By Kristen Miller
US veterans join the American Legion for the camaraderie, according to Bob Holly, commander of Cokato American Legion Post 209.
“There’s a whole lot of pride in that,” he said.
There are currently 71 members in the Cokato American Legion. They meet the third Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the back room of the Cokato City Hall basement.
On Memorial Day, Legion members start out the day at a local cemetery. They fire rifles, raise the flags, play taps, and a prayer is said by the Legion’s chaplain, Bernard Funk. This year, the rotating cemetery choice will be Watson Cemetery, north of Cokato.
Then, members of the Cokato Legion can be seen marching up the street during the Memorial Day parade, proudly carrying their respective flags.
This year, the Legion built its own people-mover, which debuted at the Memorial Day parade.
The parade ends at Cokato Elementary, where the Legion hosts a Memorial Day program with special speakers.
During the program, the Legion introduces the year’s American Legion Boys State selection. He is chosen to take part in a state-wide program geared to teach high school students about local, federal, and state government, teaching other valuable lessons in the process such as patriotism and public speaking.
This person is selected through an interview process. To be eligible, the boy must be a high school junior, a Cokato resident, and in the upper half of his class.
Last year, Eric Dahlman was selected as the Cokato American Legion representative for Boys State. This year, the Legion will choose again in March or April.
To recognize Legion members, Holly awarded Cokato’s first Legionnaire of the Year to Theresa Liepold.
“Everyone likes to be recognized,” Holly said.
However, when it comes to being recognized as a veteran, many in the area don’t choose to be, Holly said.
“I didn’t serve to be recognized. It was a service I owed to my country. Most veterans feel the same way,” Holly said.
Holly served in the Marines during the Vietnam War in 1968, 1969, and 1970.
When Holly returned to his home in Anchorage, Alaska, he joined the Jack Henry Post 1.
At that time, the war wasn’t over yet and all the members were from previous wars.
“They didn’t like to recognize Vietnam vets,” he said.
“They didn’t like me, but I was persistent,” Holly said. They made him a service officer.
Holly joined the American Legion for the same reason many other veterans do he wanted to be among other veterans.
“They joined (the service) for the same reason I did they are loyal Americans,” Holly said.
As commander, Holly’s vision is to grow the Cokato Legion and serve all the veterans in the area.
“I’ll help a veteran even if he doesn’t belong to the Legion,” Holly said.
Throughout the year, the Legion donates to many local programs including Legion baseball, a $500 scholarship for DC seniors, the elementary school patrol, and much more.
Also, the Legion provides the military rights for local veterans who die. This includes the rifle salute, taps, and presenting the flag to the next of kin.
The Legion also sends monthly “good will” packages to soldiers currently serving overseas.
Through the American Legion, veterans help promote and enact benefits for veterans.
A person is eligible for membership to the American Legion if they have served during war time. This is different from the VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars, who have to have served overseas during war time, according to Holly.
If anyone is interested in joining, speak with a Cokato Legion member or come to a regular meeting (the third Monday of the month).