On that date in 1919, the first American Legion caucus, held by members of the American Expeditionary Force, convened in Paris. Much as the birthday of the United States is celebrated on July 4 – for the date in 1776 when patriots declared the independence of the British colonies and birthed the spirit of America – March 15 is the date when The American Legion came to life.
Throughout the organization’s history, local posts across the country have celebrated with festivities that have included the entire community. For the 20th birthday in 1939, Battle Mountain Post 71 in Hot Springs, S.D., brought out a 40-pound birthday cake – two pounds for every year of The American Legion’s history. For the 38th birthday in 1957, Post 214 in Upper Darby, Pa., hosted an entire week’s worth of events as part of American Legion Birthday Week, so proclaimed by the township’s Board of Commissioners. Parties, dances and a two-act play were held at Post 214’s clubhouse.
Some aspects of Legion celebrations have remained mostly the same over the years: for the 91st birthday in 2010, Post 252 in Greenwood, Ind., held its annual dinner, with speakers and entertainment by the Greater Greenwood Community Band. The post-sponsored Boy Scout Troop 621 presents the colors every year, but had a bigger role in 2010. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Scouting, Post 252 made that year’s party a joint affair with the troop. The national organization can get involved in commemorations, too: for this year’s 93rd birthday, the new American Legion Amateur Radio Club is operating as a special event station, and a committee has already been formed to celebrate the Legion’s 100th birthday in 2019.
Here are some things that you may not know about The American Legion.
- The American Legion was founded in March 1919 in Paris, France, by U.S. World War I military personnel
stationed there who were dedicated to four pillars of service and advocacy: veterans, military personnel, youth
and patriotic values.
- The American Legion today consists of 55 “departments” in each of the 50 states as well as the District of
Columbia, France, Mexico, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. There are approximately 13,000 local posts
- Current national membership is about 2 million. Combined with the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of
The American Legion, membership in what is known as the American Legion Family exceeds 3 million.
- American Legion membership is open to military personnel and veterans who have served their nation on
active duty during wartime. Eligibility has been open to all who have served on active duty since Aug. 2, 1990,
the beginning of continuous U.S. armed conflict in the Middle East and other locations around the planet.
- The Legion has been instrumental in the creation of a number of major institutions of American society,
including formation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, creation of U.S. Flag Code, passage of the
GI Bill and more.
- American Legion posts annually:
» Donate more than 3.7 million hours of volunteer service in their communities
» Provide assistance on more than 181,000 VA benefits claims and cases
» Donate more than 80,000 pints of blood to collection centers nationwide, which makes the Legion the
nation’s single largest blood donor
» Awards more than 8,000 medals to Junior ROTC students
» Sponsors more than 2,500 Scouting units serving more than 64,000 young people
» Awards more than $4 million in college scholarships
- Among the prominent Americans serving on the national 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee are:
» Chairman Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of American Legion co-founder Theodore Roosevelt Jr
» Tom Brokaw, former American Legion Baseball player and American Legion Boys State participant
» Mitch Daniels, Purdue University President, former American Legion Boys State and Boys Nation
participant and former two-term governor of Indiana
» Jamie Corkish, former American Legion Junior Shooting Sports champion and 2012 U.S. Olympic gold
» Diane Carlson-Evans, Vietnam War combat nurse
» Gen. Patrick Brady, Medal of Honor recipient
» Val Nicholas, NBC News Vice President
» Susan Eisenhower, international policy adviser and granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower.
Want to know more about The American Legion or would like to join? Visit: The American Legion
Did you know as the child of a Veteran, you may be eligible for The Sons of The American Legion or The American Legion Auxiliary? Learn more here: Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary