Douglas’ American Legion Fred Hilburn Post #11 celebrated its 100th anniversary this past weekend with a block party in front of the post home on G Avenue.
The celebration, which experienced a brief interruption from Mother Nature which forced the festivities inside, included a 50-entry parade, musical entertainment, a car show and a variety of vendors.
According to Dusty Maklary, first vice commander for the Fred Hilburn Post, the American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veteran’s organization.
“Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States.,” Maklary said. “There are nearly two million veterans and more than 12,000 posts in our communities and throughout our nation, making it is the largest veterans organization advocating patriotism and honor.”
The American Legion in Douglas was created that same year. It is reported that an estimated 75 Douglas men formed an American Legion post and during its first official meeting on Sept. 9, 1919, voted to name their post after Douglas native Fred Hilburn.
Hilburn, who died from wounds he received in World War I action in France, enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 26, 1918, leaving Douglas for Camp Funston, Kansas where he was assigned to the 355th Infantry, 89th Division. His unit spent a week in England, then two months in a French training camp.
By then Hilburn was a corporal, and he soon led troops “over the top” in the first big offensive in the St. Mihiel salient. A few days later, Fred took a detail one morning to the French village of Betancourt to bring up food for his battalion. That afternoon, vigorous German shelling produced rumors that Betancourt had been abandoned. Hilburn went back to Betancourt alone to see if the rumors were true.
While there, a piece of shrapnel struck Hilburn in the abdomen. He was taken to a field hospital, but died three days later during the night of Sept. 20-21, 1918. He was later buried in the Betancourt cemetery.
The same group of men who played a role in getting the local post named after Hilburn led an effort that resulted in disinterment of Hilburn’s remains. Hilburn’s casket was sent to Douglas, and on April 19, 1922, following a parade, funeral, and graveside ceremony, Hilburn was buried in Calvary Cemetery.
The American Legion’s motto is For God and Country and is founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth.
“Each of these pillars encompasses a variety of programs that benefit our nation’s veterans, its service members, their families, the youth of America, and ordinary citizens,” Maklary said. “In supporting our mission, the American Legion supports and advocates for veterans, the active military and their families, and fosters a responsible citizenship. Fred Hilburn Post 11 is truly a centennial post with our charter being established in 1919 and the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 11 being established shortly after. Our Legion family is completed with the addition of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) and the Legion Riders.”
For 100 years, members of Douglas’ American Legion Fred Hilburn Post 11 family have been active within the community, state, and nation as leaders.
The Fred Hilburn Post has close to 350 members and thanks to the latest declaration signed by President Donald Trump, anyone who served in the military from 1941 to present is eligible to join the American Legion.
Yearly membership dues are as follows: Legionnaire, $32 per year; Auxiliary Member, $30; SAL, $25; Auxiliary juniors, $7 and SAL juniors
“If interested please contact an American Legion family member or post home for information,” Maklary said. “We would like your consideration in joining us for another 100 years.”