December 3, 2020

Keeping Patriotism Alive: Whittemore Reinvigorates Its American Legion Post

Whittemore legionAt a time when many American Legion chapters in rural Iowa are declining, the Seely-Walsh Post 425 in Whittemore is thriving.

“We increased our membership 12% in the last year and have received the American Legion’s Road Runner Award for this achievement,” said Mick Zimmerman of Whittemore, who is an active member of Seely-Walsh Post 425.

Named for two local men (Bert Seely and Leo Walsh) who were killed in World War I, Seely-Walsh Post 425 boasts 124 members ranging in age from their early 20s through their early 90s. “It’s so enjoyable to go to the monthly meetings now, because we usually have 40 people instead of 10,” said Stuart Simonson, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam.

What has made the difference? A willingness to find new ways to invigorate a proud tradition, said Zimmerman, a retired Bancroft postmaster who served in the U.S. Army for three years. “We knew we were going to suffer the same fate as other small, rural American Legion posts if we didn’t do something.”

Expanding the American Legion family

Part of the solution comes from supporting the various ways that people can join the American Legion family, either through the American Legion, Sons of the American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary, or the Whittemore American Legion Riders Post 425.

The local Sons of the American Legion, which started in 2008, has grown to include more than 50 members. It’s open to males of all ages whose parents or grandparents served in the U.S. military and were eligible for American Legion membership. Females whose parents or grandparents served in the U.S. military can join the American Legion Auxiliary, which includes approximately 30 members in the local area.

The 31 members of the Whittemore American Legion Riders have also added to the camaraderie. Established in 2009, the group hosts monthly rides where members fire up their motorcycles, classic cars, and other vehicles to visit veterans who reside in area care centers.

You don’t need to be part of Seely-Walsh Post 425 to join the Whittemore American Legion Riders, noted Simonson, senior vice president of Farmers State Bank in Whittemore. “We welcome anyone from other area posts who would like to be part of the group.”

Whittemore legionServing the community

As the American Legion family has grown in the Whittemore area, members are able to serve the community more effectively. Their honor guard attends military funerals and provides a firing squad for 21-gun salutes. The Legion also supports the annual carnival in Whittemore, where members serve their World Famous Legion Burgers.

In addition, the Legion’s popular chicken barbecue has become a tradition each August, complete with Bossy Bingo behind the Legion Hall in Whittemore. To add to the fun, local Legion Rider members added a chicken wing feed and karaoke night in March of 2013. “It was a huge hit,” said Zimmerman, who noted that the group sold all of its 1,400 wings during the free-will-donation fundraiser, which also included raffles for prizes donated from local sponsors.

The money raised from these events allows the Legion to support many worthy causes. “Veterans share a connection with each other and their community,” Simonson said. “Staying active and having a visible presence in the local area promotes love of country and respect for our veterans.”

Join the Group

Interested in learning more about the local American Legion and its affiliated groups? “We invite to you to come to a meeting and see what we’re all about,” said Mick Zimmerman of Whittemore, who noted that the Seely-Walsh Post 425 holds its regular meetings the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Legion Hall in Whittemore.

Contact Zimmerman (515-320-1406) or Stuart Simonson (515-320-0779) for more details, or call Chris Zinnel (712-260-6664) for more information on the Whittemore American Legion Riders Post 425.

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