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Bandera American Legion ‘clears the air’

By Susan Junker BCC Contributor

Courtesy photo
Stanley Johnson, a veteran of the “smoke-‘em-if-you-got-‘em” era, greeted Ryan Hawk, a wounded warrior and veteran of the Iraq-Afghanistan “non-smoking” era, at the Bandera American Legion. As the result of a membership vote, Post 157 recently became a non-smoking facility.

The phrase “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” is slang for “do what you want, if you have the means.” The popular military phrase used since World War II also meant to take a break. Officers would say “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” allowing soldiers to take a break and smoke their cigarettes.
During that time, cigarettes were nearly impossible to get in Europe so this luxury item took on cultural importance beyond its monetary value. Soldiers got a daily allotment of cigarettes with their K-rations, the 1940s version of today’s Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). Seventy-five years later the phrase is a touchstone used by all media to evoke a heroic period gone.
Last week, the Bandera American Legion Post 157 officially said goodbye to the era of smoking when the membership voted to make the facility – not just events – non-smoking effective Thursday, May 5. This ban includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes and snuff.
Another recent ban affects alcoholic beverages. The post has not served alcoholic beverages for nearly 10 years, but allows BYOB at selected events.
These decisions were difficult because one of the post’s ongoing fundraisers – and local entertainment venues – is Wednesday night Bingo.
Members weighed the potential for lower attendance and revenue against the mission of the American Legion to serve veterans, survivors and families.
Bingo participants were surveyed and other non-smoking Bingo venues were visited. Nearly 70 percent of the players stated that they would continue to enjoy Bingo if the venue changed to non-smoking.
In addition, the national American Legion office provided statistics on expectations of the current and future generations of veterans. Those veterans expect a healthy, i.e., non-smoking and non-drinking, family-oriented facility.
“This was a tough decision voted on by the members at the April 19 meeting after many a discussion over the past year or two,” said Post 157 Commander Charlie Baker, “and we look forward to an even larger group of Bingo players on Wednesday nights.”
“To serve veterans and remain a viable organization, we must meet their needs and that includes providing a healthy, comfortable environment and programs for the entire community,” said Post and Bandera County Veterans Service Officer Dennis Birchall. “Legion volunteers and current Bingo players are making the transition, and we appreciate the community’s support to fill the hall on Wednesday night.”
In addition, the non-smoking status means that health-related support group meetings and events could be held there also.
For more information, contact Post 157 at 830-796-7528.