Pacific Palisades American Legion Post 283 Renamed and Rededicated in Honor of Ronald Reagan

Post Commander Jim Cragg speaks about the renaming of the post, the new Post 283 community initiatives, and his plans for the future.

By Dolores Quintana

The Pacific Palisades American Legion Post 283 has been rededicated and renamed in honor of the late President Ronald. The idea for the rededication came from former Commander Eric Measles and actor Joe Matenga was the emcee of the event and CD11 councilmember Traci Park and The USC Marching Band were featured guests at the ceremony. The post will now be known as The American Legion Ronald Reagan Palisades Post 283. 

We spoke with American Legion Ronald Reagan Post 283 Commander Jim Cragg about the renaming of the post, the new Post 283 community initiatives, and his plans for the future.

Dolores Quintana: I understand that one of the former commanders, Eric Measles, was instrumental in renaming The Pacific Palisades Post 283. I was just wondering how exactly the decision was made and how it came to pass.

Jim Cragg: President Reagan lived in the Palisades, and was a member of our post. We took great pride in pointing out to our younger members the example set by a man who went from Captain Ronald Reagan, Governor Ronald Reagan, to the President of the United States. Whatever people’s politics are, we focused on him as Comrade Reagan and the fact that he was a great inspiration to veterans that the sky’s the limit.

DMQ: I noticed that you refer to him as Comrade Reagan. Is that a nomenclature that your organization uses among the members of the post?

JC: Within the American Legion, we have no rank. Everyone is referred to as comrades and the camaraderie among veterans is the mission. 

DMQ: Most people think of the word comrade as being related to Communism, but even in communism that’s the meaning of the word. You’re my comrade. We’re all comrades together. We’re all equals.

JC: Severe irony considering the one thing people attributed to Reagan was that he was at the helm when Communism fell apart. Eric Measles took it upon himself to contact the Reagan family and descendants to ask permission. It was very nice that the Reagan foundation sent a representative out from the Reagan Museum in Simi Valley. They presented us with a very nice photograph of Ronald Reagan saluting.

DMQ: This is obviously this is done with the approval from the family. 

JC: Correct. 

DMQ: How did you decide on the ceremony and dedication? 

JC: When I came into my commandership, I decided to make some major changes. Our post was previously known for having a lot of funding but a lackluster image. I decided to reinvest our funds into a 2.5 -million dollar renovation of our building as part of a first step of rebuilding our post’s image and standing within the Palisades. We executed the renovation, culminating in the grand opening as a festive occasion, inviting members from all around the community, which is symbolic of our desire to reach out into the Palisades and show support to the community. As such, we shut down the street in front of our new building and we had city councilwoman Tracy Park, actor Joe Mantegna there and the USC Marching Band came to play. We really wanted to let the community know that there’s a new American Legion there that’s really reaching out and doing great things. The programs we’re instituting are real outreach. We’re teaching First Aid and CPR not just to members but also to the community. This weekend, we’re going to have an active shooter response medical aid class at the post which is open to the public. We’re also having LAPD and Santa Monica PD officers as students in the class. Next month, we have a drone familiarization and FAA licensing class and we have a ham radio training and licensing class. For kids who are interested in cell phones and communications, A great place to start is to learn about ham radio. For people interested in medicine, we are happy to have them come in and take a whole slew of medical classes. For people who are interested in aviation, Space Force, Air Force, and general aviation, the drone classes are something that’s fun and engaging for young people who like those things.

DMQ: Is there anything else? 

JC: In April, we’re renting out the Boy Scout camp out on Catalina Island called Emerald Bay and we’re having a veteran bonding event with children. Where we have skill sets set up, like land navigation and map reading. We have wilderness first aid, we’re doing some drone work. We’re doing radio work, where the kids get to learn radio communications. We have a group of Special Forces Green Beret instructors teaching a bunch of these classes. But what’s neat is the parent or the grandparent gets to go through these tasks with their kids, and the kids get to experience the fun parts of those training with the parents and hopefully gain respect for some of the cool stuff their parents or grandparents learned in their youth. Things [meant] to improve the veteran’s standing in our society. 

DMQ: It really seems like you’re taking more of an active role in the community, as a community force. You’re really reaching out to people and giving them, whoever would like to participate in these opportunities. I don’t want to say better themselves, but to give them opportunities to learn and grow. 

JC: There are the good things or bad things that we experienced in the military. We’d like to share some of the good things. Not just with our kids, but with the community. So another thing that we’ve done is that we put on informational presentations for the community, where we invited LAPD West LA division to give a presentation of the community on how they police the neighborhood, how squad cars are sent out, how they react and the time responses, things like that. We had LA Sheriff’s Department bring out their homeless Task Force leader and gave a brilliant presentation on what the county was doing to engage the homeless population, which was an amazing presentation. It was a tearjerker, but amazing. The community just really did come out. We also did a presentation with the West LA VA to try and correct some of the information, the misinformation that was going on about what the VA was doing to help the unhoused. So we see part of this is our duty to help communicate to our neighbors some of the knowledge that we’ve gained having been in uniform, and having an understanding of things like public service, and help build that bridge.

DMQ: You mentioned that the actor Joe Mantegna, was there for the ceremony, I was just wondering where his connection was to the ceremony. 

JC: Joe Mantegna is a huge supporter of veteran groups and he’s spoken at a number of events and we’re kind of a very small event [for him] and I was surprised that he was kind enough to come out and be the emcee for us. He works with Gary Sinise Foundation. There’s a memorial Memorial Day TV special that he’s been the host of for the last 15 years. So it’s very touching. One thing that’s important to us is that we’re located in what we consider the media capital of the world and my job was in intelligence in the military. I grew to understand the importance of interaction with demographics in the country you’re working with and to realize that our neighbors are the creators of our content that is not just beamed throughout the United States, but internationally. It’s up to us to present the proper image of the veterans or to present the correct image of what we experienced when we went overseas so that people can understand what veterans go through, the struggles with suicide. But also, to try to cast a positive light that not all veterans are suffering from issues like PTSD, 95% of veterans are our highly functioning, highly desired team members in any corporate environment with leadership skills that are in high demand. We need to promote that so that corporations and businesses will reach out and grab those veterans and say, hey, this person should be a manager, this person should be a CEO, this person should be a congressperson because they’ve experienced something else in life that gave them that unique experience that a leader often needs.

DMQ: There are obviously veterans who do have issues and not taking anything away from that. It’s important to like kind of state that veterans aren’t a monolith, they’re not all the same. It’s only fair to be able to present the other side of it, that people may not be in popular culture as much as you know the veterans who come back with PTSD.

JC: The standard drama point for a script writer would be to portray a veteran as a troubled person, and we understand that, but it also is up to us to promote the positive

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