BRAINERD — The Brainerd Legion Post 255 has something unique about its location.
After replacing multiple things in the building, the Legion members turned their attention to the bar tops. Former Post Commander Steve Eide had an idea to incorporate dog tags into the bar’s appearance and it became a beloved decoration to people from all over.
When Janelle Sanderson began working as the bar manager at the Legion over 10 years ago, it was not in the condition that it is now. With the rest of the staff, they began thinking of ideas they could use to improve the building.
Those ideas became realistic when the Legion was given a grant from Home Depot to remodel the building and make improvements. They used this money to replace the kitchen and floors, renovating most of the building. The last thing left was the bar tops.
“We had a really dark bar top and everything (else) was all new,” said Sanderson. “We have painted and everything and (the bar top) was just dingy.”
That’s when Eide was presented with an opportunity from Viking Log Furniture out of St. Joseph. From there, the idea of dog tags was established.
The bar was finished with a layer of epoxy before the dog tags made by Studio Wraps were placed down. It was sealed with another layer of epoxy and everything was installed with help from volunteers.
Sadly, Eide would never see the fully completed bar tops in person. Toward the end of the project, Eide was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. By the time the project was finishing up, Eide was at home. Sanderson sent him pictures and videos of the project before Eide died.
The one thing Eide did not get to see was the picture of him they put up behind the bar in his honor.
“So that’s why it’s there because that’s very important to us,” Sanderson said.
The tags were sold for $50 a piece and an extra charge for any emblems such as Purple Hearts. The entire bar is full, as well as everything behind the bar. In addition to the bar tops, Legion members had the option to buy a table in the bar for $400 and design it as they pleased. As long as they were a Legionnaire or veteran, they could buy a spot on the bar.
“I don’t even know how many we sold but the whole entire bar is full,” Sanderson said. “Everything back behind the bar where the bottle set and the pull tab set is full. The whole bar was paid for by the $50 dog tags.”
One of the most meaningful parts of the bar top are the dog tags dedicated to Bataan Death March veterans who passed away. All of the tags honoring those veterans were bought by the armory and take up most of the bar.
The other dog tags also have a wide variety. There is a mix of auxiliary, deceased and currently serving members. In addition to the status of the veteran, there is also a mixture of locations represented. The veterans didn’t have to be a member of Brainerd’s post.
“Some of the veterans like to come in and see if they can find their tags,” said Sanderson. “They’ll make fun of each other because they’re not sitting in front of their (dog tag).”
Even Sanderson has a tag that she likes to stand by. At the end of the bar there is a dog tag for Sanderson’s grandfather, Chester Sanderson. The dog tag is embellished with a Purple Heart and means a lot to Sanderson.
Even though the bar top and behind the bar is full, there are still requests for more. However, Sanderson and Post Commander Kevin Stunek don’t know where they will go.
“People have said, ‘Well let’s put them on the wall or let’s put them here,” Stunek said, adding if they start putting them all over, it gets “too loud, too tacky and too busy.”
The dog tags are something unique to the Brainerd Legion Post 255 and something members cherish. Even though they don’t have room for more right now, they hope to continue expanding in the future if they can find the right spot for more.
SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or
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