The West Liberty American Legion Mansell L. Phillips Post 509 stands a few blocks off the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, also known as Highway 6.
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization of Union soldiers of the Civil War. The organization died with its last surviving member in the 1950s. Highway 6 runs the length of United States and offers a memorial to the Union soldiers of the Civil War.
The Civil War is long past, but it can be easy to forget that we are right now a country at war. Within the last two months two Iowa service members were killed in Afghanistan. While the patriotic spirit waxes and wanes, military veterans, their families and communities are invested in remembering and moving forward.
The American Legion is an organization composed of these veterans and their families.
The national American Legion explains on their website that “the American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives.”
In West Liberty, Legion Post 509 serves the community through sponsoring several organizations and by offering a visual reminder of current and past wars. The Legion is behind the avenue of flags and the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.
The service is mutual. Legionnaires of Post 509 raised several thousand dollars in donations for the All Veterans memorial alongside Highway 6. “We got excellent support from our community,” Alt said.
George Alt, commander of Post 509, said several people approached him after the emergency meeting.
“I’ve had a lot of comments from the town: ‘The American Legion cannot leave West Liberty.’” He said. “The community wants us here.”
Post 509 sponsors the Boy Scouts, whose headquarters is an upstairs room in the American Legion building. Along with the American Legion Auxiliary, they sponsor Boys State and Girls State, selective programs to teach high school juniors about government, from the local level to the state level. Community events include a golf tournament, flag disposal during Flag Day and fish fries.
Alt said fish fries have been suspended recently. He explained that they just didn’t have the help.
Dues for the West Liberty Legion are $35. Alt said the local Post gets about $4 of each membership fee. According to the American Legion website (legion.org), eligibility for membership is current active duty, or honorable service during a time of war. These dates are as follows:
-Aug. 2, 1990 to today (Gulf War / War On Terrorism)
-Dec. 20, 1989 to Jan. 31, 1990 (Panama)
-Aug. 24, 1982 to July 31, 1984 (Lebanon / Grenada)
-Feb. 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975 (Vietnam War)
-June 25, 1950 to Jan. 31, 1955 (Korean War)
-Dec. 7, 1941 to Dec. 31, 1946 (World War II)
-April 6, 1917 to Nov. 11, 1918 (World War I)
The markers along Highway 6 indicating its place as a Civil War memorial are easy to miss. Unless you squint at the memorial marker signs along the highway, or happen to zoom in on Google Maps to see the faint “Grand Army of the Republic Hwy” title, you might not be aware of the connection at all.
By their community service and presence in West Liberty The American Legion Post 509 offers West Liberty a vivid connection to our service members.
The future of the Legion, Pt 2Anna Anderson · Wednesday, July 30, 2014