Alaska Post 13 connects veterans, youth through gaming

Alaska Post 13 connects veterans, youth through gaming

American Legion Internal Affairs and Membership Division staff at National Headquarters reached out to posts with membership growth this year to share their success stories. We will be sharing the stories submitted over the next few issues of the Dispatch.

Post 13, Sitka, Alaska. In 2022 we sat down and created an outline of items that needed attention and set the theme for the year to "Back to Basics". It entailed that we first needed to get programs back in place that should have been running from the get-go but somehow was lost to our post. Our vision is not only being here for our veterans and active duties and their families, but the community we are a part of as well. We have been in Sitka since 1920, the Auxiliary since 1921, Sons since 1984 and the 40 and 8 since 1950.

  • We brought back the American Legion School Medal Awards Program. In our first year we awarded seven. We got back into the schools and the community. 
  • We teamed up with our military recruiters to assist them in their goals, no one is better to speak about the military than those that have served. Sitka is a Coast Guard city and as ships or teams make port they are automatically invited to come and enjoy a meal on us. Our local grocery store AC Lakeside, part of Alaska Commercial Company, continues to support us with many food donations. They even have specialty parking in their lot for veterans, the only business in Sitka. 
  • We took a deep dive into what we needed to focus on to gain the younger generation, as this post will be transferred to them to carry on our history. We needed to get them involved. We started up Thursday Night Gaming and partnered with Magi Kids to host Magic the Gathering. We also have two Gaming Xbox stations where those that play online can play, and we will be increasing it this year to a total of four. Many active-duty Coast Guardsmen play, and it is wonderful to see the fellowship.
  • On Thursday we host a fundraising cook crew open to the community. With the support from AC Lakeside, we are able to create a full meal for $15. This Thursday night event makes us highly visible, and everyone has seen the changes we have made. This brings those veterans/active duty that were on the fence to join to become members.
  • We have candidates for Boys and Girls State, held our first awards night where we presented some awards for the community, as well as Legion awards like Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Fire Fighter of the Year and Educator of the Year. We also recognized anyone that assisted us with a certificate of appreciation at the night and fed everyone prime rib as a thank you. It is funny that such a simple phrase "thank you" brings so much joy to someone. It is important to take the time to thank those that helped us get where we are, for without them we are nothing.
  • Another great item is through my work with the Tribe I was able to successfully celebrate our Alaskan Code Talkers. Like the Navajo Code Talkers, we have now six Tlingit Code Talkers. Five were initially recognized but in 2022-2023 I diligently worked on and secured the honor for the sixth Code Talker. The Department of the Army officially recognizes Louis Minard as a Code Talker and Senator Lisa Murkowski is working on securing the Silver Congressional Medal for his family. This was a long hard battle. Through all this we were able to tag "Home of the Tlingit Code Talkers" to Post 13 as five of the six were members of Post 13, and we are currently working on the front wall to pay proper respect to these men. We currently have a static display but have gained over $7,000 to really put forth the proper display and we are working with Sitka Historical Society and Museum to have this feature done correctly.

With the gaming night we partnered with Krieger Gaming. Kreiger Gaming is ran through a discord channel and lets veterans, active duty and first responders meet up, play online games, message back and forth but most importantly they host a 24/7 suicide prevention network. All Buddy Check members (I am included in this) are ASIST, VA SAVE and ZSA trained. This is in line with our Be the One suicide prevention mission and is a great partnership. I can honestly state I have assisted at least nine individuals from taking that step. Also, with this training we can utilize it with the schools and kids as we are a rural island community and unfortunately suicide is a very relevant item here. These kids that on Thursdays to talk with us and have open and honest communications and know they are more than welcome to reach out to us at any time.

During our first year as officers, we wondered if all we did to change our appearance, our reputation and drive membership was worth it. We received our answer in the beginning of 2023 when the Chamber of Commerce awards night awarded American Legion Post 13 as Hometown Community Heros. It doesn't get much better than that. This has proven beyond a doubt that we have made a difference, and we continue to bring back programs a few at a time while maintaining the ones we corrected.

So, it is a little bit of everything. Department and national programs mixed in with community service, American pride and getting back to what has made us great in the past. We need to remember while we are a veteran organization times change, and we need to change and adapt with the times. Our Legion needs to be home to all younger and older and currently active. It is a home where all can fellowship with a common point of interest. If we do not change our thought process, we will continue to lose the fight. If one does not feel welcomed, one will not stay/join.

– Vince Vince Winter, commander

 

Post 1187, Castle Rock, Colo.  Our adjutant, Larry Underwood, has expertly summarized several of the initiatives that we have implemented and helped us to become successful.  We’ve changed our approach to the post while still recognizing the traditions of The American Legion.  We believe some of our success comes from a growing community. A lot of people have moved to Colorado, and we are taking advantage of the growth. In addition, we:

  • Run our PEC by transformative leadership to promote collaboration, member satisfaction and emphasizes team effort.
  • Include the American Legion Riders and Auxiliary in our post meetings and all our gatherings.
  • Received great feedback from our newly implemented Buddy Check system.
  • Offer free membership for the first year (post covers the cost).
  • Are well grained into our community at both the town and county level.

These efforts, along with everything Larry states below have made us a very successful post.  

– Mike McNairy, commander

From Post 1187 Adjutant Larry Underwood. We made a decision several years ago to bring us all together at our post meetings but not try to take over what each group does best in regard to their missions. They still have additional meetings for the Auxiliary and Riders and the post tries to attend their meetings also. We are all together at each post meeting and all officers speak about what their particular project is at that time. The Auxiliary will donate food and feed the troops at break time at our post meeting. Break time is a time to socialize. We try to keep our meetings to no more than an hour and a half. We keep business to a minimum, and we keep it lighthearted and fun. We will usually get a veteran that will stop by because they have heard about our post via word of mouth or media and have been told it is a good bunch of folks and very patriotic. We periodically will have a guest speaker that is centered on veteran and family support. We let new veterans introduce themselves and speak about their service and they usually say they just want to see what the post is all about. By the end of our break for food they usually sign up. We offer all new perspective members their first-year dues free.

We have an event schedule for each year as an example of what we do throughout the year. We are in the public eye at all times. We have booths at all major events. One booth for the post and Riders along with one booth for the Auxiliary. Our banner lists all three units. Post 1187 has an honor guard that does over 250 funerals per year. We offer our color guard at all events that we can get involved in.

Membership in Post 1187 can be a rewarding experience.  You will find many member veterans whose lives are very similar to your own life experiences. We strive for a relaxed atmosphere. Post 1187 is a very active part of the Castle Rock community and with additional members, we can do even more to support our local community and fellow veterans.

The below list are activities Post 1187 participates in regularly. All participation is voluntary, and veterans may be involved in as many or few events as they wish. Our post:

  • Has an enthusiastic and welcoming environment for all branches and all eras.
  • Is heavily involved in media relations and publications.
  • Participates in all dedications and events within the Castle Rock Community.
  • Presents the colors at Memorial Day and Veterans Day events. 
  • Marches in Douglas County parades.
  • Honor guard provides military honors at Ft. Logan and around the county.
  • Contributes over 1,000 hours of volunteer time annually to various community events.
  • Aids local needy families of local veterans and service men and women.
  • Participates in the Buddy Check program twice per year.
  • Participates and contributes to various youth events.
  • Sponsors youth to Boys State and oratorical contest.
  • Visits local retirement facilities for flag raisings and presentations.
  • Provides and raises flags throughout the town of Castle Rock to encourage patriotism.
  • Has two banquets per year – Armed Forces Day and a First Responders banquet.

In addition, Post 1187 has a very active Auxiliary unit and Riders group. The mission of this organization centers on, but is not limited to, providing support to the post, honoring the sacrifices of veterans, contributing to or sponsorship of events and activities benefiting veterans, active military and their families. We believe In, “Service Before Self”.