BELFAST, Maine — For members of the American Legion, Sunday was a day for giving thanks and remembering those serving the country who will not make it home for Thanksgiving this year.
Every year Belfast’s Frank D. Hazeltine American Legion Post 43 puts on a turkey dinner with all the fixings for members, their families and the community. More than 150 attended Sunday’s gathering, sharing good times and stories.
“This is something we’ve offered members and their families for free for years. It’s a chance for everyone to get together, have fun and enjoy the season,” said dinner organizer and former post commander Albert Aldus of Belfast. “It’s a time for us to give thanks to our country, a new president and remember all the soldiers who can’t be home for Thanksgiving.”
Aldus credited the success of the dinner to his team of volunteers who began preparing for the feast days earlier. Five 20-plus-pound turkeys were roasted by members of the legion’s Ladies Auxiliary, who also baked 18 pies. The trimmings included 50 pounds of potatoes, 40 pounds each of turnip, squash, peas and white onions, 25 pounds of dressing and 2 gallons of gravy. There was also plenty of pickles, olives, fruit and green salad. There were few leftovers.
One of Aldus’ volunteers was his grandson Tyler, a husky 11-year-old who manned the onion serving line. Tyler was joined by his younger brothers Spencer, 7, and Patrick, 5, who both helped pass out paper plates.
“I really like helping out,” Tyler said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see all the people get together.”
Marissa Sprague, 16, of Swanville was on the line dishing out the squash.
“I’m happy to contribute to the effort,” she said. “I always like coming here. These guys are really nice. They’re good people.”
Juanita Dinsmore of Searsport is president of the Ladies Auxiliary and has been cooking turkeys for the dinner for years. Dinsmore, whose husband, Donald, served as post chaplain Sunday and gave the opening prayer, said she enjoyed playing a part and always looks forward to this time of year.
“I just put the turkey in the oven at night, go to bed and let my son watch it,” she joked. “I don’t guarantee anything. I just cook it and guarantee that it gets here. I’m glad to do it every year, but I’m especially glad to do it this year when times are so hard for some people.”
Bill Pollock of Belfast, a Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Army master sergeant, said he always looks forward to the dinner because it gives him a chance to see a lot of the post’s members. Not everyone attends the monthly meetings or frequents the Friday night suppers, he said, and it’s nice to encounter those people every now and then.
“It’s a great day. It was a great meal,” Pollock said. “It’s a great thing for the veterans. I just wish they’d come down here more often. Once a year we get to check our membership because it seems like they all show up for the dinner.”