SILVER CITY - Things are going well these days for Gordon May American Legion Post 439.
It’s hard to believe just a few years ago there was concern the post might dissolve because of declining membership.
“We were down to about 25 members,” Post Commander Jim Schoening recalls. “I knew a lot of people who were veterans, but the problem we had here is we didn’t have a building.”
Gordon May Post 439, named after the Silver City community’s first casualty of World War I, was chartered in 1920. The post survived the Great Depression and flourished during the post World War II, Korean War and VietNam eras. However, like many American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts in rural America, Silver City watched its numbers gradually decline in the latter part of the 20th Century as its membership grew older.
“The problem at a small town post is that when a member dies, there’s usually nobody to recruit a new member,” Schoening said. “It was especially hard for us because we had no place to meet. We needed a home.”
When Schoening became commander in Silver City more than seven years ago, formal meetings were held infrequently, sometimes only once a year, and post members would only get together for special occasions like Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day services.
The post was struggling to stay afloat, but in 2009 an opportunity presented itself when First National Bank announced it was closing its branch office in Silver City and giving the bank building to the city of Silver City to use as its new city hall. The old city hall, on Main Street, became available for the Legion post to occupy.
Post 439 signed a lease for the building with the city of Silver City in November 2009 and the post has been growing ever since.
“We think having a Main Street location and visibility in the community has been very good for us” Post Chaplin Jim Goos said.
Now that it has a building to call its own, the Gordon May Post has a place to display a wide array of military tributes (flags, plaques, awards and photos) to honor local veterans who have served our country dating all the way back to the Black Hawk War in 1831-32. Meetings and special events are being held on a regular basis and membership has swelled to an all-time high of 67 - 124.07 percent of the post’s goal set by the American Legion’s state headquarters.
Post members credit their new home and Schoening’s leadership as commander for the spike in membership.
The post has several special events coming up, including a corned beef and cabbage dinner on St. Patrick’s Day and a dinner on Memorial Day. The building is also available for