Where heroes gather
It’s been six years since the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars started meeting under the same roof at the Veterans Club.
Today, all signs point to the merger being a success.
“Both clubs were running out of members,” said Jim Fralin, Commander of American Legion Post 27. “We’ve lost a lot of World War II survivors and just a few years ago our last Pearl Harbor survivor died.
Veteran Arlin Neese said the club is filled with people with different backgrounds but with a shared understanding.
“You can look around and see we’re all different, but we know what the other veterans have gone through. I can pat Jim on the back and say ‘good job,’” said Arlin Neese.
Fralin and Neese served in the same unit in the Army National Guard. Fralin’s father served in World War II, in Okinawa and the Phillipines. Fralin himself served for 10 years and grew up in the Liberty area.
The Veterans Club, 701 Dorsey St., is one facility but houses separate clubs — the VFW and the Legion, which were congress chartered separately, according to Leon Hagan, VFW Post 1077 commander.
But at the end of the day, the Veterans Club serves veterans.
“The Veterans Club is for veterans and their families. We all work together now and it’s been working out great,” sid Hagan.
Many members hold dual membership in both groups
“Camaraderie of the veterans is the main thing,” Hagan said. “People don’t really understand the meaning of brothers and sisters in combat. The people in the Legion that aren’t eligible for VFW, they did their jobs and without them we couldn’t have done ours. The idea is that we’re with people that know what the others have been through. We can relax and enjoy each other.”
Hagan himself served from 1967-68 in Vietnam in the U.S. Army.
“Our job was to fly low and slow and draw fire, said Hagan, who has about 200 hours in the air as a door gunner. “It’s quite a memory and sometimes it’s hard to deal with, but mostly I enjoyed the time that I served,” said Hagan.