Credit score: Anne Kniggendorf / American Homefront
Richard Sobek is called “Bear” to the members of American Legion Submit 327 in Shawnee, Kansas, the place he’s the commander. He served as a Marine in Vietnam and mentioned he’s survived loads.
“I’ve seen each form of illness you’ll be able to have: polio and the measles, mumps, rubella, H1N1,” he mentioned.
However this battle with COVID-19 is completely different, and it has hit his publish onerous. Submit 327 closed for 3 months within the early levels of the pandemic, then reopened, then closed for one more two months throughout an upswing in circumstances.
The publish is open once more now, however enterprise is sluggish, and its funds are in disaster. Sobek mentioned it has misplaced each cash and a few of its 376 members — however to not the sickness.
Since March 2020, it has been vital to Sobek and publish supervisor Jeanne Barnhart to comply with well being tips. Moreover, visits from the county and the Alcoholic Beverage Management division of the Kansas Division of Income have saved them sincere.
However he mentioned their willingness to comply with protocol has value them, as different close by American Legion posts stayed open.
“Lots of our folks determined, ‘Effectively, the opposite posts are open, so we’ll go there,’” Sobek mentioned.
He doesn’t know why among the different posts remained open, and he gained’t title them, however a fast scan of Fb exhibits that some saved a full schedule of occasions all via the pandemic.
In the meantime, Submit 327 obtained a federal Paycheck Safety Program mortgage, which is nearly gone and was barely sufficient to maintain it out of the purple.
Sobek mentioned they’ve obtained a 50-50 probability of survival.
A lot of the publish’s income comes from the rental of the banquet corridor of their modest brick constructing on the outskirts of Kansas Metropolis.
Weekly post-sponsored bingo video games within the corridor are again, however the revenue is slim after the prizes are paid out. Barnhart mentioned what would actually regular them are wedding ceremony receptions and different personal occasion bookings.
“Earlier than COVID, I used to be booked fairly full on corridor leases upstairs,” she mentioned. “I obtained two the opposite day. They’re slowly popping out.”
The return of veterans to their members-only bar additionally has been sluggish. The masks mandate damage practically as a lot as retaining the bar closed; the publish lifted it when the CDC gave the go-ahead in mid-Might.
“Now that they don’t need to put on a masks, they’re comfortable,” Barnhart mentioned.
Dennis and LeAnn Busby are comfortable to be again. Earlier than the pandemic, they sat at one of many bar’s high-top tables two or thrice every week. Since April, they’ve bumped it as much as 4.
“We loved coming in right here as a result of they’ve stay music right here on Friday night time. It’s older folks, and I get a kick out of older folks,” Dennis Busby mentioned.
He’s 69 and isn’t a veteran. He belongs to the Submit 327 via Sons of the American Legion.
The couple mentioned they respect that their publish adopted the rules.
“It was as powerful financially for them because it was for anyone, however they didn’t complain about it or marvel why the someone wasn’t right here to bail them out. It was similar to ‘that is the best way it’s,’” Busby mentioned.
Sobek appears to have arrived at “that is the best way it’s” by recalling precise battle experiences. He tells about being on an island with different servicemembers as an enemy airplane flew overheard strafing them.
“There was a complete bunch of us on the market that needed to stay, however we obtained shot at. And that’s nothing completely different from COVID; you get shot at by the enemy,” Sobek mentioned.
It’s bothered him that some folks nonetheless say the precautions had been pointless and even that COVID isn’t actual. So far as he’s involved, the illness wouldn’t have wreaked the havoc it did if communities like his had been higher unified.
“However it has critically affected this publish and our skill to recuperate what we had,” Sobek mentioned.
To help in that restoration, the publish has gone again to hiring bands to play on Friday nights. The concept is that if sufficient folks pay the $5 cowl cost and keep lengthy sufficient, the publish will flip a revenue. Up to now, it is simply damaged even.
Barnhart and Sobek are hopeful that the state of affairs will enhance quickly.
Sobek requested, “The place else are you able to go on a Friday night time and pay 5 bucks and dance all night time?”
This story is a part of our American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration on in-depth navy protection with funding from the Company for Public Broadcasting and The Patriots Connection.
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