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Why I joined the Edmonds American Legion, and why I’m glad I did | Guest View

 

Dan Mullene

Life teaches us many lessons, and sometimes we even pay attention to them. One such lesson I have learned is that while it may take a while to make the right decision, it’s never too late to do it.

I say this because in my case it took me “only” 41 years to decide to join the Edmonds American Legion Post 66 in 2017, after separating from the Air Force way back in 1976. I joined the post two years ago, and I am glad that I did.

My path to the American Legion started when I was working on my 50th high school reunion. Marilyn, a fellow committee member, shared a story with me about her stepfather, Don Raleigh, and what an amazing story it was.

She told me that Don had been in the Navy during World War II, serving was on board the USS Maryland in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked Dec. 7, 1941. After hearing Marilyn, I felt compelled to meet Don and hear the rest of his story, so I visited him at American Legion Post 66 in Edmonds to learn more.

Even though Don was 98 when I spoke with him in 2017, his memory was still clear as he shared the details. Early that morning, he had just relieved the officer on watch on board the battleship when he looked up and saw a flight of single-engine planes approaching from the south.

He didn’t think anything of it, he said, until “little black things” started dropping out of them and exploded very near.

“There was no warning whatsoever,” he remembered. “Beautiful Sunday morning and all hell breaks loose.”

For the history buffs, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the USS Maryland was moored at Battleship Row alongside the ill-fated USS Oklahoma, which capsized after the bombings.

The USS Maryland, on the other hand, was able to open fire against the enemy and send teams of its sailors on rescue missions to retrieve those stranded on the other battleships. The Maryland was struck by two bombs and lost three men, but didn’t sink.

Imagine being involved in all of that, and watching the world exploding all around you. If the word “hero” needs a name, for me it is “Don Raleigh.”

By the way, even at 100, Don is still an active member of Post 66, regularly attending our monthly meetings. And he’s not our only World War II veteran, as he shares that honor with a few other WWII vets.

The men and women like Don who are Post members make me proud to have served in the military and remind me why I am also proud of my three cousins who served in Vietnam, one of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, dying on the battlefield.

And in Don’s case, his patriotism to our country led me to join the American Legion, where I could work with fellow veterans to honor and help vets in the community all around us.

According to the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 552,291 veterans in our state, with 60,972 on active duty, 18,228 in Guard and Reserve positions, and 2 million family members behind them.

So it’s easy to see that we have many brothers and sisters to support and to draw support from.

The American Legion acts on behalf of interests of veterans and service members, including support for benefits. Similarly, the purpose of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is to speed rehabilitation of the nation's disabled and needy veterans, assist veterans' widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans, and promote pride in America through education and by constructive service to local communities.

Both organizations exist to help veterans in many ways, including help with navigating available programs and services. They also are active in promoting the cause of the needs of veterans through many community activities.

Recently, we celebrated Memorial Day by recognizing fallen war heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. And we recently celebrated a grand Edmonds Fourth of July, the 243rd anniversary of when our forefathers took up arms and fought bravely so that we could declare our independence from a foreign ruler.

(And to be honest, I really enjoy “marching” in the Edmonds 4th parade as a member of our post!)

This coming Nov. 11, we will again celebrate veterans and their contributions, which keep us independent and free. Our veterans are an important part of our community. They are worthy of our support on Memorial Day, on the 4th of July, on Veterans Day, and throughout the year.

Simply put, the American Legion and the VFW have a heart for our fellow veterans, and a mission to do what they can to help our vets. If you are a veteran and believe this is a cause you want to support, I invite you to learn if you are eligible to be a member and consider joining in Edmonds or in your local community, wherever you live.

Take my advice: It’s never too late for you to make the right decision!

For more information: www.legion.org, www.vfw.org, www.dva.wa.gov.

Dan Mullene is with the Edmonds American Legion Post 66.

 

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