At the end of World War I, the veterans of the 42nd Rainbow Division, 1st Battalion, 166th Infantry signed a charter to establish the Raymond B. Austin American Legion Post 115 on Sept. 30, 1919.
Now, nearly a 100 years later, the Legionaries of Post 115 continue to serve and support the Delaware community.
“Since our charter in 1919, American Legion Post 115 has been welcoming veterans from all branches of our Armed Forces,” said David Hyatt, Raymond B. Austin Post 115, adjutant and finance officer. “Joining our post enables military veterans to continue to serve God, country and community. Our mission is to implement the goals, aspirations, dreams, peace, and blessings for our country, friends, and families embodied in the preamble of the Constitution.”
Hyatt said the American Legion is built on strengthening the nation through the four primary pillars of volunteerism to veterans, defense, youth and Americanism. He said the community is at the heart of the four pillars.
“We’re always talking about and looking for things to do in the community,” he said. “We put American flags in all of Hayes High School’s classrooms and in the other school buildings as well. Things like that are what we are chartered to do.”
However, Hyatt said many of the Legionaries of the Raymond B. Austin Post 115 are now in their late 60s, 70s, 80s and a couple in their 90s. He said without an infusion of new membership in the next few years, the legacy organization will have to close the doors.
“I’m 66 and they call me the kid,” he said. “We need to make changes because five years from now, we could be closing the doors. There just won’t be enough people to support the post.”
Hyatt said there is one 90 year old, World War I veteran who still comes to the meetings with two or three now inactive. He said in the last couple of years, 15-20 members have passed away.
“We have a very aging membership,” he said. “The Vietnam vets are also disappearing.”
Hyatt said the younger veterans are drawn to groups that tend to be more like-minded groups — The Mission Continues, Team Red, White and Blue, and Team Rubicon. He said the groups tend to see the legacy organizations as “old dingy places where old guys go to drink beer.”
“These groups are into running 5Ks or they find cleanup projects in communities,” he said. “Do we need a rebranding or remarketing? Yes! They aren’t coming to us, so let’s go to them. Let’s reach out to these groups, look at what they are doing, and sponsor them in it.”
Last year, Post 115 brought the traveling exhibit “The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial” to Delaware.
“That was a couple of months of high-speed hustling and organization getting things done,” he said. “Everybody felt that it came off successfully, and there was a good turnout.”
However, Hyatt said, the post has seen a little success as of late. He said they are getting calls from people with questions about holding memorial services or asking to rent the room for an event or they are asking about upcoming events at the post.
“We have groups that come in to play cards,” he said. “We have groups that come in for the Thursday night dinners that we put on cheap or for lunch.”
Hyatt said the lunch is open to the public every day, and there is a pancake breakfast on Saturdays.
“We do have a regular crowd that comes in that aren’t members,” he said. “We have a fish fry every third Friday of the month open to the public.”
In the future, Hyatt said the Legionaries are looking into sponsoring sports teams, holding a blood drive, and maybe even starting a Yoga class.
“We’re breaking new ground in some respects,” he said. “I was reading an article where Yoga is beneficial in so many ways for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It will help with attracting the younger crowd also.”
The American Legion Raymond B. Austin Post 115 is located at 485 Park Ave., Delaware.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.