Part two of a three-part series on American Legion Post 191. The Post will host a visit by the National Commander next week.
For years, American Legion Post 191 has been a gathering place for veterans. Local legionnaires both young and old said the organization has much to offer for veterans of all ages.
At the age of 36, Marvin Carr is the youngest member of the Webster City Post. He has been a member for two years and is the Second Vice-Commander of the Post. For Carr and other Legionnaires, the Post is a place of camaraderie.
Art Philbrook, the oldest member of American Legion Post 191, examines a display of medals and memorabilia from his time serving in World War II. Philbrook said he is most proud of his combat infantry badge. Other items include his rating badge of Platoon Sergeant and a bronze star.
"Civilians don't understand what we go through on the field or on the waters," Carr said. "They don't understand the stress levels, what we go though and the average daily lives we've gone through. So, if you go up and talk to someone who has been in the same shoes as you, there's that mutual respect."
While legionnaires often socialize at the Post's bar, Carr said the group does a lot for the community outside its walls. The Post regularly raises money for charity through toll roads and monthly dinners. As many of the Post's members are growing older, Carr said bringing younger veterans to help with these community events is essential.
Many of those younger veterans are used to helping out in communities, according to Carr. While his ship was docked in Virginia, he and others were sent to assist with community projects from building homes through Habitat for Humanity to raking leaves. Carr said the Legion can be an avenue for those service-minded veterans to continue such work.
"The American Legion has a lot to offer for the community," Carr said. "If us younger veterans step in and work with older ones there's a lot that can get done."
Veterans can also find themselves help through the Legion. One day, Carr, who was a chef in the Navy, was carrying 70 pounds of food up five flights of stairs on an aircraft carrier. Carr was out on a three month deployment for RIMPAC, Rim of the Pacific Exercise, which is an international warfare exercise held once every few years.
When the ship took a turn, Carr fell forward with the food he was carrying with just two steps to go. For four hours, he was paralyzed from the waist down and experienced excruciating pain. Even after medical attention, he did not fully recover.
"I was able to have some feelings in my lower extremities, but it's never been the same since," Carr said.
Carr was then faced with getting his case through the backlogged Veterans Affairs system. By calling the American Legion office in Des Moines, case workers we able to get him vocational rehabilitation.
"That's helped me to get in the school system. Now, I'm a sub-paraeducator for Pleasant View. The American Legion fighting for me to get the voc rehab is where it all started," Carr said.
Several of the Post's members also comprise the honor guard. Art Philbrook is 91 years old and has been a member of Post 191 for almost 70 years. He was the Post's Commander from 2000 to 2001. Philbrook said he is very proud of the honor guard, who take part in funerals for veterans, talk to local students about their service and participate in parades.
Philbrook has seen many veterans pass away. Of 75 officers from Webster City who served in World War II, he said that he's the last one alive. For Philbrook, serving in the honor guard has been a personal honor.
"The families really appreciate it," Philbrook said. "It's the last thing you can do for them."
Philbrook went to many places when he served overseas. He shipped out to Ireland and later served at Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in England. Later, he served in Africa and Italy. While in Italy, he and other soldiers were captured by a group of Germans. Philbrook said his group had nothing to fight several German tanks they encountered. For seven months, Philbrook was kept in a prison camp. He said the food was poor, there was no heating, but he was able to get by better than some. That's because he was chosen to take care of clothing sent by Red Cross to the camp.
Philbrook still remembers April 29, 1945 as the day George Patton's army liberated the camp. After recuperating in France, he came back to Webster City. When he returned, Philbrook's father who served in World War I paid his first year dues to become a Legionnaire. Through his time on the honor guard, as Commander and as a member of American Legion Post 191, Philbrook said he has met some great people. As he lightly taps his chest with his fist, Philbrook said that even after decades of work with the Legion, he still enjoys every moment of every parade he takes part in.
"It still gets me right there when you see that old flag out there leading them down the street," Philbrook said.