Although the Chris Gailey American Legion Post 450 and the Auxiliary Unit 450 were founded in 2018, they are already having an impact on the community around them.
Disabled veteran Randy McGraw can attest to that.
“About three months ago I was going down the highway, and the car stopped working,” McGraw said. “It wouldn’t even turn over. I took it to a mechanic, and he told me the engine was gone. He said probably a piston had gone through the block. The mechanic said the only thing to do was replace the engine.”
The 1997 Buick LeSabre Custom had been his mother’s. She bought it new and left it to McGraw when she died in 2011.
“The mechanic said that if I got $1,000, he would buy the engine and put it in,” said McGraw.
The mechanic would allow him to pay the balance over time. Although he was very grateful for the mechanic’s kind offer, McGraw had only $500 saved.
The car sat on the mechanic’s lot for about 10 days and McGraw began walking places.
Esther Coker, who serves as both adjutant to American Legion Post 450 and president of the Auxiliary Unit 450, saw McGraw walking to the store in Ramona and inquired. Coker knew him because McGraw is a member of Post 450.
The auxiliary had a yard sale planned, and Coker thought if the auxiliary agreed, they could to help McGraw with some of the funds raised.
“I wasn’t going to ask for any help, but she was persuasive,” McGraw said.
McGraw took a large number of items from his household to be sold in the yard sale and volunteered along with other post and auxiliary members.
With McGraw’s blessing, Coker brought the idea of helping him to the Legion and auxiliary.
After the yard sale, the auxiliary met and agreed to give him $333.33 toward the $1,000 needed.
When the post met, they also agreed to help by donating $167.67, bringing the total contribution to $501.
On Feb. 12 Coker and McGraw went to the mechanic and gave him their combined funds of $1,001 to start the work, McGraw said.
As the mechanic was working on the vehicle, he realized the fuel pump was broken so he replaced it too. Then, the automatic transmission stopped working, bringing the total to $3,168.48. With $1,001 already paid, the balance of $2,167.48 was to be paid over time at a rate of $200 per month. Currently, the total is $1,567.48, McGraw said.
McGraw received his car back from the mechanic on March 1.
“It means everything to me to have the car. I live alone. Without it I couldn’t get anywhere the store and doctor appointments,” McGraw said. “I’m very grateful to the legion and the auxiliary for what they’ve done. They’re good people.”
“Being able to see a veteran receiving help was very encouraging. It opens your eyes to the purpose of the American Legion and the auxiliary as organizations. … It’s not just on paper,” said Coker. “The membership is doing things to help veterans in the community. It takes the membership to make these things happen. …”
McGraw, who lives in Ramona, served in the U.S. Navy in submarine service from 1979 to 1985.
Recruited by Post Commander Ray Raley, this is first time McGraw has been a member of an American Legion post.
“His situation offered the American Legion family the chance to work together to get him back on the road,” Raley said. “This is what it’s all about — vets helping other vets and their families.”
To help McGraw or to join Post 450 or the auxiliary, contact Esther Coker at 918-332-7472, or Ray Raley at 951-218-2708. Post and auxiliary meetings are held at the Caney Valley Senior Center in Ochelata. Meeting dates and times are posted in on their Facebook pages.