Andrew Dys

Veterans Day eve salute to Post 3746

Members of VFW Post 3746, along with the ladies auxiliary, gather Friday in front of the post on Crawford Road in Rock Hill. The post is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Members of VFW Post 3746, along with the ladies auxiliary, gather Friday in front of the post on Crawford Road in Rock Hill. The post is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

Heading south on Crawford Road out of Rock Hill, where so many black people lived during segregation and still live after integration, there is a little building that long ago was a church.

It is Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3746. The place where black veterans served each other, and families of black veterans, and gave back to their community and the community of everybody else, too.

That building still is Post 3746. Where for 44 members, and almost 30 in the ladies auxiliary, country and community come before self.

Like it's been for seven decades.

In the meeting hall, you might find Jesse Moore, 82, Navy veteran of World War II -- when the high seas segregated sailors but both colors fought just the same. Or Johnie Roseborough, 82, Army during segregated World War II. Those two guys have been members for almost 60 years.

"I remember I got back from the war, all these men around here were proud of the post, what the post did for people, so they asked me to join," said Roseborough, senior commander and former post commander. "I was honored to be a member then. I still am."

Nearby might be Bobby Plair Sr., 80, Marine Corps, known around Rock Hill and the country for a half-century for his music, but a VFW member on Crawford Road just as long. Nearby might be James R. Davis, Army, 84 years old.

A tall proud man might say, "Grady Meeks, United States Air Force, Vietnam, Quartermaster," because he is Grady Meeks, quartermaster of the post and one of the driving forces behind its continued service.

You might see Carrie Massey and her brother, Isaac Roseborough, who both served in the Army. You might see Marion Bernard or Willie Davis, whose grandfather was a charter member when the post was created in 1938 by World War I veterans. Men who loved their country and wanted to join the VFW but couldn't because they were black. The post met in a house on Black Street for years.

For many years, this same Veterans Day weekend, one lady would sit outside that house and sell poppies. Poppy sales to raise money for veterans is a VFW tradition. The black VFW loved that tradition and country, too. This post still sells poppies.

The members of Post 3746 were instrumental in helping to build support for the York County memorial in York that honors county soldiers killed in wars.

Veterans groups have long been integrated. There was a time some years ago when membership dwindled to the point that some considered closing the post and joining Rock Hill's larger VFW post on Main Street. But members decided to renew membership drives. But the reality is many of the members are older. Recruiting younger members is key.

Touting the history of the post, why it mattered in 1938 and still does, is vital. One of the newest members, Alberta Barnette, said, "There is history of people here. It matters to people. It is a part of who we are."

You might see Johnie Mae Coachman, Barbara Richmond, Cornelia Mills, Mattie Ware, of the ladies auxiliary. Mills is a charter member of the auxiliary dating back almost four decades. Coachman has sold poppies for decades, she will again today, and Sunday on Veterans Day.

Historically, and sometimes still today, the black soldier or sailor, Marine or airman, has not received the credit those military people deserve, post members said. One of the missions of Post 3746 is to make sure black military veterans receive earned benefits. The reasons the post has existed for almost 70 years are the same today.

"This VFW serves veterans and their families, and the community," Meeks said. "There is not a person here who does not love this country. We all fought for it."

Today, the post will have a fundraising fish fry for Veterans Day. Starting around 11 a.m., and through the afternoon, men and women who have served in Normandy and the Pacific, in Korea and Vietnam and in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be there.

Outside in the November sunlight, only one flag will fly high today at the fish fry, raised and lowered by the Officer of the Day.

The flag of those who will sing, "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

It is the American flag.

Want to go?

• What: Veterans Day fish fry fundraiser

• Where: VFW Post 3746, 1404 Crawford Road, Rock Hill

• When: Starting at 11 a.m. today

• Fish plates, sandwiches, hot dogs and drinks will be available. Post members will be on hand to talk about the post's role in the community and sell poppies for Veterans Day.

• For information, call 324-5777.