‘Out of the darkness into the light’: American Legion couple works to educate Northside community on health care

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An American Legion post on the Northside is helping its veteran and non-veteran community members gain access to health care and knowledge about their health.

American Legion Post 197 received a grant from Mayo Clinic to provide education and resources for those who have diseases like prostate cancer, or who are at risk of developing serious diseases.

Air force veterans Vermelle and Aubrey Smith, who help run the post, realize some people in that area don’t have access to the internet, which limits their chances to research doctors or health symptoms.

Vermelle and Aubrey wanted to change that.

With the help of another veteran, Arnold Merriweather, who is also a prostate cancer survivor, the post applied for a grant from the Department of Defense through Mayo Clinic.

Merriweather had been working with Mayo Clinic, so he recommended that the post should receive the grant. They used the money for information kiosks so people could have easy access to medical resources.

“This will give us the opportunity to get us out of the darkness into the light so that everybody can have good solid information about health care,” Aubrey Smith said.

Aubrey Smith knows what it’s like to not know what you don’t know.

“I grew up in a small community what they call the projects,” Aubrey Smith said. “You got what little care you did but not a lot of information a lot of back door information.”

The Smiths said the legion also brings other healthcare systems to the post to talk about health, give children back-to-school checkups and has Farm Share do food pick-ups.

The couple loves working together to help others.

“We’ve served 20 years in the air force, and this gives us the opportunity to continue serving our community and country,” finance officer Vermelle Smith said.

The programs are funded through donations and are available for veterans and civilians.

Visit the Post’s website for more information on services.

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.