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More Than a Canteen

The American Legion Offers Camaraderie and Service to the Community

Many people might be aware of the American Legion, but in a sea of other government organizations and fraternal orders, not everyone is as familiar with what differentiates the Legion from other establishments. 

The American Legion is the largest veteran's organization in the United States with more than 3 million members. The national organization was chartered by Congress in 1919, and Joe Barr Post 194 of Mason followed in 1944. 

You can join the American Legion if you served federal active duty in the United States Armed Forces since Dec. 7, 1941, and received an honorable discharge or are still serving. Further associated programs are offered under the umbrella of the American Legion to descendants of veterans, including the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary. 

The American Legion operates under four fundamental pillars: Veteran’s Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth. Post 194 is heavily involved with fundraising and service events with many Mason organizations. It has worked to benefit TOPSoccer, Mason Touchdown Club, Common Ground Playground at Makino Park, Comet Cupboard, Music in Mason, Red Rhythm and Boom and more. 

“On some level, we all share a desire to serve. I think that is a bedrock principle for the Legion, but for many of us, it’s just in our DNA,” says David Charpentier, commander of Post 194.

On the second Saturday of every month, Post 194 hosts an $8 all-you-can-eat breakfast where half of the proceeds go to charity. 

Post 194's biggest current project is the renovation of a nearby building to create duplex housing for veterans in need. The members are completing renovations themselves and hope to be able to serve veterans in 2020. 

We sat down with representatives of Post 194 to shed light on who the American Legion is and what it does for our community. 

Don Wolfe

American Legion involvement: Member

Military background: Army Air Corps/Air Force 

Don Wolfe joined the Army Air Corps in 1946 and was transferred to the Air Force shortly after. He served until 1948 when he became an officer in the ROTC program at Miami University. This led to a career in the aviation wing of General Electric until he retired in 1995. 

Don joined the American Legion after returning from service. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Post 194 became a major focal point for community events. Many of Don’s treasured family memories took place there, including his son Steve’s wedding reception. 

As the oldest member of the post, Don offers a rare glimpse into the history of the organization. He is the only member who actually knew founder Joe Barr, whom he served with and was his neighbor. 

”He was older than I was, but he sort of looked after me when I was a kid,” Don says.

In addition, Don’s great-grandfather was William Mason, the original founder and namesake for the city of Mason, Ohio. 

Why He Joined the American Legion

Overall, Don has been glad to have a place to make friends and share stories. 

“It’s a relief to guys who have been in the service to have a place where they can get together and have a good time,” he says.

Bob Johnson 

American Legion involvement: Sergeant-at-Arms

Military background: U.S. Army

Bob Johnson was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968 and served for eight years. After being released from service, he began a 30-year career in law enforcement. After joining other national military organizations, Bob decided he wanted to join a group that met locally. This led him to join the American Legion in 2014. Since then, Bob was elected to be the sergeant-at-arms, providing military honors at veteran funerals. 

Why He Joined the American Legion

Bob appreciates the connections he’s made through the Legion.

“The Legion gives me a sense of belonging by identifying with former military members,” he says. “It also gives me a good feeling to be recognized within the community. Not only do they recognize the color guard as a unit but it brings recognition to the post as well.”

James “Spy” Reilly 

American Legion involvement: Adjutant (Secretary and Rules Advocate)

Military background: U.S. Navy

James Reilly joined the U.S. Navy in August 1966 and served until August 1970. He earned the nickname “Spy” for his time serving as a Naval Intelligence Officer. 

After being discharged, James utilized the G.I. Bill to attend college, which led to a job with AT&T. He joined the American Legion in 2007 and took on the role of adjutant two years later. James is also the president of Rolling Thunder Ohio Chapter 9, an advocacy group that seeks accountability for prisoners of war and missing in action service members of all U.S. wars. 

Why He Joined the American Legion 

James joined the Legion because of their community outreach.

“We do a heck of a lot more than what goes on in the canteen,” he says. “We’re out in the community.”

James says that helping others is his favorite part about being in the Legion.

“If you do things for people, it makes you feel good too. You get as much out of this as you put into it.” 

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