Have you ever wondered what The American Legion is about? Yes, we have nice facility where weddings are held. Where businesses have meetings and where members can relax and tell stories of days gone by along with our Fish and Chicken Fry’s. However this is not the reason The American Legion was founded.
The American Legion was founded on the Four Pillars of Service by the Veterans of World War I during the Paris Caucus March 15, 16, 17, 1919 in Paris, France. Those Pillars are, Child Welfare, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, Americanism and National Security. On Sept. 16, 1919, The American Legion was charted by Congress.
The Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion also spells out a lot of what The American Legion is all about. “For God and Country we associate ourselves for the following purposes; To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; To maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the great wars; To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community; state and nation; To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; To make right the master of might; To promote peace and goodwill on earth; To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principle of justice, freedom and democracy; To consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”
As The American Legion celebrates its 100th birthday, I would like to share with you some of the major accomplishments of The American Legion.
In August of 1921 the Legion’s efforts result in the creation of US Veterans Bureau, which is the forerunner of Veterans Administration. June of 1923, the first Flag Code is drafted by during a Legion conference in Washington, DC. Congress adopted the Code in 1942. July 1925 the Legion creates the American Legion Baseball program. Today more than 50 percent of Major League Baseball players are graduates of the program.
On June 23, 1935, the first American Legion Boys State convenes. Each year around 400 young men is Nebraska who just completed their junior year in high school attend Cornhusker Boys State during the first week in June at University of Nebraska in Lincoln. They run for city, county and state offices. Toward the end of the week they elect a Boys State Governor, who will serve for the next year. The American Legion Auxiliary also has a Girls State program which is held at the same time.
In December 1943, Past National Commander Harry Colmery writes in long hand on hotel stationary the first draft in what will later become the GI Bill. On June 22, 1944 President Roosevelt signs the GI Bill into law. For every dollar the government spends on education in the bill the economy returns $7.00.
In May 1946, The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary present a struggling organization called the American Heart Association with a grant of $50,000.00.
In May 1950, The American Legion votes to contribute funds to the field of mental health, thus playing a key role in the National Association of Mental Health. In July of 1954 The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation is created. Today, more than $11M has been awarded to youth organization and projects designed to help American youth.
In May 1966, The American Legion voices great concern over the fate of prisoners of war in North Vietnam. Today, the Legion urges a full accounting of all POW’s and troops missing in action, and has formed a special group from among the nation’s major veteran’s organizations to continue pressing for further resolution of this issue.
In the spring of 1968, the Nebraska American Legion established the Junior Law Cadet program with the Nebraska State Patrol. This is a mini boot camp with a week for the girls and a week for the boys who just completed their junior year of high school. The cadets learn about the different levels of law enforcement. The week long session is held at the State Patrol Training Center in Grand Island during June.
In August 1982, The American Legion presents a check for $1 million dollars to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for the construction of the “Wall” in Washington, DC, becoming the largest single contributor.
In July 1983, the Legion announces the sponsorship of an independent study on the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam Veterans. Congress receives the results of the study in 1989.
In January 1989, thru the Legions efforts the VA is elevated to a Cabinet Level position as the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On Aug. 2, 1990, The American Legion fillies suit against the federal government for failure to conduct a Congress-mandated study on the effects of Agent Orange on veterans who served in Vietnam.
June 1991, The Legion hosts its first Junior Shooting Sports National Air Rifle Championships at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Today more than 2,000 high school students a year enter the contest, which teaches gun safety and marksmanship.
August 1994, The Legion announces the creation of the Citizens Flag Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individual citizens united to work for a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. Flag from physical desecration.
October 1995, The Legion form’s the Persian Gulf Task Force to enhance service for the newest generation of wartime veterans of whom suffer from illnesses linked to their service in the region.
In 1996, the Samsung Corporation donates $5 million dollars to The American Legion for scholarships as a way to say thank you to those Americans who saved there home of Korea from foreign aggression. In September of 1996 The American Legion awards 10 $20,000 college scholarships in the inaugural Samsung American Legion high school scholars.
June 1997, The Legions National Emergency Fund surpasses the $1 million mark in cash grants given to flood victims who belong to the Legion family. Most of the grant recipients reside in the flood plains of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota.
September 1997, The Legion presents its first National Law Enforcement Officer of the year award at the 79th National Convention in Orlando, Fla.
November 2002, The Legion launches the national “I Am Not A Number” campaign to identify and document the delays veterans face in obtaining medical care from VA.
June 2008, President George W. Bush signs into law the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act, a next generation GI Bill strongly supported by the Legion.
August 2011, The American Legion Baseball World Series is held for the first time in the tournament’s new permanent home, Shelby, NC. An all time high of 86,000 attends the series.
October 2012, VA guarantees its 20 millionth home loan. 1936-1937 National Commander Harry Colmery and 1943-1944 National Commander Warren Atherton escorted the original GI Bill of Rights through Congress in 1944, auguring passionately for veterans educational benefits, government assured health care and what they called “readjustment allowances.” Today Colmery and Atherton are lauded as the “fathers of the GI Bill” and its successors.
January 2019, during the government shutdown, The American Legion donates over $574,000.00 to help members of the U.S. Coast Guard who were left with out a pay check.
If you are a veteran of war time service we would welcome you to join the world’s largest veterans organization as we celebrate 100 years of service. Our motto is “Still Serving America”