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American Legion Auxiliary stands beside veterans for 100 years

The Evening News and The Tribune - 3/15/2019

March 15-- Mar. 15--SOUTHERN INDIANA -- As the American Legion turns 100 on Friday, true to form, the American Legion Auxiliary is right beside the veterans' organization celebrating the same milestone this year as well.

Serving veterans has been a source of pride and a badge of honor for thousands upon thousands of women over the past century as members of the American Legion Auxiliary. The organization will celebrate its own 100th birthday on Nov. 10, 2019.

The bond between the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, which is made up entirely of women, has been inseparable over the years, both in times of war and peace.

"I truly believe if it weren't for the auxiliary, there wouldn't be an American Legion," said Alison Thompson, the president of Sellersburg'sAmerican Legion Auxiliary.

Thompson isn't being arrogant with her words, however. She says it with the utmost respect.

"Our job is to take care of our veterans and pamper them," she said. "They did their part by serving. Celebrating them and taking care of them when they come home is our part. They earned that right. They earned being cared for."

American Legion Auxiliary members in both Clark and Floyd counties support veterans in a multitude of ways and have done so for decades, said Jennifer Moulden, a member of the Bonnie Sloan American Legion post in New Albany.

Moulden has been involved with the auxiliary for more than 15 years, and has held several positions at the local, regional and state level.

Over the years, Moulden said, auxiliary membership has declined. This isn't surprising, she said, because the role of women in the world today is far different than when the organization began.

"Women used to stay home and they had more time to dedicate to this work," she said. "Today women work, have children, have husbands or they are single moms. There's a lot of demand on women today. We understand that."

However, the passion of those who remain involved has not wavered over the years, said Moulden, who -- at 72 -- volunteers with the auxiliary herself at least 30 hours a week, even though she also works a part-time job.

"Our focus has not changed even though the world around us has," Moulden said. "There are just variations on how we do things now. However, we have always been focused on taking care of our veterans since we started, and we remain focused on taking care of them today."

Beverley Crump, American Legion Auxiliary president at the Bonnie Sloan post, agreed with Moulden that change is inevitable in an organization that has remained active for 10 decades.

In her 33 years serving with the organization, Crump has personally seen the face of the auxiliary transform.

"We have had a lot of changes," she said. "We have had a lot of elderly people die off and younger people have taken over and made some changes. The changes have been for the better. We are doing a lot of things now to support vets. We have come up with different ideas and are open to suggestions."

More than 500 women are auxiliary members across the two counties and, together, they support veterans on several key fronts through dances, yard sales, breakfasts, raffle chances, blanket making, card creating, holiday bazaars, snack-pack assembly. The list goes on.

These dedicated ladies do a tremendous amount of fundraising, as well as public outreach, throughout Southern Indiana.

Even more, they ensure that area children are taught patriotism and Americanism by sponsoring essay contests and funding school reading programs. They even make and take cookies to local schools for teachers' week to show their support for educators.

"These children are the future of this country," Moulden said. "We support their education."

And, they do a great deal of behind-the-scenes work, too.

From welcoming veterans home at the airport to visiting them at Veterans Administration hospitals in Louisville and Evansville to adopting retired veterans, the care they provide runs deep.

While some veterans they support have seen combat, others haven't. Yet, they all matter to the auxiliary members, Moulden said.

"They all were willing to sign on the dotted line that they were willing to give their lives for this country," she said. "They earned our respect."

And, that's why the auxiliary members show special care for those who are struggling with civilian life. Their compassion is heartfelt, from visits to the VA's substance abuse treatment program to providing underwear, sweatpants socks and coats for vets who come to the VA hospital with nothing, or very little, to their name.

"It's such an honor to do this work," Moulden said. "We serve our veterans with pride and offer them the dignity that they deserve."


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