The American Legion is celebrating 100 years since its establishment by an act of Congress. The American Legion is the largest wartime veterans service organization, with nearly 2 million members and 12,700 posts worldwide.
100 years of community services
The U.S. has given benefits to those who have served in the Armed Forces since the Colonial era. But as the nation amassed 2 million troops to send to Europe in 1917, Congress established a new system of veterans benefits. The plans for World War I veterans included programs for disability compensation, insurance for service personnel and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. To be eligible to join you must have served federal active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 1919, the American Legion was chartered by Congress as a patriotic veterans organization. The American Legionâ€™s efforts in the 1920s resulted in the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, the forerunner of Veterans Affairs that we know today. Today, the American Legion is involved in many aspects of your community. It lobbies for veterans, sponsors baseball leagues, Boy Scouts and an annual summer camp for civics education in 49 states.
- 4.5 million: Hours of volunteer community service
- 5,187: Schools assisted with more than $1 million dollars invested collectively.
- 2,426: Veteran placed in jobs
- 73,952: Pints of blood donated from 48,100 donors
- 1919 March 15-17: Americans who fought in World War I convene in Paris for the first American Legion caucus.
- Sept. 16: Congress charters the American Legion.
- Nov. 10-12: First Legion convention convenes in Minneapolis. A resolution is passed in support of Boy Scouts of America.
- 1921: Efforts result in the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, forerunner of the Veterans Affairs.
- 1923: The first â€œFlag Codeâ€� is drafted during a Legion conference in Washington. Congress adopts the code in 1942.
- 1925: The American Legion baseball program is created.
- 1935: The first American Legion Boys State convenes in Springfield, Ill., to help boys gain an understanding of government and civics.
- 1938: The National High School Oratorical Contest is held to promote a greater understanding of the U.S. Constitution.
- 1944: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the original GI Bill. The bill is considered the Legionâ€™s single greatest legislative achievement.
- 1966: The Legion urges a full accounting of all POWs and troops missing in action.
- 1969: The National Emergency Fund is established.
- 1972: The Legion starts a Halloween safety program for children.
- 1982: The Legion presents a$1 million check to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for construction of the wall in Washington.
- 1983: The Legion sponsors an independent study on the effects of exposure to Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans.
- 1990: The Family Support Network is established and offers a wide range of assistance to military families.
- 1991: The Legion hosts its first Junior Shooting Sports National Air Rifle Championships.
- 1994: The Citizens Flag Alliance is established to work for a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag from desecration.
- 1997: The first National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award is given.
- 2000: The first â€œSpirit of Serviceâ€� Awards to active duty service members for their off-duty volunteer activities.
- 2002: The American Legion conducts â€œA Day To Rememberâ€� events to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
- 2009: The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act is signed into law guaranteeing â€œadvance fundingâ€� for VA appropriations.
- 2016: The Legacy Scholarship is expanded to children of post-9/11 veterans who have a combined VA disability rating of 50% or greater.
- 2017: Denise H. Rohan of Wisconsin is the first woman elected national commander.
The emblem for the American Legion was adopted in June 1919.
Sources: American Legion, U.S. Census, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs