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Paul Miner, 78 and healthy again after beating colon cancer, is willing to return to his former position as chaplain if it will help the Columbus American Legion post reopen.
Other Legion members, among 60 who attended a revitalization meeting this week, expressed a willingness to help, too.
It was during that meeting when local members told state Legion officials they want to reopen the post as soon as possible. Needing a full slate of officers to do that, an Oct. 10 election was called.
Officer positions that will appear on the ballot are commander, first vice commander, adjutant, finance officer, sergeant at arms, service officer, chaplain and judge advocate. Three trustees will be chosen separately by an executive committee, which equals a total of 11.
Only American Legion members will be allowed to vote or hold elected offices, said Bruce Drake, director of communication for the Indiana Department of the American Legion. He said that does not include the Sons of the American Legion or the Ladies Auxiliary, who are post members but not Legionnaires.
“I’m wanting to do my part,” said Miner, a 25-year Legionnaire who retired 17 years ago from the U.S. Army. “I really don’t understand how we got into this position.”
The state had closed the local post Sept. 6 because it had only five of the 10 officers it needed to fulfill its charter. All five of those officers had to step down immediately, as required by the state Legion headquarters.
It was the state’s first such closure of an Indiana post in at least 20 years, Drake said.
Bob Scharold, vice commander for Region 9, stood like a guard for Monday night’s meeting outside a door that had been locked, as bylaws require in such a circumstance.
Inside, state post leaders explained the importance of volunteering for the positions,
required for the facility to reopen.
Members reached a consensus that they were willing to step up to make that happen. The doors were unlocked after about an hour, after which members of the Ladies Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion were allowed inside to hear details.
Rob Driver, 44, one of the youngest members at the
meeting and a first sergeant in the Army, said he had been coming to the post once or twice a week to drink a Mountain Dew — he doesn’t drink alcohol — and visit with other members.
He said he would run for one of elected positions if it weren’t for the demands of his job as a trainer at Camp Atterbury. But he said he would be happy to chair a committee to initiate outreach programs in the community.
One of the state American Legion’s criticisms of the local post is that its lack of officers keeps it from conducting outreach efforts.
The state organization prefers that all of its posts take part in initiatives such as sponsoring American Legion baseball games during the summer, challenging students to learn about the U.S. Constitution, providing scholarships and teaching students how to fold a U.S. flag.
Driver said he would vote in the Oct. 10 election. The fact that the post had to close at all surprises him, despite membership problems that plague many veteran service groups.
He said Post 24 should have a lot more than the 400 members it has today. Thousands of soldiers cycle through Camp Atterbury, he said, and should be easy to recruit.
“There’s no reason this post should not be booming,” he said. “It’s in our back yard.”
Like others, Jay Drake, 78, said he was surprised that the local post shut down. But now that it has, he feels that he might need to step up for the first time to make sure it can reopen.
The Army veteran said he never used the post routinely before. But he said he would try to come by more often in the future to visit with other veterans.
He said he would like to contribute to the post’s effort to get involved in the community, beyond providing a color guard at military funerals.
“We need to communicate with the families of troops who are serving abroad right now,” Jay Drake said. “We need to find a way to support them.”
Voting for officers
What: Special election to select volunteer officers for the Columbus chapter of the American Legion.
When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10.
Where: Post 24, 2515 25th St.
Eligible to vote: Any Legion member, not including Sons of the American Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary.
What to bring: Current membership card.
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