Here, we catch up with Anita McAllister, past president of the American Legion Auxiliary Emile Ladnier Unit #42, Ocean Springs. McAllister also is past department president for the state of Mississippi, parliamentarian for the state this year and a member of the executive committee for Unit 42.
1. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OR MISSION OF THE AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY?
The mission of the ALA is to support the Legion and honor the sacrifices of those who have served. Through programs and local support, we enhance the lives of veterans, military members and their families both here on the Coast and abroad. We stand with and advocate for our veterans, promote patriotism, educate our community and mentor youth. We serve in the spirit of service, not self. Learn more at www.leagion-aux.org.
2. HOW, WHEN AND WHY DID YOUR UNIT COME ABOUT?
Post #42 in Ocean Springs opened its doors on Dec 18, 1919. It was named for Emile Ladnier, an Ocean Springs native who served during World War I and was killed in action four days before the Armistice was signed in November of 1918.
Along with 12 veteran spouses, Legion Post Commander Ivan “Mac” McAllister revived ALA Unit #42 in 2009. Today our unit has grown to 50 plus members and continues to flourish.
3. WHAT’S NEW AND EXCITING WITH YOUR UNIT?
We are very excited to have acquired new members this past year who are full of energy and bring new ideas. We are planning to implement these ideas very soon to provide more services and support to the veterans and military families on the Coast, with emphasis on Ocean Springs.
4. WHAT IMPACT DOES YOUR UNIT MAKE ON THE COMMUNITY AND THOSE IT SERVES?
This has been our first year back in full swing since the COVID pandemic. Our community engagement year begins in August, and we started off with a bang, celebrating August birthdays with cake and ice cream at the VA Home in Biloxi. We continued raising funds and increasing community outreach throughout the fall with our spaghetti dinner fundraiser, concession sales at Cruisin’ the Coast and honoring and celebrating the veterans residing at Lighthouse Assisted Living. In December, Ocean Springs Post and Unit #42 spread Christmas cheer by collecting toys for underprivileged children in our area. We also filled stockings with essentials and brought joy to the veterans at Lighthouse.
In the new year, we have been busy helping 40/8 (an American Legion affiliate organization: https://www.fortyandeight.org/) to educate first-graders on U.S. flag history and symbolism to instill patriotism and appreciation of American history. We also teamed up with St. Alphonsus CYO, Planet Fitness Gulfport and the JROTCs of Biloxi and Gulfport high schools to collect 700 pounds of non-perishable items for the Biloxi VA food pantry.
We also have had Operation: Gift Wrap and Operation: King Cake to raise funds for veteran programs here on the Coast. In April, we held our first-ever Strong & Resilient Together event in honor of the month of the Military Child. Our goal this year is to double the support, assistance and community outreach the unit provided in 2022.
5. WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST THING YOU HAVE LEARNED OR GAINED BY BEING INVOLVED IN THIS UNIT?
The benefits and joy of working together as a team and giving to our veterans and military community (have been the best things). By volunteering with our veterans and engaging with our community, including citizens, business owners, civic organizations and local government, we have discovered a real sense of patriotism and unity in Ocean Springs, and we want to keep growing this positive energy. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive.”