American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 celebrated the Legion’s 98th birthday with appreciation awards, a cake and guest speakers on the Georgia Southern University Museum’s new World War I exhibit and Statesboro’s Blue Mile project.
Sixty or more people attended the banquet Thursday night at the Legion hall on Rucker Lane. The birthday cake was for the 98th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion nationally. Congress chartered the military veterans’ organization as a corporation in September 1919. Statesboro’s Post 90 was later named in memory of Pvt. Dexter Allen, the first soldier from Bulloch County killed in action in World War I.
Charles R. “Charlie” Williams received a framed certificate marking his 70 years thus far as an American Legion member in good standing from Post 90 Senior Vice Commander Dan Foglio. Williams, now 97, served as a sergeant in the U.S. Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton in World War II, including during the Battle of the Bulge.
The certificate, signed by the organization’s national commander, cites Williams for “faithful and dedicated allegiance to the ideals of the American Legion” and outstanding contributions to its programs. Williams served as Post 90 commander at two different intervals and most recently served as post chaplain for about 15 years before retiring from that role in 2016.
“I really didn’t know all these things about myself. I just found out a lot,” Williams quipped after Foglio read the commendation.
Foglio led Thursday’s celebration ceremony in the absence of Post 90 Commander Charles “Skip” Campbell, who is recovering from surgery.
Post officials also announced appreciation awards recognizing two funeral homes for outstanding support of “American Legion Post 90 … and the veterans of Bulloch County.”
Post 90 Finance Officer Kell Long presented the award for Hodges-Moore Funeral Home to managing funeral director Greg Frost and funeral director and embalmer Darlene Harville, who is also president of the Post 90 American Legion Auxiliary.
Hodges-Moore and members of its staff, for the past three years, have provided flags and helped place them on veterans’ graves throughout Bulloch County, Long said.
Hodges-Moore has also provided transportation to Georgia Veterans Cemetery at Glennville for the Wreaths Across America ceremony and donates name tags for the Legion hall’s Post Everlasting plaques, which memorialize deceased members. The funeral home has sponsored several post banquets and the annual Veterans Military Ball.
Foglio announced and displayed a similar award for Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home. Joiner-Anderson has made annual contributions, totaling thousands of dollars, in support of the public Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances the post hosts each year at the Averitt Center for the Arts’ Emma Kelly Theater.
The American Legion has held these observances for 12 years, and Foglio has been lead organizer for 11.
“Yes, if it wasn’t for Mark Anderson and Tracy Joiner, none of us would be at the Averitt Center for these holidays,” Foglio said. “I want them to know that Post 90 thanks you, the veterans thank you, and most of all, me. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Dr. Brent Tharp, director of the Georgia Southern Museum, spoke briefly about its new exhibit, “The World’s War is Georgia’s War: 1917-1919.” Post 90 is a sponsor. Scheduled to remain up until Jan. 28, 2018, the exhibit is open during regular hours, Tuesday through Sunday, at the museum in the Rosenwald Building on Southern Drive.
Unlike an earlier, more general exhibit about the war that began in Europe in 1914, the current one focuses on Georgia’s role. Its recent debut precedes the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into the war in April 1917.
“Georgia had such a unique story. It had more bases than any other single state, so even if you weren’t a Georgian, you probably did a lot of your training here,” Tharp said. “It had two of four prisoner of war camps, so German sailors were held here, as well as civilian internees.”
Local people answered the museum’s public request with unique stories and artifacts, he said, thanking Legionnaires for their contributions. Graduate students in the GS history department did the research and curation, with help from art and theater department students in the design.
A portion of the exhibit will also be displayed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 2018, Tharp announced.
Bob Mikell, local attorney and Blue Mile Committee member, spoke about the Blue Mile plan for the revitalization of South Main Street.
With the redevelopment plan, Statesboro has advanced through the corporate-sponsored America’s Best Communities competition, which originally received more than 350 entries from communities with 50,000 people or less, to be one of eight finalists. Along the way, the community picked up a $50,000 prize as a quarterfinalist and $100,000 as a finalist to spend on the planning and projects.
Three winners are to be awarded prizes of $3 million for first place, $2 million for second and $1 million for third, with an announcement scheduled for April 19.
The Statesboro Herald will report more about the Blue Mile effort as the March 29 deadline for the committee to submit its final ABC competition progress report approaches.
Mikell also made a personal statement of gratitude to the Korean War veterans present, whom he asked to raise their hands.
“My mother is a South Korean immigrant, and she was born four years after that war ended, in a free, capitalistic society, thanks to veterans like you guys,” Mikell said. “So the American soldier has provided freedom for Americans like myself but also freedom-loving people all across the globe.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.