Thawville American Legion Post 700 was chartered in 1921, and it’s named after Tracy Smith, a World War I soldier who was killed in action in France where he’s buried.
Even with a dwindling population in Thawville, the Legion Post keeps going.
It’s the Legion’s fish frys which keep it going, said its commander, Rodger Bennett. The town has about 240 people, yet the frys that happen more than five times a year typically average 350 people. The fish frys are usually in the late fall, winter and early spring months to accommodate harvest. “We need our cooks.”
Bennett said there’s still 28 members and more than a third of them are active members. There are World War II, Korean, Vietnam and the recent wars like Desert Storm fighters within the Thawville group.
What’s even more impressive, he said, there are a few members who are also serving at the state and national levels, as well.
He’s one of them. He’s a 52 year member of the Legion, getting signed on by his uncle who was the commander at the time two days after he got out of the service himself. “I wasn’t initially active,” he said, but his wife’s family were active members, also at the local, state and national levels, and he started participating more.
He said he’s working with the veterans affairs and rehabilitation and with the American Legion magazine.
There’s another member he made mention of— Mike Monroe. Bennett said Monroe is “working through the chairs” at the state and national levels. Monroe was a Apache helicopter pilot and served more than 20 years during Desert Storm.
Bennett said there’s a lot happening regarding the Legion through bills in Congress.
There’s the Blue Water Navy Bill, which is fighting for those on Navy boats just off the cost of Vietnam to be covered for Agent Orange affects.
Then, he said, there’s a bill urging Congress to allow anyone who served after Dec. 7, 1941, to be a member of the American Legion, instead of it being a wartime organization.
“Realizes, since World War II there’s been somewhere our people have been shot at,” he said.
The Post 700 has meetings when they are needed, because there’s usually not enough people showing up to a monthly meeting, Bennett said. Post 700 has its own Legion home, and this is used as a community center for Thawville residents. He said the Legionnaires are proud of their building and are still maintaining and remodeling it.
The Color Guard gets used for funerals, of course, and there’s enough Legionnaires to suit up. He said they have been known to be asked to take part in someone’s funeral who isn’t from Thawville.
The big day for Post 700 is its Memorial Day service. It has its service about 11:30 a.m. on Memorial Day Monday at the Ridgeland Cemetery. “We have between 120-150 who attend. It’s very well attended and we appreciate it.” He said the Iroquois West High School band plays at this ceremony, just as it does for all the Legions within its school district.
Bennett said he’s proud of the Post 700 auxiliary. This group is increasing in numbers and more duties will likely be put to it, he said. Though it’s an arm of the American Legion, it’s chartered by Congress as its own group.
It’s close to starting its own Sons of American Legion.
Post 700 has sent students to Boys and Girls State, it also takes part in sending eligible kids who want to go to youth police school. “It’s a very good program,” which gives older high school students a chance to get a closer glimpse into the police force. There haven’t been too many who have wanted to go in the past several years, he said.
Post 700 is active with Gifts for the Yanks, an organization which makes sure residents in the VA homes and hospitals get a Christmas present.
Locally, the post has sponsored someone to go to the Special Olympics, and it also buys presents for the Santa Elf Patrol and Santa Train.