Meet Ed Geraghty & Tom Marks
American Legion, McKinlock Post No. 264
Facebook - McKinlock Post 264 American Legion
Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce: What is the American Legion’s mission?
Ed Geraghty: The American Legion really has two purposes. One is to serve veterans, and the other is to serve the community. The American Legion was founded back around World War I, back in 1919 and we’ve been serving the community in Lake Forest for about one hundred years now.
Tom Marks: When we say community, the emphasis is really on children and youth.
LFLBC: What inspired each of you to join the American Legion?
EG: I wanted to give back. A lot of people helped me [when I was] in the military. I joined the Legion later, as I had to raise the family and get the kids through college! But once that was behind me I got involved with the Legion...about ten years ago. It’s been a very worthwhile experience. We do a lot of good things for a lot of different groups.
TM: I got involved about 20 years ago…it’s been awhile! For me, it was really to honor the memory of my father who served in World War II. When I met the guys here, I realized that they needed help. The WWII guys were still running Lake Forest Day, still doing all the hard work and the lifting, and some of them were getting to the point where they couldn’t march the distance for the parades. And I said well, ‘best I help.’ So, I’ve been Commander three times. Ed is now in his third year of being Commander. We’ve both been in with both feet!
LFLBC: What types of programs, events, support and resources does the American Legion provide for local youth and children?
EG: We have several different programs. One is our high school scholarships that we give out every year. Last year we gave out $20,000 in college scholarships for high school seniors at Lake Forest High School. We also support CROYA; each year we have them perform at our Lake Forest Day. We also have American Legion baseball which is for boys up to age 19 and we have local coaches usually from the high school. We support Lake Forest College on their Veteran’s Day… [we go] out with our flags and color guard. And then of course, the scouts. Our post is more than a building for us, it’s almost a community center. The Cub scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Brownies…they all use the building for their meetings and for things like pancake breakfasts. So, we try to do as much as we possibly can to help the youth in our community.
TM: The Boy Scouts are a decentralized organization, [which means] every Boy Scout Troop is actually owned by a different entity, not the Boy Scouts. So, in Lake Forest, Troop 48 is sponsored and paid for by us with a fairly significant check. Troop 246 is sponsored by First Presbyterian Church. [Also], we write a check to [support] Applause, the [booster organization for] Lake Forest High School musical arts. We also do a Boys State…we send 6 to 8 boys to a one-week program at Eastern Illinois University where they do mock government and learn how bills get passed and all the stuff that goes along with that.
LFLBC: What is your involvement in special events in the community like Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Lake Forest Day?
EG: We’re the ones who post the flags all over town on holidays. We do that with our members, Boy Scouts and Members of the community. We put the flags up and take them down at the end of the day. For special days like Memorial Day we also put flags [on the graves of veterans] in the Cemeteries: St Mary’s Cemetery, Lake Forest Cemetery, Fort Sheridan Cemetery and St Patrick’s Cemetery.
TM: That’s 3000 flags at the cemeteries, and at least 550 flags around town. The funny thing is less than half the people in town don’t realize that its us that put up those flags.
LFLBC: What all do you do for Lake Forest Day, the Parade and the Carnival?
EG: We do it all. There is a tremendous amount of planning…we start in January and continue until the event in August, then we work to close the books on it by October, so it’s almost a year-round event for us. The parade had 88 entries last year. We’re hoping for more this year. We usually have eight to ten bands, lots of different groups. For the carnival, we ask for volunteers from the high school, the honor society, local realtors man the beer tent and sell beer and wine for us, and we have other community members selling tickets…it’s all hands on deck, basically!
TM: [Lake Forest Day is on a Wednesday because] in days of yore, the Garden Club ran it. Traditionally most businesses were closed on Wednesdays in Lake Forest and the doctors and the bankers went and played golf. Even as late as 1983, I remember our bank was closed on Wednesday. So maybe by the early ‘90’s that went away. So, Wednesday was a good day to get the whole town together and celebrate without being away on the weekend. In those days, the town really did turn out. Also, a lot of the high school classes have had their HS Reunions around Lake Forest Day. One year we got a suggestion to do it on a weekend. We put that up the flagpole and we took a lot of incoming fire! [laughs]
EG: That wasn’t one of our greatest ideas. It got shot down pretty fast! [laughs!]
LFLBC: How can the community continue to help and support the Legion?
TM: Number One: We are trying to grow and develop something called the Sons of the American Legion. We understand that there are probably fewer people living in Lake Forest today who were on active duty in the military, but maybe many of their fathers or grandfathers did, in Vietnam or Korea. We need that next generation to get involved so we can continue doing the things we are doing now. The largest active group in the Legion right now are Vietnam-era vets…we’re between the ages of 65 and 80 and we’re not getting any younger. It’s important that these things we do go on, and we need that kind of help. So, we’d love for more members of the community to get involved.
EG: For those who don’t have time to join, we ask for them to participate in our raffles, or to purchase flags through us…we’ll even drop them off at the house. Any support they can give us financially, [is helpful]. We need the community support. Lake Forest Day is our number one fundraiser. The events and the raffle provide all the funds that we then give back to the community in the form of scholarships and all the other things we do. And about a third of the people who win [the raffle], don’t claim the prize, they just tell us to donate it back to the community.
TG: If a [Legion] member wins…then you’re really under a lot of pressure to give it back! [laughs]. Also, [We’d love for members of the community to] come to Market Square on Memorial Day at 10:45. The scouts will be there. The speaker will be the Commander Omar Martinez from the Great Lakes Naval Station. And, if people want to help us put up the [Memorial Day] flags, they should contact us at (847) 234-9870. There are a variety of times [to volunteer] when we visit the various cemeteries. We could also use the help Tuesday morning picking up the flags.
LFLBC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
EG: On behalf of the entire post I would like to thank the Lake Forest community for all the support they have given us over the years.
TM: And we are thankful for the help we get from the Chamber. There are all kinds of service. We have members who were at Okinawa. We have member who were at D-Day and even members who never left the states…it’s a range of everything! But everyone answered the call and went and served their country. We’re glad that we can now do things to serve the community, because service doesn’t end when you take off the uniform.