Veterans living in Horizon West now have an organization closer to home with the establishment of Horizon West American Legion Post 419. Officers have been selected and installed, and the veterans are eager to have an official place of their own to seek camaraderie and veteran resources.
“This post has been something that friends of the community in Horizon West have been trying to get going in the past few years,” said Jessica Makin, second vice commander of Post 419. “We’ve had a local veteran group going with local meetings, but in the last year … people have stepped up to say, ‘What do we have to do to make it happen?’ It’s taken a lot of grit to get it going.”
The temporary charter was granted in July, and the official full charter will be completed soon, Makin said. Other American Legion posts, as well as district staff members, have walked alongside Post 419 Commander Alan Adams and the other executive members to ensure the new organization’s proper installment and success.
“We’re excited about getting everything running and the passion for what people have for the community — to help the veterans, to get more veterans involved,” Makin said. “There are a lot more veterans than you think in the area. … Trying to help each other out, trying to build a better community — not just to veterans and military families, but the community as a whole.”
Adams has been an American Legion member for eight years and is excited to serve as commander of the new post.
“My main role is to help guide the executive committee in accomplishing the items on our annual plan from my experiences at previous posts,” he said.
Seven people on the 12-person Executive Committee are new legionnaires.
“Over the past few months, I've spent time with this group, and can say I enjoy their passion for developing an American Legion post that represents the local community,”
Adams said. “They all have shared that they want to be active in the local community, take care of local veterans and work with the youth in the community in programs such as the JROTC, Scouts and various youth groups. I most look forward to building a sense of community that some have been looking for over the past couple of years.”
CHANGING THE IMAGE
“We have people who have been in American Legion for many years at a different legion … and we’re having a lot of younger people (interested),” Makin said. “I think we’re changing the image of what the American Legion is – not a bunch of veterans sitting around a bar drinking. There are younger generations and veterans coming in. … Our mission is to help these veterans.”
The new post has yet to find a permanent home. For now, meetings are virtual on the third Wednesday of each month. However, the members continue to find ways to get out into the community and give back.
One upcoming event is Post 419’s inaugural ruck march and Veterans Day ceremony Saturday, Nov. 11, at Home State Brewing Co. The program begins at 10:15 a.m.; participants will step off at 11:11 a.m., walk to Bass Park and return to the brewery. A raffle will help the organization raise funds.
Post members are planning a few more activities in conjunction with local businesses and hope to make this a monthly event.
About 30 people hold membership in the Horizon West post, and that number is growing.
“We have to decide what the American Legion is moving forward,” Makin said. “We don’t want it to die.”
The new post has been working with Casey Brown, who started the Horizon West Veterans Facebook page a few years ago when she and her husband were looking for fellow veterans with whom to hang out and “talk shop,” she said. There currently are more than 225 members — and many of them have joined the new post.
“I think it’s great how the community is responding to it,” said Brown, who is the service officer for the post. “It’s beautiful.”
The Facebook group will continue as a social group.
“No matter how long you’ve been out, you feel that camaraderie,” said Makin, who was in the United States Navy in 2006-2010 and in the reserves after that.
“I grew up in a military family,” she said. “When I meet a fellow veteran, I feel connected even though we’ve just met. There is just a sense of belonging that comes from serving your country. Since I separated from the Navy I have worked with veteran organizations in the areas of benefits, career counseling, and military burials. I want to continue to transform the military/veteran community through acts of service and empowerment that will enhance the way of our future legionnaires.”
One of the mission statements that came out of one of the last meetings is “Proud to be Legion.”
“When we’re going there, we’re proud to be out there and be part of the American Legion,” Makin said. “We all have our story.”
Tom Heffern, the post chaplain, said he joined the American Legion for several reasons.
“As a retired Marine Corps veteran, I feel compelled to continue serving this great nation,” he said. “Since the American Legion is one of the oldest and most venerated veterans groups in the country, it seemed like the right choice.
“Additionally, there is a great legacy of service in the Legion spanning from WWI veterans, some of whom I knew as a young man, through WWII veterans, to the Korean War and Vietnam War,” Heffern said. “These were truly great generations before us, and now it is time for this next generation of veterans from the last 20-plus years of constant operations in the Middle East and across the globe to stand up and fill the ranks. Here I am. … I’m really interested in lifting other veterans up, those who may be struggling for whatever reason, as well as offering mentorship for the next generation of youth.”
Dave Puig, an Executive Committee member at large, said he was happy to put his name on the founding charter after talking to Adams and seeing the inclusive nature he wanted to establish with the new post.
“Looking at the diversity of our officers, I can see I made the right choice,” Puig said. “Times are changing for the legion, and I’m glad we are going to help lead the charge for a new generation.”