American Legion, DAVID P. HARRIS POST 138

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American Legion, DAVID P. HARRIS POST 138 - 1924

Richland, Virginia

David Paul Harris, patriot, lived with us in those days before the war. He attended our small town dances and gossiped with us at our corner drug store. War was declared and the boy enlisted. He went to France and volunteered as runner in the 316th Machine Gun Battalion, Seventy-ninth Division. On the night of September 29, 1918, he was cut off from his company. One moment he was a living loving mortal, and then a mass of tattered flesh and bone.

Today he sleeps in Romaigne. Today a solitary bugler blows taps over his grave, today the Stars and Stripes dip in salute to him, so it is fitting that we ex-service men forming a Legion to perpetuate that spirit of '17 and '18 should blow reveille for David P. Harris and build a living monument to the spirit of that boy, who paid for us our debt to freedom.

The David P. Harris Post was first organized in 1920, July 4th, with a charter membership of fifteen, and with Charles B. Rosseau as commander and W. Grant Lowe, adjutant. The Post did not increase its membership in 1920. The second year Mr. Rossean was again elected as commander and J. D. Hyatt as adjutant. During this year monetary aid was given to several ex-service men who were in need of aid, and the membership was increased to twenty-seven or twenty-eight.

During the year 1922 most of the ex-service men were out of town and the Post did not function actively, however, some of the members affiliated with other Posts.

On the night of January 6, 1923, a dozen ex-service men gathered in the library of the community house and took a solemn oath. This oath:

"We dedicate twenty-five per cent of our waking hours to the American Legion." A meeting was called for the following Tuesday and a new organization created with a membership of twelve. Dr. A. Del Castillo was elected commander and John D. Hyatt adjutant. The immediate objective was to increase membership; our success was measured when the end of the year found one hundred and eleven memhers. The Post funds were available at all times to needy ex-service men, and in the very beginning we learned a very valuable lesson: that human pity should be assuaged with discretion. We were touched by a man for a loan of five dollars and a ticket to some point in Kentucky. About ten days later we received the following note:

"Dear Mr. American Legion:
"Thanks for the five bucks and the handout, it makes me almost wish that I was really a veteran.

"Yours truly,
JOHN DOE."

Later in the year we bought a lot, 50 by 125, and started the construction of our home. The completed building cost about $3,500.00. The expense of construction was borne entirely by members of the Post.

The year 1924 finds us with less members but by far more spirit. We elected Dr. J. G. Repass a real live wire as commander, R. O. Morgan, vice-commander; J. J. Hill, adjutant; R. G. Flanary, finance officer; W. Grant Lowe, service officer; George Simms, sergeant-at-arms. This year the Post has accomplished considerable with very little aid from the public. We have built a quarter of mile macadam road from the main highway to the town cemetery; this road before was impassible to traffic; decorated three quarters mile of streets and intersecting streets on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July with flags and bunting. On Memorial Day we decorated all the graves of ex-service men buried in this district and visited in a body the Sidney Collins Post at the county seat, Tazewell, Va. On flag day we showed proper observance to the flag and a public demonstration. Flowers and gifts have been sent to members and former members of the Post who have been hospitalized. Financial aid has been accorded several unfortunate ex-service men. On February 20, 1924, Dr. John M. Ratliff was given a military burial.

Our sources of revenue have been several. A public skating rink was established during the winter in the shell hole. An up-to-date swimming pool was opened to the public on June 22nd, and supervised by the Post. Our monthly dances have become an institution. Plans have been made for the erection of a sixty-foot flag staff to be cared for by the Boy Scouts. We plan to build a well equipped playground for the children and turn it over to the Auxiliary for its operation.

Nine members of the Post attended the district convention at Bristol and were initiated into the myseries of the 40 and 8. After securing a charter in March, the Tazewell County Voiture 680 has initiated twenty-five new members. Fifteen P. G.'s are now waiting on the threshold for the initial plunge into the dusky mysteries of the 40 and 8. This local claims an unique distinction of being the only one west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

In point of numbers the David P. Harris Post is small, but in point of ambition it is large. Our failures have been several but they have been failures of the hand and not the heart. Our ambitions for the future may be summed up in this wish. We hope that our policy of living may be placed before our fellow-towns people in such a manner that when a question of public improvement comes up for consideration the people say, "Let the Legion do it."