By Sarah Huether
If veteran organizations bring to mind a “bunch of old men drinking and smoking cigars,” John Hince says he understands the stigma, but is adamant the American Legion is so much more. Dressed in his American Legion uniform, John sits next to his wife Gerry Hince as the early morning sun shines through the St. Mary’s Catholic Church windows.
Both Hinces are legion officers and Army veterans. John Hince, 2nd division commander of the Legion of Texas, and Gerry Hince, chair of Texas American Legion public relations committee. John served four years during the Vietnam War, and Gerry served for more than 31 years in the Army.
Their passion is undeniable as they speak about the Legion and all it does for veterans and the community. The Hince’s represent the American Legion Post 159 Bryan/College Station, which has 750 members. Members served during the modern war from 1990 to present, as well as the Vietnam War and every war in between.
The American Legion was founded in 1919 in Paris, later moving to Indianapolis. The organization serves nearly three million members nationwide, 65,000 of whom are located in Texas. One hundred percent of the money raised through raffles, runs, and donations help veterans and their families.
The four pillars of the Legion provide financial support, community service, leadership, and scholarships for youth and family.
“Whatever the need is, we have people that can do it,” says John. From cleaning a handicapped man’s house, to helping a deployed soldier’s wife move, the American Legion will jump to help the community. Several funds aid veterans and their families including the legacy fund, which offers a college education free of charge to children of fallen soldiers. At a local level, there is assistance to cover smaller financial needs such as a phone bill, utilities, or rent.
The Legion members meet the first Thursday of every month at the post facility; young and old veterans come together for a social, hot meal, and program. For early risers, coffee and donuts are served every Thursday morning for veterans to mix and mingle. Non-veterans are common visitors to meet the local veterans. Local hospitals will bring veteran patients to the coffee social to interact with fellow vets for a few hours before returning to the hospital. The American Legion Auxiliary meet the first Thursday of the month and comprised of spouses, sisters, and daughters of veterans offering support, creating care packages to send to soldiers, and discussing fundraising opportunities. Sons of the Legion meet the first Thursday of the month, as well.
In the past three years, the American Legion has started a coalition with other local veteran organizations such as the Vietnam Veteran Association, as well as Team Red White and Blue, VFW, Marine League, Veterans Park, AMVET, Texas Work Force, and Running with Roym Student Veteran Association. This year, the Veterans Park volunteers will be adding names of living and fallen veterans to the memorial wall to be displayed on Veteran’s Day, November 11, at Veteran’s Park in College Station.
The Legion offers camaraderie, which Gerry, winner of last year’s Outstanding Veteran Award, says is her favorite part of the Legion. “Veterans take care of the community…that’s what veterans do as a whole – we take care of the country.”
For more information about American Legion Post 159, including activities, events, and resources, visit www.alegion159.org.