In the weekend before the Fourth of July, 125 members of the Gainesville community came together Saturday evening to honor and remember those who served in the armed forces.
The 60th Anniversary Legion Ball and Banquet, held by the American Legion Eugene Brown Post 521 at the Gainesville Civic Center, marked an historic milestone.
Stephanie Watkins, the outgoing commander for Post 521 and an organizer of the event, said that many for-profit organizations don’t survive that long, and "for a nonprofit to survive is very important to me."
Watkins said the goal of Saturday’s ball was to recognize and honor those who served and those who died in the various branches of the armed forces, and also to inspire veterans to help the community.
Louvenia Richardson, president of the Ladies Auxiliary, said that Saturday’s celebration marked a "rebirth and starting over. It has been a long time since the community has come together to honor the veterans."
Kathryn Goudelock, first vice president of the auxiliary, felt the table representing missing POWs was the most meaningful part of the program. She said families of these POWs do not know whether their loved ones are dead or alive, and some have been missing since WWII.
Dr. Marcus Dixon, a Vietnam veteran, agreed Saturday’s event was a memorial for those who died in service. He also stated that it "stirred up good memories of friendship and also sad memories of the loss" of those he knew while in service. His wife, Cece Dixon, said that the celebration of the 60th anniversary was exciting and it showed "the importance of remembering history."
Amos Goudelock, Post 521 historian, collected information on several veterans who died in service to prepare for Saturday’s event. He also educated others by teaching them the purpose of the organization, which strives to bring together the community.
Several new faces joined older members at Saturday’s ball. Tim Woods, an Army veteran, said that he was proud to be part of the organization. "It is great to see everyone come together."
Booker Harper, an Army captain and transfer from Albany, is a life member of the American Legion. When his job transferred him to Gainesville seven weeks ago, he decided he would attend Saturday night’s event to support the local post. He said it is wonderful to see 60 years of documented African-American service to the community. "It is something to be noted," he said.
At the close of the ceremony, a plaque was presented to honor William Law and in memory of Frank Law, both of whom were leaders of Post 521 for 20 years.