It is not every day that someone of national importance visits the small town of Marion. Dec. 12 was such a day, made special by the visit of American Legion National Vice Commander Glenn Hickman of Ohio.
In a room steeped with honor and respect on Marion’s Main Street, American Legion Post 22 members welcomed Hickman with ceremony and order.
A moment of silence remembering comrades still in service brought focus to the occasion, and State Department Commander Paul Sanford made opening remarks about the importance of membership recruitment goals. He then introduced Hickman.
“I make it a number one priority to welcome every soldier home again, wherever I go, just in case they were not welcomed home the first time,” Hickman said. “Welcome home, and welcome here.”
Hickman spoke about the importance of post involvement in Operation Comfort Warriors across the country as many returning veterans face extreme difficulties assimilating back into society, especially if they are dealing with traumatic brain injury disorders, also known as CTE.
Operation Comfort Warriors is a program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured, or ill military personnel by providing them with comfort items not usually supplied by the government. The organization makes it possible for patients at military hospitals and warrior transition units to have items such as sweat suits, DVD players and DVDs, electronic devices, books, telephone calling cards, puzzles, and more.
“It is just really rough on vets right now,” Hickman said. “Our job as a legion is to be there to welcome these veterans home, and extend help in any way we can. We need to do all we can to ease their transition back home and help them return to society.”
Hickman noted that the Marion post was a positive influence in the community and active in many beneficial ways.
“I cannot say enough to the good work you are doing here,” he said. “You don’t take enough credit for what you do.”
Post Auxiliary Unit President Audrey McLinden highlighted recent members’ activities, which included sending six boys and three girls to Boys State and Girls State functions, respectively.
She said members also visited veterans in assisted living units for Veterans Day with gifts, taught flag handling etiquette to local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, organized flag retirement ceremonies, provided photographs and information for a recently published book, “Our Nation Called,” and participated in Toy Run activities. The legion riders took 500 turkeys to Fort Riley for Thanksgiving, as well as toys, that they gave to military families with members in service.
American Legion Post 22 members presented Hickman with gifts including a Marion Chamber of Commerce bag with items created by local artists.
Hickman said Marion was the 19th stop on a 20-stop itinerary planned by the state. He planned to visit Newton next, and then to board a plane home to spend the holiday season with family in Ohio. He hoped to return Kansas in May.