Much like the branches of the military, the American Legion refers to itself and its various branches as a family.
Richard and John Johnson of Bellaire have taken that idea and run with it, recently becoming the first pair of brothers to serve as commanders of the Bellaire American Legion and Sons of the American Legion Post 52. The brothers became involved in the organization in the early 1990s, when John convinced their father, William "Hank" Johnson, who had served in World War II, to join.
"I talked Dad into joining to get him out of the house, but he wouldn't go unless I went with him," John Johnson said.
Photo by J.W. Johnson Jr.
John and Richard Johnson pose for a photo after being sworn in as commanders of the Bellaire American Legion and Sons of the American Legion Post 52 last month.
That's how he learned of the Sons of the American Legion, an offshoot organization comprised of members whose parents or grandparents served in the military. Meanwhile Richard Johnson, who was a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve in the 1970s, also became involved with Legion activities.
"I had always believed in what the Legion stands for, which is veterans helping veterans," he said.
The two became heavily involved in the club eight years ago, with Richard serving as commander of the Legion from 2006-08 before holding other various offices. Meanwhile, John served as adjutant of the SAL for four years until 2011. During that time, the two participated in various activities that American Legions across the country are known to be involved with: providing financial support for Boys' and Girls' State programs; presiding over military funerals; and raising the American flag and presenting the colors at sporting events. The pair, along with their Legion family, never miss a home sporting event at Nelson Field.
"We do everything the community asks us to do," Richard said.
The reason for the commitment and involvement is simple: patriotism is always needed. And while John acknowledges patriotism has been high since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he remembers a time when that wasn't the case.
"It's much different now than it was during and after Vietnam," he said, recounting conversations and stories he heard about the pair's brother, William Johnson Jr., who served four tours with the Army in Vietnam.
While promoting patriotism and offering unwavering support for military members and their families is paramount, the duo also hope their time as commanders will inspire others to get involved with the mission of the Legion.
"We want to showcase how family-oriented the Legion is," John said, adding that no less than seven other family members are heavily involved with the Bellaire organization. "It's a chance for a family to get together and get involved in something that benefits our troops and promotes a good cause."