One hundred years ago, American Legion Post 32 started holding meetings in a Papillion dentist’s office.
The nonprofit organization of U.S. war veterans met anywhere they could. Their mission: serving past and present military members and the Papillion community, no matter where they meet.
Post 32 is one of the longest standing legions. It was founded in 1919, just months after Congress chartered the overarching American Legion. In 1934, Post 32 was permanently chartered, meaning it was ceremonially recognized as an official longstanding post, said James Heesacker, Post 32’s membership chairman.
They moved into their current location, 230 W. Lincoln St., 28 years later and have stayed put ever since.
The post has undergone construction of a new building and renovations within the current one, like most recently received new paint and lighting from Home Depot.
The legion supports Papillion however it can, Legion Member Fritz Weiss said, by attending local events and sponsoring various organizations. They support Boy Scout troops and school baseball teams, and they give Junior ROTC members scholarships. They host fundraisers, such as their annual spaghetti feed in April.
“It’s a good club here we have,” Weiss said. “We don’t make, you know, millions of dollars or anything like that. We got to keep fundraisers going so we can support these groups.”
Around 700 people are registered with this post, however Weiss said a large chunk of those don’t live in the Papillion area anymore. In terms of active members, Weiss said usually about 20 people attend their meetings.
The legion has exceeded their membership goals the last four years, Weiss said. Heesacker said it’s the fourth largest post in Nebraska.
While most posts are declining in membership because World War II and Korean War veterans are dying, Post 32 has broke the record for having the most members sign up for post for the last six years in a row, Heesacker said. More than 100 members joined up in 1946, Post 32’s largest sign up.
With World War II and Korean War veterans dying, Heesacker said Vietnam veterans are holding the American Legion together.
“That is a huge statement in the integrity of your Vietnam veterans,” Heesacker said. “They came out of a very hard war, and now they’re the ones lifting up an establishment that’s been here for 100 years.”
Ted Stapleton, Post 32’s second vice commander, said the post is working on appealing to younger veterans through the creation of their Facebook page and website at americanlegionpost32.com.
The post opened a beer garden in August and held its first Oktoberfest this fall. It operates a restaurant Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m. It holds other events open to the public, posted on their calendar online.
“We want the public to come down to their post and meet their veterans and interact with us,” Stapleton said.
Most recently, the post held its annual Veterans Day program Monday at 11 a.m. in the legion’s hall.
Veteran Torri Pantaleon of the city of Papillion’s television station Papio Vision spoke at the event. His speech touched on the challenges of being a military spouse. The Sarpy Serenaders Barbershop Chorus performed patriotic songs throughout the ceremony.
‘We just want to keep it basic,” Weiss said. “We want a program for what this day stands for.”
That is — honoring veterans for defending the country.
“For going and defending our Constitution, and making this country what it is,” Weiss said. “You and I can sit here and ... talk about anything we want to without worrying about anybody coming in the door to arrest us.”
The post’s next event is Bingo today from 7 to 10 p.m. Heesacker said he started hosting bingo nights once a month on Wednesdays as a way to bring military members, their families and the community together to share stories and form one big family.
“My goal is to provide a home for every veteran,” Heesacker said.