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American Legions ask governor to let them open up

Updated: May 22, 2020 06:35 PM

Gene Swanson admits the members of the American Legion Post 71 in Duluth are getting older. "We are trying to get younger members in," he shared with us.

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But right now, no one can walk into the building. Per the governor's order, they are shutdown. And nothing changes for them June 1st.

So the state commander wrote a letter to Governor Walz, asking for the ability to serve their communities again. Swanson agrees. "We'd like to be able to open, with social distancing. Even if we can serve meals through the window."

The money they raise through bingo, burgers, and beer helps veterans, of course. But they also support non-profits. "We contribute to the food shelves and community efforts and youth programs. We want to keep helping," Swanson said.

There are 550 legions across the state, with more than 66,000 veterans. Many don't even have their own building, but rely on restaurants, VFWs, and bars to gather.

Jennifer Havlick, the 8th District Membership Director, is a member of Post 28 out of Duluth. They gathered recently in a Zoom call. "We are working on ways to get masks for our members and up at the Veterans Home in Silver Bay," she shared.

Post 71 is in the heart of West Duluth, where the Memorial Day parade usually is. Of course, because of COVID-19, there will be no parade. But the Honor Guard will continue to do salutes at the cemeteries.

"We still recognize people who made that sacrifice. We don't want to forget them," Swanson said. He's also a member of the Honor Guard.

He said nothing is worse than war.  And many of their members, have lived through those. "We have faith in our members. We've been through wars for 100 years now. We've adapted. Our goal is to continue our mission," Havlick said.

If and when they can reopen, Swanson said they won't rush it.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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