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Bandera Legion Post 157 to mark 93 years

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Started in 1920 by World War I veterans, the Bandera American Legion Post 157 will celebrate its 93rd birthday on Sept. 9. "I believe this Legion Post may be the oldest continuously existing organization in Bandera County," said Post Commander Charlie Baker about the anniversary. The Post was chartered just one year after the national organization was authorized by Congress.

The local post will mark this significant event in its history with a membership drive breakfast on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 7 am to 11 pm. "We're inviting all of Bandera's veterans to have breakfast with us," said Baker. "I don't think all 3,000 of them will show up, but we'll be happy to see them if they do!"

Baker proudly advocates membership in the American Legion. "The Legion has four priorities," he explained. "Number one is veterans and their families, secondly is children and youth programs. Thirdly, we focus on Americanism, and finally national defense."

Post 157 provides social activities for veterans and their families, but they go way beyond that in taking care of priority one. The Department of the Defense now has a website to help veterans, said Baker. A veteran or spouse needs to sign up on the ebenefits.va.gov site to get a file number.

"This site gives the veteran access to all of his or her military records, including medical records," said Baker. Veterans can use the site to make and keep VA appointments. Perhaps the biggest bonus of accessing ebenefits is the faster response time for disability claims compensation. "Going the old paperwork method might take three to four years," said Baker. "Signing up online may get a response in three weeks."

Post 157 has three computers at the Legion Hall on 12th Street in Bandera to give all local veterans access. They also have someone on hand to help walk the veteran through the process. "We're here Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 3 pm," said Baker.

The post is also very active in supporting youth programs. "We support four Girl Scout troops and one Boy Scout troop," said Baker. Their 2013 Oratorical Contest winner, Scott Pofahl, ended up placing third at the state level of competition in this contest based on knowledge of the US Constitution.

Joining with Post 410 in Lakehills, the Bandera Post and Auxiliary sponsored six boys and two girls to Boys State and Girls State this summer. These programs are highly prestigious and successful programs for teaching young people how government works, from the local level to the statehouse.

"All six of our boys were elected to offices at Boys State," reports Baker, "and one, Ethan Greven, was invited to return next summer as a counselor, a high honor." Two are being scouted by the US Merchant Marine Academy.

The Post's Americanism Committee plans special programs for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

The Bandera Legion Hall is home to a small but comprehensive museum featuring military models and uniforms from the various branches of service. Active service members are honored with a "Yellow Ribbon" tree featuring photos of local servicemen.

"We're planning to create a special spot on the wall to recognize all of Bandera County's Purple Heart awardees, too," said Baker.

The Post's original charter hangs in a place of honor near the front door. Charter members included: James O. Butler, Frank M. Montague, Frank J. Kindla, Walter E. Ruge, Vergil Dee Chipman, Dan Rugh, Joseph W. Short Jr., Fred A Mansfield, Claude L. Stevens, Dwight H. Zook, HL Mansfield, James Lee Cox, Orange Clark, Edward E. Brown, and John F. Langford.

In another location hangs the original charter for the Post's Auxiliary. Charter members included: Ellen Clayton, Anita Meitzen, Cora Clark, Martha Enochs, Edna Donn, Lillie O'Bryant, Emma Hammand, Annie Erwin, Mary Dugosh, Zula Sartor, Ida Thallman, Mary Stevens, Isabella Nixon, Zula Robison, Louise Letcher, Rebecca Langford, Augustine Allen, Emma Dawson, Gretchen Brewer and Willie Allen.

In addition to Baker, the other hard-working leaders of Post 410 include Vice Commanders Bert Buckley and Myron Damon, Adjutant Frank Jeys, Finance Officer Pat Downing, Service Officer Raymond Baker, Chaplain Doris Mae Bell, Historian Melinee McComas and Sgt.-at-Arms Allen Praytor.

If you are a veteran, consider a membership in American Legion Post 157. And what better time to sign up than on their 93rd birthday celebration? Join them for pancakes, sausage, cold OJ and plenty of hot coffee on Sept. 14.

Pictured: Veteran James O. Butler, who also served Bandera County's citizens as their doctor for many years, was the first Adjutant for Bandera American Legion Post 157 when it was chartered in 1920.

Bandera American Legion Post 157 celebrates 93 years this September. The Post's original charter hangs in a place of honor.