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Windom American Legion Post 206 celebrates century milestone

For the past 100 years, the Windom post has supported local veterans, community events and youth activities.

Windom Post 206
Windom American Legion Post 206 Commander Fred Meyer (from left), along with former commanders Don Abild and Babe Crowell, stand near the Preamble to the Constitution, which hangs in the post's meeting space at the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds in Windom. (Alyssa Sobotka/The Globe)

WINDOM — On Thursday, Windom’s American Legion Post 206 celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Organized just seven months after the national American Legion was founded in 1919, through its dedicated members, Post 206 has supported local veterans, community events and youth activities for the past century.

According to Post 206 Commander Fred Meyer, historical records report that the first meeting was conducted on Oct. 24, 1919 in the Farmer’s Room in the Cottonwood County Courthouse.

Today, Post 206 is headquartered at the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds in Windom, its meeting space’s walls adorned with the Preamble to the Constitution, an official letter of congratulations framed and signed by President Donald Trump and other memorabilia, like pencil sketches by students, photographs and even a Post 206 hat that orbited the earth 236 times from July 8-23, 1994, with Windom Legion member and former astronaut Carl Walz.

The Windom legion acknowledged its 100th anniversary during Windom’s Riverfest celebration in June, where the parade was themed “100 years of the American Legion.” Color guards from across the region traveled to Windom to join in the milestone.

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One of Windom American Legion Post 206’s long standing traditions is its annual Veteran’s Day program, which was started approximately 35 years ago by longtime Post 206 members Don Abild of Windom and Aubrey Fillbrandt, now of Brainerd. The program, which will celebrate its 34th program Nov. 11, has only been canceled once due to inclement weather.

Abild, a 55-year Post 206 member, recalls attending a Veteran’s Day program in Blue Earth more than three decades ago as second district vice commander. Impressed by the program, he was inspired to bring something similar to Windom that would pay tribute to veterans and teach students about patriotism.

The elementary principal at the time, Fillbrandt, along with high school principal, Dave Adamson, put their heads together to create a program that honors veterans. The legion post continues to be grateful for the school district’s ongoing participation.

“We’ve got over 1,000 performers,” said Windom Legion member Babe Crowell of the students who sing and participate in the program.

Meyer, Crowell and Abild said they’ve had numerous wonderful Veteran’s Day guest speakers over the years, but a few memorable ones come to mind, including Leo Thorsness, 1987; Alan Page, 1992; Maj. Mary J. Rainaldi, 2004; James Stephenson, 2012; and Attorney General Lori Swanson, 2013.

Windom’s American Legion presence is also well-regarded for its honor guard, which Crowell considered one of, if not the best honor guards in southwest Minnesota.

“We’re very fortunate we’ve got the personnel that will come and do that,” said the rural Windom native who served in the U.S. National Guard.

Post 206 sponsors a boy’s American Legion baseball team, which according to records, it has done since at least the 1930s. Today, the baseball team helps the legion install about 1,000 little flags and just under 200 larger ones to display at cemeteries around Windom for Memorial Day.

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“It takes the boys close to 45 minutes to put the flags all up,” said Meyer, a native of Sherburn who served in the U.S. National Guard for more than 30 years.

The Windom legion also sends a local male student to Boys State, while the American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a female student to Girls State.

According to Meyer, Crowell and Abild, the Windom legion is experiencing a decline in membership, which has been a common occurrence in legion chapters across the country as members continue to get older and recruitment of new members is challenging. Abild recalls when Post 206 reached an all-time membership high of more than 420 members in the mid 1980s.

While other chapters are closing or threatened with closing, Windom’s chapter has a membership of 142. However, explained Meyer, that includes several who have moved away but continue to pay their dues. Of the 142 members, only about a dozen attend monthly meetings, serve in the color guard and give military rites. Consolidating legion posts may be a future reality for many American Legion posts, Meyer added.

A step in the right direction, as far as Crowell is concerned, was a change by the national American Legion organization to open up membership to all veterans, regardless if they served during wartime.

“It is kind of scary to think how long we can keep going,” Crowell said.

Despite the difficult task of recruitment, Post 206 continues to try to reach out to younger veterans to ensure its mission is carried out for generations to come.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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