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Legion making difference for veterans, community

Staff writer

While the American Legion has a reputation as a social group for veterans, it’s also about continuing service by helping the community, Hillsboro’s Post 366 commander Josh Plenert said.

“We try to serve veterans and children,” Plenert said. “We do lots of stuff, sponsoring teams like little league baseball.”

For those in high school, the legion has resources like scholarships, and sponsors a student to attend Boys’ State every year.

One of the post’s big events was Saturday’s toy run, which featured gifts donated from more than 150 participants.

“We do it to serve, to help people,” Plenert said. “We hope the community recognizes what our purpose is.”

In addition to aiding younger generations, they have resources available to the community, including wheelchairs and hospital beds.

“The fact that we have a bar and a place to hang out, that’s just a secondary thing for what we do,” second vice-commander Bob Dalke said. “Our whole reason for being an organization is to make sure we do service back to the community and veterans in whatever way we can.”

Similar to the VFW, American Legion has certain guidelines for who can join.

Veterans can join if their service period falls between certain dates of conflict, such as the Gulf War. The legion also has ways for non-veterans to join. Sons or grandsons can join the Sons of the American Legion, while female relatives have the American Legion Auxiliary.

Plenert’s father was a veteran so he was often around the legion as a child, but Plenert originally did not intend to join the military.

“Once 9-11 happened, it hit me and I said I had to do something,” he said.

Plenert entered the Army in 2004, and became post commander for the Hillsboro legion in 2015.

The struggles for the legion are maintaining numbers and the increasing age of veterans. The lack of members from the community is due partially to a decrease in military enlistment, which limits the organization’s involvement, Plenert said.

“We would love for new members to come,” he said. “There aren’t nearly as many people enlisting now as there were in World War II or Vietnam. When you go in the post, the veterans are all 60-plus.”

The legion has an estimated 140 members, but 75 percent are older than 60, he said.

Last modified Nov. 8, 2018

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