By: C. Pat Smith, Department Adjutant

We celebrate the American Legion’s 93rd birthday in March. On March 15, 1919 a ‘band of brothers’ decided that they needed an organization to advocate for their rights as veterans, after they fought the “war to end all wars.” The American Legion was born and the rest is history.

It is safe to say that all of the original members from that 1919 meeting are no longer with us. But, their vision and legacy continues today. Literally millions of veterans have passed through this organization in those years, all with the same 4 basic purposes in mind. The vision of the founders was to #1 take care of their returning brothers; #2 support a strong national defense; #3 take care of the children and youth of the nation; and #4 promote Americanism and Patriotism. These four principles still exist!

Past Department Commander and Past Department Adjutant Dean Hunter, once told me, when I was young in the organization that “this organization exists in spite of itself.” I guess I listened to him at that time but, I guarantee that I did not fully understand what he was saying until later. We exist today because of the vision of the founders who set up the structure to constantly change our leadership at all levels.

This organization experiences ups and downs that can be traced directly back to an educated, or uneducated, leadership. The great leaders, at all levels, are those who are steeped in the history and traditions of The American Legion. They have taken the time to learn and participate in all of the important programs contained in the 4 principles before they assume a top leadership position. When they reach that point exciting things begin to happen. All those around a strong leader seem to instantly fall in lock step with their leadership. Positive things happen. Membership increases, programs become successful, future leaders are inspired to learn more and best of all we accomplish our mission as envisioned in 1919.

Immediately after our birthday celebration we begin to select those that will lead us into the future, or at least into the next year. In April and May new district officers will take charge, in June new department officers will assume their positions and in August we will elect a new national commander and his slate of officers. What will the future hold? Only time will tell, but, you can be sure that with the proper slate of educated, dedicated legionnaires the future will be bright and positive.

To select that good slate of officers we need active participation from our grass roots membership. You can affect the future by participating in your post elections, your district conventions and the department convention where leaders are selected. With the upcoming national elections you hear an awful lot about participation and getting out the vote. No different in The American Legion. We need to get out the vote. You need to participate.

Let us never forget the vision of our WWI founders. We are now in charge of their vision. Let us not let them down. God willing we will continue to serve their vision and fulfill our missions. Take care my friends and may God bless America and God bless The American Legion.