Fancy footwork

Bill Hughes shares dance tips with Georgia Meehan one Friday evening at the American Legion Post 141 in Langley. Kathy Reed photo

“C’mon, I’ll teach you to two-step,” Bill Hughes tells me.

With that, I find myself
out on the dance floor as Hughes patiently runs through the steps to the simple dance.

“Step-together, step, step; step-together, step, step,” he chants, directing me around the dance floor.

It is similar to the lessons Hughes has started teaching from 7 to 8 p.m. every Friday evening at the American Legion Post 141 in Langley. From two-steps to waltzes to line dances like the “Electric Slide,” everyone is welcome to join in an hour of free lessons, followed by an hour of karaoke. No Legion membership is required for either.

The lessons and singing are part of the American Legion’s effort to remind the Whidbey community of its presence and to get people to think of trying a night out at the local legion for some good, clean fun. All ages are welcome until 9 p.m., at which time state regulations prohibit anyone under age 21.

“It’s a way to draw people in and get new members,” Hughes said. “We’re trying to get something going every week.”

Hughes said it’s part of his duties as the post’s second vice commander to handle promotion and public relations. That explains how the former Navy SEAL has found himself on the dance floor every Friday evening. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he loves to dance.

“My grandfather always told me that if anything every enters your mind, you should go do it,” he said. “So, I took a couple of dance classes, then a couple of more. It’s fun for me and it’s a real release.”

From waltzes, two-steps to line dancing, veteran Bill Hughes, background, enjoys sharing dance tips with anyone interested in learning them each Friday at the Langley American Legion Post 141. Kathy Reed photo

Hughes, a Vietnam veteran, said he has found that dancing is very good for helping him deal with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

“I think it’s the music and the rythmn,” he said. “It allows me to concentrate on something pleasant and takes my mind off everything else.”

The lessons are just one more way for the legion to plug into the community, said Hughes.

“It’s a social club, yes, but it allows veterans and their families to get together. It’s a big family,” he said.

That is certainly true for Georgia and Pat Meehan, of Freeland. Their membership in the American Legion helped whenever they took a long driving trip.

“We used the legion as our Chamber of Commerce,” said Georgia, who took several turns on the dance floor with Hughes.

“It’s like home,” said Pat.

And it seems as though the effort is paying off. Dance lessons are followed immediately by an hour of karaoke, which appealed to Melissa Downard of Freeland.

“I come for the dancing and I stay for the karaoke,” she said. Downard took lessons for about a month, then joined the Legion Auxiliary.

Membership in the American Legion is open to anyone who is on active duty, who has been honorably discharged or anyone who served one day during any of the eligible war eras. Men and women who are veterans or who have a close family connection to someone who served, such as a spouse, parent, sibling, grandparent or great-parent, can join Sons of the American Legion or the American Legion Auxiliary, respectively. Post 141 has an active chapter of each, plus a fairly new and quickly growing Legion Riders motorcycle group. All the groups take their commitment to veterans and to their community seriously.

“It is the most amazing thing to watch the giving,” said Auxiliary president Melody Bryant of Langley. “The last few years we’ve done Santa pictures, we sponsor girls for Girls’ State, we offer scholarships, we collect for Sweats for Vets and coupons for service members to use in commissaries overseas.”

The Legion Riders are also getting an early start on serving the community. A ride and barbecue in November brought in nearly $700 that the group was able to to present to Good Cheer Food Bank in Langley. The group also collected canned food and was able to donate almost a quarter ton of food.

“There are a lot of people here who care,” said Hughes.

Contact South Whidbey American Legion Post 141 by calling 360-321-5696 or go to