For 100 years, the American Legion has served as a place of solidarity, comfort and camaraderie for servicemen and women across the country. Denison’s American Legion, Fred W. Wilson-Sam Patillo Post 62 honored it’s parent organization’s centennial, and its impact on the lives of countless veterans, Saturday afternoon with a cookout and flag retirement ceremony.
“It is just amazing to have an organization last this long,” Legion Post Officer James “Lucky” Harlan said. “We’ve done a lot of good in that time, especially for the veterans.”
The American Legion was first organized as a veterans group following the end of World War I. The group was chartered and formed in the Paris Caucus by soldiers waiting to return to the U.S. on March 15, 1919 — the date the organization considers its birthday.
The post held its first flag retirement ceremony as a part of its celebrations. The group has held retirements for donated flags in the past, but these ceremonies were always done with other organizations, including the Boy Scouts, Post Commander Jackie Judkins said.
It is tradition to retire a flag once it has begun to unravel and become tattered. There are many ways to properly retire a flag, but Judkins said the Legion preferred to burn the flag in tact along with a ceremony with honors.
Another method of retiring a flag is to disassemble the flag into parts by removing and separating the stripes from the star field.
“At that point, it is no longer a flag and can be retired,” he said.
The ashes from Saturday’s ceremony will be saved and spread on the grave of a veteran in the future.
The ceremony included a brief speech by Vickie Brast, who spoke on the two men who are commemorated in the post’s name. Brast said it is tradition to name the post after the first war casualty from that community. Patillo’s name was added nearly a decade following the post’s charter.
Brast described Wilson as a young man on the smaller side who had difficulty joining the armed forces during World War I. After several attempts, Wilson was able to join the U.S. Navy in Louisiana.
Wilson was one of 26 servicemen who died when the U.S.S President Lincoln was sunk by a German U-Boat in May 1918.
“I think it says a lot about Post 62, too,” Brast said, referring to Wilson’s perseverance. “They’ve had their ups and downs, but they persevered.”
The celebration in Denison was one of many events commemorating the centennial being held by posts across the country. Judkins said Legion Post 231 in Pottsboro would be having a grand reopening ceremony while Post 29 in Sherman would have its own party.