Editorial: A new kind of American Legion post
The American Legion -- woven into our suburbs as color guards leading local parades, honor guards at veterans' funerals, bingo-and-beer gathering halls, poppy sales and the Boys and Girls State leadership programs -- formed 101 years ago to serve veterans of the Great War.
Many wars have occurred since then and many military veterans have poured back into U.S. society, sometimes with different needs and different interests than their comrades of 1919.
Participation is down, a phenomenon not unique to the Legion or to veterans groups.
From a post-World War II peak of 3.3 million, national membership has dropped to fewer than 2 million members today, and not many are under 40. Illinois membership declined from 74,162 a year ago to 62,238 registered Legion members now.
Efforts by people like Christian Koshaba and Matthew Monson are helping to make sure the Legion isn't relegated to the history books, and also living up to the Legion's mission of serving veterans.
The two are the commander and vice commander, respectively, of the new American Legion Post 2020 in Arlington Heights. It meets inside Three60Fit gym on Golf Road and combines workouts, Bible study and services like job and medical referrals to men and women who are mostly in their 30s and come from various branches of the military.
Monson, a Marine veteran, moved to Arlington Heights nine years ago and joined Merle Guild Post 208, also in Arlington Heights. He told Daily Herald reporter Christopher Placek he was looking for activities appealing to younger veterans and ended up creating the new Legion-in-a-gym with Koshaba, an Air Force veteran who opened the fitness studio four years ago.
The new post is an example of "the passing of the baton," said Legion district commander Dale Tippett, who said the organization encouraged Monson and Koshaba to open a new post rather than push for significant changes to a long-established one.
Across the U.S., there are American Legion posts for women and Legion posts in prisons. One in Nashville draws a crowd for live music on Honky Tonk Tuesdays. A Portland post operates as a warming shelter for homeless people. Each Legion post has its own culture, Tippett says. That flexibility bodes well for the organization and its future.
We expect a town like Arlington Heights has room for two Legion posts and we're glad for the continued interest in an institution that does much good for our communities.