You may have passed the corner of Kempwood and Campbell and seen the American Legion Post 654 without much consideration, not realizing the facility has been a Spring Branch institution for more than 75 years.

It has hosted birthdays, weddings and other special events for residents for decades. As I walked through the doors recently, I flashed back to the image of a 15-year-old entering a hall decorated in red and black for her quinceañera, a Mexican coming-of-age celebration for girls.

That girl was me, some 40-plus years ago.

Now, like the area it serves, the American Legion Post 654, at 3105 Campbell Rd., has undergone updates and upgrades, thanks to the work of its new leadership.

Founded in 1948, Post 654 supports military veterans with various services, resources and programs. “Buddy check” teams check on members’ welfare by phone or other means, for instance.

It’s also dedicated to enhancing the well-being of veterans’ families, our military and our community.

While several American Legions and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations have closed their doors recently due to lack of support and membership, Post 654 is growing in membership and activity.

A year and a half ago the Post 654 was close to shutting down permanently as it was “just a bar.” The facility was not very well supported and struggled with poor leadership and in maintaining membership.

Hector Giron, left, & post members

Native Houstonian and veteran Hector Giron said when he took over in 2021 as commander, along and a newly-elected board officers, “I realized there was little being done to support veterans… We began working to change that.”

The American Legion Post 654 now has 257 members.

“Our first goal was to begin recruiting and reaching out to our younger veterans,” Giron said.

The Post installed new flooring in the main area and stage area of its event hall.

Now, said the commander, “I am looking to do a remodel of the bar area to look more like a modern sports bar. That is our goal for this facility.”

Giron understands the community from first-hand experiences.  A product of Spring Branch ISD schools, he served in the U.S. Navy after graduation from Northbrook High School.

“I moved back to the area with my family. Spring Branch is home,” Giron said.

The public is invited to the popular Steak Night every second Friday of the month and the Fish Fry every last Friday of the month. Proceeds from such events fund the Post’s programs.

Special events include participation in Operation Turkey, which helped serve more than 11,000 meals during Thanksgiving around the city. A December event distributes food, trees and toys for the holidays.

Rodeo-themed events are planned in the new year for Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo season.

Three years ago, Giron began taking World War II veterans to The National WWII museum in New Orleans.

“We started with three and then people began calling and saying my uncle, my dad and others were WWII veterans, and how could they get involved? This year we had 15. We raised the money to take them first-class from hotel to food to transportation,” he said.

Giron has developed partnerships with the Houston Astros, Houston Dynamo and Houston Rockets. Post members get tickets and public recognition at the games. His work has been featured by local media outlets.

Post 654 also provides support to Spring Woods High School, has provided its location for community organization meetings and even hosted a holiday market last year in support of local vendors.

“I want people to know that we are here. We want not just to be supported but to support our community,” the commander explained. If you need a place to hold an event or meeting, great, we are here, but I want to have real partnerships and collaborations with businesses. We look for ways we can support businesses and organizations beyond our walls.”

Giron ended by saying “I know the potential here. I want to build something that will continue to grow long after I am not here.”

— by Jessika Leal