Rolla Dicks Post 315 American Legion Commander Marlin Slagle said this week that virtually all of the photographs and memorabilia inside the Burlington Junction Legion hall, which collapsed Sunday evening, have been recovered.
Legion members assessing the damage on Monday morning had feared that many of the items, including decades-old senior class photographs from Burlington Junction and Quitman high schools, were destroyed when the structure fell in.
However, Slagle said Nodaway County Sheriff's Department officers, volunteer firefighters and post members on the scene that night were able to carry most, if not all, of the artifacts to safety.
In addition to the photographs, Slagle said such items as ceremonial M-1 Garand rifles, flags, awards and even several large tables were salvaged before the front of the building was pushed down for safety reasons. The initial collapse, he said, was largely contained to the east wall.
"I really want to thank the Sheriff's Department and the firefighters," Slagle said. "Without them, we wouldn't have been able to save any of it."
One thing that could not be rescued, however, was the 100-year-old building itself, which means the 80-member post, established around 1920, will likely remain without a permanent home.
"We're not going to rebuild, I can tell you that for sure," Slagle said. "We don't have the money."
The organization, however, plans to carry on and continue holding monthly meetings, probably in the Burlington Junction City Hall. Post 315 members were to meet tonight a few black away in the United Methodist Church to consider their options.
Slagle said the now-demolished structure, which stood in the 100 block of West Main Street, was insured, but that the settlement will be insufficient to allow for acquisition of a new headquarters. He said the post was already struggling to meet expenses for upkeep and utilities.
"It would take far more money than we have to build a building or even buy one," Slagle said. "Basically we've been spending reserves just to pay the bills on the Legion hall."
One of the challenges faced by Post 315, he said, is an aging membership.
Most of the group's Vietnam-era veterans are now in their 60s, while veterans who served during the Korean War and World War II are in their 80s and 90s.
Wartime service is not required for Legion membership, but Slagle said younger veterans who served either during peacetime or in more recent conflicts have been reluctant to sign up.
Still, the aging group of veterans appears determined to soldier on, though meetings may have to held without the photos, plaques, flags, ribbons and other mementoes that would grace a permanent headquarters.
Slagle said he doesn't know where or if items from the old building will be displayed, but he emphasized that yellowing pictures are not what the Legion is about anyway.
Page 2 of 2 - "Our primary goals are veterans' interests and children — youth. Everything this post has ever done has been for this community," he said. "That will not change. We will continue to carry that out."