American Legion renamed

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Smithfield’s American Legion Post 49 has been officially renamed.

It was originally designated the George. F. Dashiell post, named for a World War I U.S. Army captain from Smithfield who was killed in action on Nov. 10, 1918, one day before the armistice that ended the conflict. Now, its charter and sign reads “Dashiell-Barlow American Legion Post 49.”

The Legion’s membership recently voted to rename the post in honor of one of its long-time members, Joseph Augustus “Gus” Barlow, a World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran who died July 20, 2018.

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Dashiell and Barlow were, in fact, cousins.

“My father grew up knowing about George’s sacrifice in World War I, and even though he never met his cousin … he would never want to replace his cousin’s name on the post, so I gave my permission for this honor only if my father’s name was added with George’s name,” said Barlow’s daughter, Karen.

Barlow’s daughter and Harvey Saunders, a fellow legionnaire who met him in 1957, served as guest speakers for the occasion. Saunders spoke of how Barlow would pick up members who were unable to drive themselves to the Legion’s meetings.

“If he couldn’t do it, he found somebody who could … He was Mr. American Legion,” Saunders said.

Robert Hannon, a past commander of the post who served as master of ceremonies for the occasion, spoke of how Barlow once convinced him to become one of the post’s officers.

“I remember in 1986, Gus called me on the phone and he said, ‘Would you take second vice commander?’” Hannon recalled. “I said, ‘Sure, you know, whatever I can do to help.’ … The next day, he called me back and said, ‘Would you be willing to take first vice commander?’ And I said, ‘Gus, whatever you want, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ He said, ‘Good, good.’ A week later, I got a phone call, Gus again. ‘Would you mind being the commander?’ I said, ‘Gus, I don’t know about that one. I’ve been in the Legion four years, there’s a lot I don’t know. He said, ‘What you don’t know, I’ll teach you.’ … That’s the way Gus was. This post would not exist today if it had not been for Gus.”

Barlow, he explained, had once worked with another legionnaire, Jim Brown, to pay the dues of 15 members when the post’s membership dwindled to the point where it was at risk of losing its charter.

“They paid those monies until they were able to get people back in … that’s the kind of person Gus was,” Hannon said.

The name change is “a memorial to Gus and to George,” said the post’s current commander, Jerry Starling, “I say their names, their first names, with respect, because here in the American Legion, there’s no mister, there’s no rank, we’re all one people, and that’s how we do it.”

In addition to unveiling the Legion’s new sign and charter bearing its new name, Hannon and Barlow’s daughter each unveiled paintings by Mastaglio’s wife, Barbara, of George and Gus, which will now hang inside the Legion.

Prior to the unveiling, the post’s finance officer emeritus, Frank Falcon, led its membership in a prisoner of war/missing in action ceremony, in which a small dinner table is set for one, with a number of symbolic items.

The white tablecloth, Falcon explained, is to symbolize the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. On the table in a vase is a single rose to symbolize the blood they may have shed. On the plate is a slice of lemon to symbolize the bitterness of their fate and salt, to represent the tears of their family.