By Sabrina Bates
Members of each of the four divisions of the American Legion Post #55 in Martin can be seen at various events working with other local organizations throughout the year.
The ladies Auxiliary Unit provides gifts to veterans in local nursing homes during the holiday season. The members also spend time visiting with veterans in the State Veterans Home in Humboldt. They serve soup and chili to veterans and their families following the Veterans Parade each year in Martin. In an effort to salute Vietnam War-era veterans, people will often find members pinning veterans during Veterans Day programs at local schools and other times throughout the year.
As an internationally-recognized symbol of remembrance for war veterans, the silk red poppies people carry in exchange for a donation, helps to fund service projects Auxiliary members undertake throughout the year. The fund was used to help build a handicapped ramp for the home of a local veteran.
Members of the Junior Auxiliary work alongside the Auxiliary during the Pancake Breakfast held in conjunction with the annual Tennessee Soybean Festival in Martin each September. The event is one of the largest fundraisers for the local unit. Money raised helps send high school students to the Girls State Conference, which is a citizenship training program for the youth who attend.
The Auxiliary also offers scholarships for high school seniors. Auxiliary President Kelcee McMillin said the local organization is looking to increase its junior membership. Those who join the Junior Auxiliary have their membership fee paid for through the Auxiliary Unit. Junior members can put their service time toward volunteer hours needed for school organizations. A female child of a member of any of the four units of Post #55 can become a member of the Junior Auxiliary.
The Sons of American Legion Post #55 have made a name for themselves in the community over the years with their support of various fundraisers. The SALs work hand-in-hand with non-profit organizations, booster clubs and even host their own annual event, the Joey Guest Poker Run. The poker run, held in August of each year, is now a tribute to their brother Guest who was killed in a motorcycle accident after the group’s third poker run. Guest served as sports editor of the Weakley County Press. The event held in his memory is a fundraiser for a local family. Typically, the SALs select a family that has experienced a traumatic circumstance and money raised goes toward medical or other expenses as a result. Now in its ninth year, the Joey Guest Poker Run has raised up to $20,000 for a local family. Volunteers gather auction items, seek sponsors, and organize a 5K run event the night prior to the poker run.
This year’s event will be held Aug. 24-25 and the funds raised will benefit the family of 7-year-old Adam Harrison of Union City. He was diagnosed with PANDAS and autism as a toddler.
The award-winning cooking team made up of SALs members will also work the Westview High School Booster Club for a fundraiser shrimp boil and grilled chicken dinner at the local post Aug. 15. The SALs commander is Kenny Park.
All of the divisions of the post work together for the mission of the American Legion to be successfully carried out on a local level. The units will renew their members Aug. 1 and issue requests for new members to Post #55.
Annual dues for Legionnaires — those who have served or are serving in the United States Armed Forces — are $40. Dues for Auxiliary members, those who have spouses, parents (step) or grandparents who have served or currently serve, are $35. SALs annual dues are also $35. To qualify as a Son of the American Legion, a person must have a parent (step) or grandparent who is a veteran or active duty. Any paid member of the three divisions can also become a Legion Rider member.
Information about the organization can be found on Facebook, under any of the unit’s pages. Or stop by Post #55 on Central Street in Martin with any questions. The American Legion is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.