Outer East Portland vets ensure sailors find hospitality during Rose Festival visit

See why the American Legion Post #1 – “out SE 122nd way” – again stepped up to throw a barbeque party for United States Armed Forces personnel, after the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade …

Crewmembers from the USS Shoup (also known as the Destroyer DDG 86) step off a shuttle van at American Legion Post #1 for an afternoon of burgers, and camaraderie with veterans.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For many years, there was an official “Hospitality Center” for visiting United States Armed Forces personnel – especially sailors whose ships were docked at the Willamette River seawall – which welcomed them to the Rose City.

Dismayed that the Hospitality Center was “decommissioned” a couple of years ago, due to the change of ownership at the hotel that had long hosted the event, the commander of American Legion Post #1 at the time – Tom Fulton – couldn’t imagine a Rose Festival without some sort of hospitality for servicemen and women.

So, although their Post is located in outer East Portland at 1830 SE 122nd Avenue, the members, with the energetic assistance of the Post Auxiliary, decided to host a barbecue party for visiting servicemen and women.

American Legion Post #1 member, Nate Gray, says he enjoys being of service to fellow sailors.

Provides all-day shuttle service
Shuttle van drivers, like volunteer Nate Gray, spent the afternoon and evening hours of June 6th driving servicemen and women from Naito Parkway out to the post – and back again.

“I’ve been a member of American Legion Post #1 – we call it ‘The Service Post’ – for a long time,” Gray revealed, while his passengers disembarked. “I’m an ex-Navy guy, so I like to volunteer to help bring in folks from the Navy every year. The Navy is a very important part of our US military.”

Restating the purpose of the day-long event, Gray continued, “Our guys and girls deserve the best – here at our post, there’s good, clean hospitality you can’t really find downtown. They all love this event; I’m happy to help.”

Hamburger chef Gene Hamann cooks up big cheeseburgers for visitors during the American Legion Post #1 Hospitality Day.

Destroyer crew welcomed
The group Gray was dropping off while we were visiting was from the Everett, Washington, based USS Shoup – an Arleigh Burke class of Aegis guided missile destroyers.

One of the first to arrive from that ship  – and to succumb to the urging of Post members to fill a plate – was Sonar Tech Petty Officer 3, Michael Kisner.

“Right now, we’re doing a lot of training, and we’ll probably be deployed in October,” Kisner told us. “I’m really enjoying my experience in the US Navy.”

STG 3 Michael Kisner, a crewmember on the USS Shoup docked at the Willamette River riverwall, says he’s delighted with the chow – and the warm hand of friendship extended to his fellow crew members.

The barbecue wasn’t a surprise, Kisner noted. “When I visited an American Legion post in San Diego, I heard that the Portland Post was going to throw a party for us when we visited during Rose Festival. This is fantastic.”

Kisner took a couple more bites of his burger before he added, with evident sincerity, “I’m really grateful for all the American Legion does for us. These veterans are the ones who laid the ‘brickwork’ before us. I really appreciate them for their service to the country, and for hosting us here today.”

The general speaks, we listen
We asked to speak with the highest-ranking officer at the post, and everyone pointed to past Commander of Portland American Legion Post #1, and its chaplain, Jim Arling.

We asked Arling about his status; he told us he is a two-star general. “I’m the Western Sector Command Chaplain for the National Command Force. And, I’ve been in the American Legion for about 37 years. It’s the greatest organization in the world.”

In awe of meeting a two-star general, we paused in surprise before continuing the interview.

“Generals put on their pants the same way everyone else does,” Arling said with a broad smile. “We stand on the foot locker and jump in ’em.”

Asked about the Hospitality event, Arling told us, “This is our way of paying tribute to what the service people are doing for our country today. This post is comprised of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm veterans – some served in Grenada, others in Panama. There is an unbelievable camaraderie among the veterans. The only place you’ll find it other than this, is in an active-duty military situation.”

Jim Arling, past Commander of Portland American Legion Post #1, and its chaplain, talks with CTT 2 Brian Smith and CTR 1 Wesley Travis – both from the USS Shoup.

Because of this spirit of comradeship, Arling continued, “We take care of our troops. We do everything our can to support them. More than just by patting them on the back and tell them they’re doing a wonderful job, we host events like this one, introduced by our past commander, Tom Fulton, who passed away not too long ago.”

Arling retold the story about how Fulton, a retired Navy Chief, started Rose Festival Hospitality Day. “We are determined to carry it on in his name, because it’s such a wonderful program for the troops. They get free food, a couple of beers, and have a good time. Here, they’re safe and among friends.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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