By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
American Legion Post 99 of Big Sky will host a community event on Flag Day, June 14 to honor members that have passed away.
The “Celebration of Life” event will take place on Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Riverhouse in the lower-level events tent. Barbecue, wine and beer, and entertainment will be provided free of charge. The Legion will accept and appreciate any donations, which help cover the cost of events like this and the other community work done by the Legion.
“Anybody that wants to come—it’s open to everyone,” Capt. Jack Hudspeth told EBS about the event.
During the celebration, the Legion will share photos and recollections of members’ lives and service. Former members to be honored include:
Walter Ainsworth, Richard “Dick” Allgood, George Button, Roy Bingham, Roger Cantwell, Ralph Delzer, Maurice Dornberg, Bernie Fiengold, Dennis Grundman, Ralph Harder, Jason Hodill, Patrick Kenny, Edward Mikeswell, John Palmer, Craig Reichstetter, Abner “Buster” Sewell, Dick Wambsgan, Devon White, Sammy Wilson and Peter Wooley.
Hudspeth spoke with EBS about the event and the Legion. He said this event has been in the works for a year or two. Instead of honoring each Legion member individually when they pass away, Hudspeth and fellow members decided it made sense to put it all together and honor all those from Post 99 history.
As far as presentations, Hudspeth said it’s not going to be a long sermon or anything. But each honored member will have a memorial poster, featuring their name written in calligraphy by an art teacher from Discovery Academy, their branch of military service, and an obituary.
A culture of giving
Post 99 just wrapped up another series of offseason bingo nights at the Riverhouse, one of a few Legion fundraisers.
Aside from this free barbecue, the Legion creates a variety of direct community impacts including quarterly rent assistance and monthly $300 teacher appreciation gifts.
After launching both of those programs, the Legion received matching donations from Big Sky Build and Kissell Construction to triple the impact of the monthly teacher gifts. The quarterly rent assistance was also tripled through matching donations from Anderson Wallace, who owns the Broken Spoke, and Darcy Dobb, who owns Big Sky Healing.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Post 99 decided to buy gift cards worth around $100 from each of the businesses that historically supported bingo nights. The Legion gave those gift cards away to front-line workers.
“We sort of helped, I guess, keep those businesses going. And we ended up giving away about $5,000 worth of gift cards to those people,” Hudspeth said.
The Legion also maintains the white crosses seen along U.S. Highway 191 as far south as West Yellowstone, and on Montana Highway 64. They perform landscaping and color guard duties at Soldiers Chapel, host a school oratorical contest and award an annual $3,000 scholarship for Big Sky students, and donate American flags around Big Sky.
“We’re not giving away the farm, but we’re giving a little money away and we have for the last five years,” he added.
Between bingo nights, honey sales and philanthropy from businesses—Café 191 recently donated $650 to the Legion—Post 99 is able to fund community efforts including events like this upcoming Flag Day celebration. Hudspeth added that the Riverhouse has been a great partner hosting bingo and is charging a very reasonable amount for the barbecue on June 14.
“I’m hoping to get as many people as want to come,” Hudspeth said. “We’ll probably run out of food if we have a massive crowd, but that’s OK.”