On March 15, 1919 a group of patriots known as the American Expeditionary Force met for the First American Legion caucus in Paris. It wasn't until May that the name American Legion was adopted as the official name during another caucus in St. Louis at which the organizations draft preamble and constitution were approved. Then on Sept. 16, 1919 Congress chartered the American Legion.
Throughout the years
Over the past 100 years, the Legion has been instrumental in the well-being of not only veterans, but all U.S. citizens. From helping youth programs, to lobbying for legislation, the Legion has made a distinct footprint in history.
"The Legion has been supporting veterans from World War II through the current Global War on Terrorism, with the overarching theme of making sure our voice is heard and needs are met post conflict," Lindsborg Post 140 Sergeant of Arms Cameron Carlson said. Carlson is currently deployed in Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. "Each post is a symbol of its mission and a place for veterans and their families to congregate and make sure their memories and experiences in war are not forgotten."
In the 1920s the U.S. Veterans Bureau was created as a result of the Legion. During a Legion conference the first flag code was drafted and in use today. They also created the American Legion Baseball program in which 82,000 kids play on each year.
In the '30s what is known as American Legion Boys State, convened for the first time in Springfield, Illinois. The program helps young men understand the structure and operation of the federal government. Today more that 19,500 boys participate in the program and a subsequent American Legion Auxiliary Girls State has been formed.
On Dec. 15, 1943, the Legion National Commander Harry W. Colmery put pen to paper and drafted what would later be the GI Bill of Rights or also called Servicemen's Readjustment Act which provided benefits to World War II veterans. Also in that decade, the Legion provided a $50,000 grant to a budding program. This grant helped make the American Heart Association what it is today.
In the 1950s the Legion contributed funds that led to the National Association for Mental Health being founded. In addition the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation was formed, an organization that to date has awarded more than $11 million to youth programs.
On Aug. 24, 1969, the Legion established the National Emergency Fund as a result of the effects of Hurricane Camille.
In the '70s the Legion-sponsored Freedom Bell toured the country on the Freedom Train. The bell was then dedicated and is housed in Columbus Plaza, in Washington, D.C.
The 1980s were full of momentous occasions for the organization. They provided $1 million for the of construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, becoming the largest contributor to the project. The Veterans Administration as a result of Legion advocates fighting for change was elevated to Cabinet-level status as the Department of Veterans Affairs and in addition improvements are made in the area of veterans claims, when the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals becomes operational.
In the '90s the Legion found itself again fighting for the rights of veterans and helping those in need. On Aug. 2, 1990, the Legion filed suit against the government for failing to conduct a Congress-mandated study about the effects of Agent Orange. They also created the Family Support Network to assist families of those deployed in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They also formed the Persian Gulf Task Force to provide assistance the era's newest wartime veterans.
On June 11, 1997 the National Emergency Fund granted more than $1 million in cash grants given to flood victims in the flood plains of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota.
The millennium produced great strides in many Legion supported and proposed pieces of legislation. They launched the "I Am Not A Number" campaign which brought to light the difficulties veterans were having obtaining proper medical care. their efforts were rewarded when Congress created a 10-year phase-in for service-connected disabled retirees to receive military retired pay and VA disability compensation without subtraction from either. Later more progress was made with the elimination of the 10-year phase-in for 100 percent service-connected retirees, allowing them to immediately begin receiving both retired pay and VA disability payments.
In June 2017 Congress in concert with the American Legion passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 in an effort to increase accountability. In August of the same year, the Legion assisted in the creation of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, updating the appeals process to be more timely and efficient. In addition named after the author of the original GI Bill the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017 passed removing limits and time constraints on education benefits.
“There’s a sense of pride in being associated with dedicated Legion Family members that make it happen,” Kansas Department Vice Commander Chuck Shoemaker said. “There’s little doubt that the unwavering principles of our Kansas American Legion Family will ensure continued service to the State of Kansas Veterans into the next 100 years."
The Legion now
Today the American Legion boasts 2 million members in more than 12,000 posts nationwide and in the District of Columbia, France, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. It is the largest wartime veterans service organization according to American Legion 2018 reports.
The Kansas American Legion includes more than 40,000 members in over 500 posts, units, and squadrons in eight districts. McPherson County is home to five American Legion posts that belong to the fifth district, while Little River's post belongs to the seventh district.
"I am very proud to be a life member of and active in an organization that focuses on issues very near and dear to my heart," Lindsborg American Legion Post 140 Commander Rick Saunders said. "Advocating for a stronger national security, promoting Americanism, taking care of our veterans and mentoring our youth. Happy 100th birthday to the American Legion."
Canton 192 Second Monday
Lindsborg 140 First Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Marquette 253 Second Tuesday
McPherson 24 Third Monday at 7 p.m.
Moundridge 340 second Monday
Little River 258 First Wednesday