Legion members proud of membership

Hawarden American Legion Post No. 254 members James Petry, Dallas Huebner, Allen Van Noort and Harlan Van Egdom reminisce about their time as Legion members.

 

HAWARDEN—Four officers of the Hawarden American Legion Two Oakes Post No. 254 are proud of their organization and the community in which they live.

To witness the 100th anniversary Oct. 17 of their beloved Legion Post is humbling and an honor. Each take a moment to share what military branch they were a part of to allow them to be Legion members, how long they’ve been Legion members, what their position is presently and what memories and projects they have because they are Legion members:

Dallas Huebner, 79, of Hawarden 

U.S. Air Force 

Legion member for 30 years

Commander

One of Huebner’s proudest moments was when the post volunteered to be in the colorgaurd at the rally in Sioux City after 9-11. That and “probably second is the Veteran’s Monument.”

Huebner has been commander three times in his 30 years with the Legion; terms are two years.

He’s proud that Hawarden Post No. 254 is the 254th post in Iowa, which has nearly 600 posts today

It’s hard for Huebner to say exactly why the Legion is important.

“We are part of the glue, some of them fought for our freedom,” Huebner said. “It is an organization that you should be proud to be able to be a member of and it should be supported by the community because remember — these people have already given. Now it’s your turn.”

Huebner is proud of the Legion’s support of the Boy Scouts and the support the Legion has received from Hawarden’s Auxiliary, which began in 1920.

“Another thing we accomplished is creating the Sons of American Legion,” Huebner said. “They have done some great things, they brought the moving wall and that sidewalk that is at the Veteran’s Park making it handicapped accessible was funded by them.”

Another favorite of Huebner’s is the Legion’s annual fish fry going on nearly 20 years.

Allen Van Noort, 72, of Hawarden

U.S. Army 

Legion member for 49 years

Vice commander

Van Noort’s big project through the Legion was bringing a Freedom Rock to Hawarden.

Freedom Rock in Hawarden

The Freedom Rock at Veteran’s Park in Hawarden.

 

“We funded the project,” Van Noort said. “It was a quick decision because we wanted it to be in Hawarden.”

The Freedom Rock is a highlight to many members of the Legion. Larry Bauder, also a member, remembers going to get the rock from Jasper, MN.

“L.G. Everist donated the rock and Ron DeBoer, Roger Johnson, myself and Allen Van Noort made the trip to the dimensional stone quarry owned by L.G. Everist,” Bauder said in a later interview. “With the very gernerous help of Russ Ruhland, the rock was delivered on sight at the Veteran’s Park.”

Artist “Bubba” Sorensen spent a week in Hawarden around July 15, 2013, painting the Sioux County “Freedom Rock.” The design on the rock depicts soldiers from each branch of the United States Military, a Prisoners of War, Missing in Action mural and the American Legion design.

Freedom Rock makes many proud

Artist “Bubba” Sorenson painint the Sioux County Freedom Rock in Hawarden.

 

“Why am I proud to be a member?” Van Noort said. “We are most proud of the camaraderie of all the branches, all the ages coming together. When I first started, there was quite a few World War II members, now several of them are gone and we are bringing in the Afghanistan and the rest and I believe we have to do a good job at showing them what we are about. We all left home and slept in a be a long ways away and we knew we were not coming back for awhile.”

One of Van Noort’s favorite quotes that’s part of the Legion’s 100th year anniversary celebration and why Legion members are important in a community is: “Christ died for your sins, but a soldier died for your freedom.”

Harlan Van Egdom, 72, of Hawarden, 

U.S. Air Force

Legion member for 28 years 

Finance officer

An idea from friend Wilbert Gradert fostered what Van Egdom believes is the greatest accomplishment in the Hawarden Legion’s history — the Veterans Memorial.

The memorial consists of 4 large tablets with the names of more than 1,000 local veterans going back as early as the Civil War, flanking a central tablet with the name of the memorial and large etchings of an eagle and the American Flag. It was installed in the southwest corner of the Hawarden City Park on Highway 12 North in August of 2003.

Legion members knew the town should have such a memorial but the question remained, where should it be located?

The Legion first had its sites set on four-way stop, where the electric sign is, but were told the property didn’t belong to the city.

“So the next idea was the post office,” Van Egdom. “The postmaster was in agreement but the USPS denied our request. Craig Coffey (then city administrator) came to us and he proposed we put the memorial where Scroggs Elevator used to be. That offer was pulled away because of talks of a new fire station being built.”

Yet the committee kept meeting and found a spot in Hawarden’s City Park.

“We had to fight the city council for it, too,” Van Egdom said. “We wanted a high visibility place. It passed 4-1 and today it is a beautiful memorial.”

Each name on the memorial is $100, this is how the Legion made the project possible. The Hawarden VFW Post 2526 also assisted with the project. 

Van Egdom is also proud of how the Legion provides full military honors for a military funeral as well as the several programs that have happened in Hawarden throughout the years because of the Legion.

Memorial at Veteran's Park

The Veteran’s Memorial located at Veteran's Park in Hawarden.

 

“I get asked several times ‘What good is the Legion?’ and I feel that the American Legion is a reminder to community of the price that was paid for the privileges they enjoy — they didn’t come free!” said Van Egdom. “We honor all veterans.”

James Petry, 76, of Hawarden, 

South Dakota National Guard

Legion member for 17 years

Agatent

One of James Petry’s favorite memories as a Legion member was helping bring Holocaust survivor Benny Hochman to speak with the community members.

“The first time I heard him, he spoke in Wagner where my son teaches. When Benny took over the podium, I will never forget,” Petry said, with his voice quivering, “‘I forgive them all,’ he said.”

Hochman was taken at 16-years-old from his home to Auschwitz. He was exposed to the worst treatment a person could ever receive or see during the Holocaust. 

“How a man can say that, wow,” Petry said. “The crowd was huge, the gymnasium was full and he never had a note to read off of.”

Post No. 254 made Hochman an honorary Legion member.

Rumor has it that Petry joined the Legion “kicking and screaming,” but he remembers joining and serving honorably. 

“I take pride in the in the colorguard at the funerals,” he said. “For me it was a way for me to honor those who went to war.”