Welcome to the internet home of the Gilbert C. Grafton American Legion Post 2 of Fargo, North Dakota. Here, you will find all the latest information on the happenings of Post 2 located in historic downtown Fargo. The post is alive and well and contributing to the community!
Photos and Story by
First Vice Commander Christopher Hanson, Post Information Officer
Regardless of rain or snow, wind or sunshine, one team of men is always willing to carry out their mission, their duty. They form together on short notice to ensure that their comrades receive what they were promised for their dedication to a grateful nation. These members band together and pick up where they left off when they left the service years ago – to work together as a team for a common goal. And it is clear that they have never lost their urge to complete any mission at hand.
The members of the Color Guard of Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 of Fargo, North Dakota are those men. Comprised of over twenty total Legionnaires, the team has come together countless times for nearly six decades providing final military rites for men and women who have served our country. Their job is to provide a rifle team of seven to fire rifle volleys, perform Taps, and present the flag to the next of kin. They do it with time and time again with bittersweet pride.
While no one knows certain exactly when an organized and dedicated Color Guard or Honor Guard was established at Post 2, 60-year American Legion member Vern Useldinger can recall honors being a part of Color Guard activities and funerals as far back as 1948. But Useldinger is quite certain that these activities have been going on since the post was chartered nearly one hundred years ago. He believes that the group was called a “Ceremonial Committee” which was also associated with Post drill teams, bugles corps, and rifle teams.
Today’s Color Guard is a well-oiled machine that is organized and maintained by long-time team members and Legionnaires Will Hebert and Orlyn Stensgard. Hebert serves as the lead organizer for the group while Stensgard serves as the leader of the colors with the responsibility of presenting the flag to the next-of-kin. In addition to these two leaders, Sylvan Melroe serves as the Firing Team Leader charged with the job of leading the firing squad.
Stensgard is currently one of the longest serving members on the Color Guard. He estimates that he has served for over 50 years. A retired Army officer who served with the North Dakota Army National Guard’s famed 164th Infantry Regiment, says that he began participating in color guards while he was in the National Guard and that commitment continued with the American Legion even after he left the service.
The Color Guard now functions on a standard process when it comes to military funerals. Generally, the funeral home contacts the American Legion to be a part of a funeral if the family requests military rites. Over the past five years, in addition to the Color Guard being involved, the North Dakota Military Funeral Honors Team has also gotten involved by providing flag folders for these ceremonies. The relationship has grown into a mutual respect for each other’s organizations with the united goal of providing proper honors for veterans and their families.
The members of the group have varied stories regarding what motivated them to join the Color Guard. Several members wanted to continue giving the American Legion upon their retirement from their full-time jobs. Some enjoyed the friendships they had made through the organization. Everyone has their reasons.
Larry Lein, a 20-year member of the Color Guard and a 40-year member of the American Legion said, “The reason I joined the Color Guard was because back in the day, this was just something that you did. You wanted to give to the organization and this was one of the greatest ways of doing that.”
Sylvan Melroe agreed adding, “I wanted to be involved with this storied group. And in addition to that, I always liked the pomp and circumstance of military ceremonies and this gave me a chance to be a part of that.”
After visiting with several members, there is one thing these men have in common. When asked if any particular ceremony stood out amongst all of the funerals that they had done military rites at, they universally responded that the idea of military rites and funeral honors was that they should all be done the same. They should all be performed with the same amount of dignity and respect from mission to mission. And these team members take pride in their ability to do this.
“Every funeral is different,” said Bob Lechner, another longtime member of both the Color Guard and the Legion. “But nothing stands out because our job is to provide these rites in the same way for each and every veteran we serve.”
Dave Rice agreed with everyone as far as no one funeral standing out verses another, but did point out, “No one forgets those funerals where it’s 30 below outside in the winter!” Others certainly agreed with that- the elements make some funerals difficult, but nonetheless, the mission must go on with no regard to weather.
No honor guard would be complete without a bugler, of course. The color guard has several bugle and trumpet players who participate in funerals. Konrad Olson, a ten-year member of the team, serves as the primary trumpet player for the group performing Taps at funerals. Olson, along with fellow trumpet players Perry Kleven and Jeff DeVillers who provide this musical skill to the team, says that the performance of Taps, “provides a sense of closure to the ceremony” and “adds so much to the already solemn and dignified ceremony.” Indeed, the playing of Taps does provide the beautiful final touches to this special event, a final and fitting tribute to our veterans.
In addition to doing funerals and ceremonies, the Color Guard also presents colors at various community events to include sports events and community ceremonies. It is not uncommon to see the Color Guard present when military units arrive home at local airports. And they are often present at local parades, although the growing age of the members sometimes prevents them from marching too long of parades. Nonetheless, the members of the Color Guard want to keep doing as much as they physically can.
The Color Guard at Post 2 has served as one of the most busy and visible organizations within the American Legion. Their hard work and efforts sometimes seem unnoticed, but these are men that should be credited with the accolades that they deserve. They served our nation in the military many years ago and years later, continue to serve through a veteran service organization. Hopefully their example will be a motivator for young veterans and American Legion members and they will follow in their footsteps. There isn’t a better group of men out there to be exemplified.
Membership, Membership, Membership!
I am writing this post today to invite you to join with me as your First Vice Commander in making MEMBERSHIP our number one goal this 2015 membership year. It is no secret that our membership has suffered over the past five years for several different reasons to include transfers, deaths, mediocre communication, and inefficient efforts to bring awareness to what Post 2 has been doing over time.
I am here to say that THE BUCK STOPS HERE. We must aggressively attack the issue of membership and this is the year that we turn our decline around! I am presently putting together a demanding year-long plan to achieve our goals and more. While we have not received our goal numbers for the 2015 membership year at this time, our goal truly should not be a number or a percentage. What our goal should me is to have AS MANY MEMBERS IN OUR POST AS POSSIBLE. This will require us to engage and communicate with our membership. This will require us to begin aggressive work IMMEDIATELY to not only stop the bleeding, but to repair the issues. And it will require forward thinking in our approach to recruiting new membership to bring our numbers back up once again. We must stay ahead of the goals set for us by National and continue to push forward for the good of not only our current American Legion post and our programs, but to preserve the organization for the future!
As a part of our revitalization plan, the mission of fixing our membership woes is paramount. Other portions of the revitalization plan include standing up more community programs, seeking out volunteers to aid with the building and premises, strengthening our manpower with our existing programs, and seeking out young veterans to join our organization to ensure a healthy future for our organization.
Please show us that you onboard with me in committing to the future of our organization. If you have questions, you can contact me by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (701) 306-7567. God bless you, our veterans, and the American Legion.
First Vice Commander
WE NEED YOUR HELP - Building Projects
We are desperately in need of help around the building at Post 2. An endless list of tasks is building and growing and your aid is needed in the form of "sweat equity". Cleaning and maintenance in and around the building is essential and we are calling on you to help us out if possible.
Most tasks are routine and do not take too much time. There are a limited number of large projects that also need to be taken care of as well. Any help you can contribute would be appreciated very much.
Contact Christopher Hanson at (701) 306-7567 or Tommy Tolman at (701) 237-4013 to volunteer today.
Operation Comfort Warriors
CLICK HERE to read more about how Operation Comfort
Warriors helps our homeless veterans.
From the Commander
HERE to read the latest from our National Commander Mike Helm.
Asbestos Exposure Resources
Countless veterans are currently suffering from life-threatening illnesses that are a result of exposure to asbestos, a material that was commonly used in hundreds of military applications, products, and ships because of its resistance to fire. The Mesothelioma Center provides a complete list of occupations, ships, and shipyards that could have put our Veterans at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases. Learn more at www.asbestos.com.
PTSD/TBI Care: Is It Effective?
The American Legion and their members do not believe that the current PTSD/TBI care systems and procedures are effective enough. CLICK HERE to read more about this very important issue that many of our young service members are struggling with day in and day out.
Fargo VA Needs
A few new items have been added to the wish list for donations at the Fargo VA. They include the following:
WHEELCHAIR GLOVES: Seeking donations of Large and Extra Large wheelchair gloves for Veterans or funds to purchase gloves.
GUEST RELATIONS: Monetary donations for coffee, orange juice, condiments, cups and supplies for Greeter Program & waiting rooms.
COUPON BOOK FUND: Funds to purchase Canteen coupon books. Canteen coupon books are provided to Veterans who have no means to purchase a meal while attending appointments at the Fargo VA. Books may also be used for emergent needs of Veterans that can be purchased at the VA.
Please contact Karinn R. Davidson, Chief, Voluntary Service at the Fargo VA, at
(701) 239-3700, extension 9-3397 if you have questions or if you wish to donate any of these items or funds.
Women Veterans Health Care
Every VA facility is committed to meeting the unique needs of women Veterans by delivering the highest quality health care to each woman, while offering her the privacy, dignity, and sensativity to gender-specific needs that she deserves. CLICK HERE for more information.
Revitalization Discussion, Part II
CLICK HERE to review the Revitalization Report by Adjutant Christopher Hanson. This report was briefed a the February Post Meeting.
American Legion Mobile Apps
Do you use a smartphone? Or perhaps a tablet or mobile device? And are you a member of the American Legion? If so, CLICK HERE to read about great American Legion apps that are available for your devices! You can also CLICK HERE to go directly to a download page for these apps.
The Pickled Parrot
Have you been down to the Pickled Parrot in the American Legion lately? Great drinks, great service, gaming (blackjack and pull tabs), and outstanding entertainment on the weekends - get downtown and check it out! For current Legion members, present your 2015 membership card and get your second drink free. Support the Pickled Parrot at the American Legion, open Tuesday-Saturday, 4pm-2am.
To learn more about The Pickled Parrot at the American Legion, CLICK HERE!
Why Join the Legion?
Looking for good reasons to join or convince someone to join the American Legion? Wondering if it would be worth it to start up again after letting your membership lapse? CLICK HERE to read more about why you should join us in our mission and cause!