Outer East Portland American Legionnaires ‘rescue’ sailors from their downtown ships

Discover why, every June, armed forces personnel ride out ‘122nd way’ to spend an afternoon with the good folks at American Legion Portland Post #1 …

All service men and women are welcome to enjoy the afternoon at folks at outer East Portland’s American Legion Portland Post #1 during their post-parade Rose Festival party.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With all of the fun and festivities taking place along Tom McCall Waterfront Park during the City’s annual Rose Festival – it might be surprising to learn that dozens of visiting seamen and officers come way out east to spend an afternoon on SE 122nd Avenue.

The reason is, over the last ten years, word has gotten out that the American Legion Portland Post #1 hosts the best party in town for military folks on the Saturday afternoon after the big parade.

By early afternoon, a couple dozen service people had made their way to Post #1 and were enjoying hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and desserts – and were playing shuffleboard and billiards, and were throwing horseshoes out behind the post.

Coast Guard Cutter ACTIVE E3 Michael Rainy tells event chair Bill Turner how much he appreciates the food and camaraderie.

“This is awesome,” said E3 Michael Rainy, who crews on the Coast Guard Cutter ACTIVE, and hails from Stanton Island, New York. “It’s a good way to give back to active service people; I appreciate it.”

There to hear this comment was the event’s main organizer, Bill Turner. “While I’m chair of this year’s event, we have many volunteers who help put on this great program every year during the Rose Festival.”

Taking time away from serving on the USS Lake Champlain to enjoy a barbecue luncheon at Post #1 are Petty Officer 2nd Class Harry Howanitz, Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Burke, and Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Davis.

They’ve kept up this tradition for a decade, Turner said, because the sailors tell them how much they enjoy their visit. “What’s amazing is that these kids actually come all the way out here. Many people think of an American Legion Post as a bunch of older people. These guys could be downtown going with groups of people their own age. But they come out here, year after year – throngs of them – we shuttle them out here in buses. As long as they enjoy it, we’ll keep hosting them.”

Hosting a party for as many as 200 sailors is quite an undertaking, Turner admitted. “We raise about $1,000 to put on the event, but this is one of the best programs that this Post does. And, we have the help of our dedicated Post Auxiliary, many volunteers – and Portland companies like Zenners donates their jumbo dogs and Fulton Provisions gives us the hamburgers.”

Volunteer grill-chefs Jason Darling and Brian McCarthy say they enjoy being of service to our service men and women.

Chefs Jason Darling and Brian McCarthy were manning two grills to keep the chow coming. “We do this to show the men and women our appreciation for fighting for our freedom; they give us the right to be free,” McCarthy said.

Darling added, “I know what this can mean; I served in the United States Marines for eight years. These kids are giving us a debt that we can never repay. I feel we owe it to them; it’s the least we could do. I know how much it’s appreciated.”

From the Portland Reserve Center (NOSK), Airman Apprentice Trevor Lacombe and Machinist Mate 1st Class Submarines Kenon Bliss check in with volunteer Ursula Stirgus of the Post #1 Auxiliary.

One of the drivers ferrying sailors to outer East Portland was Kenon Bliss from the Portland Reserve Center. “This is the second year of our supporting this event. Every year the American Legion holds this really nice welcoming party for personnel from all the ships that come in for Rose Festival. We spend the better part of the day hauling them back in forth, so ships’ crews can enjoy this. It’s really something special that American Legion Post #1 does.”

On the sailors’ trip back to their ships, Bliss said, he hears a constant stream of positive remarks. “They say they’re really impressed, and that that this party makes them really feel welcome in Portland.”

Find out why American Legion Portland Post #1 is called “The Service Post” – at their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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