Later this year, American Legion Post 108 in Oxford will officially turn 100. But, if the organization is going to continue serving veterans and the community for another century, it needs a new generation to carry the torch.
That was the main message during Sunday afternoon’s centennial celebration at the post.
Rick Moorhead, a Vietnam War veteran who served as post commander for five years, said the organization is currently “266 members strong,” but they’re aging. “The vast majority of our membership (consists of) Vietnam veterans,” Moorhead said. “Most of us are in our 70s. We have lost over 20 of our brothers in the past year.”
As for the rest, seven are World War II veterans, 39 are Korean War veterans and a “handful” are veterans of the Gulf War.
Moorhead told the crowd Post 108’s “biggest fear” is “if we don’t pump some new blood into our ranks,” there will be no one to “pass the baton to” when the old guard is gone, no one to “carry on this 100-year tradition.”
He doesn’t want to see everything they’ve built disappear.
“There are a lot of veterans sitting in this room that worked hard to provide a culture and atmosphere where all veterans and their families feel comfortable and welcome,” he said.
That’s why Post 108 is working hard these days to recruit members to help its “grumpy old men,” Moorhead noted.
Fred Censullo, the post’s service officer, made a heartfelt appeal to “all post-9/11 veterans” to stop in, “take a look at our post” and “see what we do.”
As “the next in line,” Censullo said these younger veterans are needed to uphold the Legion’s “time-honored traditions.”
“They’ll carry the flags. They’ll march in the parades. They’ll honor their fallen brothers,” he said.
According to Censullo, “approximately 1.5 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces are expected to separate from the service over the next few years” and “they’ll be joined by 2.5 million other veterans of the post 9-11 generation.”
“The future of support for these veterans and those yet to serve depends on the collective strength of the 13,500 American Legion posts nationwide,” he said. “This includes a membership network of nearly 4 million joined together with hundreds of veterans associations and organizations.”
To all those young veterans who drive past Post 108 on E. Drahner Rd. and feel a “little tug” at their hearts when they see the Vietnam-era military helicopter sitting outside along with the flags waving in the breeze, Censullo encouraged them to “let that tug turn your steering wheel into our parking lot.”
“You post-9/11 vets are the future of the Walter Fraser American Legion Post 108,” he said.
“We all believe family comes first,” Moorhead said. “But, if you find you have a few hours a week you can spare, please think about (spending them) here.”