Tori Almond | Staff Writer
As members rolled into Post 71 for the monthly meeting on Tuesday, the empty chairs stood out more than those that had once been filled by veteran’s past.
The monthly meeting began with an executive meeting consisting of the officers of Post 71 and afterwards moved on to discuss the minutes of last meeting as well as issues that needed to be addressed.
Families, veterans and members of the Denton community thrive off of connections and networks. The American Legion, the world’s largest wartime veterans service organization, tries to continue to help the Denton community through many different aspects, but is asking for more members.
“We need young veterans to help us,” said Forrest Beadle, the 1st vice commander of American Legion post 71. “Our membership has deteriorated some because many of our members have passed away because many were and are veterans from previous war times.”
The American Legion is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that depends on active membership, participation and volunteerism. Without this, Post 71 could lose its building for not maintaining its membership, like many posts are now falling behind in number of members across the districts of Denton.
Charted by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic organization, the American Legion’s mission is to mentor the youth of America, sponsor wholesome programs within the community and advocate patriotism and honor while continuing the devotion to fellow service members and veterans. The American Legion in Texas alone consists of over 65,000 legionnaires in 480 posts all across the state.
“The American Legion has helped many veterans, [including] lots of younger veterans when they first get out need help with jobs or adjusting back to civilian life in general,” Beadle said.
One of those issues brought up by many at the meeting was the lack of membership and the struggle to reach out to younger veterans to help them get involved in their community. With disappearing chairs happening among many posts across Denton county, some posts are resorting to shutting down or integrating with other posts.
Jim Forbes, vice commander of the 13th district of the American Legion, attended the latest meeting. His goal was to assess post 71 to ensure their membership count was good and that he wouldn’t have to close the post down due to low membership.
“There are 23 districts in Texas, and many posts I’ve had to shut down already due to membership loss and lack of upkeep,” Forbes said.
A veteran walking in to Post 71 would immediately find pamphlets and smiling faces, all eager to help whoever may be in need of finding the right resources that best suit them. But recently, that’s not the case.
If Post 71 had to close its doors for good, many of the members would have to relocate to other posts, with one in Fort Worth being the closest.
“We would love for veterans to help us help them,” Beadle said. “As well as love for them to help us help the Denton community.”
Beyond veterans and military members, however, the American Legion also strives to strengthen and bring the community together. The organization offers many programs for children and family members, not just veterans. Some of these programs include walks for veterans, oratorical competitions, Legion riders and Operation Comfort Warriors, which contributes donations to wounded warriors.
“For example, we have the annual boys and girls state scholarship competitions [this] February,” Beadle said. “Last year we sent 53 boys to the state competition for a chance to win a scholarship for higher education.”
Beadle grew up around the American Legion organizations and without becoming a part of it, he wouldn’t have broken out of his shell, he said. The programs and opportunities for kids and adults help push community involvement and civil services.
“Growing up what stuck out to me the most were the caps I saw Legion members wear,” Beadle said. “That provided me with sentimental value and also encourages me to continue to stay in even today.”
The call for help from the younger generations of veterans would help tremendously within the Denton community for families as well as children.
“We are trying to push more information out there to help pull membership back up and involvement in the community,” Forbes said.
With younger veterans joining in the community, Post 71 would be able to do more fundraisers and programs within Denton county to help those in need. Many of the members today are not able to do hikes or work at booths during the day for fundraisers because of their age.
Because the American Legion is a nonprofit organization, any and all funds they receive go towards helping the veteran community in Denton county, as well as their families and those in need. Without the help from the younger veteran community, Post 71 might find themselves a little stuck.
“I’m aware that there is a strong force of veterans at UNT as well as TWU, and we would love to encourage them to come help the community as well as themselves to any services we can provide,” Beadle said.
Featured Image: The American Legion post 71 is located off Spencer and Brinker road in Denton. Veterans hold meetings every third Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. Kelsey Shoemaker