American Legion Post 210: Part of Middlebury for 95 Years
Story & Photos by Guy Thompson
“There is a lot of comradery here,” current Middlebury American Legion Post 210
Commander Doug Weaver said, looking around the post.
This year, the post celebrates its 95th year in Middlebury. Veterans from the first World War gathered in Middlebury in 1921 (see below), two years after the national American Legion formed. As that first article notes, “It is simply an association of men who were loyal and patriotic when their country needed them.” And Post 210 continues to be that to this day.
“When I came back, I was withdrawn. This place cracked that shell open,” Weaver said. “Everybody is, in one way or another, in the same boat.”
“It gives us a chance to be with folks with a common interest,” added John Lankerd, current director of the Middlebury American Legion Riders. “We all have a story to tell.” Lankerd noted that when he moved to Middlebury, he didn’t know anyone but joined the post and got involved. The Legion Riders is one of three associated organizations in Post 210, along with the American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion.
“Those groups allow other non-veterans to belong in the organization that form a part of the post. They help us keep the place going,” Lankerd said.
The Legion Riders, the fastest growing segment of the American Legion, act as a Patriot Guard to escort veterans home, as well as escorts for funeral details. They ride in numerous parades and fundraisers around the region and state. “We try to show our presence so they understand what we do,” added Jack Cook, Legion Rider member and former post commander.
The Legion Auxiliary includes the spouses of Legion members. “We support the Legion and the veterans,” said Auxiliary Unit 210 President Marilyn Cook. “Our programs within the organization support the veterans and reach out to the community.” This includes donations toward scholarships and distributing poppies, the traditional flower to symbolize veterans, on Memorial Day. Money raised by the Auxiliary also goes to support medicine, gas money and more to veterans in need.
“It’s like a hand,” Weaver said of the post. “It takes different fingers to work a hand well. Same here.”
The Sons of the American Legion (SAL) is another one of those that helps the Legion work well. “We help with various fundraising events and help the veterans and veterans’ families,” stated Albert Mitchel, chaplain for the Middlebury SAL. “It’s patriotic and I love my country and each man and woman that have stood up to give anything to maintain our freedom and way of life.”
The SAL, Mitchell added, gives family members the opportunity to help the veterans that did just that. “I feel lucky to be able to do that,” he said.
And combined, the four groups under the Post 210 roof have managed to donated over $150,000 to the community in just the past five years, through scholarships and other donations.
There are also significant benefits for veterans who belong to the Legion, Weaver points out. “Every veteran has earned benefits while they served. Sometimes, the process to get them can be difficult,” he said. The American Legion has an office in Indiana that handles veteran claims. Last year, it helped veterans receive $60 million in benefits.
“I didn’t know I was eligible for benefits until I came here,” Lankerd said. “For some people, it could be a lot.”
“Through the programs, those I served with can benefit from the post,” Weaver said.
Between the dinners, Legion rides, fundraisers and more, those who belong to Post 210 find that they have a common bond. “The Legion’s slogan is ‘For God and Country,’” noted Lankerd. “That’s what we try to do here.”
“I belong to many other organizations,” Cook added. “The Legion has great outreach. One reason I joined, when I worked I traveled three days a week. Without the post, I wouldn’t have friends here.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without the post,” Weaver admits. “It helps having that comradery here.” Weaver said that his children never knew what he did when he served in Vietnam. It wasn’t until his grandchildren asked that he realized he had been withdrawn about his experiences. “This (Post 210) helped me with coming out with my stories.” Being around those with that common experience was key to that.
Ninety-five years ago, Middlebury veterans assembled and formed the Mark L. Wilt Post 210, looking for an association where they could come together and bond. It has grown over those 95 years and moved into its own building. It has added the Legion Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion, and most recently, the Legion Riders.
And as the post looks forward to its centennial in five years, it continues to serve both the veterans who gather there and the community at large, making Middlebury a better place.
Below are the first two articles concerning Middlebury American Legion Post 210 that appeared in the Middlebury Independent.
From the July 2, 1920 Middlebury Independent:
The American Legion is slowly but surely rounding into its full proportion. In the beginning, the boys were slow to join, but lately the membership has been increasing until the roll now includes over four million American soldiers who wore the uniform during the world war.
Just why any man who is eligible to membership in this organization should not join we do not know. To the man who is not eligible it would seem the most rational thing an ex-soldier could do. To be a member of this great organization certainly ought to be a proud boost and we believe every citizen of Middlebury who has taken the time to look at the constitution of it will agree with us when we so assert.
But the truth is there are a lot of people who do not understand the nature of the Legion. It is not an insurance company nor a political organization. It has no benefits such as many fraternal orders. It is simply an association of men who were loyal and patriotic when their country needed them; who endured the hardship of war and camp and an organization of the kind of Americans of which every American should feel proud.
From the Sept. 23, 1921 Middlebury Independent
World War Vets will organize chapter
Middlebury boys will have organizational meeting of local war vets.
About 15 of the World War vets met in the Divertin Club rooms last Thursday evening, at which time preliminary steps were taken toward the organization of a chapter of their own for the boys from Middlebury and vicinity.
While no definite action was taken at Thursday’s meeting, it is understood that an effort will be made to perfect their organization at a meeting to be held in the near future, at which time it is hoped that all of the boys who wore the khaki will be present and take an active part.
The Divertin Club has donated the use of their rooms for the holding of the organization meeting.