The American Legion 99th
A simple publicity statement in the Stars & Stripes was a
harbinger for the century of success that would follow.
"The A.E.F. as a whole- doughboy, colonel and general working
together organized the American Legion this month as its postwar
association," said the article that graced the front page of the
legendary newspaper’s March 28th, 1919
"To continue with success the work already launched will require
the personal cooperation of every soldier in every organization now
in France,"the article further stated.
"When we return to the States, it will be equally important to
have a nucleus of men in every community who will take the lead in
their particular local organizations."
It was the first known published article which would name "The
American Legion," as an organization of wartime veterans.
An amazing string of accomplishments would follow over the next
99 years. Equally amazing was how quickly the organization took root
as a powerful nation and community force.
By the end of its first year, The American Legion had more than
843,000 dues-paying members. This was an era when messages were
delivered by telegram, there was no interstate highway system and
car ownership was still not widespread.
Yet people went through great lengths to become part of this
special organization. And while the language of the time certainly
reflected a male-dominated culture, women veterans could vote for
national commander before they could legally vote for president of
the United States in most areas.
Nearly a century later, Denise H. Rohan (ROW en) would become the
first female national commander. Through her Family First agenda,
Commander Rohan reminds us to serve relatives of veterans, who also
have unique needs that were caused by military service.
Service is nothing new to the American Legion.
The American Legion’s founders served in World War 1 and they
were "still serving" when their successors fought the second world
war- just as every generation of Legionnaires has served its
comrades from all wars since.
But serving fellow veterans is just one of the many ways that
American Legion assists in communities throughout the land.
The American Legion serves the youth of America with outstanding
programs such as American Legion Baseball, Junior Shooting Sports,
Boys State and Boys Nation.
The American Legion has supported the Boy Scouts of America since
1919 and today charters 2,400 Scouting units comprising more than
61,000 young men and women.
The American Legion High School Oratorical Contest awards
scholarships to young men and women who can most effectively
communicate the ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
Moreover, the Legion feels a special obligation to the children
of those who died or were severely disabled while on active-duty
since 9/11. Military parents can take comfort in knowing that The
American Legion’s Legacy Scholarship Fund will help pay for their
children’s college educations if tragedy should occur while they
The American Legion does these things not because it can, but
because it’s who we are.
The author of America’s greatest legislation, Past National
Commander Harry Colmery, knew that it was right for America to
remember returning war veterans by making it possible for them to
obtain college educations and purchase homes.
While others scoffed that such a benefit would ‘break the
treasury,’ The American Legion held firm and ensured the passage of
the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill
As the years passed, the GI Bill diminished in value. Once again,
The American Legion fought hard for a new GI Bill that allows
veterans of the post 9/11 generation to transfer their benefits to
family members. The benefit increased even further when the new
"Forever GI Bill" was passed and usage deadlines were eliminated. It
was officially named the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational
Assistance Act of 2017.
The American Legion has wielded considerable influence in
Washington since our founding, when there was not yet a Veterans
Bureau, Veterans Administration and certainly not a Department of
The American Legion believed from the beginning that veterans
earned quality health care from a grateful nation. A nation that
sends its military to war had a special obligation to make its
heroes whole upon their return.
After decades of American Legion efforts, a cabinet-level
position was created to serve those who served us- the Secretary of
Veterans Affairs. Today, The American Legion is the greatest
supporter of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But when VA falls
short, The American Legion is also its biggest critic.
Another founding pillar of the American Legion is Americanism. As
the lead organization responsible for the U.S. Flag code,
Legionnaires can often be found teaching flag etiquette in
classrooms across the country.
Along with the proper folding and display of the flag,
Legionnaires understand the importance of respecting Old Glory.
Since an ill-fated Supreme Court ruling, the Legion has been
working to make sure that the flag of the United States is
constitutionally protected from desecration.
The greatest tragedy in flag desecration is the disrespect it
symbolizes. This disrespect not only sends a harmful message to
children, it is a slap to those who have sacrificed for the values
that the flag represents. Disrespect is the genesis of hate.
Our organization stood boldly against hate in 1923 when delegates
at our National Convention in San Francisco passed Resolution 407,
which condemned groups that fostered religious, racial and class
strife as "un-American" and "inconsistent with the ideals and
purposes of The American Legion."
Although historians have questioned the true source of the
classic quote, "American is great because America is good," there is
no doubt that America’s goodness is on display at nearly 13,000
American Legion posts throughout the world.
America’s goodness is on display every time an American Legion
post hosts a fund-raiser to assist a disabled veteran. It’s on
display when a Legionnaire volunteers at the local VA hospital. It
is on display when The American Legion feeds the homeless, provides
an honor guard, conducts a blood drive or supports a job fair.
Some may view the 1919 Stars and Stripes article as Legion
prophecy. In other ways, it was an understatement of what the
world’s most influential veteran’s organization would become.
Ninety-nine years ago this month, members of the American
Expeditionary Force were asked to "determine the scope of the work
and carry forth the objects of this association." The association
was the American Legion.
They surpassed all expectations. Legionnaires continue to do so
today, with a vision for tomorrow.
Thank you, God Bless America and God Bless our American Legion.