MIDLOTHIAN — The American Legion “Chris Kyle” Post 388 has seen a boom in membership, surpassing its goal by 500 percent for 2013.
Commander George Collins said the post ended its 2013 fiscal year in August and had a total of 85 members, 500 percent above the goal of just meeting the minimum of 15 members to reform and keep its charter.
In the first month of its 2014 fiscal year, the post has added 15 new members and though renewals are trickling in, Collins and Vice President C.J. Perry have a strong feeling that the post will have more than 100 members total by June 1. This will mark the most members Post 388 has had since before 1981.
Part of the post’s growth has included the establishment of a American Legion riders group with about 11 or more members. Collins said these men and women are all Christian Motorcycle Association members and ride motorcycles as a way to fellowship with each other and non-legionnaires.
With an influx of new members, the post elected and installed officers in August as follows: Commander/Adjunct George Collins, First Vice Commander C.J. Perry, Second Vice Commander John Strange, Finance/Treasurer James Schico, Chaplain Lee Conyers, Serivec Office Dr. Matthew Manis, Sergeant at Arms Ronnie Henthorn. Historian and Staff Judge Advocate positions remained vacant.
The men attribute their success to the memory of Chris Kyle and their strong membership drive.
“We sat out at Walmart every day with Chris Kyle’s picture and told people about what the American Legion is,” Collins said. “The memory of Chris Kyle is still fresh and that’s why we named the post after him, to not let the memory of him fade away. The response has always been there, it’s just that people didn’t know that the American Legion still existed in Midlothian.”
One of the obstacles in the post’s way of growing exponentially and establishing a strong presence in Midlothian and the county is the lack of a dedicated, physical meeting place, both men agreed.
“I’m a firm believer that if we could get a small piece of land and a building, we could start up a museum that the kids could come see everything there,” Perry said. “And it would entice more vets to come to the meetings and be more active. The level of enrollment would go even higher.”
Collins noted that up until 1981, the post had its own building but sold it and he said the next year began the decline to the American Legion’s near demise in Midlothian.
“We would like to bring all of the war artifacts and things back to the children to not only serve an educational means, but to serve as a tribute and as a way to continue to capture history for our city,” Collins said.
He said the post, which is a nonprofit organization, is looking for a landowner to donate or provide two acres of land at a major discount to the post for the future “Chris Kyle Veterans Service Center of Midlothian.” Plans for the service center not only include a museum and meeting area, but also a clinic out of which Dr. Manis will provide medical care and psychiatric assessments for all veterans. The post asks that anyone interested in aiding its endeavor contact the post through its website at www.AOLPost388.com.
Another endeavor the post has chosen to pursue is to provide a shuttle service for veterans to reach their doctor appointments at the Dallas VA Medical Center. The post is currently seeking a vehicle to be donated by a dealership. Post 388 leaders met with leaders of the Ennis and Waxahachie AL posts and determined that this is a needed service that the Midlothian post could provide for area veterans.
As the posts’ membership continues to grow steadily, Collins and others are seeking to re-establish the Post Auxiliary’s (wives of Legion members) charter, which was returned to state headquarters in 2009 due to lack of participation. George’s wife, Susan Collins, needs a minimum of 10 members to request the charter back, but is hoping for 20 women to take an active role in supporting the post. Susan asked that any former members or just “fun-loving ladies” contact her by emailing email@example.com to join.
George also said he would like to start up a Sons of the Legion, which includes sons and daughters of veterans. He is seeking a strong, young leader to head the organization. He can be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org as well.
Follow Aaron on Facebook at Facebook.com/AaronSchwadererWDL and on Twitter at Twitter.com/AaronSchwaderer. Contact him at 469-517-1456 or email@example.com.