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Local American Legion post revitalized

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A local post of the American Legion that has been dormant the last two decades was revitalized earlier this month, providing Roswell with a second post of the veterans service organization.

The Richard G. Whitesell Post 61 held its first meeting and installation of officers Dec. 12 at the First United Methodist Church, said Stephen Lee, who was elected commander of Post 61.

Mark Rowland was elected to the positions of first vice chair and chaplain of the post. Donald Weld was elected second vice chair and John Stites was elected both sergeant at arms and historian.

Lee said Post 61 has started out with 22 members.

Roswell is already home to Post 28, whose headquarters is located at 1600 Montana Avenue, but Lee said having two posts in Roswell is not unheard of.

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“We had two posts back in the 80s and early 90s,” Lee said. Post 61 was first established in the 1980s before “going dark” in the 1990s. The charter though was never actually turned over to the New Mexico chapter of the American Legion.

Talk of bringing back Post 61 started about a year ago, and work to do so began in November, Lee said.

The new post, he said, will be complimentary to Post 28 and not in competition with it. However, Post 61 will concentrate more on community activities.

“I personally envision American Legion Post 61 doing more community outreach than Post 28 is currently capable of doing. That is not a ding on them, they just have different focuses,” he said.

The new post will look toward such activities as possibly sponsoring a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troop, and helping raise money for local food pantries, homeless shelters and assisting local nonprofits, Lee said.

Already Post 61 has helped with Wreaths Across America, which sponsors wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and other locations across the United States and abroad, and assisted with Toys for Tots, Lee said. The post is also raising money for Fisher House, an organization that builds homes where the loved ones of veterans can stay while that veteran is undergoing treatment.

For the last two years, Post 28 has been tasked with organizing the Veteran’s Day Parade. Lee said he does not know if Post 61 will go about organizing it in 2020.

The new post will also be a “four pillars post” that will concentrate on four areas of focus laid out by the Legion: Americanism, children and youth, veterans affairs and rehabilitation and national security.

The American Legion is a veterans organization chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1919 following the First World War, with the aim of serving veterans and communities, according to the Legion’s national website.

Membership now stands at 2 million people in more than 13,000 posts around the globe.

The American Legion website states that to join a Legion Post, a person must have served federal active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces anytime since Dec. 7, 1941 and either still be serving or have been honorably discharged.

People who wish to join Post 61 can do so by visiting the post website at http://roswelllegion.org or calling 575-268-0220.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.