"Let service to the community, state and nation be the main objective of The American Legion and its members."
Recited by members of Fairfield, Ala., American Legion Post 137 at the end of their monthly meetings, these words are more than a pledge. They're a call to action. While small in number – about 155 – the post is big in deeds.
When members of Post 137, near Birmingham, heard about the Lakeshore Foundation's comprehensive efforts to rehabilitate severely wounded troops – called Operation Lima Foxtrot – they threw their support behind the local nonprofit, which promotes independence for people with physically disabling conditions.
"Our members voted unanimously to donate money for construction of one of the duplex apartment cottages at Lakeshore," Post 137 Commander Roy Gallups says. "We figured we couldn't afford not to do it. We wanted to do more than talk the talk. We wanted to walk the walk."
Using receipts from twice-weekly bingo games and other post fundraising activities, members put up $50,000 for naming rights to a duplex under construction on the Lakeshore Foundation campus, in a Birmingham suburb.
"Our commander wanted to do something that would be a lasting reflection of everyone who has gone before us in the post," Post 137 Adjutant James Mosier says. "It's the largest gift we've ever attempted."
The duplex is one of 10 new homes called The Cottages of Lakeshore. Wounded servicemembers and their families will stay in the units during rehabilitation sessions at the 45-acre campus. The complex, a $2.3 million project, includes a pair of three-bedroom cottages and four duplex cottages, as well as an arbor with fireplace, a cookout area, and a patio.
"The cottages provide a private, homelike atmosphere for injured servicemembers participating in Operation Lima Foxtrot," says Damian Veazey, Lakeshore's associate director of communications. "But the real benefit is being able to bring their entire family to share in their experience of regaining a healthy, active, independent lifestyle."
The foundation offers six programs that help severely injured troops regain active and independent lives through fitness, recreation, sports and transition support:
The Lima Foxtrot programs are provided at no cost, including air and ground transportation, lodging and meals. Activities include archery, marksmanship, rock climbing, swimming, scuba, tennis, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair rugby, track and field, and basketball.
The foundation has a 6,000-square-foot fitness center, a field house with a 200-meter track and three hardwood basketball courts. It also has two heated swimming pools, each with a zero-entry level, steps, ladders and a chairlift.
"I'm not surprised that Fairfield Post 137's Legionnaires stepped up and contributed to help their comrades in arms," says F. Wayne Turner, the Legion's National Executive Committeeman for Alabama. "What amazes me is that a small post with little more than 150 members contributed $50,000. It just goes to show what Legionnaires can do when committed to a project."
James V. Carroll is photo editor of The American Legion Magazine.