Legion members exemplify 'devotion to mutual helpfulness'

Every day American Legion members live by the words “devotion to mutual helpfulness” as stated in the organization’s preamble. They do so by showing their support to veterans, servicemembers, their families and communities. There are many reasons to be a proud member of The American Legion. I want to share a few examples of how our Legionnaires are showing by example why they are proud to be a part of this nearly 100-year-old organization.

American Legion Jim Nelson Post 58 in Smithville, Mo. Post 58 recently hosted a fundraising event for the Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit that is creating a village filled with 50 tiny houses for homeless veterans in Kansas City. Post 58 raised nearly $14,500 toward the construction of a tiny house.

“Smithville area residents showed Post 58 once again how the community rallies around our veterans who need a boost to get their lives back on track,” said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dewayne Knott, a past commander of Post 58.   

During the fundraising event, a tiny house was onsite at the post for people to tour and a representative from the Veterans Community Project gave an overview of the tiny house village that will serve local homeless veterans. The tiny houses will provide homeless veterans working to get back on their feet with 850 square feet of living space that’s equipped with a bed, small dining table and two chairs, a recliner, stove, refrigerator, microwave, bath, a small TV and cooking utensils.

The post event was attended by 158 people who enjoyed dinner, a live auction and performances, including one by The Voice television show contestant Casi Joy. Soldiers appeared dressed in period uniforms from the Revolutionary War to the present War on Terrorism and each soldier read a letter written during the period they represented.

Knott said the Smithville and surrounding community response was overwhelming – businesses provided over $8,000 in donations toward Post 58’s goal. “Smithville has always supported our veterans living the Smithville American Legion motto of ‘No Veteran Left Behind,’” Knott said.

Vietnam veteran Frank Smith, a member of Post 56 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Smith has been dedicated for over two years to making sure that veterans, their spouses and children get their mobility back. He does so by receiving and refurbishing used power wheelchairs and distributing them at no charge to veterans and their families who have a need for one.

Smith received a donated power wheelchair in 2015, following the death of a fellow veteran who wanted another veteran to receive his wheelchair. After having the wheelchair refurbished and donating it to a veteran he knew, Smith recognized the need to continue providing wheelchairs. He worked with his Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 972 to create a Veterans Mobility Corporation. Now, 208 used power wheelchairs have been rebuilt and donated to veterans and their families all over the country. 

“One physical therapist told me, ‘You are not only giving them mobility, you are giving them back their lives.’ Seeing the gratitude and joy when we deliver makes all the time and effort worthwhile,” Smith said.

The American Legion wants to hear from you on how you and your post are serving veterans, their families and community. Share at www.legiontown.org.