BERLIN — Hoping to spark interest in a younger generation, the Berlin American Legion post will be holding an open house on Saturday, Nov. 12.
“Most people recognize the disconnection between people my age and young people,” said American Legion representative Ray Smith.
Smith came before the Mayor and Council Monday to discuss raising general awareness about the legion and to promote the open house.
Founded in 1919, the American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans’ organization and according to the institute’s website is, “committed to mentoring and sponsorship of youth programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting a strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.”
“We’re making a very strong effort to get people into the legion,” Smith told the council.
While the legion is fairly popular with Smith and his peers, he admitted that people a generation or two under him often have only a vague idea of what the American Legion is, if they know of its existence at all. Smith believes the November open house, set for 3-6 p.m., should help shine some light on the group’s goals and history.
“We’re going to promote the civic aspect [of the legion],” Smith said.
The mid-November date is also meant to add to the appeal, since it is the day after Veteran’s Day. To get the word out, Smith and his colleagues are planning on using a number of media and grassroots sources.
“We’re simply asking for recognition [from the town], hopefully a photo op and press recognition,” said Smith.
Additionally, the legion will utilize social websites and the Internet, along with word of mouth, to garner attention for the open house and the organization in general. However, Smith feared constantly pounding the information into the public spectrum could actually dampen interest instead of kindle it.
“We don’t want the thing to go stale,” he said.
To keep overexposure to a minimum, the legion won’t really kick-off promoting the open house until mid-October. At that time, Smith is hoping for an official town endorsement, along with enough buzz to get people through the doors.
Mayor Gee Williams lauded Smith for looking to bolster recruitment rates for the legion as well as for raising awareness about the group.
“I commend you for making the special effort,” he said.
Williams expects the town will be willing to officially recognize the contributions of the legion with a plaque or some other accolade.