|The American Legion Post 257, Collegedale, Tennessee, was started by Post 1697 of The Veterans of Foreign Wars of Collegedale. Surprising as that statement appears, it is true. Here is how it happened.
Since 1997, former Tennessee Department Commander Carl Levi had had a dream of opening a post in the Collegedale-Ooltewah area. Ironically, the former Ooltewah post had become inactive just at the time when the Chattanooga suburban population was expanding northward. What had been a sleepy rural region just a few decades before had begun to develop into a far more densely inhabited community with many veterans mixed in. Clearly the American Legion needed representation here.
The process actually began when V.F.W. Post Commander David Turner invited Jan Haluska, an army veteran unaffiliated with that organization, to make a presentation of service reminiscences to the clubs March 13, 2003 meeting. During the business portion of the evening, members suggested to Jan that an American Legion post was needed, perhaps as a dually organized body with the V.F.W. David and Jan began to explore the idea. Former Department Commander Carl Levi, East Tennessee Vice Commander Jim King, and Third District Commander Jim Ratcliffe attended the April 10 meeting, which also included Jan as a guest, and the plan began to take shape.
Over the following several months, the above officers continued to support Jans and Daves search for interest among Ooltewah-Collegedale residents. On July 17, the first stand-alone assembly occurred the week after the normal V.F.W. meeting. No minutes were kept, but the ten or so people who met with the American Legion officers were enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to start recruiting others with the goal of finding at least fifteen charter members not presently associated with the American Legion, along with current members who would agree to transfer to the new post. Most of those attending were V.F.W. members hoping for a merged operation which would assemble jointly one evening per month.
However, the impracticality of that plan soon became clear. How, for instance, would any dual member decide which posts business meeting to attend once the joint dinner had taken place? The two posts would have to meet on different nights of the month. Meanwhile Jan Haluska was informally chosen as Interim Commander, with Al Mitchell as Interim Finance Officer, and recruiting continued.
The process culminated in a sign-up conference whereby everyone who met American Legion requirements was invited to write his or her name on the Charter Application Form. Following that evening, Jan recruited others until a total of thirty-one new and transferring members had been gathered. Official acceptance of the paperwork came on March 25, 2004.
At the posts first official meeting on October 16, the following officers were chosen: Jan Haluska, Commander; Patty Parks, Adjutant; Mark Parks, First Vice Commander; Dennis Smith, Second Vice Commander; James Durichek, Service Officer; Dave Stevens, Chaplain; Gary Will, Sergeant-at-Arms; Mark and Gary, dual historians. Subsequently Dave declined, and in a later meeting Bill Twombly agreed to assume the chaplaincy.
The posts first official community act was to enter the Ooltewah-Collegedale annual parade on Sunday, December 7, 2003, when Jan, Patty, Mark, and James Durichek rode in a flag-flying, Navy Band-blaring red 1968 Camaro convertible, proclaiming to the world that Post 257 had arrived. The day before, an article in The Chattanooga Times-Free Press had announced the posts formation, with the result that Jan received several phone calls over that weekend from prospective recruits.
The post officer installation ceremony occurred on the evening of December 18, 2003. Visiting dignitaries included Department Commander Buck Barrett, Department Adjutant Mike Hammer, Third District Commander Jim King, Former Department Commander Carl Levi, Department Historian Troy Atkins, Soddy-Daisy Post Commander, Chattanooga Post 14 Adjutant Michael Crabtree.
This post history was prepared by Jan Haluska