Memorial Day: American Legion Shares How Veterans Brightened Lives in the Coronavirus Era

Frank Lindsey, wears a Veterans hat surrounded by flags as he attends a Veterans Day parade Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Montgomery, Ala.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

While much of the media focus on Memorial Day has been on how Americans will celebrate in the coronavirus era, men and women who served in the U.S. military have been busy brightening the lives of people across the country and reporting on their efforts ahead of the holiday on the American Legion website.

The American Legion, the largest veterans service organization in the United States, is celebrating Memorial Day to remember the men and women who have paid the ultimate price but have also been busy helping people who are struggling on a daily basis.

Like a lot of young people who have missed prom, graduation, and other milestones, 16-year-old Paige’s birthday would have passed without much fanfare — until the American Legion Riders showed up:

For one 16-year-old in Inwood, W.Va., the coronavirus pandemic meant spending her sweet 16 birthday at home with no chance of a real party. But thanks to American Legion Riders Chapter 14 in nearby Martinsburg, the young woman still got a party, of sorts.

Paige, the birthday girl, had already gotten various birthday wishes from family and friends through social media, text messages and videos. And even her neighbors from across the street, American Legion Riders Chapter 14 Director Ken Moneagle and his wife Julie, had placed a banner on their porch wishing her a happy birthday.

But Ken wanted to do more. So he reached out to fellow Chapter 14 Legion Riders and arranged for them to show up that evening. A text message to Paige’s mom, Adrianne, brought the family outside, where a parade of motorcycles were coming down the street to their house. The group held up signs with birthday wishes, revved their engines, and stopped to give Paige a gift, sing “Happy Birthday” and talked with her.

“The only (Riders) who knew our family were Ken and his beautiful wife, Julie,” Paige’s mom wrote to The Journal. “All the other members of the American Legion answered Ken’s call to make a 16-year-old girl’s birthday special simply because they are good, kind people. These veterans served their country, and they continue to serve their community. Amazing.”

In Arizona, American Legion Riders from different chapters around the state were part of a motorcade with Northern Arizona VA Health Care System employees that made a 200-mile trip from VA facility in Prescott to the Hopi Reservation to deliver boxes of food, bottled water, and other donated products.

“The donations went to approximately 80 homebound veterans and their families who are members of the Hopi Tribe and the Arizona Tewa people,” the American Legion article reported. “Sixteen American Legion posts across Northern Arizona helped provide the donated goods.”

In Newhall-Saugus American Legion Post 507 in California, Santa Clarita Grocery and other local organizations provided free lunches as a way to recognize National Military Appreciation Month.

“The effort resulted in 200 hot dogs provided to veterans and their families while observing social distancing,” the article reported. 

“The American Legion is a local organization … dedicated to welfare of veterans, community service and patriotism, and this event pretty much melds all of those together,” Sons of The American Legion Squadron 507 Commander Mike Merlo told KHTS.

In addition to serving weekly curbside meals, members of Post 37’s American Legion Family in Ames, Iowa, heard that vending machines at the Iowa Veterans Homes were out of snacks because vendors currently are not allowed to restock them.

Candy bars, snacks, and other treats were delivered to the veterans’ home by the American Legion.

“It really does bring tears to the eye almost of how much people think about our residents, think about our veterans,” Aimee Deimerly-Snyder, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Iowa Veterans Home, told WHO-TV. “And it really does make a difference knowing people are thinking about them.”

In Missouri, 91-year-old Rita Jordan, who served as a U.S. Navy interpreter and parachute rigger, got a chance to meet with fellow members of Women Veterans of SW Missouri American Legion Post 1214 in Springfield after being in isolation for two months.

“Post 1214 charter members Mary Clapper and Chaplain Jan Lile presented her with a Quilt of Valor made by the Ozark Piecemakers Quilt Guild,” the American Legion article reported.

In New York, after a 32-day stay in the hospital, American Legion Rider Ron Jarvis was greeted as he left the hospital by nearly a dozen fellow Riders from ALR Chapter 574 in Hudson Falls, which escorted him home.

“It was amazing,” Jarvis told the Post-Star. “It made me proud of being a vet.”

Post 915’s America Legion Family found out about a food program shortage in the Central Square Central School District in New York, which feeds around 1,600 children who qualify for free or reduced meals, according to the American Legion post.

Post 915 Legion Family presented CSCSD Superintendent Tom Colabufo with a $2,500 check to stock the school food pantry.

American Legion Post 10 in Albany, Oregon, teamed up with the veteran-owned Dot Ranch and the Veterans Pantry Project to provide food boxes to local veterans and their families.

American Legion Post 952 in Hookstown, Pennsylvania, “has been providing homemade meals and food baskets for veterans and elderly residents in the community since the beginning of this pandemic.”

“When Deborah Tokarz was looking for a kitchen to prepare meals for local medical workers through her ‘Feed Our First Responders’ program, she turned to Major Charles A. Ransom American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian,” the American Legion reported. “The post offered up its kitchen, and its American Legion Family members have begun helping Tokarz prepare the meals being distributed to area hospitals and emergency rooms.”

“They’ve been so kind and generous,” Tokarz told the Chesterfield Observer. “If it wasn’t for their generosity, I’m not sure how we would have done this. “Everyone has a hand in it.”

In the past seven weeks, the nonprofit has provided more than 19,000 individually packaged homemade meals to various healthcare facilities.

“We figured that was the least we could do for the folks who are putting themselves on the frontline,” Post 186 Quartermaster Richard Hahn told the Observer. “I always tell people, the pledge we took never expires. We find a way, somehow.”

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