When Jessie Horton moved to De Queen, Ark., four years ago, she saw little recognition of veterans in the community. And when she walked into the local American Legion post, she learned it was on the verge of losing its charter, with only three members.
Unwilling to let De Queen lose a legacy, Horton made it her goal to put Charles E. Brown Post 54 back on the community map. And thanks in part to her work, membership is near 40 and climbing.
Recalling how she accompanied her grandfather to his American Legion post in Pennsylvania during her childhood, Horton says she enjoyed “so many opportunities to learn from veterans – pride, obligation, loyalty.” If The American Legion were to lose its presence in De Queen, what would that mean for local youth? “They really need to know that the community supports veterans, and that kids can depend on them to share their knowledge and skills. We can’t let Post 54 close.”
Horton started by identifying opportunities for the post to participate in community events, including the annual Hoo Rah Festival. Post 54 now sponsors a veterans parade and flag-raising ceremony, and provides a free meal for veterans in attendance. Other efforts include teaching flag etiquette at Sevier County schools, serving free meals at the post, inviting new members to post events, and advertising on the radio and in the local newspaper about all the Legion does for veterans, youth and community.
Horton credits post members with the incredible turnaround. “I know I’m the commander, but it takes a whole family to build the post up,” she says.
Branch of Service Army, Army Reserve (1997-2005)
Military job Multichannel radio operator, medical laboratory specialist
American Legion post Charles E. Brown Post 54, De Queen, Ark.
Years in The Legion 6
• Post commander (2017-present)
• District commander (2018-present)
• Department training chairman (2018-present)
• Department Membership Committee member (2017-present)
• County/department veterans service officer (2018-present)