Florence’s American Legion celebrates Veterans and milestone

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FLORENCE, Ala. - There was a celebration of veterans of a different sort today in Lauderdale County.

111116-mary-day-smith-american-legion2Did you know the American Legion Post in downtown Florence has great significance in the state of Alabama?

Thousands pass the brick building every day. Underneath the American Flag, sits American Legion Post 11. The walls inside the banquet hall are lined with memorials.

111116-mary-day-smith-american-legion“A lot of the artifacts inside the building we didn’t actually buy them, they were donated to us by members of this post or family members that want to honor their Veteran’s service to our country,” Mary Day Smith said.

Past Commander and now Adjutant of Post 11, Smith is the historian of the post. This year they are celebrating their 80th birthday.

“It’s a tribute to everyone that has served our country before me and everyone who is going to serve after me,” explained Smith. “That’s one reason we try so hard to take good care of the building. We are very proud of it because it is the oldest American Legion building in the great state of Alabama.”

111116-mary-day-smith-american-legion3Smith said after World War 1, soldiers returned to northwest Alabama and wanted to have a place to gather. So they chartered the first American Legion membership in the state.

In 1936, they broke ground on the building, buying the lot for $2,000.

“Everything was paid for by Veterans, and we are talking poor farmers. We’re talking about World War 1 Veterans who lived through the depression,” Smith said.

Which is why Post 11 has such special meaning for the men and women who come to share stories with one another.

It was announced Friday that in 2019, American Legion Posts from across the state will be coming to Florence to celebrate their 100th anniversary in Alabama.