Still Serving: American Legionnaires help other veterans

20121025_LarryMiller_3226Larry MillerLarry Miller, who is chaplain for American Legion Post 93 in Mission, donates his time to serve his fellow veterans by playing “Taps” at the new RGV State Veterans Cemetery located in Mission. When there are funerals on Wednesday and Thursday, Miller will play “Taps” two or three times some days, depending on the number of funerals.  Other members of the Legion play on other days.

Although Miller has lived at Bentsen Grove RV Resort for the last 11 years, he is originally from Illinois. Back home he was a lifetime member of the Marine Corps League, which is similar to the American Legion, but is only for Marine Veterans.  Miller served in the Marines from 1957 to 1963, but was never in combat.

“The combat soldiers are the ones who really grab my heart,” said Miller.  “They are the guys who lay their lives on the line for others.  Anything I can do to show my respect for their sacrifices, I want to do, even if it is only playing “Taps” at their funerals.”

The local American Legion participates in funerals to honor passing veterans, when asked, by presenting the colors, giving a 21-gunsalute and playing “Taps.”  It takes 14 people to do an official ceremony, said Miller.  A color guard presents the colors commanded by the sergeant-at-arms.  Two soldiers stand at the side of the casket. The bugler stands off to the side. After the priest or minister gives the benediction, two people fold the flag and hold it over the casket.  The sergeant-at-arms gives a signal for the 21-gun salute.  Afterwards the bugler plays “Taps.”  The flag is then folded and presented to the family.

It does not matter how many times I have heard “Taps,” said Miller.  “It still gives me chills.  The melody is haunting.”

Since there were no Marine Leagues in the Rio Grande Valley, he transferred his membership to the American Legion when he moved here.  He now serves as chaplain for the post well as for District 15.

“As chaplain, it is also my duty to conduct funerals if the family has no priest or minister,” added Miller.

Miller is an active member of the local post participating in the fundraising activities and other events.  “American Legion is the largest veterans organization in the country. It is dedicated to God and country.  One of the major concerns is to help other veterans,” stated Miller

“Veterans are on hand to help returning veterans adjust to life back in the United States after being in combat zone.  Many of the young men serving in the military are serving multiple tours of duty in combat zones and have difficulty making the changes,” explained Miller. “Being with other veterans who have had similar experiences helps them readjust.”

Miller said the suicide rate is very high among returning veterans who have served several tours of duty.  He worries about his youngest son who has served two tours in the Air Force in Iraq and is completing his second tour of Afghanistan. The men work seven days a week with no down time and for some it is too much.  They need the help of veterans who have been through the same experience to help them readjust.

In addition, American Legion is dedicated to helping the community.  The American Legion in Mission built a baseball park for the youth and made donations to the youth programs at the Mission Boys and Girls Club.

“The American Legion also sponsors students from local high schools to attend Boys and Girls State competition to learn more about the political system. They support ROTC programs in the schools and offer scholarships for students.

Miller said the Mission Fire Department will be hosting a golf tournament on Nov. 18, and the American Legion Post will be there cooking the barbecue for the  golfers.

The American Legion also visits schools, presenting flag ceremonies for students and reminding them to honor veterans.

“Veterans Day is about honor living veterans, while Memorial Day is for honoring those who gave their lives in service of their country,” said Miller.  In the beginning after World War I, when it started, Veterans Day was called Armistice Day. It was celebrated as the day that ended all wars.  Realizing that was not the case, November 11 is now referred to as Veterans Day.

The Rio Grande Valley is very patriotic and has 15 American Legion Posts between Zapata and Brownsville.  The Mission post is still very active and well maintained. There are about 200 members and many Winter Texans drop by to offer their support while in the Valley.

Post 93 members will hold a bi-weekly fish fry starting November 2.  There are also alternate chalupa and hamburger dinners on Mondays. The money they earn from the dinners goes to support their charitable projects. When they are not cooking they enjoy a lot of karaoke.

Miller also mentioned that the American Legion Post in Donna, located at 318 S. Main Street, is the oldest Legion post in the world, and is in need of repair. The post commander is trying to raise funds to repair the building.

Whether it is playing “Taps” for a soldier’s final roll call, teaching children to honor the American flag, or helping students to get ahead for their future, the American Legion is there to help.  Winter Texans are welcome to drop in and participate at any of the 15 locations throughout the Valley while they are wintering here.  Check for local posts in the cities where you are staying and join the fun.

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