The American Legion Celebrates Its 100th Birthday 

By Paula Green 

         This month a special military organization will celebrate its centennial birthday.  The American Legion, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, was founded on March 15, 1919.  It is the nation’s largest wartime veteran’s service organization.  When the American Legion was chartered by Congress one hundred years ago, it was sanctioned as a patriotic veterans organization.   

         In the beginning, the Legion was composed of war-weary veterans from World War I.  The group consisted of twenty officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France. The AEF Headquarters asked these officers to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale. One officer, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (eldest son of the 26th President), made the proposal of an organization of veterans.  In February 1919, this group formed a temporary committee and selected several hundred officers who had the confidence and respect of the whole army. 

        The following month, about 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended the first organizational meeting known as the Paris Caucus. At this meeting, the group adopted a temporary constitution and the name “The American Legion.”  Its central focus is promoting strong national security, taking care of veterans, mentoring youth and endorsing patriotism and honor. 

         The popularity of “The Legion” caught on and membership grew swiftly to over one million, and local posts began to surface all over the country.   Today, the American Legion’s membership stands at over two million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide.  Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, won hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth.  

          Their posts are organized into 55 departments; one for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.  At the state level, The American Legion’s “departments” run annual civic training events for high school juniors called Boys State. Two members from each Boys State are selected for Boys Nation. The American Legion Auxiliary runs Girls State and Girls Nation. In addition to Boys State, The American Legion features numerous programs including American Legion Baseball, Scouting, Oratorical Contests, Junior Shooting Sports, Youth Alumni, Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Riders and Scholarships at every level of the organization. 

        The Department of Pennsylvania was founded on June 12, 1919, when the temporary National Headquarters in New York granted it a charter.  For more information on The American Legion, visit https://www.legion.org/. 

 Sources: https://www.legion.org/historyhttps://pa-legion.com/about/our-history/https://pa-legion.com/programs/ 

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