June 25th , 2012 9:10 am Leave a comment

Local American Legion working on ways to increase membership, raise visibility

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The local American Legion is looking for a few good men and women to help with its mission of working on behalf of all veterans.

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Pictured are Jon Clifton, Freddie Bradshaw, Lyrecia “Reecy” Kinnard, Troy L. Waldrop and Joel Kent Oliver. They are five of the 10 officers in charge of Watauga Post No. 49 of the American Legion.

Staff Sgt. Troy Waldrop, the new commander for American Legion, Watauga Post No. 49, is on a mission to boost membership in the local organization.

Photo Contributed
The Honor Guard with the American Legion performed during a recent Memorial Day event held at Happy Valley Memorial Park.

“Our purpose is to recruit new blood and take care of all veterans, past and present,” Waldrop said.

Photo Contributed
The local American Legion provides for the respectful and proper disposal of American flags as well as other types of flags in regular ceremonies.

He added that the American Legion also provides a means to facilitate assistance for both veterans and their families.

“We work with the VA to let them know about the benefits they’re eligible for,” Waldrop explained.

Other new officers for the Legion include Freddie Bradshaw, Finance Officer; Ernest “Gebe” Ritchie, First Vice Commander; Ken Nidiffer, Second Vice Commander; Harry Stout, Third Vice Commander; Lyrecia “Reecy” Kinnard, Adjutant; Albert Harrison, Sergeant at Arms; Jon Clifton, Historian; Joel Kent Oliver, Chaplain; Harold Hubbard, Judge Advocate; and Ronald Martin, Service Officer and Officer at Large.

The American Legion and its affiliated Auxiliary meet the first Tuesday of each month, except July, for a meal and general business meeting. The meal is served at 6 p.m. followed by the business meeting at 7 p.m.

The American Legion, which was established in 1918, is the largest veterans organization in the world. The American Legion currently has about 2.4 million members in 14,000 posts worldwide.

Chaplain Joel Kent Oliver pointed out that the American Legion does not permit alcoholic consumption or smoking on the premises of the Post. “We’re the only fraternal organization in the area like that,” he added.

The organization recently launched a Facebook page to raise public awareness of its existence and purpose.

A primary goal is to participate in more functions. For instance, the American Legion will lead off the upcoming Fourth of July Parade in downtown Elizabethton.

Lyrecia “Reecy” Kinnard, who serves as Adjutant for the Legion, said she and her husband visit with and perform music for veterans in residence at the Community Living Center at the Mountain Home Veterans Administration Medical Center.

The Legion also maintains an Honor Guard of about eight members, but would like to expand membership in the Honor Guard as well.

The Legion’s Honor Guard works with the Tennessee National Guard to provide military funeral honors, which includes a three-volley salute, the playing of “Taps” and the proper folding and presentation of the American flag to immediate family members of the deceased.

The American Legion also offers regular flag retirement ceremonies to ensure the proper and respectful disposal of worn-out flags.

“Our goal is to become more visible in the community,” Oliver noted.

At its heyday in the years immediately after World War II, the local American Legion had a 1,000-person membership. Today, Watauga Post 49 has a membership of about 240 persons.

Dues paid by members of the American Legion go to fund advocacy programs for veterans. This year alone has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of clothing, books, DVDs and other items donated to the Veterans Administration at Mountain Home for the use of veterans at the facility.

“Our money stays here to help at home,” Oliver said.

The Vietnam Veterans Homecoming event planned at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray is another upcoming event that members of the American Legion plan to attend. Members will be present for a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 30.

The third annual Vietnam Veterans Homecoming features three days of events from Friday, June 29, through Sunday, July 1. The event will also honor veterans of conflicts in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Members also plan to attend a Military Appreciation Night at a Johnson City Cardinals baseball game on Friday, June 29. This game will offer free admission for current military personnel and former members of the U.S. military and guests. Military Appreciation Night is presented by Smith Bros. Harley-Davidson and Earth Fare. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Legion also works in conjunction with other groups. For instance, Watauga Post No. 49 is working in conjunction with East Tennessee Spay and Neuter on a project known as Vets for Pets.

The Post Home is also provided to the Friends of the Elizabethton/ Carter County Public Library as a location for its benefit book sales. The building can also be rented out to other civic organizations.

For more information about the American Legion, call Commander Troy L. Waldrop at 534-4241.

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