Building a legacy Brookline man wants to revitalize American Legion

BROOKLINE – At 48, Ron Merryman is probably the youngest active member of the Brookline American Legion Post 74, and that fact does not bode well for the organization’s continuing vitality.

Post 74, like most veterans’ groups all over the country, is losing members. Their biggest supporters are those who served in World War II and the Korean War, and with much of the “Greatest Generation” now in their 80s and 90s, hundreds of veterans are dying every day.

The American Legion has helped veterans, who have also served their communities, since its founding after the first World War. There are now nearly 3 million members in over 14,000 posts worldwide, but that number is dwindling fast.

Merryman is on a mission to revitalize local posts, and he wants to start by re-chartering a Sons of the American Legion to serve Milford, Brookline, Hollis, Mason and surrounding communities.

“Most members are getting up in age and they are not being replaced by younger members … for a lot of reasons,” he said, including generational differences.

Merryman, who has served in the Air Force and is now in the Naval Reserve, points out that only 1 percent of the population has served in the military. That’s in sharp contrast to the World War II era when most able-bodied men were in the service, so veterans groups were drawing on a much larger number.

The point is to “bring in more youth and keep the group viable,” he said, during a recent interview at the Cabinet offices.

The first action is to find charter members to establish the group, and to do that he needs a minimum of 10 committed members. He now has five.

“I, and others, feel that the responsibilities to keep the American Legion viable for the next 50 years will fall on those my generation and younger. Thus my desire to build a legacy from the youth.” he wrote later in an email.

If the new charter members want a co-ed group, Merryman might start with a new umbrella group he is calling, COMRADES (Combined Relatives and Descendents of the American Legion), made up of men from the Sons and women from any American Legion Auxiliary. While Sons have to be part of a direct lineage of men who served in the United States military, Auxiliary members only need to be related, to have had, say, their mothers, sisters or aunts serve in the military.

Merryman thinks the COMRADES would be between 10 and college age and he would like them to focus on a long-term continuous service project “to capture veterans’ stories and bring the towns’ granite monuments alive using content in both electronic and print format.”

The Historical Society is interested, he said, and the project might become a valuable local history resource for the schools.

Finding members for Sons should be easier than finding new American Legion members, because a person doesn’t have to have served in the military – any direct descendant of a veteran who served during wartime is eligible to become a member of the Sons or the Auxiliary.

Among the benefits of membership, he said, are camaraderie – being with “people who understand – and keeping alive a legacy of service.”

To sign up, a military service record (Department of Defense Form 214) is required, and if there are no records a the New Hampshire Armory will help.

“If your relative served just one day, you can qualify,” Merryman said.

Dues might be $10 a year, and meetings would be few – only quarterly, not monthly – the minimum needed to continue service projects, he said. “The goal is not to have meetings for meetings’ sake,” but for service and support and as a way to give back.”

Anyone who wants information about joining the Sons or Auxiliary can reach Merryman at
amlegion.nh.74.sons@icloud.com.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@
cabinet.com.