Saluting American Legion Post 264 and all American Legion Posts who unselfishly and with dedication contribute so much to their communities

January 12, 2012

Saluting American Legion McKinlock Post 264 for its service to Lake Forest youth and veterans

     by Nancy J. Thorner, Citizen Reporter
My Introduction to Lake Forest’s McKinlock Post 264 of the American Legion
When I was approached to write an article about Lake Forest’s McKinlock American Legion Post 264, there was no hesitation on my part.  As a Lake Bluffer I have covered many events on Lake Bluff’s Village Green honoring members of Lake Bluff’s American Legion Post 510.  As a supporter of veterans and their service to country for freedom’s sake, I was eager to find out more about the activities of Lake Forest Post 264.
I was greeted at the Lake Forest American Legion Hall at 801 North McKinley Ave. in Lake Forest by host Robert Pommer, a long time member of Post 264 and a past Commander in 2004, who is Post Chaplain.   The occasion was to enjoy the December monthly dinner meeting which is held the second Monday of each month.  Business is conducted at a meeting scheduled for the fourth Monday of each month.
In addition to having the chance to speak with veteran Bob Pommer, the occasion also afforded me the opportunity to visit and listen to vignettes from other Post 264 veterans from their service to country in time of war.
And luck out I did in every way!   Entertainment was provided by the Bel Canto singers under the direction of Randy Casey at LFHS.  Seventeen freshman and sophomore girls sang a number of a Capella holiday songs much to the delight of all present. 
Post Installs Tom Marks as Commander in 2nd Term
Another nice happening of the evening was being able to observe the installation of the new Post 264 Officers for 2012.  Tom Marks was installed as Commander for his second term.  Since the establishment of Lake Forest Post 264 in 1919, a double term is rare and has happened only five to six times in the Post’s history.   District Officer John Davis performed the installation ceremony.  It was obvious that Davis was well known and liked by the men and women of Post 264.
Upon addressing this remark to Tom Marks,  “You must be really good as a Commander to have been chosen for a second term,” Commander Marks smiled and responded back, “The members just tolerate me.”  
Like many other Post members, Tom served during Viet Nam.  He had the interesting job of teaching English to Vietnamese sailors.  Commander Marks went on to list two goals as Post Commander in 2012:  1) to provide money for both Veteran and youth activities in keeping with the charter of Post 264 and (2) sponsoring a successful Lake Forest Day.
Lake Forest Day as Primary Fund Raiser
But It was my host, Bob Pommer, who provided me with information about all the note-worthy projects and activities taken on each year by LF Post 264 in its mission to promote loyalty to country, to instill patriotism, and to teach respect for our nation’s flag, not only in times of conflict, but also in times of peace.  To promote this goal,  many activities are sponsored that benefit the youth of Lake Forest through Post funding.
Through an examination of an attractive-looking pamphlet, augmented by additional commentary, Bob Pommer informed me about the history of Post 264 dating back to 1918 and of the many activities sponsored by the Post.  Now deceased member, Carl Kitzerow, with the help of Bob Pommer, designed the pamphlet, but it was Carl Kitzerow who did the research to find the history of the young man for whom the Lake Forest Post 264 was named:  Lt. George Alexander McKinlock.   McKinlock  is believed to be the first Lake Forester killed during WW I.   He served with a machine gun group in France.
The many activities supported by LF Post 264 are deserving of recognition.  It seems fair to conclude that few Lake Foresters are familiar with all that the Post does to enrich the lives of Lake Forest youth and veterans.  The same is also true of  Lake Bluff’s American Legion Post 510. 
Lake Forest Day is an anticipated, yearly event that has been held in August every year since 1908.   LAKE FOREST DAY is also the number one activity sponsored by Post 264 and its primary fund raiser.
Most Lake Forester readers remember only too well what happened to the Carnival on the evening before Lake Forest Day 2011, which fell on August 3rd this year.  A fierce rain storm (with lightning) shut the fun-filled Carnival down early in the evening of August 2nd.  But on Wednesday the skies cleared and the good people returned to celebrate another Lake Forest Day, first at the parade, and later at West Park.
Post Sponsored Activities for Youth and Veterans
The next listing in the pamphlet under Legion activities was FLAG CITY USA.  There is no need to wonder any more who puts up between 500 and 600 flags in both east and west Lake Forest nine times a year.  The flags are placed at 6:00 a.m. and picked up around 4:00 p.m.
LEGION BASEBALL is open to Junior and Senior High School students with uniforms and equipment provided.  The Lake Forest Legion team competes in a 20 to 25 game season with 10 other Legion teams in Lake County.
The WINTER ICE CARNIVAL is coming up in February!  Watch for an announcement of its date in the Lake Forester.  It is a family activity with races for all age groups held at the Lake Forest College hockey rink. The barrel jumping event featuring young and not so young men is a highly anticipated and exciting concluding event.
MEMORIAL AND VETERANS DAY CEREMONIES would naturally be high on the radar as a Post activity.  Each Memorial and Veterans Day the Post organizes a parade and ceremony in Market Square.  For Veterans Day three memorial scholarships are given out to Lake Forest High School students, selected through submitted essays, of $1,000 each.  The three winners don’t keep the prize money, but instead donate it back to an organization or an activity that they are involved in at Lake Forest High School. 
GRAVE SIDE FLAGS AND GRAVE SIDE CEREMONIES are available for all who join the “Post Everlasting.”  Bob Pommer, as Chaplin, intones these words when presiding:  “As long as your name is read and remembered, you will never be forgotten.”  It is on Memorial Day weekend when over 2,600 flags are posted at the grave site of each veteran interred at Lake Forest, St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s and Fort Sheridan Cemeteries, with a memorial ceremony held at each cemetery.
The support of SCOUTING has been important to Post 264 for over fifty years.  Post 264 supports a Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack.  They also meet in the Legion Hall.  Boy Scouts help out with serving at the monthly dinner meeting of the Post.  I was told that a great number of these young men have become Eagle Scouts, a very high honor indeed. 
On the night I participated in the Post’s dinner event, the Scout helper was Macklin Simms, a member of Scout Troop #48 and a Deer Path Middle School student.  Macklin proudly displayed on his uniform his OA (Order of the Arrow) and his Ad Atare Deo emblem (to the altar of God) and in scouting has received the Star rank.    
Surprising to me was the Post’s support of the LAKE FOREST HIGH SCHOOL BAND and Chorus through donations to Applause.  The Post also gives financial support to CROYA (Committee Representing Our Young Adults), which reaches out to student in 7th grade through high school seniors.
In this present down economy with the cost of college education sky-rocketing, COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS are valuable to students in any amount.  Five college scholarships were offered to LFHS students in 2011 chosen through interview:  One at $4,000; one at $3,000; and three at $2,000.  The dollar amounts are budgeted annually and subject to change.
BOYS STATE AND GIRLS STATE was of particular interest to me because of my interest in politics at all levels of government.   In Boys State six to eight LFHS young men are sent by the Post to attend a state convention composed of boys, sent from other supporters of Boys State, to learn first-hand how the political system works and what goes on here in Illinois.  During the convention week, all activity associated with nominating, running and winning campaigns are enacted.  At the end of the week fifty or so students are elected.  These students then “take over the state of Illinois” by shadowing the legislator whose position each has won.  
Two other programs round out the activities of Post 264.   VOLUNTEERS are sent to the VA MEDICAL CENTER IN NORTH CHICAGO to mingle with patients.  Post members frequently visit the VA, bringing  presents in the holiday season, meeting basic needs at other times, providing bingo nights, and generally trying to be helpful to the afflicted. 
The Post is also very interested in active duty personnel.  Over the last few years the Post has sponsored “no dough dinners”.   Four times each year the Post has bought chicken dinners for the sailors in post boot camp schools and members have gone to the USO on base to serve the food.  Members find these volunteer efforts as their best and most rewarding activities.
Organization of Sons of the American Legion
Lake Forest Post 264 has about one hundred seventy-five members, mostly veterans of Vietnam, Korean, and some WW II vets.  Not all are active in the Legion as many of the WW II veterans are up in age.  In order to qualify for membership in Post 264, one must have served in uniform during wartime, i.e.:  WW II began for the U.S. on Dec. 7, 1941, with the bombing by the Japanese of Pearl Harbor.  By consensus WW II ended at the Armistice of August 14, 1945 (V – J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945. 
It is well recognized that younger men and women are busy with their lives and families and are not as yet joining service organizations like the Legion. Accordingly, the Sons of the American Legion has been established by the National American Legion to continue the work of the Legion. Its purpose is to have sons of fathers and grandfathers who served in the military join as sons of legionnaires.
Commander Marks informed me that his goal for 2012 is to have enough sons of fathers and grandfathers join in Lake Forest to start a squadron.
The most memorable part of my evening was when I had the honor to interview several of the vets present.  Not one of them considered themselves a hero, which is indicative of many veterans who don’t like to talk about themselves.  They did what they had to do and were expected to do at the time they served according to the demands of the occasion. 
Most likely every veteran present at the 2011 December dinner meeting had his own story to relate, but time restraints limited my interactions with just three of the Lake Forest Post 264 vets, Charles Gudbrandsen, Larry Crone, and Ben Westre, who were pointed out to me as having an interesting war vignette to share.
Charles Gudbrandsen belonged to the Band of Brothers during WWI, having served in the Parachute Infantry Division 101, Regiment 506. 
Larry Crone, known as Mr. Legionnaire because of his selfless, on-call dedication and devotion to Post 264 whenever there is work to be done, served in the Korean War from Sept. 21 of 1951 to 1955.
Mr. Crone informed me that his crew was the top crew in the squadron.  On New Year’s Eve in 1952 his crew was selected as the only bomber to fly that night.  Its mission was to fly up and down the front lines in Korean.  Information was radioed up to the B-29 bomber from the ground telling where bombs should be dropped. 
Ben Westre was a bit more reticent in opening up to me, although Ben did tell me that he was allowed to finish college (graduated in 1951) before he had to report to duty in the Army during the Korean War.  When I asked Mr. Westre what he did, he replied, “I was just a bloke in the Army.”  Although Ben never served overseas, his service was illustrative in what he contributed through his loyalty, devotion and absolute belief in his country.  As a friend Ben’s dependability is total.
Thanking Your Hometown Veterans for Service to Community 
If the many outstanding Post 264 funded activities seem worthwhile to you, as they did to me, what could be more patriotic than supporting your hometown veterans with a monetary contribution to help support Lake Forest Post #264 fund its many activities?  The Post’s involvement with Lake Forest youth was an eye-opener to me.   Most often there is a blanket acceptance of what we see happening around us.  Many good things are happening here in Lake Forest thanks to American Legion Post 264. 
I was informed by Commander Marks that contributions can be sent to P.O Box 264 in Lake Forest, 60045, made out to Lake Forest Legion Post 264.    Donations are tax deductible   It is also well to remember that all volunteers are unpaid.
Lastly, the American Legion needs new blood.  If you are the son of a father or grandfather who served in uniform during a time of war, please consider joining the new Sons of the American Legion Post 264 Chapter to assure that loyalty and patriotism might remain a part of younger generations of Americans to the same

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