About four years ago, American Legion Post 16 in Stockton, Calif., was about to close its doors due to financial difficulties. When then District 11 Commander Jeffrey Freeman heard this news, he acted.
“It’s our biggest and nicest post (in the 11th District),” said Freeman, now membership director for the Department of California, adding that Post 16 has a piece of metal from the World Trade Center. “There's no way we wanted this post to close.”
Freeman called an emergency meeting with post members. He also contacted the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and the local news agencies, “telling them that this very valuable post has been around for over 100 years, was going to have to close because of COVID, and I've got the meeting (with post members). Everyone came forward.”
When the news story broke of Post 16’s hardship and the call for support, post members and the community rallied – more than $40,000 was donated within a week.
“(Post 16) has done a lot of community service in the past. They were very well known, and I thought that once the community would hear about this they would come out and support which is exactly what we had. I didn't want to just close with no one knowing what was going on. I thought the best way was to get the message out there and it worked.”
The money donated made the post solvent again, Freeman said. And today, Post 16 remains active and has undergone a renovation thanks to a county grant.
“It is back to being the jewel that we had before and a very functional post,” Freeman said.
As the department membership director, Freeman sees when posts charters are turned in which leaves Legion Family members without a home and a community without a valuable resource.
“You never give up on your post. Every post is valuable to their particular community in one way or another. You can't ever let your post fail like that. You got to fight for them.
“The key is training. That these people understand purely what their job is and what The American Legion is doing and how we can better everything for all veterans.”