American Legion celebrates 100 years of citizenship at Post 39
By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, March 24, 2019
For war veteran Franklin Smith, being a member of The American Legion for the last 29 years has allowed him to share his love and pride of America with others while also serving people in his own community.
Smith is no stranger to living the military lifestyle. He and his six brothers served in the military. One of them won a purple heart in Korea, and Smith’s oldest sister’s husband was killed in Normandy during the D-Day invasion. Smith’s oldest sister remarried to another veteran.
“When I stand up, I stand for them,” Smith said. “But my legacy, when I went in, 1959, 1962 and 1963, I was standing on Midway Islands. They gave us the order and said ‘Stand by boys; we’re going to it. They’re putting missiles in Cuba. John Kennedy is not going to have it.’”
The American Legion also serves as a way for Smith to join with his band of brothers-in-arms as they break bread together, crack jokes and find friendship and emotional and financial support.
The American Legion turned 100 on March 15, and Greenville’s Post 39 held a celebratory dinner on Tuesday complete with barbecue, chicken, slaw, potatoes, baked beans and homemade banana pudding.
A special cake also was cut to commemorate the occasion at the Post, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Sept. 16.
The evening was made all the more special as two members who had been sick with cancer declared that they were cancer free. That news was met by a thunderous applause, smiles and celebration.
Members of Post 39 meet once a month and spend time with one another while also planning recreational activities like motorcycle rides, baseball games and group outings. They are strong believers in giving back to the local community.
Post 39 sponsors a youth baseball team, a state oratorical contest and actively participates in Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Additionally, they fund nursing scholarships at Pitt Community College and East Carolina University and sponsor local high school student to the week-long Boys State and Girls State programs.
And many do not know that Post 39 co-sponsors the Pitt County American Legion Agricultural Fair. Members from Post 39, along with Post 151 in Farmville and Post 289 in Ayden, operate and manage the fair, a nonprofit organization.
At the meeting, a new member was welcomed, bringing the membership of Post 39 to 278 active members. The National American Legion set a goal for Post 39 to reach 309 members.
Post Commander Lee Allen, who ran for Pitt County District Attorney last year, said it’s a number he’s hoping the group can reach.
“Our numbers were up last year, and we’d like to have them increase again this year,” Allen said.
He added that civic groups as a whole are struggling to retain members and busy schedules for working adults only compounds the issue.
“Civic groups are struggling all over, not just us. Generally speaking, both the husband and the wife work. That wasn’t the case with a generation or so prior. And I think that makes it hard. And there’s so many demands on people’s time. It’s hard to carve out a time from busy schedules,” Allen said.
Despite the recruitment challenges facing American Legion Posts, many in greater Greenville have had their lives touched by Post 39 through financial support of veterans and their families, baseball, nursing scholarships to East Carolina University and Pitt Community College, flag disposal, or even use of the post facilities, among other things.
“The American Legion Family of Greenville is excited to share both the legacy and the vision of our organizations,” Allen said. “We’ve done a lot of good and intend to keep doing it for a second century. There are more veterans eligible for membership in the legion now than at any time in the past.”
Throughout its first century, The American Legion built a legacy on such accomplishments as leading the way to create U.S. Flag Code, helping start the Veterans Administration, drafting the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1994 — the GI Bill — which transformed America in the second half of the 20th century, and helping veterans receive benefits for health-care conditions based on their honorable service, including acceptance of Agent Orange exposure as service-connected, the release said.
Today, The American Legion has nearly 3,000 accredited service officers worldwide who assist veterans with their benefits claims and other concerns.
“We are excited to grow our post and look forward to doing even more to serve our community, state and nation,” Allen said.
For more information on the American Legion, call 252-347-9638.
Contact Tyler Stocks at email@example.com or 252-329-9566.