DANVILLE — A venerable organization in Danville is in need of new blood, and the future of the Joseph H. Colopy American Legion Post 650 hangs in the balance.
Originally chartered in 1949, and named for the first Danville resident to lose his life in hostile action during World War II, Post 650 had as many as 191 members at one time. As America loses more and more warriors from the selfless “greatest generation” of WWII and Korean Conflict veterans, that number has dwindled to 90. The last remaining original member of the post, Charter Vice Commander E.C. “Clay” Spurgeon, passed away last fall at age 91. The youngest veterans of WWII and Korea are in their mid-to-late 80s and 70s respectively.
At its peak, the post counted 30 percent of its membership from the WWII era, 30 percent from Korea and 40 percent from Vietnam. Those percentages have shifted, and today just 20 percent remain from WWII.
The future of the post hinges on more active participation from veterans of Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Desert Shield and Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. Post Commander Buck Laughrey, who has served six years in that role, informed Danville’s Village Council in March that without an infusion of younger leadership, the post may have to close.
“We’re actually OK financially with 90 members,” Korean War vet Laughrey told the News, “but all of our officers have been the same for almost 10 years, and they are getting tired. We’re losing our World War II and Korean vets, and the younger fellows just don’t seem to be as interested.”
Election of officers for Post 650 will be held in June, and Laughrey emphasized that no decision to close the post has been reached. “It’s still up in the air,” he said, “but we need more of our members to get involved if we are going to keep going.”
Danville Post 650 shares its building on Tough Street with the local Head Start program, which is housed on the second floor. One possibility short of closing the post would be a transfer of the building to another entity, with an arrangement allowing the members to continue meeting there.