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franklin county times

PROGRESS 2024: American Legion Posts 64 and 120 – ‘Veterans Strengthening America’

According to the organization’s website, The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, servicemembers and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. The group boasts as its motto, “Veterans strengthening America.”

Today, membership stands at nearly 2 million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide – including two active posts in Franklin County.

“Love of country was instilled in me,” explained Grant Atkins, commander of Post 64 in Russellville, in recalling his 29 years of military service. After participating in the ROTC at the University of North Alabama, Atkins – a graduate of Russellville High School – served at multiple postings, including Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and in Puerto Rico. “It was sort of like have bags, will travel,” Atkins explained. He was with the 115th Signal Battalion of the National Guard. He trained soldiers as their units were called up for deployment. At retirement in 2011, he was a lieutenant colonel. He’s now the fourth-generation owner of the family business, Atkins Marble and Granite Works, and he has been the Post 64 commander since 2012, after joining the American Legion in 2011.

Atkins said joining the American Legion just seemed like a natural progression following his military retirement. The local post has about 50 members, the most active of whom meet monthly for a meal and fellowship – every second Thursday at 6 p.m. at North Highlands church of Christ.

The post is involved in a number of activities throughout the year, from sending students to Boys State and Girls State, to coordinating the Veterans Day Parade, to monitoring the retired flag disposal box at the Franklin County Courthouse. In the past the post has also sponsored an American Legion baseball team.

Atkins praised the community and the city for their support of the American Legion, including the placing of the light post banners during patriotic holidays.

To find out more about Post 64, people can reach Atkins at his store.

Over the years, the Legion nationally has “influenced considerable social change in America, won hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth,” according to its website.

“The American Legion is built on a promise from men and women who swore with their lives to defend and protect the United States through military service,” the site explains. “The promise begins at enlistment, grows through training and discipline in the U.S. Armed Forces and continues after discharge, as veterans in service to community, state and nation.”

In Red Bay Post 120 is commanded by Waymon Blacklidge, who served his country with the U.S. Air Force from 1968-1972 in Vietnam. He said joining the American Legion, of which he has been a member for more than 30 years, was “a way to contribute and help my fellow veterans, especially with medical issues and such.”

After retiring from his corporate pilot career, Blacklidge returned to Red Bay, his hometown, about 11 years ago. This is his third year serving as post commander.

The Red Bay post has about 24 members, and the group meets the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at Red Bay City Hall. “The biggest thing we do is help veterans get their benefits,” Blacklidge explained. “It’s a good program.”

The group’s biggest annual project is Wreaths Across America. This past December the post – joined by volunteers from Red Bay High School and other groups – laid 700 wreath on veteran graves. “It just gets everyone in the community to remember the veterans,” he noted. “We have a tendency to overlook and forget.”

The post also raises the flag at Red Bay football home games and has provided flags to some local groups as needed.

To find out more about Post 120, people can reach Blacklidge at 256-483-0014.

The American Legion’s mission statement, as adopted in October 2020, is: “To enhance the well-being of America’s veterans, their families, our military, and our communities by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.” As part of that mission, the Legion has identified certain values:

  1. A VETERAN IS A VETERAN: The American Legion embraces all current and former members of the military and endeavors to help them transition into their communities.
  2. SELFLESS SERVICE: The Legion celebrates all who contribute to something larger than themselves and inspires others to serve and strengthen America.
  3. AMERICAN VALUES AND PATRIOTISM: The American Legion advocates for upholding and defending the United States Constitution; equal justice and opportunity for everyone and discrimination against no one; youth education; responsible citizenship; and honoring military service by observing and participating in memorial events.
  4. FAMILY AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: The organization meets the unique needs of local communities.
  5. ADVANCING THE VISION: The American Legion educates, mentors and leads new generations of Americans.
  6. HONOR THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE US: The American Legion pays perpetual respect for all past military sacrifices to ensure they are never forgotten by new generations.

The American Legion Preamble

The American Legion Preamble has been the beacon light of The American Legion for more than 100 years.

For God and Country we associate ourselves together for the following purposes:

To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America;
To maintain law and order;
To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism;
To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars;
To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation;
To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses;
To make right the master of might;
To promote peace and goodwill on earth;
To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy;
To consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.

 

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