MARSHALL, Texas (KSLA) — A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Mark Haines from working.
For the past two months, he’s been remodeling the inside of Smiley-Summers American Legion Post 267 to give it a new look.
Haines, who is commander of the post in Marshall, Texas, admits that taking on that role a year ago wasn’t easy.
“When I first started being the commander, there was a lot of animosity. But people (have) really grown together; and we’ve put it back as whole group here.”
Being the commander of an American Legion post along with serving in the military was something Haines didn’t even think about as a kid.
“At first I wanted to be a professional baseball player like every kid in the world, but my sister started dating a young man that was in the Navy and we started talking and I was like man, that’s cool that’s really awesome," he said.
In 1996, he joined the Air Force and spent the next 21 years traveling the world and working as a mechanic.
“The first time you do it, it was like a big starstruck … like seeing a movie star, but now it’s like ‘OK, it’s an airplane’," Haines recalled.
After retiring, he began helping other veterans. And, eventually, a friend brought Haines to Post 267 in Marshall.
“I got loved (and) welcomed. My kids are welcomed. They come out. We have big family events. I felt right at home.”
With ideas and programs already underway to bring in more members, Haines is excited and happy knowing he’s using his leadership to help veterans in East Texas.
“The American Legion is all my brothers and sisters. All the people that have served ... they kinda know the same background I have. And even though everything is a little different when it comes down to it, the military is all family.”
Haines said they hope to start a program soon where they can bring barbers and beauticians to residence homes to give veterans and their spouses free haircuts.
The post currently has a Welcome Home Veterans program, a children’s program and a program to help feed veterans in East Texas.
If you’re a veteran living in East Texas, click here to learn about joining Post 267.