The American Legion Post 10 has a rich history in Kissimmee dating back 100 years this June.
But the leader of this local veterans’ organization has his sights set on more than a legacy. He wants a bright future for Post 10, too.
“We don’t care if they’re younger or older, we want every veteran in the area who’s eligible to come and join us,” said Post Commander Dan Bush.
Bush has overseen Post 10 for about two years now and has worked hard to strengthen the club’s identity and grow its membership rolls.
A big part of that was aligning the local chapter to what Bush calls the “Legion way.” The commander has been a member of the national nonprofit group for nearly 30 years, and quickly noticed changes he wanted to make to Post 10 after transferring his membership to Kissimmee when he retired a decade ago.
Bush saw rifts among the club’s leadership and members. Affiliated programs – including the Women’s Auxiliary, Sons of the Legion and the Legion Riders – struggled to work together effectively.
“We haven’t changed a lot, but we’ve strengthened and improved things that matter, like financial accountability along with a solid checks and balances system,” said Bush, a Vietnam veteran who worked his way to the Legion’s state economics committee in Michigan before taking over Post 10.
The local chapter also faces some competition from other nearby veterans’ organizations, Bush said. Its landlocked location at Kissimmee Lakefront Park is beautiful and historic, but also lacks more than 20 parking spaces, which can be cumbersome during big events.
“That’s something we’re working with the city on,” Bush said. “We have new leadership with a fresh outlook on the post and great events coming down the pipeline. Now, we just need to give people a place to park.”
The American Legion, a federally recognized program, launched in 1919 to serve as a welcoming, helpful place for returning World War I service members.
Bush and others at Post 10 work alongside former military personnel as they navigate the often tricky and complicated Veterans’ Affairs (VA) system. They’re certified to council individuals on benefits and help them figure out the fastest, easiest way to get assistance.
“It can be very challenging to figure out unless you have someone who can help guide you through it,” Bush said. “We show them what they need to do, but they still have to follow up with the VA on their own.”
State chartered outreach programs like Project Vet Relief are another way Post 10 assists former service members by providing a limited number of short-term grants to veterans facing financial hardship.
There’s also a strong legislative arm of the American Legion on a state and national level. Being a member allows veterans to stay informed on bills and laws that might have a direct impact on their life, Bush said.
Post 10 has about 500 members on its list, but Bush wants to see that number grow. A big part of that is letting folks know they are welcome to stop by, check out the post and ask questions. Bush emphasized that the Legion is open to vets of every race, gender and political background.
“We’re here to help serve them and their families,” he said. “This isn’t a good ole boys club. We want everyone to come by and check us out.”
Bush is also looking to forge partnerships with community organizations, especially the Osceola County School District. On a national scale, the American Legion offers a host of different programs and opportunities to youngsters, including scholarships and legislative internships. Students who are interested in seeing what financial aid and outreach programs are available can visit the Legion’s national website at www.legion.org.
“We want to make sure young people have a better scope of what the country is about,” Bush said. “We just need the community’s support to make it happen.”
To celebrate the history and future of the Legion, Post 10 is hosting a few special centennial events in June.
First, the local chapter is hosting a karaoke contest Friday to kick off a series that continues every Friday in June.
It will also host a two-day event on June 1 and 2 with a cornhole competition on Saturday and a horseshoe competition on Sunday. Both events are open to the public.
Kim and the Kadilicas will be performing at the post both nights to provide some lively entertainment (Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.) There’s also a $15 prime rib dinner offered Saturday night.
For more information about the organization, visit the American Legion Post 10 Makinson-Carson Facebook page.