At one time, men coming home from a declared war joined their neighborhood American Legion post.
It was a place to tell war stories and find camaraderie.
Times have changed, but the mission hasn’t. The legion exists to help veterans in need as well as people in the community, said John Ducey, commander of the Allen Rawls American Legion Post 77 in Inverness.
Even so, many veterans organizations and service clubs have seen a steady decline in membership.
“A problem with a lot of organizations is the gap between older members who have a history of belonging to things and younger people that don’t want to,” Ducey said. “The newer vets are more independent; it’s a generational attitude, and we’re trying to change that.”
He added, “The idea of a legion is not to have a post with a club; it’s to do good works in the community.”
He’s hoping that community service and veterans helping veterans will appeal to younger people, men and women.
Also, unlike in the past when membership was limited to veterans who served in a conflict or war, today’s American Legion accepts any veteran who is honorably discharged or received a general discharge under honorable conditions.
Ducey said Post 77, which is in the Inverness Highlands, is actively looking for new members.
“Because of COVID, we’ve fallen behind, and regional (headquarters) said we have six months to get on the ball or we’ll have our charter pulled,” he said. “We’ve had some growth, and we have people from the North who are coming back, which will help, and we’re starting to do some events.”
Many of their events are open to the public, such as a luau and dance beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. Dinner is $12 and the dance is free. There will also be a 50/50 drawing that night.
A Halloween costume dinner and dance is also open to the public at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30. Dinner is $12 and the dance is free.
“This is a way for people to come and see what we’re all about,” Ducey said.
Monthly meetings are at 7 p.m. on first Tuesdays.
Allen Rawls American Legion Post 77 is at 4375 S. Little Al Point, Inverness 34452.
“We have a lot of things we want to do in the community,” Ducey said. “We sent two Boy Scouts to summer camp and we contribute to the Young Marines, and we hope to do more.”
For information about joining the American Legion or just to find out what it’s all about, call John Ducey at 352-428-1836.