Phyllis McGuire | Community and camaraderie at American Legion Post 152
WILLIAMSTOWN — The American Legion Richard Reuther Post 152 in Williamstown is unlike any other I know of'; It does not include a bar. I visited Post 152, located at 173 Water St., last week, and John M. "Mike" Kennedy, former commander of the post and former Williamstown police chief, offered me a cup of coffee.
"When some members come in to play cards, they may bring beer or have coffee and sugar buns," said Thomas Webb, current commander.
And members enjoy socializing at the annual Christmas dinner and annual picnic. This year the picnic will be held in August on the grounds of the Williamstown Historical Museum.
But what initially brought the members of Post 152 together, is "a willingness to serve" said Ronald James, previous commander.
They provide services, charity and support for local veterans, organizations and outreach programs.
Webb mentioned they provide honors at local veterans' funerals.
For the younger generation, Post 152 awards scholarships to Boys State and Girls State, government in action leadership and citizenship programs.
When I walked into the main room, my attention was drawn to the photographs of servicemen that adorned a wall. How young and full of life they looked. It saddened me to think that any of them were killed on a battlefield, never to fulfill their potential or dreams for the future.
Memorial Day falls on May 27 this year, but Kennedy and a few members of Post 152 had already been to the veterans lot in Eastlawn Cemetery to place flags at markers, some of which are for service men "who left and never came back (missing in action) or came back dead," as Kennedy put it.
One of the many markers is for Ephraim Williams Jr., benefactor of Williams College. He was killed in the French and Indian War on Sept. 8, 1755.
"At Mount Hope Farm, we placed a flag at a plaque dedicated to Ed Gardner," said Kennedy, referring to a pilot in the Army Air Corps who went missing in action in Tunisa during World War II. Gardner's father, who was manager of Mount Hope Farm at the time, had the plaque installed. "We also placed a flag at a marker for Ed Gardner in the veterans lot of Eastlawn," Kennedy added.
In all, including Southlawn Cemetery, Westlawn Cemetery and Williams College Cemetery, l,400 flags were placed at veterans' graves and markers.
Some members of the armed forces that were killed in combat or went missing have no family to remember them. Such a case was brought to a member of Post 152.
A resident of Hancock told of a young man from the town who was in the Navy and went missing at sea in World War II.
"We put up a marker in his name at Hancock Cemetery and provided funeral honors," Kennedy said.
Founded in 1921, Post 152 currently has 150 members. Two new members are in their 30s, and the other members range in age from 67 to 97.
Statistics show that membership in veterans service organizations is plummeting, and in the last 10 years, more than 65 posts in Massachusetts shut their doors.
Fortunately, Post 152 is still up and running. Their door is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. A member of the post is present to answer visitors' questions.
"Mary Angelo Roberts is amazing in helping veterans obtain benefits for which they are eligible," Webb said of a member of the post.
There are veterans who are unable to navigate the maze of rules and regulations set by government agencies. (The Veterans Benefits Manual has 2,200 pages)
In Williamstown on May 27, veterans from Post 150 will march in the Memorial Day Parade, which the post has hosted since 1969.
The parade is tentatively scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Park Street and proceed to Field Park. Following a ceremony at Field Park, refreshments will be available at Post 152.
Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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