Because of cancellations related to the coronavirus, Van Veen-Van Hemert American Legion Post 89 in Pella, Iowa, wasn’t sure it was going to be able to stage its second-annual Fourth of July Ruck. When the determination was made that the post could still conduct the event, the Fourth was two weeks away.
That didn’t deter members of Post 89, who were able to spread the word quickly and widely enough to get around 40 participants in the ruck. The effort resulted in around 380 pounds of food being collected for the Pella Community Food Shelf.
“With all the recent events going on, I don’t think we could ask for much more,” said Ruck organizer and Post 89 Executive Committee member David Robbins, a 32-year-old Army 101st Airborne veteran and current staff sergeant in the Iowa Army National Guard. “There was not a lot of prep time."
Those who participated in the ruck brought a backpack or ruck bag filled with donations for the Food Shelf, while those who didn’t want to walk still were able to donate food. Robbins said the plan is to expand the rucks annually to other nearby towns.
In addition to assisting others, Robbins said community events like the ruck are ways to bring in – or at least make The American Legion aware to – younger veterans. “You’ve got to get physical. That’s what the younger generation is doing,” he said. “The biggest thing I want to push – and I think we really got this message through – veterans … we lead the way when it comes to service, to serving our community. We need to look out for each other, and what better way than leading from the front as we do as veterans.
The following are just a few examples of how American Legion Family members helped their communities observe Independence Day.
American Legion Post 44 in Bantam continued its monthly Veteran of the Month program by honoring Michael A. Walker on July 4. Post 44’s program honors deceased veterans, unaccounted POWs and MIAs, and certain Merchant Mariners who served in battle areas during World War II.
Walker served with the 101st Airborne Division “A” Company of the 159th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion and died on July 18, 1970, when the Chinook Helicopter he was working on during a munitions re-supply mission to Firebase Ripcord in the Thua Thien province of northwestern South Vietnam was shot down by enemy fire.
A flag honoring Walker will fly over the All Wars Memorial in Bantam until Aug. 1.
Despite the cancellation of local holiday events, members of Fayette County American Legion Post 105 ensured Fayetteville looked the part of July 4. From 11 a.m. to noon, Legionnaires gathered downtown to both wave and hand out American flags.
Those driving by reciprocated by waving back, honking their horns and saluting the Legionnaires.
In Dieterich, American Legion Post 628 was the guest of honor for the community’s July 4 parade. The procession honored the post’s 100-year anniversary, as Post 628 Legionnaires were paraded through town atop an antique firetruck and a trailer.
In Minburn, Past American Legion Post 99 Commander Steve Luellen has made it an annual tradition of carrying the U.S. flag during Fourth of July celebrations. And even the cancellation of the holiday’s annual parade didn’t stop him, as he marched through Minburn carrying Old Glory. Other members of Post 99 and members of the community came outside to show their support and honor the flag.
“Basically, I thought, I'm just going to do it for a bunch of them old guys that I knew would appreciate it," Luellen told KCCI.
At Ponchatoula Cemetery, members of American Legion Post 47 conducted its traditional Independence Day ceremony along the Avenue of the Flags. Veterans and volunteers raised flags on the 60 poles dedicated to Ponchatoula veterans who have served in the nation’s wars.
Post 47 Commander Brian Fladmo recounted the role that servicemembers have played in U.S. history since 1776. “Today, many of our citizens take the freedoms we enjoy for granted,” The Advocate reported. “We need to continue studying our history so that we can all come to understand and to honor those who won those freedoms for us and those who have preserved those freedoms over the many years since our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence.”
Knowing Plymouth’s parade was canceled, Post 40 Legionnaire Jay Beauregard didn’t want July 4 to come and go without some form of observance. So with the assistance of his family, Beauregard rigged a flag pole with a strap and walked most of the traditional parade route.
“We can’t let the day slide without showing some respect to the country,” Beauregard told Wicked Local Scituate.
• The St. Peter’s Independence Day Parade normally attracts thousands of spectators but was canceled this year. But that didn’t stop St. Peter Post 37’s American Legion Family members from bringing the community together on the special day. The Legion Family provided community members with a socially distanced hot dog lunch that doubled as a fundraiser for future programs, events and scholarships. The day also included a coloring contest for children to commemorate the holiday, asking them to write and color a picture describing what the July 4 holiday means to them. “We’re always are trying to do something for July 4, especially with the Legion,” Post 37 Legionnaire Amber Palmquist told The Free Press. “We’re trying to give back to the community and what better way to do it than a donation meal?” Palmquist also praised the American Legion Family volunteers who assisted with the effort. “They were real rock stars,” she said. “They volunteered on a holiday away from their families and battled the heat to make this happen. I appreciate them always for helping with the events.”
• In Eagan, Daniel R. Olsen Post 594 sponsored an Independence Day Blood Drive in the North Gym at the Eagan Community Center. Several post and family members assisted donors with temperature checks, questions and program check-in. They also served beverages and snacks to the donors. Their overall efforts resulted in 46 units being collected.
• On July 4 in Park Rapids, local law enforcement provided an escort for more than a dozen American Legion Riders from Chapter 212 making parade laps around area nursing home facilities and riding down Main Street while waving American flags.
Members of American Legion Post 10 in Albany staged a community Celebration of Lives on July 4 to honor the memories of friends and loved ones lost during the coronavirus pandemic – a time when many weren’t able to say final farewells in person due to social distancing and quarantining.
Post 10 performed its Post Everlasting ceremony, soliciting names of deceased loved ones from the community. The U.S. flag was raised and lowered during the reading of each name, while taps and “Amazing Grace” were played.
In Pasco the annual Independence Day parade was canceled, but American Legion Riders Chapter 34 still wanted to do something to celebrate the day. So the Riders organized a community ride open to cars and motorcycles, and had more than 50 vehicles participate.
The event included a brief ceremony at the post, followed by the ride.
"Everybody was upset," Chapter 34 Director Jeff Madsen told KEPR-TV. “It's the Fourth of July. We're supposed to be celebrating our freedom and having a good time, so we decided that even though the city's not going to have a parade we were going to have our own parade anyway."
In Harrison County, American Legion Post 68 conducted a free giveaway for kids and first responders to start the holiday weekend. Children were given lollipop kits to take home and assemble, while first responders were presented a snack bag to eat during their shift.