Nearly 30 people attended the Vassalboro American Legion Post #126’s open house and honor ceremony at St. Bridget’s Center on Veterans Day, November 11. The goal of the open house was to provide veterans and their families with a central place to find information on veterans’ issues.
One of the primary duties of the American Legion is to serve as a source of information for retiring veterans trying to navigate the increasingly complex benefits system. “That’s been one of the biggest issues,” explains Adjutant Jim Kilbride. “[You] try to get into the system and start to find out that you can get lost very easily. And if you’re elderly, it gets even harder.
“We had a lot of people saying, ‘Well, I don’t know who to get in touch with for this, or who to get in touch with for that.’ So, we went out and got in touch with different groups,” he says and waves a hand at various tables set up around the room where pamphlets and information packets are laid out.
With membership declining in many local American Legion posts around the country, Kilbride saw a need for the Vassalboro post to step up and be a center of information for veterans that might need help. “We figure from here on, we’ll be a place that veterans and their families can get in touch, and we’ll have the information for them,” he says.
Veterans throughout central Maine can reach out to Vassalboro’s Post #126 if they can’t find the information they need. To do so, please call 616-3148, or write to Vassalboro American Legion Post #126, c/o St. Bridget Center, PO Box 112, North Vassalboro, ME 04962, or by email at StBridgetCenter@gmail.com. Jim Kilbride and his wife Rachel, who manage the community center, will be happy to respond to any requests, or will help to direct veterans to the best place to find the information they need.
Despite the declining membership in most American Legions, there is some hope. Kilbride reports the Vassalboro post has added three new members in the past year. Still, he sees danger ahead for American veterans if the decline in Legion membership is a trend that continues. “The thing is,” he says, “we need the membership if we’re going to be able to get the changes in Congress and the Senate and so forth that are needed to make sure veterans are taken care of. There’s a big change in what veterans’ benefits are now [compared to] what they were when I left active duty, [but] that’s because we worked at it.”
The St. Bridget Center, once an old Catholic church, has recently been completely restored and is available to rent for weddings, receptions, and other local events. They also host fundraisers for nonprofits at no charge. Call 616-3148 or email StBridgetCenter@gmail.com for more information.
The POW/MIA table (this poem from the American Legion manual):
The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
The single rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have to shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith, while awaiting their return.
The red ribbon on the vase represents the red ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand, with unyielding determination, a proper account of our comrades who are not among us.
A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The glass is inverted; they cannot toast with us at this time.
The chair is empty. They are NOT here.
The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to open arms of a grateful nation.
The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return – and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom.
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