It’s Taps for Bryan American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 284. After 100 years, the auxiliary made the decision to close this year.
“It’s bittersweet to look back over the past 100 years ... and all of the good we did for Bryan and for our veterans,” said past auxiliary president Helene Moog, of Bryan, Unit 284’s longest-serving member and one of the last three active members of the unit.
Moog and she and the last two active members — Joanne Moats and Myrna Wines — made the decision to close the chapter earlier this year.
“It’s sad. This unit did so much good over the years, there was a lot of patriot pride. And for me, there was a lot of family pride. My grandmother was one of the original members. My mother was a member. It’s always meant a lot to us,” said Moog, now 75, who grew up in Bryan as an Opdycke.
The all-volunteer national Legion Auxiliary was founded in 1919, with the mission to support the then-fledgling American Legion posts and to honor the sacrifice of those who served.
Less than two years later, on Jan. 1, 1921, the Bryan Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 284 was chartered. Unit 284 steadily grew and at one time, in 1933, had 208 members.
Moog noted that the Bryan Auxiliary at one time supported three veterans hospitals in Ohio — in Dayton, Brecksville and Chillicothe — with volunteer efforts and amenities, all designed to make the veterans who had served their country honorably both comfortable and happy.
As a support unit of the American Legion, the national auxiliary today serves 172 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers through entertainment for patients and by providing physical and psychological therapy. The national auxiliary — whose philosophy is “service, not self” — raises more than $18 million every year and reinvests these funds in VA Medical Centers and community programs.
Moog said in its first half century, the Bryan Auxiliary was very active, holding numerous fundraisers, including bake sales, card parties and magazine sales, to raise money to carry on its work. She noted that juniors were an important part of the auxiliary, with members often accepted at very young ages. For instance, Moog said she was inducted at 4 weeks old, and Margaret Crutchfield was inducted at 3 months old in 1921.
Membership stayed steady at 125-130 during most of the last half of the 20th century. One of the main missions of the auxiliary is to send girls to Buckeye Girls State, which offers a hands-on practical education to Ohio’s young women in the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of good citizenship.
Moog said that support by the auxiliary for Buckeye Girls State will continue. The auxiliary cleared out its bank account and gave the $1,960.48 to the Bryan Legion Post No. 284, with the funds designated to continue to help send delegates to Buckeye Girls State.
Moog also said the history of the auxiliary — its records, pictures and artifacts — have been donated to the Williams County Public Library.
Over the years the auxiliary also sponsored the Americanism essays and Government Test at Bryan High School. It donated goody boxes to service members, Memorial Day wreaths to gravesites and donated U.S. flags to schools, libraries and city offices.
But by the beginning of this year, Auxiliary Unit 284 numbered just a dozen, with many of those members either slowed by age or residing out of the area. Moog said Unit 284 finally made the decision to close the Bryan-based auxiliary this year, hitting the century mark.
Moog said Unit 284 turned in its charter and disbanded effective in April. Remaining active and inactive members are able to transfer to another unit if they so desire and they remain members of the national auxiliary.
Moog said she has fond memories of the Bryan Auxiliary’s Memorial Day services and especially its social events in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
She mentioned that an event in 1925, a performance by the auxiliary’s Kitchen Cabinet Kazoo Orchestra, caught her eye and made her smile when she was reviewing some of the auxiliary’s past photos and history.
“The meetings were so exciting. I have very fond memories of getting all dressed up and going out. But society is different now. Lifestyles have changed,” she said.
Former Bryan American Legion Post 284 commander and historian Bob Rowan also said the closing was somber news.
He noted that due to declining membership, the Bryan Legion Post 284 had to sell its building on East Butler Street in 2017. They have moved into the Bryan Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post No. 2489 on East Perry Street.
“The auxiliary did a lot for the Legion throughout the years. But they were losing members, just as we have been,” said Rowan.
Moog also said it was common over the years for auxiliary meeting reports to end with a positive three-word message: “We’ll carry on.”
“That really makes me sad, reading that now. We were just not able to carry on.”