KAILUA-KONA — The American Legion Post #20 Kailua-Kona finally has a place to call home.
“It’s a pretty old post, but it’s never had a post home,” Post Cmdr. Jim Hussey said of the post founded in 1969.
The veterans service organization celebrated the grand opening of its legion hall during festivities held Friday evening on Flag Day, June 14, at the Pirate’s Community Center at Privateer’s Cove off Kuakini Highway.
The event opened at 5 p.m. with a Flag Retirement Ceremony. The ceremony is held annually on Flag Day at posts across the nation.
“It’s to respect and honor the flag,” said Hussey, noting June 14 is also the Army’s birthday. “So we do it for both.”
It was the first time in a couple of years the local American Legion post has held the ceremony, which is the proper, dignified way of destroying U.S. flags that are no longer fit to serve the nation.
“We’ve decided to start it again, and we’re going to do it annually,” said Hussey.
After the flags were presented and the ceremony held, attendees headed for the grand opening and open house of the Astronaut Onizuka Legion Hall.
The organization has been working since January to transform one of the three old theaters at Hualalai Center into a welcoming environment for those who served the country. Prior to getting a place that it could call home, the post has met for the past four years on Wednesdays at Privateer’s Cove.
The legion hall now features a members-only meeting room, lounge, small recreation area, a piano and more that’s open every day. Every Wednesday, from 9-11 a.m., veterans are served free coffee.
“It’s a place veterans can sit around, tell war stories and that kind of stuff,” Hussey said. “A lot of them come and after about an hour they say this is a great thing because they can’t talk to people about their experiences.”
But the legion hall still needs an air conditioning unit, which carries a $15,000 price tag.
To help with that, Privateer’s Cove restaurant hosted on Friday a five-course meal and large chocolate pirate ship with Polynesian show by Ohai entertainment with all proceeds benefiting the legion. The money will go toward purchasing the AC unit for the legion hall, as well as for community outreach efforts.
“We have a temporary air conditioner in there but it still gets warm,” Hussey said of the need.
Privateer’s Cove hosts some 52 organizations, among them nine veterans organizations including the post, 16 children-related organizations, the American Cancer Society, and two Rotary clubs, via the Pirate’s Community Center, said owner Nick Traxler. All of the proceeds made by the restaurant goes toward the center. An estimated 2,500 people visit the center weekly.
For more information on the legion, visit http://hilegion20.com.