Brownsburg American Legion Supports Veterans & Community
The American Legion Post 331 in Brownsburg is one of the oldest legions in the nation, having started in 1921 in a log cabin, just three years after the national office opened in 1919. Having relocated from the Brownsburg Town Hall to a building on U.S. Route 136 over the years, the Legion is still thriving and giving back to veterans and the community on a regular basis.
The American Legion is a veteran’s service organization, committed to mentoring youth, sponsoring community programs, advocating patriotism and devoting space and time to service members and veterans. There are four pillars the legion focuses its efforts on: Americanism, Children & Youth, Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation and National Defense. Each legion across the nation chooses how they want to express and support each pillar.
Jason Thornbury, a current member who was planning to run for Legion Commander in May, is on active duty for the National Guard. The elections were canceled due to COVID, and the Legion will retain all current leadership through next year. Thornbury has been a member of the Legion for five years and strongly believes in not only its mission but in what makes the Brownsburg American Legion special. He plans to run for Legion Commander when elections are up and running again in 2021.
“It’s very friendly here,” says Thornbury, shaking hands and saying hi to nearly everyone as he strolls through the legion. “When I was growing up, I remember walking into a smoke-filled room at the local legion where the haze was at my eyes. Now it’s a place I’m not afraid to bring my 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.”
Thornbury has meals with his family there two or three nights a week, and it’s easy to see why. The legion is warm, filled with easy talk and laughter, and TVs showing local news, all while friendly card games and banter take place throughout. The fact that it’s smoke-free, and has been for 10 years, is a bonus.
“We’re also more diversified than ever,” Thornbury adds. “We’re more inclusive, with more female veterans. We don’t want it to just be all white males.”
Thornbury appreciates the legion because it’s a home base for veterans who may struggle to return to life as they knew before being deployed.
“It can be culture shock, reacclimating to civilian life,” says Thornbury, remembering his own struggles reintegrating into society. “This gives them an opportunity to be comfortable as they readjust. It’s like a family here. We have our disagreements sometimes, but in the end, we are all here for the love of this post.
Matthew Zentz, an attorney and American Legionnaire planning to run for 1st Vice Commander this year, says that the most important aspect of the Legion is the support that goes both ways between the Legion and the community.
“We are a family at the Brownsburg American Legion Post 331,” Zentz says. “It’s not important if you are a Legionnaire, Legion Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion or American Legion Riders. We are a family. We support our community and they support us. The Post supports many community organizations and our local schools. As an attorney, I also serve my community by helping families through difficult situations. I am running for 1st Vice Commander this year in an effort to continue the great success the Brownsburg American Legion has experienced within our community.
This community support from the Legion is its claim to fame, and the list of beneficiaries seems endless, including both veteran and non-veteran organizations. The Legion supports numerous Brownsburg Community School Corporation clubs, teams and organizations as well as four Boy Scout Troops in Brownsburg. Additionally, the Legion contributes to scholarships, American Legion Hoosier Boys State and Auxiliary Hoosier Girls State, back-to-school campaigns, Special Olympics, the Law Enforcement Academy (sponsoring students so they can attend for the week), various assisted living centers, and Honor Flights just to name a handful.
In fact, last year the Legion gave nearly $70,000 back to the local community.
“Groups can come in and do a pitch,” Thornbury says. “They tell us what they need the money for, and we’ll discuss if it’s something we can and want to support. It’s really about taking care of the local community.”
But writing checks isn’t all they do. The legion is big with hands-on involvement. They integrate with local schools in various ways by doing presentations on our nation’s flag, sponsoring scout troops, holding flag retirement ceremonies or presenting the flag at sporting events.
“That’s part of our Americanism chair,” Thornbury adds. “We go out in the community and we make that connection.”
The Legion is also big on family. They host a breakfast with Santa where veterans can bring in their kids and grandkids and visit with Santa. They also hold a special Veteran’s Day meal. Easter egg hunts and big summer events, such as a summer fling, are usually always on the calendar each year depending on the weather.
Many events have been on hold the past few months, but Thornbury said the community can stay up to date on the Legion’s website or Facebook page.
“We are following the Governor’s guidelines,” Thornbury says. “And I’m sure we’ll get back to where we were soon.”
One more major event coming up next year is the American Legion’s 100th birthday. Thornbury is the Committee Chair on this event, which will take place May 10, 2021. He plans to conduct a year-long planning and outreach committee and insists the event will be community-oriented.
With a solid foundation of community donations and involvement, the Brownsburg Legion, the fourth largest in the state, is focused on grabbing the attention of younger veterans to secure the future of the Legion. Thornbury recognizes that the millennial generation wants to belong and make a difference, and he sees no better place for that than the military experience.
To stay up to date on the Legion, you can visit their website brownsburgpost331.org or give them a call at 317-852-3200.