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American Legion, ROCKINGHAM POST NO. 27 — 1924

Harrisonburg, Virginia

American Legion, 1924

On September 4, 1919, a charter was granted by National Headquarters of the American Legion for the forming of Rockingham Post No. 27 at Harrisonburg, Va. Those named as applicants for the charter were: John Paul, William B. Yancey, Robert G. Yancey, James Warren, John H. Byrd, William H. Byrd, Ralph D. Taliaferro, George W. Taliaferro, Forest E. Peters, E. B. Friddle, A. R. Myers, R. B. Miller, John R. Logan, Jr., J. S. Gladwell and Kent Taliaferro.

On receipt of the charter an effort was made to enroll members, and a call was sent throughout Rockingham County for all former service men and women to meet at Assembly Hall, Harrisonburg, on September 20, 1919. A large number responded, and after John Paul had read the Legion Constitution and explained the objects of the organization, 104 members were enrolled.

The first officers of Rockingham Post were elected at this meeting as follows: Commander, W. B. Yancey; vice-commander, C. A. Baugher ; adjutant, Joseph E. Shank; finance officer, R. P. Keezell; historian, James L. Fitzsimmons; chaplain, Rev. Dr. B. F. Wilson. The management of the Post was vested in an executive committee, composed of the six officers of the Post and a member from each of the five magisterial districts in the county, and one from Harrisonburg. The following men composed the first executive committee: William G. Myers (chairman), C. Lee Hawkins, Harry Bull, Allen S. Harvey, William O’Brien and J. Owen Beard.

At a meeting of the executive committee on December 9, 1919, it was decided to hold an annual banquet or a special entertainment of some nature at the beginning of each year in which the whole membership of the Post could participate. This feature has been followed out each year and has proven a splendid means of bringing the whole membership of the Post together at least once a year.

Commander William B. Yancey resigned in July, 1920, to accept a commission in the Army, and William G. Myers was elected to fill the unexpired term. A little later Adjutant Shank left the city to enter business in another locality and F. W. Coffman was appointed to do the secretary’s work for the balance of the year. These two officers have since been reelected each year.

The first objective of the Post was the erection of a permanent memorial to the men of Rockingham who had died in service in 1917 and 1918. The plan first took form in a resolution submitted by E. L. Fletcher at a meeting of the Post on March 6, 1920. The commander appointed a committee composed of Mr. Fletcher, Charles Chandler and J. Owen Beard, to form some plan and report later. Although many plans were submitted, nothing definite was undertaken until two years later. At a regular meeting of the Post, August 8, 1922, Commander Myers announced the gift to the Legion by John T. Harris of a desirable plot of ground in a most prominent section of Harrisonburg for the erection of a suitable memorial.

On approval by the Post, the commander named the following committee to formulate plans for the memorial: Chairman Samuel J. Prichard, Chas. H. Chandler, F. W. Coffman, E. L. Fletcher, Walter Flick, O. T. Harpine, R. P. Keezell, W. G. Myers, John Paul, P. W. Rinker, Haller Vaughn, Frank Whitesel and Clarence A. Baugber. These men were empowered to raise enough funds, select the design and have entire charge of all details connected with the erection of the memorial.

After nearly a year’s effort, the committee and members of the Post were able to raise $8,000 for the Memorial Fund. Charles Keck, a famous New York sculptor, was then requested to submit designs. Mr. Keck met with the committee and a selection was made. The Post’s principal objective was finally reached when the beautiful statue in bronze and granite was unveiled with appropriate and impressive ceremonies on July 4, 1924.

A charter for the forming of a Ladies’ Auxiliary was granted October 22, 1920, and the following ladies enrolled as charter members: Mrs. Joseph G. Myers, Mrs. William G. Myers, Miss Delucia S. Fletcher, Mrs. H. N. Whitesel, Miss Mary L. Wiener, Miss Anne Wiener, Mrs. J. R. Bowman and Mrs. Andrew Bell. The Auxiliary has been always ready to help the Post, and has rendered invaluable service in many ways. It now has a membership of fifty members, and is steadily growing.

Since its inception, Rockingham Post has ever been ready to help the ex-service man regardless of his affiliation with the Legion or not. Hundreds of disability claim shave been handled and adjusted. During the unemployment period of 1920 and 1921, practically all the Post’s funds were expended in relief of destitute soldiers who came through Harrisonburg. Likewise, employment was found for some. During the first ten days following receipt of the Adjusted Compensation blanks, three hundred applications were placed in the hands of former Rockingham soldiers, and five hundred more advised of their availability by personal letters.

The Post has also taken an active interest in community betterment. In August, 1921, a large American flag was presented to Camp Shenandoah, a boys’ camp sponsored by the Rotary Club. During the same month, the Post maintained five poor but deserving boys at the camp for a two weeks’ period.

At Christmas time gift boxes have been sent to Rockingham soldiers in hospitals, and greeting cards to the next of kin of Rockingham’s soldier dead. Bronze Legion markers have been placed on every veteran’s grave in Rockingham and Harrisonburg, and flags and flowers are placed on each grave every Memorial Day. The Post has also buried with military honors the body of every Rockingham soldier that has been returned for burial since the war. The Post gave $35 to the Legion Endowment Fund for the decoration of overseas graves.

In May, 1923, a track meet of the Shenandoah Valley High Schools was held in Harrisonburg under the auspices of Rockingham Post, at which time a silver loving cup was given by the Post to the school scoring the highest points, and a bronze medal to the individual scoring the highest individual record.

Rockingham Post is now backing a movement for the organization of a National Guard unit in Harrisonburg; favors the enforcement of the compulsory school law, and plans to send Legion speakers to all schools in the city and county after the opening of school to lecture on the history of and courtesy due the American flag.

Present officers of the Post are: Commander, William G. Myers; vicecommander, Frank Whitesel ; finance officer, Otis T. Harpine ; adjutant, F. Wilmer Coffman; ; chaplain, J. W. Witherspoon; historian, Raymond C. Dingledine ; sergeant-at-arms, D. Benton Noll; vicesergeant-at-arms, Oliver Kiser; welfare officer, Arthur Myers; service officer, Leroy Loewner.

Seventh District Committeeman C. Lee Hawkins. Executive committee: E. L. Fletcher (chairman), Haller Vaughn, P. W. Rinker, J. Walton Harrison, Clarence A. Baugher and R. P. Keezel.