To The Editor:
Congratulations to The American Legion, whose members are beginning another year of service.
Legionnaires all over the country are looking forward to continuing their contributions to their communities, state and nation. Thinking of the future and the work ahead it may be well if we know how the organization got started in order to understand what is going on and what will be going on. Knowledge of the past will be a big help in the future.
When, where and why was The American Legion organized? We must go back to February of 1919 — three months after the Armistice, yes, three months after the most bloody war up to that time had been fought and won. Veterans of World War I banded together and decided to undertake the organization of American veterans of the World War. It was months before an organization was formed. By enthusiastic contributions and hard work, it did become a reality.
The first meeting was in Paris, France, and out of that first meeting came the agreement that a veterans’ organization should be started and that it must be all-inclusive of those who served in American uniforms at home as well as overseas, that it be comprised of man-to-man membership devoid of rank.
Delegates met in Paris, France, for a caucus March 15, 1919, that lasted for three days. As to a name for the organization, the delegates adopted the name, “The American Legion.”
It was agreed that two organization meetings should be held, the one in Paris and one in the United States for the forces that had not gone overseas. St. Louis was the city chosen for the caucus in the United States. Delegates from every state attended the caucus on May 8, 9 and 10, 1919. The idea of a worldwide organization had begun to breathe and live.
These men felt the need of a veterans’ organization which would ease the situation for the returning servicemen.
Many of us do not remember the founding of The American Legion, but history tells us times were tough. After these veterans had performed so well the duties Uncle Sam requested of them, bringing victory to their country, they felt their job was not finished. They wanted to do something about the situation which confronted them — no jobs, strikes and unemployment, etc.
It was at the first convention of The American Legion at Minneapolis, Minn., that the organization made its first declaration on employment of veterans, patriotic observance, education and other subjects. It had now set up a permanent organization.
The wars the United States have been engaged in since World War I swelled the ranks of The American Legion.
We think of The American Legion as a rather unique organization. No one can be born into it — no proclamation by the president can command admission — institute or university cannot issue a diploma authorizing its holder to entrance — the wealthiest man or woman cannot purchase a membership card. The doors are open only to those presenting a piece of parchment, perhaps a bit worn, which certifies an honorable discharge from military service. Someone once said that The American Legion has no predecessor — it can have no successor. When the last comrade entitled to wear the insignia of The American Legion passes on, The American Legion will pass out forever, but the work and spirit of services to which it has been and is dedicated will go on indefinitely.
All of us, every American should pay tribute to this unique organization, The American Legion, not only on its birthday, but every day for years of outstanding service for “God and Country.”
Yes, Legionnaires, we salute you!