Paynesville Press - March 9, 2005

Community Perspective

Legion needs new members to continue club history

By Larry Alstead and Dave Brinkman

"For God and Country" is the motto of the American Legion, but the mission of the organization is to serve people. The American Legion is the nation's largest veteran's organization, supporting present active-duty military personnel and their families, along with its commitment to all veterans and their families.

March is the 86th birthday of the American Legion.

The American Legion began in France in 1919 to support service members who fought during World War I. Later that year, the Paynes-ville post of the American Legion began with 28 members.

The first members of the Paynesville American Legion Post met in the basement of the Paynesville City Hall. With a kitchen, the club raised money by preparing and selling noon meals to others in the community.

In the early 1960s, the group moved to the old Catholic church on Augusta Avenue. That building served us well for more than 30 years, but eventually - after carrying more than one person in a wheelchair down the stairs to the meeting rooms - we realized that we needed a facility that would be handicap-accessible.

After researching the feasibility of upgrading the Augusta Avenue building, we realized it would cost almost as much to make the changes as it would to build a new facility, so that's what we did. In 1999, the new building on Highway 23, across from the high school, was built. That building is fully accessible and features a bar and grill, meeting space, and banquet facilites.

Through more than eight decades the, the Paynesville post - #271- has gone through many changes, but it has remained dedicated to serving veterans as well as the community.

Besides offering camaraderie and an opportunity to share experiences with other veterans, the American Legion offers a variety of services to veterans from all branches of the armed services: Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. Legion membership entitles its members to free and low-cost life and disability insurance; reduced rates on other insurance, including health and auto; and discounts on medical and prescription services and products, as well as travel and other discounts.

In addition, our members have access to veteran's service officers who can guide them through benefits they may be entitled to from the national or state governments. Once each month, the veteran's service officer for Stearns County visits the post to meet with individual veterans, answer their questions about benefits from the Veteran's Administration, or address other concerns.

But the real benefit to members is knowing that they are serving their community.

The Paynesville American Legion supports the community in many different ways: through education, community involvement, and with financial support of community events and organizations.

For many years, the Paynesville American Legion has been proud to sponsor a senior boy for the Boy's State program (the auxiliary sponsors a senior girl for the girls' program). This program, which culminates in a week-long camp at a near-by college, gives students first-hand experience in how government works by encouraging them to participate in mock elections for national, state, and local government offices and allowing them to perform the duties of their elected positions.

In addition, the local post provides college scholarships each year to the top senior girl and boy with ties to the military (i.e. the child or grandchild of a veteran).

Members of the Paynesville American Legion also provide a color guard and military rites for local veteran's funerals, as well as military ceremonies at community events. The Paynesville American Legion will perform military rites at any veteran's funeral, regardless of their membership in the Legion.

Our post also keeps medical equipment on hand - hospital beds, wheelchairs, crutches, etc. - to loan to members of the community.

This brings us to the money. Since its start in 1919, the Paynesville American Legion has given a lot of money to the community, supporting everything from Legion baseball - beginning in the 1950s - and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, to purchasing flags for churches, helping put defibrillators in the schools, donating to community celebrations, providing scholarships for college students, and donating to other veteran's organizations. In fact, the Paynesville American Legion donated nearly $25,000 in 2004 alone.

But this tradition of service and giving can't continue without new members to carry it on. Currently, the post has 268 members, most from the Korean and Vietnam war eras. Some of our members were in World War II, and a few served during the first Persian Gulf War.

Now we're reaching out to service members currently serving in the military to ensure that the Paynesville American Legion Post will continue to serve the community. The American Legion Post #271 is seeking men and women who have served or who are presently serving our country to join a great organization.

To be eligible for membership, you need to have served on active duty during the following eras: the Korean War, 1950-55; Vietnam, 1961-75; Lebanon, 1982-July 1984; Panama, December 1989-January 1990; or Persian Gulf 1990-present. It is not necessary to have participated in the conflict, only to have been a military member on active duty during those periods.

If you know of someone who recently joined the military or is presently serving in any of the armed forces during 2003, 2004, or 2005, we would like to know about them. Our members have voted to pay the first year's membership fee of $21. This is open to all veterans within a 10-mile radius of Paynesville.

If you are currently on active duty or have been since Jan. 1, 2003, we will pay for your 2006 membership. Parents or spouses may apply for them. Please send the full name, address, and branch of service to: Paynesville American Legion Post #271, P.O. Box 211, Paynesville Minn. 56362. All responses must be received by Wednesday, June 1.

Please feel free to call us with any questions: commander Larry Alstead, 320-243-3853; committee chairman Dave Brinkman, 320-243-4296; or membership chairman Pete Hoppe, 320-243-4207.

Alstead is the commander of Legion Post #271, and Brinkman is chairing a new membership drive for the legion post.

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to get scheduled as a writer or e-mail him at

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