American Legion Post 57 will host a centennial celebration from Oct. 11 to 13 at the Coweta Veteran’s Club.
Events at the celebration will include the post’s history, a fish dinner, a community fun day, karaoke and The Four Chaplin’s Ceremony.
Following the ceremony, members of the American Legion will be honoring Georgia soldiers who are missing in action or prisoners of war by reading their names aloud.
The American Legion was founded in Paris on March 15, 1919, in the wake of World War I. The American Legion Post in Newnan, Post 57, was founded later that year in September.
“Our goal and mission is to advocate for veterans and to ensure that we speak to Congress and that appropriate laws are passed,” said Veda Brooks, Commander of Post 57.
According to Brooks, anyone who has been a part of the military can join the American Legion regardless of the branch they were a part of or if they served overseas or domestically.
“Our group is made up of all veterans,” she said.
Brooks said she joined the organization after the death of her father, a Korean War veteran. His wife was struggling to acquire a burial flag for the funeral. Brooks said she was unable to help because she was on active duty at the time.
The issue was solved when a member of the American Legion reached out to her father’s wife and helped her through the process, said Brooks.
“He was buried with honors,” she said. “That’s how I was first introduced to the American Legion. They were about community and I thought, ‘Yup, I want to be a part of that organization.’”
“We’ve done numerous things for veterans,” said Phil Hillesheim, adjutant for Post 57.
Hillesheim said he joined the American Legion when he was still in the military in Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Legion Riders, a motorcycle group, and visited veterans in nursing homes to provide them with whatever they needed.
Later, Hillesheim worked as a service officer to help veterans receive their VA benefits.
“We still help no matter what and get you the right information and into the right program with whatever support you need,” he said. “We’re all veterans and we all have the same issues and problems that we need help with.”
Hillesheim said the American Legion coordinates several community projects such as providing scholarships to high school students, providing a camp for kids to learn about the constitution and how the government operates and collecting food for families.
“We’re about the need of the community. Whatever the community needs, we are out there,” Brooks said.
Post 57’s community service is largely focused on veterans and their families. Brooks said the organization helps homeless veterans by providing them somewhere to stay on cold nights, gives transportation to people who are unable to drive and holds services for veterans who have passed away.
“We have a fund to help veterans pay their electric bill. We help them so we can get them back on their feet,” she said. “On the cold days or on cold evenings, we can put up homeless veterans in a hotel and then get them transferred to Fort McPherson—who can put them up in a long-term program.”
After joining the American Legion, Hillesheim said he found a sense of self-worth by helping other veterans within the community.
“I know I’ve done my best to go out and help my fellow soldier and fellow man. No matter what, we’ve given forward,” he said. “We’ve made a difference in somebody’s life and given support to somebody going through a hard time. You learn to use your empathy to go out and help people.”
Brooks said she encourages veterans to join the American Legion as their larger numbers give them more sway when the National Commander speaks before congress.
“When we stand before congress, he represents our numbers. It’s a big deal for us because congress listens to numbers,” Brooks said.
She also encourages membership because it’s a place for veterans to find fellowship with other veterans once they’ve returned to civilian life.
“People are joining because this is where we come and we are with people who understand what we’ve gone through,” she said. “There’s that comradeship that you don’t necessarily get from civilian people who aren’t in the military – who don’t understand what you’ve gone through. It makes it a good experience. That’s where we build community and where we build families.” To attend and RSVP for the weekend’s events, contact American Legion Post 57 at firstname.lastname@example.org .