ANGOLA — At its 100th birthday celebration Wednesday, the Angola American Legion got a name.
Post No. 31, chartered in October 1920 after being initially formed in 1919 by 40 World War I veterans, is now officially known as the Billy Crouse American Legion.
Marine Cpl. William H. Crouse IV, 22, and his bomb-sniffing dog, Cane, were killed Dec. 21, 2010, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Assigned to 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Crouse was in his first six weeks of his first tour of duty. He lived his childhood days in Angola.
His mother, Nancy Siders of Fort Wayne, has kept his memory alive and in the process, bolsters area soldiers.
“I want you to know how much the veterans mean to me,” Siders said Wednesday evening during the Legion event. “You guys are the thread of society.”
Siders has two other sons, one who served in the U.S. Navy, a daughter and five grandchildren. She said she hopes they continue to properly honor those who give their all for their country.
In naming the post after Crouse, said Indiana Legion’s State Commander Allen Connelly, LaGrange, the Angola post continues to look toward the future.
“It’s a new century and these are the people that we have to attract,” Connelly said.
In its 100 years, Post No. 31 has marked times of youth and vibrancy. Notably, said Connelly, it swelled to around 1,100 members after World War II, presumably because young veterans were seeking degrees at Tri-State College.
Angola Legion Commander Jim Penick said the post “still strives to maintain high standards of service.” In the final moments of Wednesday’s celebration, Penick officially dedicated the post to Crouse “and to all those who have died in service of our country.”
Crouse lived in Angola as a child before moving to South Carolina and eventually joining the Marines. He was the 161st Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
“I’ve tried to use my voice for a catalyst for help and healing,” said Siders. “I have not walked in your boots but I have given and shared in your sacrifice.”
Referring to the Bible’s book of James, Nancy posed the question, “What is faith without deed?”
Every soldier’s, every veteran’s commitment shows the extreme faith and the extreme actions of one dedicated to the country and fellow men, said Siders.
“It’s everything to me,” she said. “Every day, I learn something from a veteran.”
In particular she thanked Russ Bauer and the Patriot Guard Riders. Though she still suffers sadness, she said Bauer showed her how to keep moving.
“Do not fear what someone else thinks,” she said. She encouraged those gathered Wednesday to continue to act on their good intentions. She said the Legion is there to provide a place for them to be with others like themselves and to just be themselves.
It is a place for “hope, healing, laughter, a beer now and then, and refuge in the storm,” said Siders.
Connelly said the Legion continues to be proactive at a national level. It is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. Nationally, the American Legion was founded in 1919 on four pillars: veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism and children and youth.