Rogersville's Post 21 gearing up for POW/MIA ceremony, centennial celebration

Jeff Bobo • Sep 6, 2019 at 11:30 AM

ROGERSVILLE — American Legion Post 21’s official 100th birthday is Sept. 9, but the centennial celebration is scheduled for Nov. 8, which is the Friday before Veterans Day.

Post Commander Dennis Elkins told the Times News Wednesday there was just too much going on this month to squeeze in the centennial celebration.

The Nov. 8 date allows Post 21 more time to organize its centennial, as well as raise more funds for the event. It also adds an extra event to help celebrate Veterans Day, Elkins noted.

Third annual POW/MIA Ceremony

Meanwhile, Post 21 is encouraging the public to attend its third annual POW/MIA ceremony on Friday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. at the American Legion Building, 1924 E. Main St., Rogersville.

Hawkins County’s 45 POW/MIA soldiers and their families will be honored during the event.

“When you read the words on the POW/MIA Flag, it reads, ‘You are not forgotten,’ ” Elkins said. “We need to tell our POW/MIA family members that we will not forget their POW or MIA, and the sacrifice to our country, and what they may have had to endure.”

Two former POWs were expected to attend last year’s ceremony, but both suffered health issues and were hospitalized.

Sgt. John Huff died the day of the ceremony, and Pvt. Lawrence Shoemaker died about a month later.

“Post 21 did get to honor him about two weeks before he died,” Elkins noted. “This is the reason we need to have programs to honor our veterans and their families while they are living, and not when it’s too late to thank them for their service to our country,” Elkins added. “We want to invite all of our veterans, our veteran organizations, and the entire community to attend this ceremony.”

Post 21 membership drive

As Post 21’s 100th anniversary approaches, members are actively recruiting the next generation of veterans to join the Rogersville post and carry on their work.

“To all Hawkins County vets, American Legion Post 21 needs your membership and you to survive,” Elkins said. “A lot of our members are WWII, Korea, and Vietnam veterans. Due to age and medical issues, they can’t do the things that we need to do to keep Post 21 going.”

Some of the programs Post 21 does to honor veterans and serve children in the Rogersville area include: Four Chaplain Service, Memorial Day Service, Flag Ceremony, Pow/Mia Service, Veterans Day, and School Pledge Allegiance class.

Elkins added, “During this membership drive, we want to invite you to come to our meetings on the last Tuesday of each Month at 6:30 p.m., and if you are not a member of our post we will be honored to sign you up today. We need your membership and you.”

The history of Post 21

Post 21 was chartered Sept. 9, 1919 at Pressmens Home. The first commander was Earl Clifton and Post 21 originally had 15 members.

By 1925, the membership had grown to 116 and a new post home called “HUT” was dedicated.

Post 21 was known across Tennessee as the second American Legion “clubhouse” built in the state, and Hawkins County residents used that clubhouse for a variety of social functions.

After the end of WWII, Post 21's membership had swelled to 642, and in 1949 its current home was built by the Hawkins County Commission.

Post 21’s high water mark for membership was 1972 with 1,538, but as WWI, WWII, and Korean War veterans began to age and pass away, membership began to decline.

It got as low as 215 in the mid-1980s, and currently sits at 263.

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