Today, Congressman Bill Huizenga marked the 100th Anniversary of the Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 in Grand Haven. Huizenga specifically highlights the history of Post 28 and its continuing engagement in the community and support for West Michigan veterans. During his speech, Huizenga also focuses on the important role West Michigan has played in WWI and WWII, specifically highlighting the USCGC Escanaba, as well as, the USS Silversides Submarine and USS LST 393 which are both on display in Muskegon. Below are Congressman Huizenga’s remarks as well as video of his speech.
Congressman Huizenga's remarks:
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity and rise today in celebration of the first 100 years of the Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 in Grand Haven, Michigan.
Before I talk more extensively about Post 28, I do want to acknowledge the very auspicious ceremony and anniversary that was recognized of D-Day. I joined the bipartisan group led by the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader to the beaches of Normandy to talk to the veterans who served there on those beaches and their family members. It was an incredible experience, especially me, the son of a disabled WWII veteran who nearly perished in a B-24 crash in southern Italy.
To recognize and remember the sacrifices that not only those men who stormed the beaches made, but those the families endured for years after that.
I want to take a moment to highlight some of the connections we have had in West Michigan to those efforts. Whether it was the City of Grand Haven, which is where Post 28 lies, upon the sinking of the US Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba raised public funds to literally build another ship. The new Escanaba has continued the very special tie with Grand Haven and members of American Legion Post 28. The Silversides, a submarine that saw action in the South Pacific. The LST, that resides in Muskegon, that took 31 trips back and forth during the D-Day invasion and the following days.
The history that we have is rich. The history that Post 28 has comes out of WWI. We just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice last November. My namesake, Bill Huizenga, had the privilege of fighting in that war. I have in my mind this connection that all of these men at that time, over 100 years ago, were coming together as a community and they were going off to fight for their country.
For 100 years, American Legion Post 28 has selflessly, admirably, and honorably served the Grand Haven community with a special focus on veterans and their families. On June 12th, 1919, 35 local veterans returning from the Great War gathered at the Grand Haven Armory, signing a petition to become chartered as the Grand Haven American Legion Post 28.
They chose as their namesake, Charles A. Conklin, who was Grand Haven’s first fallen soldier of the war to end all wars. Shortly after graduating High School, Charles joined the National Guard as a machine gunner and was part of the prestigious 42nd Rainbow Division.
After ferocious fighting on the German frontline, Charles Conklin was wounded in combat and died on May 7th, 1918. He now rests-in-peace at Grand Haven’s Lake Forest Cemetery, where his courageous spirit continues to inspire local veterans and all of our citizens to carry on his legacy of duty, service, and valor.
After witnessing their positive impact across West Michigan, more veterans and their family members wanted to join Post 28. The Post 28 “family” first expanded on April 9th, 1920 when the Women’s Auxiliary Unit 28 organized and was chartered.
For over a century, as they continued to grow, the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 28 was chartered in 1937 and again in 1990. Finally, the American Legion Squadron 28 was organized in 2007, completing the Post 28 “Family.”
American Legion Post 28’s steadfast commitment to serving veterans, their families, and the Grand Haven community shines in every act of service they perform. The long list of charitable and educational programs includes the annual Poppy Sale, the Boys State and Girls State programs, the Goodfellows Committee for volunteerism, food drives, their famous Salmon Dinner Night during Grand Haven’s annual Salmon Festival, and serving thousands of dinners at the Post’s home on Harbor Drive in Grand Haven.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Second District of Michigan, we thank the members of the Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 in Grand Haven for their service to our community over the past century and I look forward to working with them in the years to come.