Grass Valley American Legion celebrates centennial Saturday
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WHERE: 255 S. Auburn St., Grass Valley
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday
COST: $15 for the 7 p.m. show; dinner tickets are sold out
One hundred years ago, 2.6 million American soldiers who had just won the Great War were scattered across Europe in rest camps.
By then they were fighting fatigue and low morale with no backup in sight while waiting for a plan to get them back home.
It was in that time of the veterans’ greatest need that the American Legion was formed in March 1919. The nationwide organization was officially chartered by Congress in September of that year. It held its first national convention in November, and Grass Valley’s American Legion Frank Gallino Post 130 was formed the following month, one of the first in the nation.
Since then, the American Legion has been committed to continuing their service to the country and their fellow veterans. Post 130 supports veterans in need financially, holds Veterans and Memorial Day events, gives high school students an opportunity to experience college and learn about government through its Boy’s State sponsorship and has been a supportive gathering spot for veterans and the community. Post 130 also supports companion organizations like the Post 130 Auxiliary Unit, an organization for wives or mothers of veterans that was recently opened to men, and the Honor Guard and Color Guard, which provide distinguished memorial services to deceased veterans.
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On Saturday, Post 130 will celebrate the centennial of the Frank Gallino Post and the American Legion with dinner and a show to benefit their veterans’ assistance fund. The party will include a 6 p.m. dinner followed by a 7 p.m. performance from Robby Hames and the Streets of Bakerfield, and a video presentation featuring veterans recounting their service and love of country. The dinner is sold out, but tickets to the show are still available for $15.
Post 130 began as Hague-Thomas Hegarty Post 130, but the name was changed in 1979 to honor Post Commander and Nevada County Undersheriff Frank Gallino, who was an active face in the community as well as the post.
“Everyone seemed to like and respect the Gallino family,” said Post 130 member Jay Cooper, who was a friend of Gallino. “He was a real community guy.”
The Veteran’s Memorial Building that serves as the post’s headquarters was built by the Legion in 1931 to use as a community center. In 1946, the members of Post 130 expanded the building by excavating the basement by hand, using pick axes, shovels and wheelbarrows to painstakingly improve their facility.
During that time, veterans and citizens were more patriotic and willing to support the military, according to Post 130 Auxiliary Unit Treasurer Melise Munroe. Since then, membership hasn’t grown a lot as current members continue to age.
“Its hard to get the younger generation involved, the sacrifices the country made, the generations that remember, truly remember, we’re losing them. People were just more patriotic, maybe today they just don’t remember,” Munroe said. “I don’t want them to forget what many men and women have suffered through with wars to give us our freedom.”
As the Legion looks to attract more members and honor those veterans that have already served, it hopes Saturday’s celebration will be able to do both.
Mike Hauser, the post’s adjutant in charge of membership, said he got involved six years ago through the post’s Honor Guard after the government began a policy of only supplying the rite to high-ranking officials. Hauser saw a need and said he never thought twice about jumping in to help.
“It’s about respect, my dad was a combat medic.” Hauser, a Vietnam veteran, said. “When the country asked I and a lot of my friends just raised our hands. When you’re actually on duty, no matter what you do you’re on a team and we’re still serving the country. To me that’s as true in 1948, as it was ‘58, ‘68, whenever.”
Hauser said that sense of duty and respect is something that unites veterans across generations. For him, his continued service is tied to the treatment he received coming home from Vietnam. He said he got spit on at the airport and was called a child killer, and while he’s glad Americans had the ability to express their opinion, he hopes other veterans won’t have to face the same treatment and that the centennial celebration will help ensure they don’t.
Post 130 Commander Claude Hessel had similar motivations to continue his service, Hessel was enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Vietnam war, though he was never deployed there. Despite his career of accolades and service, he still thinks of what more there is he could do.
“I’m not exactly guilty to survive through everything,” Hessel said. “But I do recognize how I could have easily been one of them to not come home.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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