Service to the country, community and state didn't end for American Legion veterans when they wrapped up their military services.
Around America and in Payson, legion members are continuing to serve their fellow citizens in a myriad of volunteer activities.
Among them are Boys and Girls State civic training for high school juniors, American Legion baseball, Junior Shooting Sports, the National Oratorical Contest, awarding of college scholarships and the newest program, Legion Riders.
In Payson, evidence of the American Legion members' support for the community in which they live, work and play, takes center stage each December when the local post hosts a children's Christmas party.
Last Christmas, 12 families, including 45 children -- some from Payson Community Kids -- celebrated at the party with hot dogs, gifts and food boxes.
Each child also received a $25 gift card.
American Legion auxiliary member Cathy Alston said the party was the group's way of doing "something for the kids that is a little more personalized than a community party."
In addition to hosting the party, the local post supports a national scholarship program to which high school seniors can apply. The local legion auxiliary is planning another scholarship to be funded by its thrift store profits.
The legion also has plans to sponsor a trio of teenagers with uniforms and lodging to attend a mini-law enforcement academy in conjunction with the Gila County Sheriff's Office. For those military persons on active duty, the local Post raised money to purchase helmet liners to help protect them from the shock of percussion grenades.
Local members regularly visit the Prescott Veterans Administration Hospital to deliver coffee, cookies and good will to the patients.
By partnering with the Shoofly Quilters, legion members have been able to deliver hand-sewn lap blankets and wheelchair tote bags to veterans.
When it comes to shows of patriotism, the local legion is front and center.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2007, the Payson post hosted a stirring remembrance ceremony that included the lowering of the flag, a prayer and the playing of "Taps" at about the same times the four terrorist attacks took place.
Later that evening, a Watchfire ceremony was held in which residents were able to honor the victims of the attacks.
In the ceremony, which will be forever etched in the memories of those who participated, Honor Sticks were given to all who wished to honor the victims of the tragic terrorist attacks.
The Honor Sticks were then placed on the fire as a tribute to the police, firefighters and veterans who have given their life in the name of freedom.
Last summer, the American Legion also donated the proceeds from a motorcycle poker run, with about $1,200 going to the Payson Supply Line.
The PSL buys and sends much-needed supplies to military personnel stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Membership in the American Legion is open to any persons who were members of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Coast Guard or Air Force and assigned to active duty during any of seven military conflicts including World War I and II, Viet Nam, Korea Gulf Wars, Lebanon/Grenada and Panama.
Around the country, there are about 14,900 American Legion Posts including Tonto Rim Post 69 located at 709 E. Highway 260.
Currently there are more than 600 members at the Payson post plus 250 auxiliary members.
The thrift store is downstairs from the Legion and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information call 474-6969.
American Legion Tonto Post 69
Post Commander: Sherman Alston.
Members: 600 plus, 250 auxiliary members.
Who can join: Membership in the American Legion is open to any persons who were members of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Coast Guard or Air Force and assigned to active duty during any of seven military conflicts including World War I and II, Viet Nam, Korea Gulf Wars, Lebanon/Grenada and Panama.
Community projects: Boys and Girls State civic training for high school juniors, American Legion baseball, Junior Shooting Sports, the National Oratorical Contest, awarding of college scholarships and the newest program, Legion Riders.