Central Texas American Legion post, veteran celebrate a century of service

GROESBECK, Texas (KWTX) One Central Texas city has become the stage for a tale of two birthdays.

Photo by Drake Lawson

American Legion Post 288 in Groesbeck was founded 100 years ago this month, and a Central Texas man who would go on to serve in WWII was born just weeks later.

It wasn't long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, that a young Tommy Tucker was given a choice: go back home after a serving in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, or join the Army and fight the enemy waging war on the U.S.

"They asked me if I wanted to go home and take care of business and I told them no, I was ready to go," Tucker told us.

In the early days of WWII there were fears of an attack on the West Coast.

Tucker said, "we were guarding the coast for enemy planes, and we were supposed to track those planes and knock them out of the air if they tried to bomb the coast."

Years of training and postings eventually led him to Europe.

He was a part of a mobile anti-tank artillery in Germany when allied forces took Berlin and victory was declared in Europe.

But for him the danger was not over.

The ship carrying him and others back to the U.S. hit a major storm.

"One night and two days we were in that storm," Tucker said, "and every minute that storm lasted I thought it would be my last."

But he did return home along with thousands of other members of the military.

And organizations like the American Legion had a mission to help them.

"It was to serve wartime veterans and that's still the purpose today," said Post Commander Daniel Burkeen.

The American Legion was founded in 1919 after the end of World War I, and the Groesbeck chapter sprung up November 5 of that year, just weeks before Tucker's birth on Dec. 16.

Burkeen says the legion works to represent veterans on many levels, from being a voice to Washington to helping them work with the VA.

The organization also supports youth in the community providing scholarships.

And a cornerstone of the legion is offering opportunities for camaraderie.

"Veterans like to get together and they don't talk about their service usually they talk about other things, but people who haven't served don't have the same connection veterans have," Burkeen said.

And at Post 288 you'll find a wellspring of history.

Even the name has a story: it's known as the Ashburn-Hanna post named for WWI soldier Sim B. Ashburn and WWII sailor David Hannah.

Burkeen said, "he was an electrician I believe on the U.S.S. Arizona, his body was never recovered. But he was the first Limestone County resident killed in WWII."

Groesbeck has changed since that first meeting in 1919.

"I hear the stories of the old days, there were three drugstores and two grocery stores on this block and everything was downtown," he said.

They used to meet in the basement of this building on Navasota Street and eventually moved to their current home just down the block.

But Burkeen says one thing that hasn't changed is the sense of community.

"They like to have community events and people turn out," he said.

Those events include the Veterans Day Parade and celebration of Legion Post 288 and Tommy Tucker.

"Tommy is about to turn 100 and he's still going strong," Burkeen said, "he's just a great person as we see in a lot of our veterans. These were people who believed in serving their communities and their country and they continued to do that after their service in the military."

"Well, I've always loved my country," Tucker told us.

And when Tucker looks back on those days so long ago, he has nothing but gratitude.

"I was proud to be in the Army," he said, "I thank my Lord and savior that I was able to serve my country as a soldier, and I was thankful to him that I was able to survive WWII, never get injured, come home safe."

That American patriot and the organization created to serve countless people like him together represent a century of service.