Devotion to Local VeteransNov 01, 2015 ● By Wendi Cartwright
The American Legion is the nation’s largest and most powerful organization of U.S. wartime veterans and their families. Today, it counts 2.3 million members who operate through nearly 14,000 posts across the nation and beyond. The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans’ organization devoted to mutual helpfulness.
As the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, it is committed to mentoring youth, sponsoring wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security and promoting continued devotion to fellow service members and veterans. That means, for 96 years, qualified men and women in American Legion posts in cities and towns across the nation have been providing support and education to citizens of all ages.
To become a member of the American Legion, participants must currently serve in one of the military branches (the Army, the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force the Merchant Marines or the Coast Guard), possess an honorable discharge, be retired from active duty military service or be in any of the wartime eras defined by Congress (World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada or the Gulf War (August 1990 to date)).
The American Legion Post in Frisco was formed in January 2014. The official name of the Frisco Post is “American Legion, Corporal Peter J. Courcy Post 178,” named in honor of Peter J. Courcy, a Frisco soldier who was killed in action in 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. In less than the two years it has been in existence, Post 178 has become the fastest growing in the state, if not the nation. At almost 200 members strong, both male and female veterans proudly serve Frisco’s expanding community.
As 1st Vice Commander of Post 178, one of Mike Strand’s top responsibilities is to grow membership. He and other membership committee members have the opportunity to speak with residents at community events such as Frisco Freedom Fest, Merry Main Street and others, and they are spreading the word about the key reason someone would want to join the Frisco Post: to be an active participant in supporting many programs serving veterans, youth and the community.
The American Legion’s services can be classified under the organization’s four pillars: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism and Children and Youth. While active in each pillar, the Frisco Post is especially proud of the work it does in Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation and Americanism. Their work directly impacts the citizens of our community. When considering joining Post 178, Mr. Strand said, “I thought the American Legion was a dark and smoky room filled with veterans talking about war stories. I did not want to do that. I was interested in giving something back to the veterans and kids in the community.” He found what he was looking for in the Corporal Peter J. Courcy American Legion Post 178.
In support of local veterans and families, visits to the Bonham Veterans Affairs Home for Veterans take place regularly. In addition to the great socializing that takes place, items they are in need of are taken along, too. They have also had a barbecue cookout, which was enjoyed by all. John Allen, Chaplain of Post 178, says, “Each time we visit the home, we always commit to going back for other visits because we get more out of it than we give.”
Earlier this year, Post 178 formed an American Legion Riders chapter for motorcycle riders. They actively participate in local motorcycle rides for charity and provide support at military funerals. The riders represented the Post at the Bikers Against Road Rage fundraiser, as well as the Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Run, honoring North Central Texas Gold Star Families and their loved ones who gave all. American Legion Riders also provide motorcycle escorts and security at services for fallen troops and veterans.
The Legion Honor and Color Guard fulfills a sacred duty by honoring veterans after their deaths by saluting their fallen comrades at funeral services every day throughout the country. They are also available to present colors at events, ceremonies and dedications.
The Frisco Post is extremely active with the youth of our community. Three of the main programs are Boys State, the Oratorical Scholarship Program and the School Awards Program.
Since the summer of 2014, Post 178 has sent 21 eleventh-grade boys to the Texas Boys State Program at the University of Texas at Austin. American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for high school students. At American Legion Boys State, participants are exposed to the rights, privileges, duties and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen. It helps youth gain an understanding of the structure and operation of the federal government. Sept. 1, 2015, was proclaimed by Mayor Maher Maso as Frisco Boys State Day to honor the 14 young men who represented Frisco exceptionally well during the 75th anniversary of American Legion Boys State in Austin this past June. Mayor Maso congratulated these young men on their “civic leadership and pride in American citizenship.”
The Oratorical Scholarship Program is a U.S. Constitution Oratorical Contest for high school students. Today, more than 3,400 high school students from around the country compete annually in the contest, which promotes a greater understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Winners receive thousands of dollars in college scholarships. On April 21, 2015, Rachel Jobin, a junior at Legacy Christian Academy, was recognized with a city proclamation by Mayor Maso and City Council for her efforts in representing the City of Frisco in the oratorical competition.
While Boys State and the Oratorical Scholarship Program are focused in the high schools, the School Awards Program is geared toward elementary and middle school. It includes Veterans and Memorial Day programs, along with programs that help educate Frisco’s youth on patriotism, Americanism, bravery, courage and proper flag etiquette.
Frisco also recently formed the American Legion Auxiliary, Peter J. Courcy Post 178, led by Phyllis Sutton, the organization’s president. A woman who is eligible for membership in the American Legion is also eligible to join the American Legion Auxiliary. Additionally, the mother, wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, great-granddaughter or grandmother of members of the American Legion and deceased veterans who honorably served in the U.S. Armed Forces during wartime eras as specified by Congress, are eligible for membership.
As the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, the American Legion Auxiliary has been serving, helping and meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military and their families, both here and abroad, for nearly a century.
One of the first activities for Frisco’s American Legion Auxiliary is organizing a local Girls State Program for Frisco’s eleventh-grade girls.
If you are interested in becoming a member, know someone who might be interested or you just want more information, please contact Mike Strand at [email protected] or call 214-912-3635. Additional information can be found at friscolegion.org. The group meets on the third Thursday of the month at the Frisco Senior Center. Meetings are open to the public.