The local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit has given up the ship—or at least the La Mesa post’s University Avenue home since 1985.
“O.K. Ingram Ship 1774 and its ladies auxiliary, along with AMVETS Post 1775, have voted to permanently move into the American Legion building at 8118 University Ave.,” VFW Capt. Jack Porath said Thursday.
A unanimous vote taken May 10 sealed the end of the old VFW home at 7298 University Ave. near Helix Charter High School, which suffered major structural damage Dec. 21 when a boulder smashed through the back wall during the heavy rains.
Porath said the vote “confirms that the membership enjoys the fellowship of veterans from all organizations, and that being together makes sense from both a financial and membership perspective.”
He noted that the American Legion’s upstairs hall allows for seating of 299, “greatly expanding the offerings of the member organizations. The phone is answered, and the facility is referred to, as the Veterans Club La Mesa.”
Porath said his membership rejected the option moving out of La Mesa, where the VFW ship has been chartered since 1930.
But not waiting until the landlord of the old building made repairs, the VFW rejected votes to consolidate with another post, such as the VFW Lemon Grove Post 2082 and Lemon Grove’s Encanto Post 1512.
“If the ship consolidated with another post they would have to officially relocate from the city of La Mesa and their charter would have been impacted,” Porath said.
Further, he said, “Remaining in the city of La Mesa was important to all the members as well as keeping the charter, name and number of the O.K. Ingram Ship Post 1774 the same.”
He said the citizens of La Mesa will see more of the members in the future as they do Buddy Poppy drives at Memorial Day and Veterans Day and other special occasions.
“The Buddy Poppy, distributed since 1922, reminds us of the sacrifices of our veterans,” he said. “All donated funds from Buddy Poppy distributions are used for veterans relief programs. At the pancake breakfast to be held prior to the signage unveiling on 3 June, the Ship’s captain and president of the Ladies Auxiliary (Jerrie Thomason) will distribute Buddy Poppies and solicit membership at their table.”
Porath indicated that the old building’s property manager, Harold Ryan, said he was not yet ready to address the required repairs and stated “he may have to demolish the building if the repair crews cannot repair the North and West banks, which are sliding.”
The VFW and AMVETS had been renters in the old building, will pay rent at the American Legion facility as well, he said
However, given the interest of Park Station developers in the American Legion property, Porath said: “Any efforts by them to sell the building, relocate, etc., … would now have to be addressed to the membership of all the organizations present in their facility rather than just the American Legion.”
Although Park Station representatives have “absolutely” ruled out an effort to seize the American Legion through eminent domain, Porath launched a shot across the developer’s bow.
“Any efforts to take the property by eminent domain (as has been discussed by some citizens) would impact all the veterans organizations in La Mesa—not just the American Legion,” he said. “This would be a political disaster for the city and any private enterprise contemplating such action.”
He said the American Legion would be forced to ask his VFW members for their views and “would probably take that into consideration since many of the VFW members are also American Legion members and no veterans wants to kick another veteran out of their home.”