American Legion Auxiliary Junior member Taylor McElroy is also a member of The American Legion after completing her basic training for the Army Reserves while a junior in high school. An Auxiliary member since 2007, McElroy belongs to Unit 161 in Minnesota. She is also the Honorary Department Junior President for 2023-2024 and attended ALA Minnesota Girls State this summer.
What do you like about being an ALA Junior member?
I love being an ALA Junior member because it allowed me to grow up in the Legion Family. For as long as I can remember, I have been involved in parades, funerals, memorial days, and community service. It has also allowed me to speak in front of crowds and increase the quality of my social skills.
We understand you are part of the Army Reserves. Congratulations! What was your motivation to join the military?
My motivation to join the military stemmed from my experience in the ALA. I grew up in the respect of many veterans and their families. They taught me respect, integrity, and perseverance. I learned about the poppy very young and empathized with veterans and their needs. I wanted a better look at what it meant to be a veteran and understand their values. A lot of my motivation came from wanting to make people proud and show others that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Can you describe basic training?
For me, basic training wasn’t extremely hard. I have always been in the weight room and active in sports throughout my life. It was difficult at times both mentally and physically but overall, it was rather easy. I struggled more with being away from my loved ones than with the training itself. I was given a nickname while there. They called me “Sesame Street” for my age. I was the youngest one in my platoon and possibly in the whole battery. It was a motivation for me to keep up with the males and stick close to the females that I made friends with. Basic training is nothing like it used to be, but it still isn’t for everyone. You have to be mentally invested in what you are doing and learn to love it. The famous saying, “embrace the suck” became a daily affirmation for me, and being mentally invested made everything a breeze.
What is it like being part of the Army Reserves while still in high school?
I come from a very small town and many people have not joined the military while being enrolled. It was rather new to the school district. There were changes that needed to be made to my education. I made the decision at the beginning of second quarter to leave at Christmas time. Turns out that I had enough credits to be considered a senior, so thankfully, I was able to be gone for the entire third quarter with no academic setbacks. It has since been added to the bylaws that military leave is counted as an excused absence. It is vital that I have a good attendance year in order to keep my college benefits through the military and I am often gone on Friday if it is a weekend that I need to attend drills. My community and school have helped me tremendously and have supported every decision that I have made to attribute toward my future and career. It has however been a challenge balancing school, sports, relationships, the ALA, and my military commitments. Though it is a good thing that I enjoy staying busy and it is not in my favor to back down from a challenge.
What do you like about being a member of The American Legion?
Being a member of The American Legion has given me a sense of pride. I am honored to be able to sit in the same room as many other men and women and share a sense of accomplishment. If you were to tell me five or six years ago that I would be wearing a Legion cover to meetings, I would probably tell you, “no way.” It wasn’t in my cards and my main focus was to help others and be an advocate for veterans. I like the element of surprise when I speak to others about my path. The American Legion and the ALA have opened doors that I didn’t even know existed.
What does your dual membership in the ALA and the Legion mean to you?
My dual membership in the ALA and Legion is an accomplishment that I hold very close to my heart. It is such an honor to be able to place that pin on my cover. I am in an interesting position right now. Being the newly elected Department of Minnesota honorary Junior president and also a Legionnaire. I need to be present for my Auxiliary meetings but I would also like to learn more about the Legion. I am starting small by holding chairmanships at the district level which allows me to give more time and effort toward my more demanding position.
What advice would you give other Juniors who may want to also join the Army Reserves while in high school?
I would advise and have advised Juniors that the military is a great career option and will open many more avenues that you don’t think are possible as a high school student. I also encourage that if you are on edge and are thinking of joining, to do it! I tell them that there are little to no veterans that regret their service. Some like myself may even say that it is the best decision they have ever made.
Is there anything else you want to add?
It is such an honor to be a part of this organization. It has given me the opportunity to give back in a way that changes the lives of veterans. I would not be in the position that I am without the love and support of my family and close friends.