For the third year in a row, the River Falls American Legion has set an all-time high membership tally, with the Post 121 year-end roster officially showing 526 members.
Post Commander Larry Larson said there is a reason for that track record.
"While we value the common bond of military service, the growth we've experienced stems more from what we do than from what we did," he said. "Our members' commitment to service didn't stop with discharge from the military. It continues today with a focus on serving needy veterans and their families, serving youth, and supporting causes in the surrounding communities. In short, we are a post with a purpose. And that keeps our members of all ages involved."
Those ages represent a wide span of service experience. Roughly 15 percent served during World War II and/or Korea, 45 percent during Vietnam, another 15 percent during Lebanon, Granada and Panama hostilities and another 25 percent show recent service during the Persian Gulf conflicts.
"Those younger men and women, many who are attending UWRF, bring a special enthusiasm and vitality to our post activities," Larson said.
Some examples of those activities include the Post Honor Guard that provides recognition and comfort at veterans' funerals, in addition to presenting Colors at a variety of community events ranging from Memorial Day activities to local school programs to sporting events.
"Honor Guard members even accompanied Santa to deliver gifts to four needy veteran families this past Christmas," Larson said. The post also hosts several Red Cross blood drives each year, and provides funding for a wide range of outreach efforts. Last year that funding exceeded $27,000 and included more than $7,500 for needy veterans, over $2,000 in scholarships and more than $17,000 in support of various community programs.
Extensive remodeling over the past several years has resulted in a modern facility that not only better serves Legion needs, but also provides an attractive and affordable venue for local gatherings such as weddings and other private events.
Success of the local post has not gone unnoticed at the organization's higher levels. Larson was recently appointed to a seat on the Wisconsin Legion membership committee.
"An organization needs a purpose that goes beyond camaraderie, and we have one: To serve. While we do a lot, there is always more we can do - and always room to welcome more members," Larson said.
More information about Post 121 membership, programs, hall rental policies and more is available at www.americanlegionpost121.org or by calling 715-425-7362.