After veteran and Commander Sidney Malone found an old picture of his grandfather wearing an American Legion uniform and his grandmother wearing a cap with a #149 patch, he knew he needed to join the Wayne Miner American Legion Post 149. Through his investigation, Malone found out his grandparents were actually founding members of the Wayne Miner American Legion Post.
“That's why I joined 149,” said Malone. Since then, Malone has risen up the American Legion ranks and now serves as Missouri’s 5th District American Legion commander, overseeing all of the American Legion posts in Jackson County and working to grow the legion.
American Legions are patriotic nonprofits for veterans and are devoted to mutual helpfulness, mentoring youth, putting on Veterans Day ceremonies, sponsoring youth programs, and wholesome programs for the community. There are more than 12,000 American Legions across the country with nearly two million members
The 101-year-old Wayne Miner American Legion Post 149 is the second-oldest African-American legion in the nation, with nearly 150 current members and well-known past members like Judge Carl Johnson, Leon Jordan and Bruce R. Watkins.
The legion is named after a heroic former Kansas City resident, Pvt. Wayne Miner, a solider in the Army’s all-Black 92nd Division. As World War I drew to a close, Miner died when he volunteered to take ammunition to the front line. He is believed to be among the last soldiers killed in that war.
Most people in Kansas City may recognize the name from the Wayne Miner Court Apartments formerly located on 11th and Woodland. Wanting to let people know Miner was more than the name of an apartment complex, Malone said the legion is dedicated to making sure his heroism and dedication to country are remembered. That’s why the post is working with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver to award Miner a Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest military award for extraordinary heroism.
The first African-American legion in the nation, the Tom Powell American Legion Post #77 in St. Louis, is named after an Army messenger killed in France during World War I. The legion is also home to Missouri’s only all-African-American Funeral Honor Guard, a team of military members who perform drills at funerals including giving a final military salute to honor the veteran.
Normally, both legions have banquets, movie nights, cookouts and monthly meetings, but since the pandemic, they have put those events and their recruiting efforts on hold. However, Malone said they have been reaching out to local veterans and community members to provide them with masks and sanitation supplies.
Without regular events to connect around, Fred Walker, a member of the Tom Powell Post said, it is difficult for active post members, most of whom are older, to attract and maintain the involvement of younger veterans.
“Younger veterans are not as interested,” said Walker. “It’s a different era and priorities are different.”
Neither legion has its own building due to a lack of funding, but Malone said acquiring a building will provide a great place for local veterans to socialize and connect.
“Right now, we can't do that because we don't have a post home,” said Malone. “We’re hoping maybe within a year and a half or two years we can finally have our dreams come true.”
On Veterans Day, the Wayne Miner Post will hold a new member initiation at the Palestine Senior Center.
Learn more about how to join the Tom Powell American Legion at their website: www.TomPowellPost77.org.
Learn more about the Wayne Miner American Legion and upcoming virtual meetings on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AmericanLegionWayneMinerPost149.
Veterans Day Activities at the National World War I Museum & Memorial
The Kansas City National World War I Museum and Memorial will have free activities and general admission for veterans and active duty military personnel Nov. 7 through Nov. 15 and half-price general admission tickets for the public Nov. 11.
On Nov. 11 at 6 a.m., the museum is hosting a Legacy Jump where a parachute team, including former Navy SEAL and extreme sports enthusiast Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, will skydive a veteran from each war - World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War and the Iraq War - and land on the museum’s north lawn.
The museum will also host an outdoor Veterans Day Ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Memorial Courtyard featuring keynote speaker Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Mayor Quinton Lucas will also deliver a special reading.
The museum is asking guests to social distance and wear masks to the ceremony.
From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Kansas City Symphony will perform outdoors on the museum’s southeast lawn, free to the public.
For more information about the museum’s Veterans Day events, visit their website: www.TheWorldWar.org/VeteransDay
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.