Post 155 extends Maine hospitality to national commander

HONORED FOR HOSPITALITY — American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad (left) gives a certificate of honor to Department of Maine Second District Commander Curtis Merrill (center). (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — When National Commander Brett Reistad arrived at the Maine Military Museum, people from the Naples-based American Legion Post 155 played a part in making him feel welcome during his visit to Maine.

The newly-elected Reistad — who stepped into his post two weeks ago — has embarked on a national tour to promote the 100-year anniversary of Legion in 2019.

“It is exciting to be stepping into the position of national commander during the 100-year anniversary of the American Legion,” he said. “There will be plenty of opportunities in my year as commander to discuss Team 100, pay tribute to the Legion’s century of accomplishments and celebrate our rise in the next 100 years.”

Reistad’s other objective was to meet the many faces of the military families now belonging to the Legion.

His stop in Maine over the weekend is the first leg of his nationwide journey. He was in Michigan and New Hampshire at the beginning of last week, prior to arriving in Maine, where he spent three days. On Sunday morning, he flew out of the Portland International Jetport on a plane bound for Kansas.

Second District Commander Curtis Merrill acted as a gracious host, planning out some of the stops, coordinating the meals and getting to know the new national commander.

Merrill was thrilled to meet Reistad.

“He was super, very imformative. I was very impressed with him. It is an honor for us to be able to do that for him. anytime you can do something for your national commnader, it is a plus for your post,” Merrill said.

“We were very imipressed with him. We thought he was a gentleman and handled himself well. He was well-spoken, polite and cordial. That was what we could not get over — how cordial he was. He talked to everyone,” Merrill said.

“As commander of the 2nd district, I put the whole program together. Everyone was pleased. And, they were still raving,” he said, adding one of the raves was dinner at Post 76 in Scarborough that included the ¾-inch thick steaks that could be cut with a butter knife.

On Thursday, Merrill accompanied the national commander on the trip to the American Legion Headquarters in Winslow and on the tour of Togus VA Medical Center outside of Augusta.

On Saturday, Reistad spent time in South Portland and Scarborough. A stop in Naples was not on the itinerary.

However, more than a few dozen people from Post 155 were a presence at the event at the Maine Military Museum on Saturday.

The Department of Maine American Legion Post 155 Riders filled a few tables and had the opportunity to visit with Reistad. The Ladies Auxilary prepared the luncheon with menu items that included Mainer’s favorite comfort foods such as red hot dogs and Whoopie pies.  First District American Legion Auxiliary Vice-President Marian Merrill was in charge of the kitchen staff. Marion came up with the idea to serve red hot dogs, which are often unavailable in other parts of the country. Mary Neal, from Post 35 in South Portland, baked the Whoopie pies.

Little did Merrill know before planning the luncheon venue that Reistad, a native of Virginia, was a museum buff. Merrill could not have picked up a better location than the Maine Military Museum to impress Reistad.

“After we had lunch at the museum, we asked him what he wanted to do. He said, ‘I want another hour to go through the museum again.’ He loved the museum,” Merrill said.

Reistad’s remarks revealed his love for museums.

“To me, this is the highlight of my trip to Maine. There is so much to see. I wish it were in my backyard,” Reistad said.

Merrill got a chance to show Reistad what is in his backyard.

“We went down to the South Maine Community College and. through the campus. We went down to the army bunkers, the ones used to protect the harbor. He was very impressed with that — to see the history. Then, I took him from there to the Liberty Ships, where they made 13 ships at a time during World War II,” Merrill said.

“We took him out to the waterfront and his aide asked, ‘Is this the ocean? He didn’t realize he was at the Atlantic Ocean,” he said.

Merrill said he is looking forward to the many events and the membership drive that will be part of the American Legion’s 100-year celebration.

According to the Legion’s website, “The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism and youth programs.”

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