On September 22, more than 250 American Legion members and guests celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Legion at the Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 (Grand Haven, Mich.) “Centennial Celebration” dinner gala. Several distinguished guests were in attendance, including Auxiliary National President Kathy Dungan, Department of Michigan Commander Steve Stiggow, Detachment of Michigan Commander Gary LaMunyon, and honorary speaker Brigadier General C. Robert “Bob” Secrist, U.S. Army (retired). U.S. Coast Guard Commander Mike Smith (retired) served as master of ceremonies.
The gala began with the entrance of distinguished and honorary guests, led by Post 28 Sergeant–at–Arms Freddy Smith. Next, the Post 28 Color Guard -- consisting of past Post 28 commanders Phil Smith, Garrett Veihl, Chris Jarvis and David MacKeller – conducted the Advance of Colors.Post 28 Commander #101 John Bilski then read Resolution 288, followed by an invocation from Post 28 Chaplain Duane Smith. An emotional POW/MIA remembrance service conducted by Post 28 First Vice Commander Janet E. Fonger and Post 28 Auxiliary President Kathleen Edwards completed the protocol.
After a joyous welcome by the master of ceremonies, a giant birthday cake with sparklers and flare was rolled out onto the main floor with all singing “Happy Birthday” -- in unison – as led by Post 28 Second Vice Commander and chair of Post 28’s Centennial Committee Gary Doublestein. After the singing of “Happy Birthday,” Bilski gave a heartwarming address on the trials and tribulations our soldiers experienced in securing victory during WWI. Secrist followed with a passionate and motivating speech on the history of The American Legion that received a standing ovation. In a solemn moment of comradery, all guests joined hands in singing “God Bless America,” led by Post 28 Auxiliary member Ruth Ann DeKoekkoek.
A memorable highlight was the closing “Tribute Dance” led by Post 28 Auxiliary member Cindy Novak DeGroot. The 25-plus Legion Tribute Dancers performed two elegant and graceful choreographed dance numbers followed by a first waltz.
“The Centennial Celebration came together better than I could ever imagine” Doublestein said. “The enthusiasm of Post 28 members and Legion members statewide was truly inspiring,” he added.