History Of The American Legion
The American Legion was chartered as a patriotic, mutual-help, and community-service organization.
Originally four line officers of the American Expeditionary Forces met in Paris in late January 1919 to renew acquaintance. They were combat tested veterans and each had led battalions or regiments into battle during WWI. These four decorated veterans were Lt. COL. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (his father was the 26th President), Lt. COL. George White, Lt. COL. William Donovan and Major Eric Fisher Wood.
Through their efforts and the support of General Black Jack Pershing The American Legion was founded and chartered by Congress in 1919.
The American Legion is the largest service organization in the world. The American Legion family totals over 5 million members consisting of nearly 3 million Legionnaires and 2 million members in The American Legion Auxiliary and SONS OF The American Legion (SAL).
Worldwide there are nearly 15,000 American Legion Posts. These posts are organized into 55 Departments - one each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
The American Legion, Department of Tennessee has a Legion family of over 50,000 consisting of more than 33,000 Legionnaires and 17,000 Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion (SAL) members. In Tennessee there are 191 American Legion Posts organized into 10 Districts and 3 Divisions.
The National Headquarters of The American Legion is in Indianapolis, IN with offices in Washington, D.C. The Executive Office Staff in Washington, D.C. has a primary responsibility of National Security, Veterans Affairs and monitoring Congress on veterans' issues.
The Department or State Headquarters for Tennessee is located in Nashville. Through the initiative of our members, The American Legion contributes on a continuing basis to the Nation's quality of life through a variety of youth programs and endeavors to make American communities better places in which to live.
The primary goal of The American Legion is to maintain an ongoing concern, support and commitment to all veterans and their families. Maintaining a strong national defense will always remain a major concern of The American Legion and includes the authorized number of military troops, adequate pay with periodic pay raises, the best equipment available, medical care for active and retired soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. The American Legion will continue to lobby for a mandatory budget for the Veterans Affairs, with emphasizes on improving local Veteran Affairs Medical Centers and clinics.
The American Legion in 1920 was instrumental in creating the U.S. Veterans Bureau, forerunner of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The American Legion continues to be a watchdog as well as an advocate of veterans programs and benefits. The mission of The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Commission is to ensure veterans, survivors and eligible dependents receive appropriate health care, education, training, and delivery of benefits. A strong national defense, functioning as a deterrent to foreign aggression, will always remain a major objective of the Legion. Actions of the Congress and the Executive Branch of the government will be closely watched and their actions reported to the voting public.
Near the end of WWII, The American Legion stepped forward with a piece of legislation that helped America for generations to come. It was called: The Servicemen's Readjustment ACT of 1944 commonly known as the GI Bill. Drafted entirely by The American Legion, the GI Bill expanded VA treatment and provided other hard-earned benefits for veterans. Through the years, it has educated more than 20 million Americans and has helped them buy 14 million homes under its VA home loan program. Thanks to the GI Bill generations of Americans became tax-paying, productive citizens. In 1943 Past National Commander of The American Legion Harry W. Colmery drafted the GI Bill in Room 507 of Washington's Mayflower Hotel on hotel stationary, later his draft was compiled into resolutions and used to propose the GI Bill. The GI Bill that Harry Colmery drafted on behalf of The American Legion helped millions of veterans immediately after they returned home from war. They went to school, purchased homes, and created new suburban communities. In 2002 President George Bush awarded "Posthumously" the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the nation's highest civilian honor) to Legionnaire Harry W. Colmery. In one decade following WWII, more than 2 million eligible men and women went to college using these educational benefits. The result was an American workforce enriched by 450,000 engineers, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists and another million received college degrees, plus another 5 million men and women received other schooling or job training using the GI Bill. It is a fair question to ask, do you know a veteran that has ever purchased a home through the GI Bill (VA), or attended a school (vocational, high school or college) as the result of the GI Bill (VA)?
The American Legion is an active participant in community Youth Programs. These Legion Youth Programs are intended to help mold responsible leaders for tomorrow.
Nationally The American Legion supports 1,700 Boy Scout units that involve over 64,000 youths. In Tennessee, The American Legion conducts an Eagle Scout of the Year program, where the winner is awarded a $1,500.00 scholarship and is given the opportunity to compete nationally for several thousand more dollars.
The American Legion in Tennessee conducts a Junior ROTC Cadet of the Year competition where the selected cadet is awarded a $3,000.00 scholarship.
The American Legion in Tennessee conducts an Oratorical Contest where the contestants speak on the Constitution. $7,000.00 is awarded in scholarships in the Tennessee Oratorical contest. The Department winners compete nationally and can win another $18,000.00.
Today, more than 60 percent of professional baseball players are graduates of The American Legion Baseball programs. About 89,000 high school age youths play on Legion sponsored teams each year. Here in Tennessee The American Legion sponsors 16 very competitive teams. Consequently, many players are awarded scholarships to play baseball in college or are drafted by the professional ranks.
American Legion Boys' State is a very influential and rewarding youth program. American Legion Boys' State is designed to help the youth gain an understanding of the structure and operations of state government and to impress the importance of teamwork. The American Legion in Tennessee each year averages sending 620 young men to American Legion Boys' State, which is conducted for one week at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. The course starts on Sunday and concludes the following Saturday. Considering that 49 of the 55 American Legion Departments conduct an American Legion Boys' State each year, imagine the grand total of Boys State graduates that are currently employed in executive positions, senior management, political or technical jobs around the United States? Simply stated, placing American Legion Boys' State on an applicant's resume cannot hurt. Former President Bill Clinton and former Governor and current Tennessee U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander attended American Legion Boys' State in Arkansas and Tennessee respectively. Both will probably tell you that American Legion Boys' State provided an initiative in establishing an interest in their political careers. Upon the conclusion of the Department's American Legion Boys' State, two of the attendees are selected to be American Legion Boys' Nation delegates and attend a national program in the Washington, D.C. where the emphasizes is placed on national government.
Each of the 190 American Legion Posts in Tennessee is expected to have a Post Service Officer (PSO). Additionally, there is one Department Service Officer (DSO) in The American Legion, Department of Tennessee. One of the primary jobs of both the Post Service Officers and the Department Service Officer is to assist veterans file claims with the VA. Working through the TN Department of Veterans Affairs, representatives with a Power of Attorney for American Legion VA claims has been successful in getting 20,420 claims approved with a resulting $138,275,622.00 coming back to Tennessee's economy. Veterans of The American Legion supported this country in every conflict beginning with World War I and continue to work to make our country a better place to live in times of peace.