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They are a band of brothers, there for each other and the community.
Sitting in their lounge, the American Legion members make small talk, discussing their history, good times and the wartime experiences they share.
And the men say they spend their time together as a way to help each other and commemorate the memory of fallen soldiers.
Members of Edwards-O’Banion American Legion Post 82 in Campbellsville will have something else to celebrate this year.
Chartered in 1928, the post will have its 85th birthday this year.
Robert Bryant, membership chair, says the American Legion was founded in 1919 for active duty World War I soldiers.
The local legion was chartered on June 27, 1928, with its founding 15 members from Taylor County.
The group today stands at about 145 strong, with a goal of adding 40 more members to its roster.
Bryant, who also serves as senior vice commander for the state, says the American Legion was formed on four principles, including defense, veterans, youth and patriotism.
And legion members spend their time together supporting those principles, from raising money to help fellow veterans to creating college scholarships for youth.
Bryant says the legion is open to any veteran who received an honorable discharge and served during specific wartime dates.
“We’re open to all military,” he said.
Bryant said the legion was started by a group of veterans who saw their brothers and sisters in combat needed support.
Legion Commander Phil Davis agrees.
“I’d say the American Legion was founded to help the veterans, to keep the brotherhood alive,” he said. “To support the community and support families.”
And for the wives, daughters and granddaughters of soldiers, Bryant said, an auxiliary group welcomes them.
“They are the main support and the backbone of the American Legion,” he said.
There is also a Sons of American Legion group.
“Really, you’ve got three families,” Davis said.
Davis said an American Legion Riders group was recently formed for those who ride motorcycles.
There aren’t enough local members to charter a group yet, so members belong to a group in another town.
Legion members have sponsored many fundraisers and programs in Taylor County, from food basket drives to toy drives to creating scholarships and participating in military ceremonies and honor guards for various celebrations.
The Patriot Guard Riders of Kentucky offer protection for family members of deceased soldiers at funerals and provide escorts to cemeteries.
The state American Legion baseball tournament will be hosted by Campbellsville University this year, Bryant said, on July 30 through Aug. 3.
Greg Collins, second vice commander, says the legion also visits veterans in nursing homes.
The group also supports the Marion County Honor Guard and Wreaths Across America to place wreaths on soldiers’ graves.
“People will look at us as a veterans organization surveying the needs of the veteran ... and other agencies,” Collins said. “We’re there for veterans and there for the community in any way that we can assist.”
And the legion doesn’t ask for recognition for what it does, Collins said.
“But we try to work for our veterans.”
“In a silent way,” Mike Dishman, first vice chair, said.
Bryant says legion members are now focused on making the legion’s 85th birthday celebration a success.
Events are still in the planning stages, Bryant said, and a committee has been formed to make sure the milestone goes out with a bang.
“We want to make this very special,” he said.
That is especially true for those like Bryant who say they have dedicated their lives to the legion.
“It’s my life,” Bryant said. “We’re caretakers of this agency.”
The legion’s birthday celebration will likely take place around July 4. Legion members participate in the community Fourth of July parade, Bryant said, and hope to have a special presence this year.
American Legions operate on membership fees and charitable donations. Banquet hall rentals earn some additional revenue. All proceeds collected go to charity, Bryant said, after administration fees are paid.
“That’s money to give away,” Davis said. “That’s what we do.”
Celebrating an 85th birthday is an important milestone, Bryant said. When the American Legion was begun in 1919, he said its founders likely didn’t think the group would still be around even 50 years later. The fact that the organization is still strong after nearly nine decades, he said, is cause for celebration.
And the organization has kept going all these years, Bryant said, because there are still people around who care about it.
“I think it says something good about people,” he said. “Someone keeps coming along.”
And though the legion’s membership totals nearly 150, Davis said it’s hard to get new members today and keep the current ones active.
“And that’s the thing, to get them active,” he said.
Those interested only need to bring their discharge papers and the dates they served to become a member.
“We are the world’s largest veteran organization,” Bryant said. “But we need more.”
He said there are about 24,000 veterans in Kentucky who belong to an American Legion group.
Nationwide, there are about two million.
Bryant says he hopes the legion celebrates many more milestones.
“I’m a big dreamer,” he said.
“I hope it gets stronger,” Davis said. “I love it.”
Collins says people might not understand what veterans have gone through.
“We have to have those other veterans help other veterans in the community,” he said. “Whatever they need.”
Bryant says he wants all military personnel to know that the legion supports them.
“We’ve sent them care packages. We see them off when they’re deployed. We greet them when they return.”