Chicago’s North Avenue Beach stood as the backdrop for The American Legion-Soldier’s Wish Salute and Serve Our Nation’s Heroes event on July 20.
Members of The American Legion’s national staff and the Department of Illinois greeted veterans and other passers-by, handing out American flags, bumper stickers and information about the Legion. The event also featured History Channel’s 80-foot Ultimate Smoker and Grill, which gave out free smoked sausage prepared by Trace "The Rib Whisperer" Arnold, who owns and operates the massive grill on wheels.
Representing the Department of Illinois were Past National Commander Marty Conatser; Wayne Wagner, past department commander; Gary Jenson, assistant department adjutant; and Myron Kirby, department finance officer. Also in attendance was Sylvester Hendricks, 3rd District commander in Illinois. The delegates and their spouses greeted visitors to the booth, spoke with Soldier’s Wish staff and received a VIP tour of the ultimate smoker.
Booth visitors included veterans from various eras and families of military servicemembers.
"Anytime you can tell the Legion story is great, especially when you can get in front of some different crowds," Conatser said. "Anytime you can get the public to hear the Legion message, it’s a positive.
"The real important part (of the Legion presence) is that veterans are not always looking out to meet veterans, sometimes they are busy with their own lives. If you have a chance to bump into other veterans like we did Saturday, it gives you the opportunity to talk about some of the positives we do for veterans."
Upcoming Legion-Soldier’s Wish Salute and Serve events include:
July 29-31: Oshkosh Airventure, Oshkosh, Wis.
Aug. 4-6: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, S.D.