The American Legion formed immediately after World War II in France. It was formed to give our doughboys something to do as they waited and prepared to head home. The “War to end all wars” was over. It was now time to return home, return to their families, and start a new life as citizens.
The Legion has continued to serve as a resource and home away from home for our returning men and women, but unlike 1919, new veterans’ needs were different and sometimes quite unique.
True, many still need assistance with veterans services, medical care, counseling, and educational assistance. But the days of a “breadwinner” dad going off to work and “stay at home mothers” are long gone and my never return. Both are now working and both may even be veterans themselves. Roles have often reversed and many homes may now have a “stay at home dad.” Their days are full of hyper-information, activities, school or college, and other demands. They are spending lots of time in their cars and trucks to traveling to events, group meetings, sports, and more.
Our post home is a strong example. We began as a hand-made hut. Our members cut down nearby trees, cut and trimmed the logs and then built their first home–a log cabin on Rosemary Street. We grew and decided to move “out into the country” far from the busy and growing Chapel Hill. Our new home was on a piece of land surrounded by dairy land and woodlands. No neighbors, no noise, no demands. We were just off the narrow highway leading to Durham.
Our new home doubled in size in both membership and square feet to accommodate member needs and served as a meeting site, community center, and more for over 60 years. Designed for returning World War II and Korean War vets and their families, it is now too big for us. Earlier vets needed a full-service community center with a “canteen,” dining area, meeting space, dance hall, recreational fields, and hiking trails. Their post home was their refuge.
Today our veterans need more help and services than ever, but they do not want a large facility designed for dining. Our younger veterans are looking for more and we are trying to find out what will best serve them. We continually ask, “Are we relevant and do we provide the services and resources needed?” This is not new to the American Legion. We have evolved to serve each generation–World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Granada, and The Gulf War vets.
Chapel Hill Post 6 has been working on a revitalization program to rebuild our post for over three years. Our pending post sale is part of that project. What we are doing is also happening at other vibrant American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts in North Carolina and beyond. This change was reported on by WUNC’s Jay Price’s in his story, “Vets Groups Seek ‘Younger’ Blood to Maintain Membership, Influence” Click here
What’s next? We will meet this week (sorry, members only) on Thursday, May 19th, at 6 p.m. to review a whiteboard full of proposed projects and programs that members and members of the Ladies Auxiliary suggested for consideration. We encourage all members to join us for a few hours, as we begin our journey and continued evolution of the Chapel Hill American Legion. Come on by and we’ll have some hot coffee and snacks for you. Maybe we’ll even send out for a few pizzas.