By the time Memorial Day weekend is over, thousands of East Coast travelers will have interacted with American Legion family members at the Delaware House Travel Plaza on Interstate 95 near Newark, Del.
The numbers were already impressive Saturday morning.
“We have had a better reaction than we expected,” said Lyman Brenner, past commander of the Department of Delaware and membership chairman of Richard C. du Pont Post 18 in Claymont.
The idea to set up an information table at the travel plaza—the only rest stop along I-95 in Delaware—stemmed from a conversation another Post 18 member, past department commander Charles Armbruster Jr., had with a travel plaza employee, Dotty Rhoades, while he was dropping off information from the state’s Commission of Veterans Affairs.
Armbruster mentioned that Post 18 had been sharing information about the Legion at a restaurant in Wilmington, called Bertucci’s. Rhoades, who works in tourist information, suggested setting up an information table at the travel plaza for the holiday weekend.
“We’re going to do this again,” Armbruster said. “… This here, we’re blown away by.”
“I think just having them here shows the importance of recognizing our veterans,” said Tony Flesch, director of operations for the travel plaza. “They’re welcome any time.”
The Legion table was set up front and center inside the plaza’s main entrance. The Legion family members offered flags and poppies to travelers as they passed by.
One man, after dropping a few bucks into the donation jar on the table, turned down a flag. “Save those for the kids,” he insisted.
Many children beamed when they were handed flags, with their parents thanking the Legion members not only for the gifts, but for their service. Numerous veterans, including some from Vietnam on their way to Washington, D.C., spent time chatting with Legion members like Dave Duncan, Post 18’s sergeant-at-arms.
“Yesterday we had a lady from Germany stop by, and she gave us a donation, and she said she’s only in the country for two weeks because she’s on a bus tour. We started naming off the different towns some of us have been in in Germany,” Armbruster recalled, noting how thrilled she was to receive a flag.
Dax Potter, another Post 18 member, said the event served as a way for Legion family members to not only share what the Legion is about, but to brighten the day for those traveling long distances.
And it’s a learning experience for Potter, a fairly new member of the Legion.
“I enjoy learning what The American Legion stands for, and what they do,” he said.
Donations will be used to fund the post’s youth programs.