ARLINGTON — Although its attendance might have seemed relatively sparse at first, the turnout for the Arlington American Legion Post 76 commemoration of the Legion's 95th birthday on Saturday, March 15, soon drew a healthy crowd to the Post 76 Lounge that afternoon.
Prior to a hearty meal in the lounge, Arlington Legion Post 76 Cmdr. Chris Raboin was joined by Verna Mines, of Post 76's Ladies Auxiliary, and Chaplain Jim Barron in conducting the day's traditional ceremonies, which honored America's prisoners of war and missing-in-action with a lone, empty table.
Raboin touted the role of the Legion in supporting not only the veterans and national defense of America, but also the country's youth and history, both of which were represented by special guests who stood during the ceremony.
Mines introduced Florence Pryor, who's not only the oldest member of the Post 76 Ladies Auxiliary, but is also six months older than the American Legion itself, while Raboin invited Snohomish High School senior Malcolm Coffman, a recipient of one of Post 76's scholarships to Boys State, to share his experiences in the program.
"It was a great time," Coffman said of the mock government exercise, which he participated in by successfully running for the office of a Supreme Court justice. "I made all sorts of new friends, and I stayed up late for my election campaign, but it was all worth it."
Coffman credited Boys State with giving him firsthand experience in leadership and a deeper understanding of how his country's government functions.
"I've gained a huge appreciation for what it takes to make this system possible, so I'd like to be more involved in it," said Coffman, who expects to major in a scientific field, but is looking at some schools in Washington, D.C., where he might be able to pursue political studies as well. "Your scholarship inspired me to do that."
While Coffman was a visitor to Arlington, Pryor's red, white and blue walker is a familiar sight to many of the town's residents. Pryor was joined in the Legion Lounge that day by her friend, Margo Follis, and recalled how she gained membership in the Ladies Auxiliary through her brother, Ben Olson Jr., a Navy Seabee who did tours of duty in Okinawa and Taiwan before coming home in the 1940s.
"I've seen some terrific changes here over the years, and I've loved it," Pryor said. "The Legion is my home away from home."