and large outdoor covered pavilion with ample space on its property for recreational activities. It offers a variety of social activities such as dinners, parties, and holiday celebrations. These events are open to Legion members, their guests, and the public. Its banquet facility and outdoor covered pavilion is also available for private use.
Events include weekly ones like Thursday Burgers with fries from 4 to 6:30 pm; monthly dinners to annual ones such as the May Memorial Day Parade and open house.
Burgess said another big part of the Legion is the connections and friendships made at the post.
“There’s a sense of camaraderie with the other veterans,” he said.
He said he hopes they can build upon the great things about the post by welcoming in new members.
As an incentive to all local veterans that would like to come join the post, he said the post will pay the first year’s membership dues for all that sign up.
Turelli made an important point to address membership the American Legion changed and expanded its membership criteria.
He said it now states, “Anyone who has served federal active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces since Dec. 7, 1941, and has been honorably discharged or is still serving is eligible for membership in the American Legion.”
Both of these local veterans and Legion members said those who join will find it to be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
The post will be having an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 9, to celebrate 100 years since the founding of the American Legion national organization. It holds monthly meetings on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
For those interested in learning more about membership and other post-related activities, contact Larry Stalker at 734-426-8499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post is located at 8225 Dexter-Chelsea Road in Dexter.