How we got started with The American Legion

One fine day many years ago in Sun Prairie, Wis., I was waiting at the depot where the downtown park used to be. It was quiet all around me. But not for long, however. Here came Legionnaires with the colors and color guards and a caisson with a flag-draped coffin on it. It came up the street, made a left turn on Main Street, went to Church Street and went up to Tuschen’s Funeral Home, across the street from the Catholic church up there. I was so overwhelmed by that sight, and I wasn’t alone. People around me regarded this with reverence because here was a deceased soldier from Sun Prairie who lost his life overseas and was shipped home in a flag-draped coffin. I thought to myself, “If I have to go into the military, I want to be a Legionnaire someday so I can participate in things like this.”

And so, one day after I got out years later, I went to Reininger’s Barbershop. Jim Reiniger was my barber, and his father, Frank, was a World War I veteran. His father was one of the charter members of Elmer C. Petersen American Legion Post 333 in Sun Prairie. Jim had just finished my crew cut – we all had crew cuts in those days.

He was shaving with a straight razor around this ear here, and he said, “Bud, you're a veteran, aren't you?” I said, “Yeah.” He continued, “You said you got a good conduct discharge?” I said “Yes.” Then he drew in closer and said, “I need one more member to be 100%.” He's shaving back there, and I didn't think that was a time to say “No!” So I became the member he needed to get to 100%!

I went to the first meeting and became the sergeant-at-arms. My next year I was adjutant, and the third year I was a commander.

A lady came up to me and said, “I’m an Auxiliary member. It's customary that when the commander gets elected that he enrolls his wife in the Auxiliary. After I returned home that evening, I told my wife about that, and waited. She said, “Oh, my mom belongs to the Auxiliary in Cross Plains because her father was a past commander there." She went to their next Auxiliary meeting. The current president was not doing well, what we might call “onset of Alzheimer's.” She convened the meeting and then walked around the hall, straightening pictures, heading back to the kitchen. I was told, “We have to replace her.” Guess what my wife said when she came home?

She said, “I went to my first Auxiliary meeting and now I’m the president!”

So that's how we got started in The American Legion!

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