Rose Festival sailors return to Mill Park

See why men and women in town for Rose Festival say they love being driven out to the American Legion Portland Post #1 for some ‘R & R’

As sailors arrive in their parking lot, American Legion Portland Post #1 Commander John Bolner welcomes them to the “Thanks to the Fleet” celebration.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With all the activities going on at the Willamette River seawall and in the downtown Portland area, one might wonder why sailors would opt to be driven out to SE 122nd Avenue in Mill Park, to spend the afternoon in outer East Portland on June 7, after the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.

Their destination: the American Legion Portland Post #1 “The Service Post”.

One of the reasons was that, when a riverfront hotel in the area that served as the “hospitality center” for service men and women during the Portland Rose Festival was sold and remodeled into a high-end boutique facility, the new owners declined to continue the tradition.

Post Commander John Bolner and Post Auxiliary Unit Historian Jackie Miller meet new friends in uniform, all serving aboard the US Navy USS Spruance.

“Even though we’re far from downtown, our members decided to bring them out here, and give them a day of fun,” recalled Post #1 Commander John Bolner, as he headed off to welcome another group arriving in one of the two large vans they’d rented for the day.

“Welcome to our annual ‘Thanks to the Fleet’ celebration,” Bolner greeted them. “We missed you all last year, because of the federal ‘sequester’.”

After telling the new arrivals what hospitality was available, and pointing them to the clubhouse door, Bolner smiled and said. “We’re back, and it looks like we’re having a very good turnout. Everybody’s having a good time. It’s a real fun event for us.”

American Legion members John Rinaker and Liana Smith work the grill.

From the grill chefs out in the parking lot, to the all who the members of the Post Auxiliary who prepared home-made salads, side dishes, and desserts, most of the Post’s active members stepped up to be of service.

“It’s really an uplifting event for us,” Bolner told East Portland News. “It’s also a chance to show appreciation for all they do. Really, it is the least we can do.

“The feedback we get from them is more than positive,” Bolner. “You see all these bright young people with smiling faces, in their crisp white uniforms – it’s amazing to witness. They have such great energy and we love being around them.”

USS Spruance GSE 3 Samah Khan, from San Diego, gas turbine systems electrical technician, shows her lunch plate.

After checking in, their guests were invited to dine on freshly grilled hamburgers and/or sausages, with all the condiments for which one could hope.

Inside the hall, a dozen homemade salads and side dishes were set out, and two additional tables were laden with homemade desserts. Those sailors wishing a cold frosty brew or soft drink had plenty to quench their thirst.

USS Spruance Lt. Tangie Montgomery says she’s thankful for the hospitality provided by this American Legion post.

Many of the guests were serving aboard the US Navy’s USS Spruance, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, displacing 9,200 tons, and 510 ft in length, tied up at the seawall downtown during Rose Festival this year. When we asked to speak with the highest ranking officer, everyone pointed to Lt. Tangie Montgomery.

“I think this is amazing!” enthused Montgomery. “It’s especially nice after not being able to come here last year.

“And, it’s so nice to be with our veterans,” Montgomery went on. “We learn a lot from each other, like how our services were in the past, and where it is today. And it also shows how much we all have in common. When service people get together, age doesn’t mean a thing.”

More folks serving with the US Navy check in.

On occasion, other organizations offer them hospitality too, Montgomery observed.

“But, our visit to Portland, during the Rose Festival, is always a very special one. We’re welcomed by this American Legion Post with open arms. It’s a great to be here, representing the Navy. It’s really great to get out to an event like this.”

It’s good times at the American Legion Portland Post #1 hall for naval personnel – here, celebrating the Portland Rose Festival.

After dining, crew members talked with their hosts from the Legion, played pool, shuffleboard, and out in the back patio threw a few games of horse shoes.

Events like these show why this particular American Legion organization truly earns the nickname, “The Service Post”.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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