By Valerie Shelton, Editor
With Memorial Day in mind, Alan Fry, the commander of American Legion Post 147 in Clovis gave members of the East Fresno Rotary a history lesson about the legion at a luncheon on May 25.
Before detailing the efforts of the Clovis post specifically, Fry spoke of the Roosevelt family behind the American Legion’s creation.
According to Fry’s research, there are six Teddy Roosevelt’s’ that make up a legacy of military service, starting with president Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., who served in the Spanish-American War and received a congressional medal of honor. His son, also Teddy Roosevelt Jr. (he changed it from third to Jr.) was the founding father of the American Legion and he served as a lieutenant colonel with the American expeditionary forces in Europe during World War I and later in World War II, where he led the invasion of Utah Beach, the invasion of Normandy, and also received a congressional medal of honor. His son (Teddy Roosevelt the third) was a Navy pilot in World War II. Teddy Roosevelt the fourth served in Vietnam as a Navy seal.
Since the legion’s creation by Teddy Roosevelt Jr. during World War I, Fry said the American Legion has expanded to have 55 department levels at the state level, many districts and numerous posts. There are 110-125 members in the Clovis post alone. While the Clovis post has had its ups and downs over the years, Fry says the post is very active.
“Our building was built in 1923 and we lost it at one point during the depression and we were able to buy it back and we meet there regularly and are in the process of remodeling it right now,” Fry said. “We’re named after Cecil Cox, the first Clovis resident killed in World War I.”
Some of the activities conducted by American Legion Post 147 include hosting the Memorial Day service at the Clovis Cemetery, hosting the Memorial Day golf tournament and doing concessions at the Clovis Rodeo.
“We are instrumental in the Clovis Rodeo and we have the longest affiliation with the rodeo, going back to 1919-1920 when it was the Women’s Club of Clovis that was doing it and it was more a horse show and they asked us to co-sponsor it and we did,” Fry said.
The American Legion in Clovis also partners with the Clovis Chamber of Commerce for Big Hat Days and ClovisFest, serving breakfast and lunch at the post building to raise money for veterans.
The American Legion is also heavily involved with youth in the community.
“We have the youth leadership camp up in Tahoe and we send them up there to educate them in environmental education,” Fry said. “We have an oratorical contest every year and this year, our speaker made it all the way to nationals. They have to speak on the citizen’s responsibility to the constitution and then there are a few other things they have to talk about but it is a surprise for them. The American Legion is also one of the biggest sponsors of the Boy Scouts. We have troop 147, troop 211 and sea scouts.”
Other youth-oriented activities include American Legion baseball, which involves 85,000 kids nationwide, and Boys State, where 1,100 kids are sent to Sacramento annually and convene for a week at Sacramento State where they are educated in how to form a government. Two students from Boys State go on to Boys Nation in Washington D.C. The women’s auxiliary also has a Girls State and Girls Nation.
“We’re big on youth, we’re big on citizenship, we’re big on training youngsters,” Fry said. “Our big thing is community service.”