Vietnam veteran Denis Backus never thought he'd be one of the old guys, leading the way in efforts to honor deceased veterans and provide social opportunities for the ones living in the community.
But here he is — and now he's hoping a new location for the Hartford American Legion Post 26 will help draw in younger vets who have served in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"I never gave it a thought that it would be my day to say, 'Well, I'm the one who's here now,' " said Backus, who served as a gunner in 1968-69 and is now president of the Hartford Veterans Council. He and other council members and Hartford schoolchildren have been working to plant American flags at the graves of 800 or more veterans buried in town cemeteries.
"But the problem is we don't have those (younger) guys join us," Backus says of such efforts. "We need the younger guys to join us to keep this going."
This fall, the Legion will move into a new location on Farmvu Drive, behind the Mascoma Bank headquarters on Sykes Mountain Ave. in White River Junction. Renovations are underway at the site, part of a complex of low-slung brick office buildings. Backus says he hopes the post — which will feature a bar, meeting rooms and activities — will open in September.