INDEPENDENCE — Visitors to the Independence Heritage Museum can appreciate some local history before they even walk into the building.

June 15 marked the first Veteran of the Month installation by American Legion Post 33, Independence.

About 40 people attended the inaugural event in honor of Mancil Ivan Russell, former commander of Post 33. Russell was Seaman First Class in the United States Navy.

The ceremony offers a way for families to talk about their loved one that is not in a funeral setting, said Post Commander Billy Whisenant.

He drew inspiration from a similar program at American Legion Post 44 in Bantam, Conn.

Whisenant’s wife Rhonda modified that Post’s application paperwork for Post 33.

The program is open to veterans from the Independence and Monmouth communities who are deceased and were honorably discharged, died while serving in the armed forces, or who are Missing in Action.

A small display case to house a photo and information about each veteran of the month was installed in front of the flag pole outside the entrance to museum on July 12.

Brent DeMoe, director of Polk County Family and Community Outreach, constructed one for the first event, and Rick Seniff created the permanent case.

“It is a small contribution to help remember those who have served in the past,” Seniff said. “I was glad to do it.”

He said his wife Anne is an artist and helped him with the design and layout.

He said the veteran of the month program is meaningful to him.

“I was in the Marine Corps,” Seniff said. “When I came home from Vietnam, there was not a lot of attention (given to the returning veterans). Now I have a lot of people coming up to me saying ‘thank you for your service.’”

What happens at the ceremony can vary.

At the June 15 event, Mancil Russell’s son, Steven Russell, who also is member of Post 33, spoke about his dad.

His widow, Ramona Russell, thought they should sing a song, Whisenant said.

She sang a pitch-perfect version of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” he said.

The museum and the legion are a natural partnership, said Carly Annable, museum manager.

“It’s wonderful,” Annable said of the program. “(Whisenant) approached me pretty quickly after I started (in November). He did all of the leg work.”

“It’s important to the family to know the community does care and does remember,” Whisenant said.

The next veteran of the month ceremony will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Independence Heritage Museum, 112 S. Third St.

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