ENCINITAS — In spite of the rain and chill, about a hundred people gathered in front of American Legion Post 416 in Encinitas on March 2 to celebrate the American Legion’s 100th year.
“This is Normandy weather, we’ll survive it, no problem,” said Tom Rice, the event’s guest speaker and a World War II Paratrooper who leapt into Normandy on D-Day.
The event drew veterans of all ages and branches of service, with the aim of saluting “the greatest generation” — particularly those of Rice’s ilk. At least five attendees served in World War II — and they were joined by many more who served in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Gulf War and in the Middle East post-9/11.
The American Legion is a national organization aimed at supporting veterans, service members and their communities. It was federally chartered in September of 1919 — and locally, the San Diegiuto Post has been in operation since the early 193’s. The post is one of 29 in San Diego County, with over 500 active members.
Deputy Mayor of Encinitas Jody Hubbard noted that Post 416 is Encinitas’s second oldest business — “a notable accomplishment by itself.”
“But when you consider a broad range of its services and large membership, the tenure of Post 416 in Encinitas is nothing short of impressive,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard — as well as representatives from the San Diego County Supervisor Office and from 76th California State Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath’s office — presented the Legion with certificates of recognition for the organization’s “historic anniversary.”
The crowd was silent for the presentation of colors and Katleen Dugas’s rendition of the national anthem — which was followed by the French national anthem as well. Post Commander Matt Schillingburg said the gesture was meant to recognize France for sponsoring Tom Rice’s jump into Normandy again this year.
Rice, a 97-year-old Coronado native, has now jumped from airplanes a number of times in order to commemorate Operation Overlord, a historic military campaign undertaken during World War II. This year he will jump again in France, for the second year in a row, although he has jumped many times locally as well.
The event also hosted words of humor and wisdom from actor and comedian Hank Garrett — who starred in “Three Days of the Condor” and was an entertainer on the front line during the Vietnam War — as well as a performance by a local nostalgia band called the Mar Dels.