Celebrating 100 years of commitment to veterans
The American Legion. Three words describing one sustaining patriotic organization which has vigilantly devoted 100 years to the mission of mutual helpfulness.
Founded on March 15, 1919, the American Legion is known as the nation’s largest and most powerful wartime veterans’ service organization. Its four pillars of service include: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth.
The Legion was instrumental in the creation of a number of major institutions of American society, including formation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, creation of the U.S. Flag Code, passage of the GI Bill and more.
Very briefly, I considered writing about what the Legion has achieved. However, I quickly realized the national impact is too great to cover in a few paragraphs.
Instead, I will focus on how the local Legion Post 11 began and their current mission of service.
Floyd W. Brown was called into service during World War I on July 26, 1918, at the age of 31. He left with a contingent of 117 Greene County boys for Camp Gordon, Georgia, sailed for France on Sept. 19 and was on the front lines within 75 days after leaving Jefferson.
Floyd was killed in action about noon on Nov. 10, 1918, less than 24 hours before the armistice was signed. He died instantly when he was struck by a large shell dropped from an enemy plane. His body laid in France for three years before returning to Jefferson for his funeral on July 31, 1921.
Floyd was the only Jefferson man who fell on the field of battle.
In recognition of his service and his sacrifice, Floyd W. Brown Post No. 11 was organized May 27, 1919. The Jefferson post was the 11th post chartered in the state of Iowa.
How does your local Post 11 in Jefferson, a small group of 73 members, commit to the Legion’s mission? One of our members, Haven Frantz, is an active volunteer at the VA Hospital in Des Moines. He constantly encourages us to join his mission field.
In another activity, every fall we conduct our fifth grade flag essay contest at the local school in our efforts to reach and teach the younger generation knowledge and appreciation of their country’s flag. Where else will they learn flag etiquette?
For Americanism, we advocate for candidates for Boys State and Girls State where students attend a weeklong academic experience with our democratic government. In 2017, we sent Haley Hall, a 2018 graduate, to Girls State, where she was selected to be one of only two delegates to represent Iowa at Girls Nation in Washington, D.C.
Phil Thompson, our current post commander and our District 47 House representative, also attended Boys Nation in 2008, courtesy of our local post. Look where that took him.
For the first time last year, we established the Floyd W. Brown Scholarship to be awarded annually to a veteran’s graduating senior son or daughter.
Contributing in community ceremonies, we represent our country at Homecoming, the Bell Tower parade, Relay for Life and Memorial Day, to name a few.
Finally, at the personal level, you have witnessed our faithfulness as we join our VFW brothers at the cemeteries to honor our fallen fellow veterans for their service to their country.
Below is part of a message from American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad which summarizes best what the American Legion has accomplished and stands for:
“One hundred years ago, no VA existed. GI Bill benefits were a pipe dream. There was no Veterans Preference Hiring Act, no U.S. Flag Code, no Boys State or Boys Nation. Military-connected exposure to toxic substances was at first ignored, and later denied, by the government. PTSD was unrecognized as a distinct psychological condition. U.S. military veterans were usually misunderstood, even pitied, by a public that did not fully understand the price of its freedoms.
“It took vision and a collective effort to shift that culture. Veterans of the First World War dreamed of a stronger, better and prouder America, one that stands strong for its military men and women, cares for veterans, mentors youth, obeys the law, and promotes responsible, united citizenship under the colors of our country.”
The average age of an American Legion member is 70.
Our oldest member is JF Hanen at 95 years of age, while our youngest member, Phil Thompson, is 28.
Although my purpose wasn’t to promote membership, we would gladly embrace anyone who calls.
My words primarily serve as a reminder to our community that the American Legion is celebrating 100 years of service, not only with our veterans but with our community.
Celebrate with us!
Barb Labate is adjutant of American Legion Post 11 in Jefferson.