WILTON, Iowa–Only three years after the creation of the American Legion in 1919, Wilton started its own post, Post 584, to honor and support Veterans of the First World War. Now, 100 years later, the Wilton American Legion continues to celebrate Wilton’s Veterans from many different wars and to support the local community in numerous ways. To commemorate the first 100 years of their legacy, the Wilton American Legion held an open house Aug. 27.
To give both members and the public a chance to connect with the stories of the veterans who have made up the Wilton American Legion over the years, members put together a display of historic artifacts for attendees to browse. By looking at the emblems worn by service members in different wars, seeing the kind of gear and weapons they used on the battlefield, examining the medals they earned, getting to read some previously published news articles about the veterans’ experiences, and viewing the Wilton Legion’s original charter, everyone who attended got a better idea of the sacrifices local military personnel have made as well as how the Legion has supported them and the community they loved across the generations.
Throughout the open house, guests could also socialize with Legion Members, hearing some of their stories first hand. Delicious cookies decorated with patriotic designs lent quite a festive air to the celebration.
Currently, the Wilton American Legion resides at 201 East Railroad Street. However, when it first started out, its meetings happened at 310 Cedar Street, in the historic building the Wilton Candy Kitchen operates to this day. Though the two organizations may seem to have little to do with each other, Brenda and Lynn Ochiltree, the owners of the Candy Kitchen, have taken many steps to preserve the Legion’s history in their space. Over the original plaque celebrating the Candy Kitchen’s status as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, they have placed a second plaque honoring the years from 1922 to 1939 when the Wilton American Legion occupied the space. On the back of the Candy Kitchen, the Ochiltrees also commissioned Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, the artist who painted the Muscatine County Freedom Rock in Wilton, to create a new mural titled, “The Candy Kitchen Salutes . . . Duty, Honor and Sacrifice,” which depicts real Wilton military members going back to the Civil War. With its proximity to the Wilton American Legion, visitors to the open house could easily take in these patriotic sights.
An outstanding weekend to honor the Wilton American Legion’s centennial and all of Wilton’s veterans, Muscatine County Veteran Affairs Executive Director Eric Sanders found joy in participating in it. “The military history on display, the founding of the Wilton American Legion at the Candy Kitchen, which is in a building that was founded in 1856 and a staple of the town, and the support of the Wilton Community in honoring and recognizing Veterans is a source of pride and something no other towns that I’ve heard of can really lay claim to to this extent.”