2017-12-29 / Letters

Vets helping vets was evident this Christmas

To the editor:

In South Portland in the Knightville area is a large gray building with a large parking lot. Some of you, who reside in District 2, know it as your polling place. This building is the Stewart P. Morrill American Legion Post No. 35. The building has been there since 1920, according to the city tax records. The American Legion has been a part of this community since that building was built. Activities range from organizing parades to community suppers to placing flags on veterans graves on Memorial Day to hosting community benefit and recently housing some 40 Sea Cadets on a monthly basis. An additional event that is pretty much under the radar is the Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes that are given out to veteran organizations.

These boxes, banana boxes to be exact, are filled to the brim with a complete meal for the holidays. I recently helped stuff the boxes and was amazed what they contained. In addition to the fixings for a meal, including fruits and vegetables, a 10- to 12-pound frozen turkey is provided. Everything that you would expect to see on a holiday table was in that box. Stuffing, pudding, Jell-o, cake mix and frosting, beans, peas, corn, fruit cocktail, carrots, celery, onions, squash, potatoes, apples, tangerines, bananas, soup, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, and to top it all off, 5-pound bags of flour and sugar. Some of us may not realize what is involved in fixing a holiday meal until you pack it in a box.

The American Legion contacts the Vet Center in Portland, as well as the Air National Guard and Coast Guard to help distribute these boxes. We pack them and they deliver them to people that they designate. We do 20 at Thanksgiving and 20 at Christmas. Thanksgiving went well for us this year, but come Christmas we had a glitch. The Coast Guard picked up three and the Vet Center picked up seven. The balance of 10 were to be picked up at 1 p.m. Friday. We waited and called around to the people assigned to deliver them but to no avail. Now what do you do with 10 boxes and 10 half thawed turkeys? Well this is where leadership kicks in. We called the Vet Center, South Portland Social Services, South Portland Fire Department and the South Portland Food Bank. First come first served was the message. The Vet Center put out the word to those who were not on the original list and the South Portland Food Cupboard said they would take the rest. So from 2 to 5 p.m. a couple of us sat at the Post and did a Army Times crossword puzzle as vets came in one by one and were more than happy to relieve us of our burden. It was cold and snowing and we took advantage of the weather and wheeled the half frozen turkeys out in the snow.

Personally I like to consider myself a worker bee and stay in the background. However, my helping this year helped bring the meaning of Christmas a little closer. A fellow legionnaire and I got to see firsthand who was getting these boxes. Usually we pack and someone else delivers, which on the whole is fine with us. We got to see the faces of the people who were truly glad to get this little surprise. In one case it was a vet who just moved to a new location and the cupboards were pretty bare. This was completely unexpected for this vet and the response was heart moving.

These boxes and supplies are gathered at the Post each year and are paid for thru donation of its members. A small group divides the vegetables into bags and then places the other items in each box. It is quite an assembly line process. The American Legion is a community based Veteran Organization that’s purpose is to promote Americanism and patriotism.

Michael R. Pock South Portland

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