MATTHEWS – When people think about the American Legion, Phil Mowry hopes they picture more than mere fellowship. Mowry wants people to envision veterans marching in parades, visiting schools and serving the community.
The Persian Gulf veteran serves as commander of American Legion Post 235 in Mathews. His group is thinking outside the box when it comes to recruitment and outreach.
Post 235 dates back to 1944, making this year the group’s 75th anniversary. It consists of more than 300 members, ranging from six World War II veterans to men and women in their late 20s who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Post 235 uses segment marketing to appeal to various age groups. It has a generations council that targets Young Guns (20s and 30s), Middies (40s to 60s) and Chiefs (70 and older). There’s even a focus group for women.
VinesDay Eve is one way the post targets female veterans. They drink wine and share stories on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Seaboard Brewing Taproom and Wine Bar.
8-Bells is the name of a series devoted to veterans who enjoy craft beer. That meet up on the second Tuesday of the month at Temple Mojo.
Mowry is leading an aggressive outreach program with the town. Part of that includes recruiting companies like 105 Cigar Co., Brakeman’s Coffee & Supply, Moe’s Original BBQ and Pizza Peel to offer discounts to veterans.
One of Post 235’s biggest events was part of the American Legion’s 100-year celebration in March. Members renamed their organization Hooks-Orr Post 235 after privates Grady Hooks and Joseph Orr. Both died during World War I and are buried in the Old Matthews Cemetery.
Members have also engaged in the community by helping maintain order at crosswalks during the Downtown Shamrock Crawl and providing an added layer of safety and security at the Matthews Haunted Trail.
“We’re not getting paid for that stuff,” Mowry said. “That’s our way to serving the community and model citizenship and patriotism to young people.”
Historically, Post 235 hosts ceremonies for Memorial Day and Veterans Day at Stumptown Park. This year, the post will extend the Memorial Day celebration all the way through the weekend as it did with Veterans Day.