Herald Journal, Nov. 28, 2005
A look at Ray Kirkpatrick Legion Post 463
By Jenni Sebora
Chartered May 20, 1920, with 15 veterans signing, Lester Prairie’s Ray Kirkpatrick Post 463 has grown to 70 members.
Major events for the Lester Prairie Legion Post are the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, which require advanced planning and preparation.
“It is the commander’s job, with assistance from the other members (such as the retired members who usually put the crosses out to honor the deceased veterans) to organize and secure the speakers and events for the programs,” Legion member Joe Casavant said.
In fact, Lester Prairie Legion Post Commander Mark Detlefsen noted that securing a Memorial Day speaker requires planning about four or five months in advance.
“We like to get a veteran to speak, but sometimes, we have a politician as the speaker,” Detlefsen said.
This year, former Lester Prairie graduate and resident Chad Wendolek is set to be the main speaker for the 2006 Memorial Day program at the Lester Prairie city cemetery.
Wendolek has returned from serving in Iraq and will be going to Pakistan for 90 days. In September 2006, he will return to Iraq, Detlefsen noted.
“He (Wendolek) has said don’t expect this (US in Iraq) to be over anytime soon,” Detlefsen said.
“You are to be back a year before you may have to serve again,” Detlefsen added.
Most recently, the Legion hosted a Veterans Day program at Lester Prairie Public School, and this year, LPHS graduate Steven Casavant, who is a military recruiter in the metro area, was the speaker.
Casavant has served in Sadia Arabia and most recently, in Kosovo, where he guarded patriot missiles, Detlefsen noted.
The Legion sponsors a Legion baseball team and school patrol training, donates to the Lester Prairie Longhorn Days ambassador program, sends interested juniors and seniors to Government Day, and sponsors a Boys’ State representative.
At the state level, 49 departments of the American Legion host the American Legion Boys State programs each summer for outstanding high school juniors. Nearly 28,000 young men were sponsored by local American Legion Posts to attend the week-long government education program last year.
Two outstanding leaders from each department Boys State program are selected to attend the American Legion Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. There, they learn the mechanics of the federal government by role-playing as senators and representatives.
The American Legion Auxiliary conducts parallel programs for young women through Girls State and Girls Nation.
Detlefsen noted that the Legion supports veterans’ hospitals and also works hard at lobbying on behalf of veterans to make sure that veterans are receiving their benefits, which is a purpose of the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission.
VA&R activities include overseeing federally mandated programs provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for veterans and their dependents. VA&R services include assistance with medical care, claims and appeals, insurance programs, burial benefits, and veterans employment.
The VA&R staff also maintains liaison with administrators of state veterans affairs programs.
Post 463 meets monthly from September to May on the first Thursday of the month, 7:30 p.m., at the Lester Prairie City Hall. New members are always welcome.
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 463
To serve veterans, to safeguard and nurture the nation’s children, and to educate all citizens, young and old, about the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of American citizenship is the purpose of the American Legion Auxiliary, established in Lester Prairie in 1925.
Currently about 19 members strong, the group meets from September to May on the first Thursday of the month at the city hall.
Some of the events the auxiliary is involved in include assisting with the bloodmobile by serving supper, promoting Americanism by sponsoring a flag coloring contest for grades 1-6 at Lester Prairie Elementary School, serving a chili supper, and sending a representative to Girls’ State and Boy/Girl County-Government Day in Glencoe.
The Lester Prairie Auxiliary also sponsors the local Girl Scouts, honors teachers and staff during American Education Week by donating apples and a monetary gift to the school, usually for the media center, holds a pillow “fluff and buff” in spring at the city hall, and offers poppies for donation on Poppy Day, Auxiliary President Florence Mlyner explained.
“The money from the poppies goes strictly to veterans projects,” Mlyner said.
The auxiliary donates to various veterans programs and projects in McLeod County and beyond.
“The auxiliary’s main purpose is service to veterans,” Mlyner said.
And that service comes in the “shape” of many activities, including monetary donations at various times throughout the year.
During the Christmas season, the auxiliary contributes money to the Christmas gift shops at the many veterans homes, where the veterans can go to get gifts for their immediate families at no cost to them, Mlyner noted.
During the holiday time, “$5 bill showers” are held at the various veterans homes, and the Lester Prairie Auxiliary contributes to this activity, too.
The auxiliary also assists the Legion in purchasing gifts for veterans who are living in the care centers and nursing homes in McLeod County.
“We also send money for ‘cracker barrel’ parties to the veterans home in Hastings because it’s in our district,” Mlyner said.
Mlyner noted that the various department presidents, such as the third district president, also recommend veterans projects that the auxiliary donates to.
And, of course, the auxiliary supports the Legion in the Veterans Day and Memorial Day programs.