American Legion leading rebirth of its Columbiana post

At one point, membership in the Columbiana Shirley-Holloway Post 131 of the American Legion dwindled to only two members.

However, because of attention from the American Legion and 23rd District Second Division Commander Steve McAnally, the Columbiana Post is well on its way to a rebirth.

The American Legion Columbiana Post 131 will host a dinner on Friday, April 30, at the Alabama 4H Center, 892 4-H Road, Columbiana, to celebrate its rejuvenation, said McAnally, who leads the American Legion as district commander for Chilton, Tallladega, Coosa, Bibb and Shelby counties.

“Shelby County has lots of veterans, but we haven’t done a very good job in the past of convincing them of the benefits of American Legion membership, “ he said.

The April 30 dinner is free of charge. Veterans living in the Chelsea, Columbiana, Shelby, Westover and Wilsonville areas, who are interested in learning more about Legion membership, and their spouses are invited to attend. The American Legion state commander, division commanders and other American Legion dignitaries will be guests of honor at the dinner.

Membership in the American Legion offers a variety of benefits and opportunities to participate, McAnally said.

“You get a magazine every month, and that’s probably the least important benefit from Legion membership,” he said. “The biggest benefit is the help members receive in dealing with issues with the Veterans Administration and the like.”

Nationally, the American Legion has more than 3 million members.

“We have a full-time officer who does nothing but chase the legislation and politics. When the national commander of the American Legion speaks, the president listens,” McNally said.

He said some people may not know that the American Legion wrote the original GI Bill.

Individual American Legion posts also participate in a number of activities that benefit their communities.

“We have lots of good youth programs, like the annual oratorical contest. Its first place award is an $18,000 scholarship,” McAnally said. “This year, a young lady from Alabama took second place in nationals.”

American Legion also sponsors Boys and Girls State on the state and national level. Boys and Girls State is a conference during which high school-age youth learn about the processes of democracy.

McAnally participates in the American Legion Riders, which is a group of Legion members who ride motorcycles.

“Every year, American Legion Riders come from across the country to the national convention, bringing with them the money they have raised during the year for the children whose parents have been killed in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Last year, we raised over $900,000,” he said.

McAnally said the April 30 dinner will be used as a springboard to further recruitment of members for the Columbiana Post.

“We are going to participate in the Liberty Day Parade and hope to be involved in lots of community events and activities in Columbiana between now and Labor Day,” he said.

Veterans of World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War or the War on Terror are eligible for American Legion membership, McAnally said.

Any member of the National Guard or reserves who served one day on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, is also eligible for American Legion membership.

RSVP for the dinner is required by calling 755-5886 or by emailing AlaALDist23@yahoo.com. The night’s menu will include roasted turkey breast with gravy, honey baked ham, potato salad, green beans, cole slaw, dinner rolls, coffee and iced tea. Dress is casual. No alcoholic beverages or tobacco use is allowed.

“The 4-H Center has an outstanding facility that provides a plesant view of Lay Lake while we enjoy dinner,” McAnally said.