Marta Ford said she was raised to be a patriot. Her father was a World War II veteran and frequented the Kellogg American Legion.
“It was one of the highlights of his life,” Ford said.
Ford herself is a former member of the Army Nurse Corps, one of the “red shirts” for Jasper County Freedom Flights, the chair of the Jasper County Veterans Commission and recently made local history.
Monday she was elected as the first female commander of Newton American Legion Post 111.
“I’ve been a member of the Legion for quite a while, but I didn’t become active until January of last year,” Ford said. “I don’t know how many women there are in the American Legion (nationally) per se, but I think there are quite a few. They just don’t happen to be here in Newton. I think now we maybe have three.”
“It just wasn’t very friendly to females,” Ford said.
“It’s always been a boys club,” former post commander Wallace Schermerhorn said. “A fraternity, male dominated.”
Ford said she became active after a leadership change. She said previous command wasn’t as receptive toward female members.
“We think it’s fantastic,” Schermerhorn said of Ford’s accomplishment.
Schermerhorn said that Post 111 was formed in July 1919 by World War I veterans and since that time, no female had ever held the highest rank at the post. This isn’t the first time Ford has made Post 111 history, she was also the first female member to be elected an officer when she was voted vice commander a few years ago.
Ford also wanted to clarify a misconception she feels that people have about the Legion.
“A lot of people think the Legion is that bar out there,” Ford said. “That is not the Legion. The Legion is things like we did today. It’s burials, it’s honor guard, it’s helping veterans. It’s not the bar. The bar is the social place, and it just happens to be open to the public now.”
In addition to keeping the doors open, Ford laid out her other plans for her time as commander.
“I’m not really a goal-oriented person, but (I want) to keep it financially solvent and to represent every veteran in Newton,” Ford said. “All of the veterans should feel welcome, male or female, and we will continue to serve all of the veterans — past, present and future veterans.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.