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Indiana Department of the American Legion Commander Ed Trice swore in new officers for Columbus American Legion Post 24 on Thursday night after an election at the post, at 2515 25th St. The Legionnaires elected Marshall Jost, left, as their first vice commander and Rob Steinbach, center, as their post commander. Both men will be in office until next summer's annual convention meetings in Indianapolis. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Local American Legion members have taken a big step toward reopening their post — though completing the process likely will take two more months and about $30,000.
About 60 members of American Legion Post 24 in Columbus elected a full slate of 11 officers Thursday night at the post, at 2515 25th St. The post was closed last month by the Legion’s state office because it lacked the required number of officers to perform a post’s duties.
Some Legionnaires contend that lack of funds and investments in the building were keeping some younger potential members from joining. However, newly elected Post Commander Rob Steinbach said Post 24 has the potential to become the most active post in the district.
It used to have nearly 1,000 members, but membership has declined to about 420 because of demographics and people joining other posts, primarily the one in Edinburgh, said Steinbach, 50, of Nashville.
Steinbach, a 26-year veteran of the Legion and former Marine Corps sniper in Desert Storm, said he joined the Columbus post to help the previous commander, Matt Taylor. Steinbach said he was confident he could help reinvigorate the post and focus on community activities and making the building a place for veterans to relax and enjoy fellowship.
But he also said the post would need help from members and veterans who have not yet joined.
“If you’re a veteran and you’re not a member, come see us,” Steinbach said. “And if you are (a member), come see us, too.”
Bill Parks, commander of the state organization’s 9th District, which includes the Columbus post, said he would meet with the newly elected officers Monday to assess the post’s situation, estimate how much money is needed to reopen the post and help determine how to raise the funds.
Parks, who oversaw the voting Thursday night, said the officers will have a list of things to do:
Newly elected officers of The American Legion Post 24:
Commander: Rob Steinbach
First Vice: Marshall Jost
Adjutant: Marion Saylor
Service: Bob Buchert
Finance: Larry Durnil
Sergeant at Arms: Wayne Thorp
Chaplain: Paul Miner
Judge Advocate: Rick Caldwell
3-year Trustee: Ernest Armstrong
2-year Trustee: Dempsey Ferguson
1-year Trustee: Melvin Hayes
The American Legion, an organization for veterans and some of their family members, advocates on behalf of veterans, provides various services for veterans and engages in community activities such as a baseball league, offering scholarships and providing education about the American flag. Established in 1919, The American Legion counts about 2.3 million members at 14,000 posts, according to its website.
Determine what bills they have to pay.
Check whether they have insurance on the building.
Make sure appliances are running properly.
Assure that employees are in place.
Decide what investments in the structure need to be made.
Parks said he hoped the process would take no more than 60 days and cost about $30,000.
“Turnout tonight was good,” Parks said.
Attendance at the post had been an issue, according to members of the Ladies Auxiliary, who sat at the post’s back door while the Legionnaires were meeting.
Auxiliary President Denise Little said she hoped to hold a meeting at the post Monday, but Parks told her that the Auxiliary would not be able to use the building until the post reopened.
After the election, one of the Legionnaires told state officials, who were sitting in front of an electronic bingo sign, that the building offered little interest for younger veterans. He said his son, an Iraq veteran, has no incentive to visit the post, in part because it has neither a computer nor a wireless network.
Bruce Drake, director of communications for the Indiana Department of the American Legion, said he hoped that the closing was enough to prompt local Legionnaires to get more involved. And he said Thursday’s enthusiasm was a good sign.
“This is their post,” he said. “We just have to get them back in line with the charter.”
Only American Legion members were allowed to vote or hold elected offices. That excludes the Sons of the American Legion or the Ladies Auxiliary, who are post members but not Legionnaires, who have served in the military during certain conflict periods.
Drake said the closing of a post is a rare event and had not happened in probably 20 years.
“We’re still growing,”
The Legion counts about 89,000 Legionnaires at 375 posts and expects three more posts to open within the next year. The posts nearest to Columbus are in Hope and Edinburgh.
A post’s activities are funded through membership dues and fundraisers. Posts do not require a physical location. A post in Lafayette, Drake said, meets at a local church. Although the Legion is required to report on its activities to Congress, it receives no funds from the government.
Taylor, the local post’s most recent commander, told Legionnaires before the swearing-in ceremony that he struggled to get help from the members, and that his regular job prevented him from dedicating even more time to the post.
He said he hopes that the next slate of officers can revitalize the post, and that outside of occupying an officer position he would do anything to help.
Legionnaires at Thursday’s meeting thanked Taylor for his work with applause.
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