American Legion Abe Harrison Post 174
Barbara MacMillan’s life philosophy was forged on the Cold War battlefield. “One thing I learned in the military is that you can do anything you want if you want to badly enough,” she says. “That’s how I’ve done things. If there’s something I want, I go after it.”
That view helped Barbara pioneer her way through managing her college men’s baseball team, and later join the Army through a direct commission program in 1976, the first year it began admitting women to service academies. Most recently it spurred her to become the first woman to lead Georgetown’s American Legion Abe Harrison Post 174.
A broadcast journalism major at the University of Kansas, Barbara was encouraged by her brother, a West Point graduate, to join the Army to get the work experience she wanted. “I joined and liked it, so I stayed,” she says. That enjoyment was the simple ‘Why’ behind her 22-plus year military career, which ranged from master parachutist to Lt. Colonel to human resources director (G1) of the 1ST Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood.
“A lot of our first units didn’t know what to do with female officers,” she says of her first year training with other trailblazing women. “We opened a lot of doors. We had to overcome things and make our way.”
Making her way included having to make adjustments as a five-foot tall parachutist whose weapons case always dragged on the ground. “You figure out a way to do it. There’s always a way if there’s a will,” she says.
AT THE VANGUARD
Barbara joined the American Legion in the early 2000s, after retiring and making Georgetown her home. She says it is “the loudest voice in Congress when it comes to veterans and active-duty benefits.”
The American Legion was formed to help World War I veterans and their families, and has since expanded to offer youth programs and collaborate with other veteran organizations like the VFW and Marine Corps League. Nearly two million American Legion members champion more than 13,000 posts worldwide, including Post 174 in Georgetown. Our local post was named in honor of the 26-year-old Georgetown man who died fighting in the final days of World War I.
Today, the 170-member Abe Harrison Post 174 serves as a helping hand for local veterans, collecting clothing and gift cards for veterans in need and offering high school scholarships for youth.
The newly-elected Commander believes the group can do even more. Barbara explains, “I’m motivated to revitalize the post and have it become a known asset to the city and the community.” She plans to engage more youth and their families to carry on the American Legion tradition.