HARKER HEIGHTS — Harker Heights American Legion Post 573 threw a party Saturday to celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary.
Around three-dozen members and guests gathered for the event at the post’s building on Cox Drive.
Adjutant Tim Knowles kicked off the celebration by talking a bit about how the American Legion was formed.
About a thousand delegates came to Paris in March of 1919 to determine the name and membership criteria for the group. World War I had been over for four months, Knowles said.
The name American Legion was reportedly adopted by delegates who were motivated by hunger, as the vote for the name came right before the meeting adjourned for lunch, he said.
That inauspicious start has turned into a century’s worth of fellowship, volunteerism, and accomplishments at more than 12,000 posts around the U.S.
Post 573 was established in 1977. The post is named in honor of Tech Sgt. Jack D. Levy, who was a member of the American Legion for 31 years.
Levy served as a division and district commander, and served twice as commander of American Legion Post 223 in Killeen.
The post allowed its two oldest members to cut the cake honoring the organization’s 100th birthday.
Hubert Franklin Garrett has only been an American Legion member for about ten years, but, at 87, is the post’s oldest member. Garrett, known affectionately as “Mr. Frank” to members of the post, spent over 28 years in the Army before moving to the Department of Defense, where he worked another 16 years.
“To me, the Legion is a place where families that have been connected to the military come together as a family,” Garrett said before the ceremony.
“If you come here and say you’ve got a problem, the family jumps in. They’re going to help you out.”
Jesse Thigpen, 78, shared the cake-cutting duties with Garrett. The Army veteran and former member of the Secret Service has been an American Legion member for 22 years and joined the Harker Heights post when he retired in Texas in 2011.
Asked what the 100th anniversary celebration meant to him, Thigpen was able to sum up his feelings in just a few words.
“Being an American,” Thigpen said after cutting the cake. “Being an American ... and being a soldier.”
The post honored Garrett with an honorary lifetime membership following the cake-cutting ceremony. The post will pay for Garrett’s membership in the Legion for the rest of his life.