In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1919, at 11 a.m., Corvallis community members, school students and staff lined Main Street with signs and cheered for veterans representing all branches of service, as the American Legion Post 91 marched down the short parade route.
The parade started off with a rifle volley, the Star Spangled Banner and silence. Then broke into applause and cheers as the veterans marched past or rode down the street in a restored Army jeep.
The parade route didn’t have as many spectators as the Memorial Day Parade but was attended by nearly 1,500 people — all 290 students in the primary school, 420 in the middle school, 480 in the high school and over 40 school staff plus community members.
Recently, American Legion has expanded its membership to include everyone who served federal active duty in the United States Armed Forces since December 7, 1941, and have been honorably discharged or are still serving. Those who served as U.S. Merchant Marine from Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946, (WWII) are eligible.
Post 91 signed up former sheriff and current Ravalli County Commissioner Chris Hoffman after the parade.
Former Post Commander Ike Slaughter said the change is important.
“Chris Hoffman is a veteran of the Cold War,” Slaughter said. “Only this year have veterans of the Cold War been eligible to join the American Legion which has typically been for veterans that have served during war time. But it was recognized by the administration that the Cold War was during wartime, finally.”
Hoffman joined the United States Army in 1976 while still a student at Corvallis High School. He entered service just after graduation in 1977 and served through the spring of 1980.
“I attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and trained as a signal soldier,” Hoffman said. “Upon graduation, I was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division’s 326th Combat Engineer Battalion, and later with the 9th Infantry Division’s 9th Signal Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington.”
He was a radio operator.
In 2012, Hoffman was made an honorary member of Post 91 for his work with them as Ravalli County sheriff. His wife, Ginny, has been an auxiliary member, through her dad’s service, for several years, also. Bill Alderson served in the Navy during WWII.
Congress decides who is eligible to join the American Legion and those who served in the Cold War years were previously not able to join.
That changed this year.
Hoffman decided to make even more of a commitment and serve with Post 91 than what he was previously doing as an honorary member and with his wife.
“What I love about this post is the values,” Hoffman said. “These guys don’t have a building, what they have is a heart to serve the community of all veterans everywhere — active and retired military. You just look around at the quiet work they do in the community and with the school here in Corvallis. I’ve seen these guys work since I was a kid.”
Hoffman said he appreciated being included in various projects and events by the post.
“It tickled me when they made me an honorary member and I thought someday there would be an opportunity to join,” he said. “They’ve been good to me. This is a good group of people to associate yourself with.”
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The American Legion Post 91 raises funds for veterans at Fort Harrison, organizes and hosts the annual Corvallis Memorial Day Parade; selects, organizes and hosts Boys State and Girls State; holds the American Legion Oratorical contest each year and so much more.
“They are a true service organization,” said Ginny Hoffman, Auxiliary member. “They are hard workers and help shape the community.”
After the parade veterans and their families had lunch with Corvallis Middle School students.
Principal Rich Durgin said he was impressed at how many veterans were able to attend the Veterans Day luncheon.
“It was definitely the most guests we have had in the years that we have had the luncheon,” Durgin said.
Doug Mason, American Legion member, said the Veterans Day Parade in Corvallis began about 20 years ago to honor and show respect to local veterans.
“We honor those who have passed away on Memorial Day and we wanted to honor those still with us,” Mason said.
The American Legion Post 91 first met Nov. 16, 1937, and officially started with Commander George Rasmussen on Nov. 23.
American Legion Post 91 has a new flag drop box at the Corvallis Fire Station for people to drop their old flags for proper disposal.
The Hamilton School District event to honor Veterans filled most of the high school gym. Beautiful patriotic decoration lined the balcony railings, students cheered and clapped for the veterans who served in all wars and from all branches of service.
Many students read their poems and essays.
A free verse poem by fifth-grade student Katia Fain touched hearts:
“We thank you every day, for the price you had to pay, you knew you could sit by a warm fires light, but instead you chose to go and fight. You fought and fought through night and day, all we could do for you was pray. You were young when you heard the call, you could lose, but through it all, you stood tall and strong with pride and fought for our country on our side. We thank you every day for the price you had to pay.”
Inspiring music was provided by the band, choirs and students in younger grades.
Roger Laferrier, retired from the United States Coast Guard, gave the keynote address which was about Eagles needing help because they served and were wounded. He said the most important job was that of story teller who would tell the history for generations.
“Remembrance is the greatest gift of all,” he said.