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Did you know that the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary are about to celebrate their 100th birthday?
These organizations were originally formed back in 1919 after World War I. Both the American Legion and Auxiliary have made great strides over the past to advocate for veterans’ rights and services and help our hospitalized veterans, active-duty military members and their families.
The motto for the American Legion is “For Good and Country,” and the Auxiliary’s is “Service, Not Self.”
When the American Legion first started in 1919, it was chartered by Congress as a patriotic veteran’s organization. “Over the years, we have worked to increase benefits and resources, local and federal, for veterans. Both the American Legion and Auxiliary work in cooperation to help our veterans. We help our military members currently serving overseas and with their adjustment back to civilian life. We also support our Gold Star and Blue Star parents. Both organizations honor veterans and jointly organize and celebrate many patriot events.”
Our local American Legion Post 3 and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 3 were established in 1923. During the decade of the 1920s, both the American Legion and the Auxiliary instituted national programs that still benefit us today, like the Poppy Program, which raises money for our disabled and hospitalized veterans. The red crepe-paper poppies, which serve as a symbol of sacrifice for remembering. Last year, this national program raised more than $2 million.
The decade of the ’20s also saw the establishment of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, now know as Veterans Administration, and the first flag code, which was drawn up by the American Legion. It wouldn’t be until 1942 that Congress would adopt the flag code. In addition, the American Legion baseball program was formed during the 1920s.
The 1930s would bring even more national programs, such as Boys State through the American Legion and Girls State through the American Legion Auxiliary. These programs, which still flourish today, teach our youth about the structure and function of local and federal government. Two representatives from each state are selected during the weeklong experience to go to Washington. It would also be during this decade that junior membership was established within the American Legion Auxiliary.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the American Legion came in the 1940s with the creation of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the GI Bill, which provided benefits for returning World War II veterans. It was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1944, soon after the D-Day invasion of Normandy. That same year, the American Legion Auxiliary created its rehabilitation program for disabled veterans.
In the decades that followed, we would see even more new programs being established, such as the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation and a National Emergency Fund. The American Legion would create annual National Law Enforcement Office to the Year and later National Firefighter of the Year programs and an annual Spirit of Serve Award for an active-duty military member. Both the Legion and Auxiliary would also create scholarship programs for our youth and continue to advocate for veterans’ rights.
As we reach our 100th birthday, Legion in March 2019 and Auxiliary in November 2019, members of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary strive to carry on the work created by our predecessors. Keeping our veterans and their needs at the fore-front while assisting in programming for our active-duty military members, their families, our youth and our communities. Instilling patriotism, love of county and respect of the American Flag, while serving our veterans who secured our many freedoms and very way of life. Here’s to the next 100 years!
American Legion Auxiliary Price Unit 3, Lenda Leek
American Legion Post 3 Commander, David Jelin