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The History of the American Legion

Author- History of the American Legion, Don Hinst

The battle had ended, and all across the field lay the dead and the dying. The survivors set their eyes on the field, overwhelmed by the devastation and loss. One Soldier exclaimed, “All of these men have families. How will they cope? Who will take care of them?”

Through that moment of loss and despair, the American Legion was formed.

The year was 1919, and the losses of that battle compelled 20 officers serving in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to found the Legion. It began with a tasking when these 20 officers were asked to suggest ideas to improve troop morale. What was needed, they thought, was a way to organize veterans at home in the U.S. and support those families whose loved ones had paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The first organizing meeting occurred in Paris in 1919, where 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended the Paris Caucus and adopted the temporary constitution and the name, The American Legion. Congress granted the Legion a national charter in September of that year. Delegates also voted to locate the Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The American Legion remains the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsoring wholesome community programs. The Legion advocates patriotism, honor, and the promotion of strong national security through veteran affairs and rehabilitation, Americanism, and America’s children and youth. One-hundred years later, the Legion remains devoted to fellow service members and veterans, with over 2.5 million members and 13,000 posts nationwide.

The American Legion values its independence and effectiveness on veterans’ issues and maintains neutrality on all political candidates and parties. The Legion is comprehensive, embracing all religions, faiths, and denominations within its ranks. The chaplaincy, being non-denominational and non-sectarian, wishes to minister to the spiritual needs of all without regard to either affiliation or non-affiliation. The Legion pays perpetual respect for all past military sacrifices to ensure new generations never forget them. The American Legion’s motto is: “Veterans Strengthening America”.

The Legion remains steadfastly dedicated to honor those who came before us.

Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, has won hundreds of benefits for veterans, and has produced many important programs for children and youth. Accomplishments of the Legion include the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, the forerunner of the Veterans Administration, the drafting of the first Flag Code in 1923, and the first drafting of the G.I. Bill of Rights.

To learn more about The American Legion and its history, Google “The American Legion: a Brief History,” or visit www.legion.org/history for more of the story.

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