Legion considers selling its property

July 22, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - Terry Eichelberger says he is amazed at the power of rumors.

Eichelberger, head of Morris Frock American Legion Post 42's House Committee, and William "Bill" Sillery, the post's commander, said this week that despite rumors to the contrary, leadership has no plans to close the Hagerstown post.

Both said officials are looking into a sale of the 8-acre property, including the post's building, off Northern Avenue in Hagerstown.

Sillery, whose two-year stint as commander ends Saturday, said post officials are in the preliminary stages of attempting to sell the building because of declining membership. Sillery said the post would benefit from a move to a smaller facility.


Sillery, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, said there has been less use and support by members largely because its loyal, longtime members are "dying off."

"The younger people just aren't coming in," he said. "All the veterans posts are the same way. They're having trouble."

Sillery said he is not looking forward to any final decision that will include a move, but officials may have to "bite the bullet" for the good of the organization.

"A lot of people won't like it, but it's a hard line to toe," he said.

The post is having financial problems because many veterans from the World War II-era are dying, Eichelberger said. More than 180 members of Post 42 died between 2002 and 2003, he said.

The post has about 4,000 members, but that number includes affiliate members such as the wives and children of members. Eichelberger said many members moved from the area in recent years.

Eichelberger, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, said those who believed rumors that the post was closing because it was pursuing a sale of the property are mistaken.

"We're not closing. I don't know where that came from," he said.

The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, mutual-help, war-time veterans organization, according to its Web site at The community-service organization has nearly 3 million members at nearly 15,000 American Legion Posts worldwide, the Web site says.

Members of the military on active duty anywhere in the world, or those who have served during any eligible war eras may become Legionnaires, according to the Web site.

On Aug. 23, 1919, a group of 15 local veterans submitted an application to establish an American Legion Post, according to the Post 42 Web site. The post was named after a county resident who was killed while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in June 1918, according to the site. Frock was the first Washington County man killed during World War I.

The Post 42 Web site does not say when the group took occupancy in the Northern Avenue facility, and several current members of the organization did not know the date.

Grady Grimm, chaplain of the post's Last Man's Club and a World War II veteran, said he has been coming to the Northern Avenue post since 1946. Grimm said he was unaware of efforts to sell the property, and he hopes it can be avoided.

"That's a beautiful place and a beautiful location, but I guess there's nothing we can do about it if we can't get the younger people to carry it on," he said.

To combat declining membership, Eichelberger said those active with the post will have to do something the service club has not worried about in many years - recruit younger military veterans.

"There's always ways of keeping them open. We're just going to have to go out and recruit and work a little harder than we've had to over the years," he said. "Anyone can join a Moose Club, but we just can't do that at an American Legion."

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