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Local News

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, Barry Wood, who has held many local, regional and state level positions in the American Legion organization, gave part of its history at the last Hastings City Council meeting. Parts of Wood’s presentation are highlighted here:

 

The American Legion was formed March 15-17, 1919, by combat troops of the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris, France. Weary and homesick, these American Legion founders restlessly awaited passage back to the United States and a return to their civilian lives after World War One.

 

As they waited, they had time to think about what they would do after discharge from service...in support of their wounded comrades, to honor the fallen, to care for the surviving spouses and orphans, and to protect the democracy they pledged their lives to defend.

 

They envisioned a different kind of veteran’s association that would be like none before it, nor any that would follow; the American Legion would be built on strengthening the nation, not serving themselves, through four pillars of volunteer work on behalf of veterans, defense, youth and Americanism.

 

The early American Legion fought for creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau in 1921, the Veterans Administration in 1930 and the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989. In 1919, they organized an army of expert service officers to provide free health-care and benefits assistance to veterans and their families. In the 1920s they found jobs for hundreds of thousands of veterans and fed entire communities during the Great Depression.

 

egionnaires conceived, drafted and pushed to passage the GI Bill of Rights, legislation that changed the world, transforming higher education and home ownership for average Americans. The G.I. Bill built more than a half-century of economic prosperity, advanced civil rights, created the American middle class and became known as the most significant social legislation of the last century.

 

The Legion’s research helped countless veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and health problems related to atomic radiation, Agent Orange, Gulf War Illness, burn pits and other service-connected exposures to veterans.

 

Legionnaires have also proven uniquely well-suited to handle life-threatening catastrophes, fires, floods, tornados, mine disasters, superstorms and even a terrorist attack. Deadly hurricanes devastated countless homes and lives, and legionnaires responded quickly with tens of millions of dollars in grants from its National Emergency Fund. //

 

The Legion strengthened the nation by promoting education, good citizenship and respect for the U.S. flag. In 1923-1924, they established the first-ever standard rules of respect for the flag.

They worked with the National Education Association to keep kids in school, teach good citizenship, respect law enforcement, understand the U.S. government and appreciate the Constitution.

 

Out of these interests came many citizenship programs for immigrants like Boys State and Boys Nation, American Legion oratorical contests, Junior Law Enforcement cadet programs, a national youth baseball program, Junior ROTC programs, Boy Scout units and Junior Shooting Sports teams.

 

The American Legion was instrumental in the creation of the modern reserve component of the U.S. military and the National Guard, which have proven vital to American strength, especially in the War on Terrorism. Continuous advocacy for an effective defense system has built the strongest, and most responsible, military the world has ever known.

The American Legion Family, which grew to include the Legion Women’s Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and most recently, The American Legion Riders, has positively impacted tens of millions of lives.

 

New American Legion posts are taking shape on campuses across the U.S. to support student veterans using their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. As new posts begin their journeys into the Legion’s second century, they inspire a renewed vision that is timeless and built to serve generations of Americans yet to come.

 

The Lawrence J. Bauer American Legion Post 45, chartered in 1919, appreciates the long-entrusted relationship with the City of Hastings and the surrounding community. We know this relationship will continue, Wood said.

 

Photo: Barry Wood

 

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