The American Legion Idaho Post 7 will celebrate its centennial along with the national organization this summer. Here in Twin Falls, the post, located at 447 Seastrom St., is having an open house on Friday, June 7 from 2 to 6 p.m. and a gala dinner at the Turf Club on Saturday, June 22 at 6 p.m. Post 7 was chartered on June 19, 1919 after the national Legion was chartered by congress in March 1919 as a Veteran’s Service Organization. Their activities are reported to congress in March of every calendar year.
Although had joined the Legion in 1992 after returning from service in Desert Storm, I had never been to a meeting. I was surprised when they began with reciting the preamble to their charter. At that first reading, I was aware of the sentiment attached. The words were written in 1918 when the Legion organized in Minneapolis. The organizers were Doughboys who had lived through the unbelievable carnage that was WWI. They wanted “to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great War(s)”.
If the Legion had stopped there, it would have been nothing but a group of old soldiers sitting around telling tales and, perhaps, drinking their sorrows. But they had started out by saying that their association was for “GOD and Country”. They were going to “Uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”; “Maintain Law and Order”; and “Foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism”. They had fought for something, and they weren’t going to stop.
The Legion intended to pursue actions that would strengthen a country which was about to undergo profound social and cultural change. They intended to “inculcate a sense of individual obligation to community, state and nation.”; “to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses”; “to make right the master of might”; “to promote peace and goodwill on earth”; “to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy.”. Strong statements which could be taken cynically during times when our nation seemed to be struggling with its core values. I wondered, that first time, if anyone still believed all those words.
The last sentence was the one which caught my attention and heart. “To consecrate our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”
Currently, Legion membership only requires military duty during times of conflict, They have asked for Congress to approve membership for all veterans. Although many of our members did see conflict and sometimes were wounded, many of us only were called to sacrifice our lives if called upon. For me, called to duty during Desert Storm and in Tech School during Viet Nam, it felt as though I had given too little. Joining an organization dedicated to continuing the fight for our country by taking care of our children and youth, paying attention to national security, promoting Americanism, and promoting the care of our veterans, active duty members, and their families was a fit purpose for civilian life.
The Legion is a family affair. Besides veterans, it is composed of an Auxiliary, the Sons of Legion, and the Legion (Motorcycle) Riders. Like many service organizations, the Legion suffers from too few members to support all of the programs which are suggested and resourced by the National organization. You may be familiar with Legion Baseball and Girl’s/Boy’s State. They have awards and programs for shooting sports, Scouting, an Oratorical contest, educators, first responders, and journalists. We have flag and citizenship materials for use in elementary school. The Legion has scholarship programs which include
tuition to all children of the deceased in combat. At the 2018 National Convention, over $6M was collected for Veteran’s charities as well as charities serving Children and Youth.
The Legion hopes to become multi-generational once again, and all veterans or family members of veterans are welcome for membership. Even if you are not a Legionnaire, my hope is that the residents of Twin Falls will join the Legion in being devoted to mutual helpfulness and promoting a 100% Americanism.