Five months into the life of the newly minted Silverdale American Legion Post 109, they’re planning future toy drives, veteran support efforts and may even sponsor a local bowling team, but mostly they are focused on building membership.
Monday night shortly before Post 109 commander Russ Jerabek gaveled the meeting into order, adjutant Darrell Clauson worked quickly to transfer in a new member and then checked with a younger female veteran to see if she’d received her car yet. That night, Post 109’s membership grew by five.
Post 109, which received its charter from the national office in April, has grown from the initial 24 “charter members” to about 50 members as of Monday night’s meeting.
At this point in time, the new veterans’ organization is also happy to have a place to meet and conduct meetings officially.
“We’re growing,” Jerabek said. “I think we we’ll do will in this area.”
Some new members are new to the county and some members have transferred over from the now defunct Bremerton American Legion Post 68 that closed more than a year ago after losing its charter to an internal scandal.
Jerabek said that Post 109 grew out of a need for a post in the Silverdale area; with active duty sailors at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor and Keyport as two primary sources for the new post to focused on.
Without a permanent home, Post 109 is meeting in conference room the third Monday of the month at All Star Lanes in Silverdale. The four previous meetings were held at Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Station 51 on Silverdale Way.
Jerabek said that he’s looked at a few properties that the post could be interested in for a permanent home to have space for offices, meetings and special events. Any plans for a bar or restaurant will come later if the post decided to go that direction, he said, before adding that the Post 109 would stay away from the bar scene in favor of service officers meeting the need of exiting veterans and others from the five generations of American wars that are eligible.
“Obviously we’re losing World War II veterans, Korean War veterans and even Vietnam veterans,” Jerabek said.
For now, Post 109 will remain focused on growing its membership and advocating for and serving Post 9/11 veterans. With 4,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans living in Kitsap County, and more expected as the military sheds veterans in the coming drawdown, Jerabek said they represent the future of the American Legion. The problems faced by veterans of the War on Terror have been different problems than were had by veterans 30 years ago, he said.
Younger veterans have different ideas and perhaps more resources, he said.
Everyone that has served in the U.S. military since the Aug. 2, 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait is eligible to join the American Legion. Qualifications for years before then are centered on service during a war.