HUNTINGTON — American Legion Huntington Post 16 is turning 100 years old Saturday and is marking the occasion with a celebration.
Members will gather at the American Legion’s 6th Avenue location to reflect on the past century and look ahead to the future. There will be a program, a spaghetti dinner and, of course, birthday cake.
Chartered by U.S. Congress on Oct. 19, 1919, Huntington’s American Legion is one of the oldest posts in the country. The national American Legion itself was chartered Sept. 16, 1919.
“We’ve been in continuous operation for the past 100 years; that’s quite a feat,” said Fred B. Buchanan, American Legion Post 16 liaison.
Saturday’s celebration will begin at 6 p.m. with a program featuring several guest speakers. Post 16 Commander Shannon Harshbarger will lead the celebration with the Pledge of Allegiance and Buchanan will give remarks about the POW/MIA table, which symbolizes service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action.
Barbara Burdette, department commander of the American Legion Department of West Virginia, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams also will give remarks.
A dinner, prepared by the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 16, will include spaghetti, coleslaw, rolls, coffee or iced tea and birthday cake.
“We’re not going to be having a big fancy program because it’s not about the program; it’s about our longevity,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said membership at the local American Legion has been waning in recent years. There are currently about 350 members, which is significantly down from about 2,300 members several decades ago.
However, Bunchanan said the American Legion always will play an important role in the community and following any future wars to come. The American Legion was founded on four pillars to take care of veterans and their families: promote Americanism, strengthen national security and to look after children and the future, he said.
Since membership is controlled by Congress, Bunchanan said he hopes new changes implemented by the Trump administration will help with a decrease in members. Any service member who has seen one day of active duty since Dec. 7, 1941, is eligible to join the American Legion organization. This includes students at service academies like West Point or the U.S. Naval Academy, who are considered to be in current active duty.
Beginning in 2018, The 100th American Legion National Convention celebrated a 15-month commemoration to honor the organization’s first century of service. The national organization held its centennial celebration last month in Indianapolis.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.