Legion will ‘soldier on’ with new leadership

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Gary Britton, from left, Larry Durnil and incoming post commander Curtis Pulliam talk before a members meeting at American Legion Post No. 24 in Columbus, Ind., Monday, June 5, 2023. The post was at risk of closing as members struggled to find and elect a new post commander. The closure was averted after Pulliam was elected as the new post commander.

Copyright, The Republic, Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ind. — American Legion Post No. 24 in Columbus on Monday found new leadership that outgoing Commander Al Mckown said the 425-member organization needed to continue. A longtime member spoke out Monday with concerns that the post might close.

But Korean War and Vietnam War veteran Curtis Pulliam of St. Louis Crossing was elected as new commander and said he hoped to keep the military group stable and strong at its location at 2515 25th St. in Columbus. He said he’s willing to serve for more than a one-year term “if there’s any way at all that I can continue to help out.”

Mckown, a Vietnam veteran, said finding leaders for the post has been a big challenge for several years. The 76-year-old former Columbus resident now living in Bloomington has been the post’s most visible supporter since he and Dempsey Ferguson, also a Vietnam veteran, worked to reopen the post in 2013 and revive it financially after it closed because of $42,500 of debt and $3,000 in unpaid taxes.

Since that time, those two and a team of volunteers have helped not only make the post financially stable, but they also have helped it raise and donate some $400,000 to local and national nonprofits ranging from Our Hospice of South Central Indiana to the Honor Flight Network.

Many of the legion’s donations after fish frys and similar fundraisers have been in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

That in itself plus a healthy $16,000 in its own coffers has given the post a key role in the community beyond even the understandable camaraderie and fellowship among veterans.

Mckown acknowledged that, in recent months as he planned to step down as commander, he was concerned that there was no one who expressed an interest to lead the post. A post must have such an officer to remain a part of the legion. Hence, concerns about closing surfaced.

“It’s been a long journey and a tough journey,” Mckown said at the post’s monthly meeting before relinquishing a role he has held off and on since 2013. “And it’s been a tough journey. I’m still willing to stay on as financial officer because I’ll always be a faithful veteran.”

For the complete story and more photos, see Wednesday’s Republic.