While Huntsville is known for its multitude of veteran organizations – so many that a veteran organization itself is dedicated to serving them – they all see their origins in the original veteran group, the one that set the standard almost a century ago.
American Legion Post 237 is Alabama’s largest American Legion post. Although its history is long and storied – “Tut” Fann, of “Tut” Fann Veterans Home, was a former commander – the post is also very active in 2019 with multiple outreach programs under its umbrella.
“We are one of the oldest posts in Alabama,” said former post adjutant Tom Hartley.
Referring to Post 237 as a singular organization is a misnomer, as the American Legion family consists of four different groups – the main organization, the American Legion Auxiliary for spouses, the Sons of the American Legion for offspring of members and the American Legion Riders – its motorcycle club. Each group champions their own causes and holds their own meetings but they all gather once a month for food and fellowship at the post on Drake Avenue.
The different groups keep busy – they support a multitude of programs, such as Alabama Boys State, Alabama Girls State, local JROTC and ROTC programs at 7 different schools and sponsor their own scholarship, the Wargo Scholarship Program. The post also sponsors the American Legion baseball program. Their team, coached by Rick Bragg, is the defending state tournament champions for 2018 and 2019. They also provide a fully-uniformed honor guard for veterans’ funeral services, local parades and conducts flag retirement ceremonies.
But fellowship among its members is also an important part of their mission. The post serves lunch each weekday at the post with a menu that “caters to all diets and all medical conditions,” said CeVin Barnes, post communications committee co-chairman. The monthly calendar is full of activities from karaoke to Bingo to trivia nights. A hallmark of the American Legion is that when a member travels, they are welcome at any post across the country. The group also plans to have a float in the Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 11, followed by a lunch at the post.
How does one join the American Legion? The rules recently changed due to the Veterans Act. When before applicants were required to serve during different time periods of conflict, now a prospective member is required to have served honorably on active duty any time after Dec. 7, 1941. It is a change that post members had supported as a measure to be more inclusive and respectful of all service.
“We fought so hard to get that passed,” Hartley said.
Post 237 provides a variety of resources, such as a veteran services officer, who directs veteran families to available local, state and national resources. That service is open to all veterans, not just post members. In October, they brought in Let’s Talk Veterans Inc., a veteran outreach program. The post is also embarking on a modernization project, bringing flat-screen televisions into the meeting room, which will become more of an all-purpose gathering area. And because it is 2019, the post now offers free Wi-Fi.
“The initiative is to move toward a more user-friendly ‘bring your children in’ atmosphere,” Glen Vela, 3rd vice commander, said.
Above all, Post 237 brings together different generations of veterans and their loved ones, with a spirit of volunteerism but also the comfort of family.
“We have done some wonderful things over the years,” Hartley said. “As we continue to grow, we will continue to do as many as we can to support our veterans – to take care of veterans. Whatever it takes to do that, that’s our primary mission.”
For more information, visit www.legion237.com/.