The parade is one of the best attended events of The American Legion’s annual national convention. The streets of the host city are filled with spectators – both Legion family members and locals – cheering on representatives of the Legion, the Auxiliary, the Sons and the Riders as they proudly carry their banners and colors.
One marching element within the Department of Iowa is Post 298 in Marion. All parade participants each year receive a flagpole ring, and these rings reveal something special about Post 298; it hasn’t missed a national convention parade since the first one in 1919, and is believed to be the only post to have all parade flagpole rings given out for participants. Each department submits an order to Emblem Sales, depending on how many elements will be marching within that department.
“The post sends the commander to the national convention each year, and that person is obligated to the parade to keep the tradition alive,” said Past Post Commander Roger Norfolk. The post colors go with the commander. When he or she returns to Marion, the ring goes onto one of several specially constructed boards in the post home; they are attached to a pipe next to the nameplate of that commander.
The tradition of the boards is more recent than that of attending the parade, but both go back farther than current members can recall: “I don’t think anyone is old enough” to know whose idea either tradition is, Norfolk said. Members of Post 298 are proud of their inheritance. The boards have survived at least one post move, the most recent in 1993, and are kept up-to-date. They are a way to honor the post’s history, rather than, in Norfolk’s words, “throw them in a drawer somewhere.”
The commander is not the only post member who attends the national convention. "We have quite a contingent that goes along every year,” Norfolk said. Five, and possibly more, past post commanders will be in Indianapolis; Norfolk himself arrived in Indy with the Legacy Run. And the post adjutant goes to every convention, national or otherwise, that he possibly can. “We’ve got some hard-core Legionnaires,” Norfolk says.
Learn more about Post 298’s history on display here.