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Friday, November 19, 2010

American Legion post is key part of Annandale community

More than shops and neighborhoods, it’s the service organizations that bring people together for friendship and good works that truly make Annandale a truly special community. Take the Annandale American Legion post, for example.

“We’re very much connected to the community,” says Marv Rodney, former post commander and chair of the Americanism and public relations committees at American Legion Bicentennial Post 1976.

American Legion members lead ceremonies at the Annandale cannon on every patriotic holiday, such as the recent one on Veterans’ Day, and play a key role in community events, like the recent parade and fall festival and the upcoming tree lighting ceremony Dec. 3 in Tollhouse Park, says Rodney, who served as president of the Annandale Chamber of Commerce in 2008-10.
The public is invited to the dinners held periodically at the post headquarters at 4206 Daniels Ave. The most recent one, earlier this month, raised money to help needy military families have a nice Christmas. The post also sponsors a baseball team for local teenagers and present educational programs to schoolchildren. They give American flags to students—and teach them what it means to be an American—through the Flags for First Graders program.

Bicentennial Post 1976 has about 460 members, including some World War II veterans. To become a legionnaire, an individual must be currently on active duty in the U.S. military or have served honorably during a particular war era. In addition, Post 1976 serves 120 members of the Sons of Legionnaires group and another 120 or so wives and some children in the American Legion Auxiliary.

You can bring unserviceable
American flags to this box at
Post 1976 for proper disposal.

Rodney, who had spent 22 years in the Marines, say he went in as a private and came out a major. He served two tours in Vietnam with the 5th Counterintelligence Command and also was stationed in Washington, D.C.; Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; Okinawa, Japan; Bangkok; Australia; and the Philippines. After he left the Marines, he worked for Lockheed Martin, where his job called for him to travel extensively to military bases around the world.

The most recent initiative of Post 1976 is the establishment of an American Legion Riders unit.  The group, made up of veterans who own motorcycles, escorts World War II veterans from the airport to the Iwo Jima, World War II, and Vietnam Veterans memorials. The veterans are brought to Washington, D.C., by the Honor Flight Network, which arranges free transportation to bring the veterans to see the memorials that honor their service. According to the network, World War II veterans are dying off at the rate of 1,000 a day.

Along with its service activities, Post 1976 offers a friendly place for military veterans from all wars, regardless of their military rank, to talk about their experiences. “There is no rank in the American Legion,” Rodney says. “The post commander could have been a private.” The main room at the post is large enough to host an event for 170 people. Veterans can play pool, watch a football game, and have a drink in the post’s “social quarters.” Rodney says, “We don’t call it a bar. We try to have a family atmosphere and encourage members to bring their families.”

The post hall also has a sobering reminder of the sacrifices of those in the military. Like every American Legion post, there is a small table with a single place setting and an empty chair, which serves as a physical reminder of all the American prisoners of war and those missing in action still unaccounted for.

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