Writer / Heather Chastain
As I walked up to the doors of the Avon American Legion Post 145 one bright, fall morning, it occurred to me: as a child of the ‘80s, with no immediate military in my family, I’ve never been inside an American Legion building. It’s an organization that’s never been on my radar.
I was greeted by a kind man who took me to meet Avon American Legion Commander Mike Welsh. Immediately I was struck by the pride Welsh took in the new facility. In December, the Avon American Legion will celebrate its one-year anniversary in its new building, after relocating to 4812 E. Main St., due to bridge construction on Ind. 267 and U.S. 36.
After we sat down, I shared with Welsh this was my first time inside an American Legion post.
“A lot of people have never been inside an American Legion post,” he said. “A lot of our community doesn’t understand what the Legion is all about or that they might be eligible to join as one of our Sons of the Legion or an Auxiliary Member.”
Sons of the Legion members include males of all ages whose parents or grandparents served in the U.S. military and were eligible for American Legion membership. American Legion Auxiliary is a women’s group proud to be the largest women’s patriotic service organization in the world.
“Many people think American Legion posts are places were old soldiers come and talk about old war stories, but we are much, much more than that,” Welsh said. “We look at ourselves to be a service to the veterans and the community.”
The Legion focuses heavily on its veteran and homeless veteran programs.
“We want to help them with needs they have when they come back home and to make sure they always feel welcomed back into the community.”
An army veteran involved in stateside support during the Vietnam War, Welsh understands the pain many veterans felt coming home and not receiving a hospitable welcome.
“After the Vietnam War, soldiers didn’t
get the welcoming they deserved,” he said. “We want to make sure that never, ever happens again. I think that’s the most important.
Every week, the Legion collects blankets and pillowcases for homeless veterans, and it collects canned food donations and toiletries, as well.
The organization also actively donates to area organizations, including Boy Scouts of America, Sheltering Wings, the Sea Cadets, and it partners with Blue Star Salute. In September, 2016, the Legion was able to donate more than $8,200 to Isabel Jackson, a girl with cerebral palsy whose grandfather is a veteran and a legionnaire.
Welsh hopes more people in the community will come out and visit the post. To encourage public awareness, the Sons of the American Legion host a breakfast the last Saturday of every month. The breakfast is open to the public.
To learn more about the Avon American Legion visit www.avonlegion.org.