Letters to the Editors
Pride shows in post's involvement
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 16, 2001
I am proud to be the commander of the busiest, most active American Legion Post in West Pasco, particularly in our children and youth programs.
Since we are the smallest post, size-wise and financially, Veterans Village American Legion Post 343 cannot afford to make large monetary donations so we do the next best thing -- we get involved.
For our children and youth programs, we take part in the Special Olympics; the men are really good "grandfatherly" huggers. We present school medal awards at Seven Springs Elementary School every year; we present awards to the Gulf High School Navy Junior ROTC and try to attend their "Pass in Review"; we are working with the Air Force Junior ROTC at River Ridge High School on the new American Legion youth program, "Junior ROTC Cadet of the Year"; we gather toys, as admission to our Christmas party, to stuff stockings for the Salvation Army; and, the program which we are most proud of, we donate one dozen teddy bears every other month to the All Children's Specialty Clinic in New Port Richey. Nothing soothes a scared child like a warm, fuzzy teddy bear.
Although children and youth are our specialty, we do much for the veterans. One big project has been the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes.
Every year we collect calendars so that each resident of the home has one. We also collect new playing cards for the residents.
Just after Thanksgiving last year, we had an ice cream social at the home. At that time, the staff was putting up the Christmas tree and two of my members helped them. I expected to hear Christmas carols coming from them.
We also hold the flag disposal ceremony, which is open to the public, and the "Four Chaplains" service, also open to the public.
When you go to the Chasco Fiesta parade and the Christmas parade, you will find Post 343 proudly taking part. We are the van with the white teddy bear on the roof -- "Uncle Sam Bear" for Chasco and "Santa Bear" at Christmas. You can also spot us by the men in American Legion uniforms taking turns walking (none of us can march anymore) in front of the van carrying the sign, "We Served with Pride."
Post 343 also believes the American Legion's promise that no veteran shall be buried without a military funeral.
Even if the veteran is not a member of our post, we will find enough people to give the veteran a proper send-off. Several times we have had to borrow a few men from other organizations, but we paid our respects to the departed veteran in a proper manner.
I said I was proud to be the commander of Veterans Village American Legion Post 343. Come by our meeting room and you will see what I mean, a sign that says, "Damn, We're Good."
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