American Legion celebrates birthday

Sonja Skinner, commander of the Jack D. Levy American Legion Post 573 in Harker Heights, shows an updated plaque with the names of post commanders Saturday during the post’s 35th birthday celebration.

Anyone who has ever experienced the pride and relief that comes with paying off a mortgage will understand how the veterans at American Legion Post 573 felt Saturday.

Members and guests gathered at the Harker Heights post to celebrate the 35th anniversary of its charter and the final payoff of its mortgage.

Post 573 was first established in a trailer, Commander Sonja Skinner said. When the post bought the current building on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in 1977, it was the burned-out remains of a disco club. Post members rebuilt the building themselves.

Kervin Branford, former post commander and American Legion member for 41 years, remembered those early years.

“I came in back from Vietnam, and they were out there in the trailer and I used to go out there,” Branford said. “The second wall here, we had to add it in order to keep operational and get to the bathrooms. These poles here, all this was melted down, right down into the floor.”

In a speech Saturday, Skinner credited past and current members for the post’s success.

“It has been the members of this post for the past 35 years who have put blood, sweat and tears into building the post of today,” she said. “Through the devotion of the membership our building and membership has grown. It is the dedication of the members of this post that makes our post a place that many call home, and the members called family.”

Members are especially proud of the bonds that have been built between veterans, their families and the community. John Cagle, another former post commander, emphasized that the American Legion is an organization dedicated not only to veterans, but also to active-duty soldiers and the community.

Post 573 participates in multiple charity events in Harker Heights, including the Boys and Girls State program, toy drives and youth baseball and softball.

“The community is very important to us,” Cagle said.

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