The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

Legion post celebrates 100th anniversary

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

American Legion Post 178 celebrated its 100th year on Saturday with some special events and activities, while Executive Committee members discussed some of the challenges that remain for the local veterans organization.

Posing with an Ohio flag presented in honor of American Legion Post 178’s centennial are (from the left) Legion Executive Committee member Kent Long, Van Wert Mayor Ken Markward, Post Commander Bill Marshall, U.S. Representative Bob Latta’s District Director Dave Wilt, and Legion Executive Committee member Ken Myers. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

The Legion post was honored for reaching its centennial by state and national officials, with state legislators presenting resolutions and an Ohio flag, and U.S. Representative Bob Latta providing a House resolution and American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol, which was presented by his district director, Dave Wirt.

Post Executive Committee member Ken Myers said the centennial is a real milestone for the Van Wert post, adding, “There’s not a lot of posts in Ohio that are 100 years old.” 

Isaac Van Wert Post 178 was chartered on September 10, 1921, just two years after the national organization was founded by World War I veterans in Paris, France. The first caucus of the national group was held in Paris on March 15-17, 1919, with Congress chartering the group September 16 of that year.

Over its history, the American Legion has been known as a supporter of veterans and their families, with the group instrumental in establishing what would become the Veterans Administration shortly after World War I and, later, the GI Bill of Rights, now known as the GI Bill, which provides financial assistance to veterans wanting, for example, to attend college or a trade school or buy a house.

The local post’s first commander was David L. Brumback Jr., grandson of Brumback Library founder John Sanford Brumback.

The post’s membership has gone through its ups and downs over the years, with membership strong in the years following World War I, but declining until World War II, when membership swelled considerably as veterans returned to the community from that war. Korea didn’t do much for membership, which was already at its peak, but the expected influx of new veterans from the Vietnam War didn’t happen, largely because many veterans returning from that unpopular conflict were more likely to want to forget they served. 

The celebration also included live entertainment. photo provided

Vietnam veterans later began to seek membership in the Legion as the public began to honor them for their service, a big change from the abuse they received during and after the war.

Today, the Legion is challenged with finding ways to reach younger veterans — those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — and to help those suffering from mental and physical issues related to their service. There are also many more women military veterans than in decades past, which is another challenge to mostly male-dominated veterans organizations such as the Legion. 

While the local American Legion post was mostly known in its earlier days for, first, having a fife and drum corps and band and, later, for the Legion baseball teams it sponsored (and still does), now it also seeks to become more relevant to younger veterans and their families — veterans whose membership is crucial to the future of Legion and other veterans groups. 

However, one longtime activity was revived this year after a six-year hiatus when the Legion again operated its Chicken Shack concession at the Van Wert County Fair.

“We cooked a lot of chicken,” said Myers, who called the venture a success.

Because the need is so great, though, the post has become a valuable resource for veterans with issues, providing helpful information and also hosting a PTSD support group the first Monday of each month for veterans (and anyone else) struggling with that issue. 

With an average of 22 veterans committing suicide every day, finding a way to help those struggling with PTSD and other mental issues is becoming something more and more veterans organizations view as a crucial service.

“We’re trying to find ways to help,” Myers noted.

Current Post Commander Bill Marshall, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam era, said the post is seeking to become more family-friendly for younger veterans and those with young families, and is considering turning a partially finished basement area into a recreation space for families and veterans as well. The space, when completed, could also be rented out for social gatherings, he noted.

Meanwhile,

POSTED: 09/20/21 at 1:18 am. FILED UNDER: News