The incoming post commander for Statesboro’s American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 has a handful of ideas to help the organization grow.
Lonnie Ellis, a 45-year-old Bulloch County native, will be sworn in as the new post commander Thursday. The 22-year member of the American Legion has also served as the junior vice commander for the First District of Georgia.
As commander, Ellis hopes to encourage younger veterans to join the group, and wants to work towards finding a location where American Legion members, as well as members of Veterans of Foreign Wars (of which he is also a member) and other veteran groups and services could be in close proximity as a “one stop shop” where ideas, fellowship and services could be shared.
“I want to help build membership,” he said. “Bulloch County has a population of 4,000 veterans eligible to join and another 2,000 at Georgia Southern University.”
However, there are only about 266 members in the local chapter of the American Legion, he said. ”That’s woefully short of what we should have.”
Most of the members are older veterans, but Ellis feels veterans of more recent wars should join the Legion. However, “It’s hard to get the younger generation involved, because there is so much going on.”
The American Legion has been reputed to be just a place where older veterans go to drink, but that is not the case, Ellis said. The Legion was created as a place for war veterans to meet, share thoughts and experiences that only other veterans would understand, and to promote and preserve the awareness of sacrifices veterans made for their country, he said. “It’s not a drunken organization.”
Locally, the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 is involved with programs benefitting the Boy Scouts of America and the Boys’ State programs. Ellis says efforts are being made to reinstate the Legion’s National Oratorical Contest program. “We pride ourselves on the American Legion family values and need to implement that.” He also has ideas about starting an American Legion baseball program, he said.
The local post raises money with a weekly bingo session every Tuesday night at their building in Rucker Lane. Dues are $25 a year, and Ellis said there is a current promotion that offers a free fifth year of membership for those paying for four years at once.
Services the local post offer include placing flags on graves of veterans. This year, the flags come with a tag: “From the American Legion Post 90 and a grateful nation.” Also, wreaths are places on veteran’s graves as well, with local Boy Scout troops volunteering to visit the cemeteries and place the wreaths, he said.
The group also hosts two patriotic programs annually for Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, held in the Emma Kelly Theater at the Averitt Center for the Arts in downtown Statesboro.
Ellis, being a member of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, said competition between the two groups should cease. “We can work together,” he said. The American Legion is open to veterans “of any age, any war” regardless of whether the veteran fought overseas, while VFW members have to have served active duty at war. “I’d like to help establish other organizations to help all vets. I’d like to see (all organizations, including AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans) combine and form a Bulloch County Veteran’s Hall.” He said he is exploring possibilities and has a location in mind, but nothing has been set in motion yet.
Ellis has served as past commander of the Roanoke, Va. American Legion, as well as a past commander of the 17th District Department of Illinois American Legion. He joined the United States Marine Corp in 1989, immediately out of high school, and served until 2008. He then joined the United States Army, retiring in 2010 and was medically discharged in 2013. Ellis was deployed to Iraq during both stints in the military. After his discharge he moved back to his home town of Statesboro, where he achieved a BS degree in legal studies. He plans to attend law school in Savannah.
For more information about the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90, access Internet site https://www.facebook.com/DexterAllenPost90.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.