Happy Birthday, American Legion! This Thursday, March 15, the largest national veterans’ organization will turn 99 years old!

Members of Grove’s Qualate-Pritchard Post 178 and its affiliate organization, American Legion Auxiliary Qualate-Pritchard Unit 178, will celebrate by hosting a birthday come-and-go luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., for all veterans and their families.

The lunch will take place at the American Legion building, 114 Broadway (behind McDonald’s on O’Daniel).

About the American Legion

The American Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of “The War to End All Wars” or the “Great War,” which we now know as World War I.

This group convened their caucus in Paris, France, on March 15, 1919. From this small but important beginning, the American Legion was soon chartered by Congress on September 16, 1919, as a patriotic veterans organization for any veteran who had served during World War I.

Through the years, as the U.S. has fought in other wars, Congress has changed the criteria each time to include veterans who served during those war timeframes.

Any veteran who has served even one day of active duty during the dates specified below and received an honorable discharge is welcome to join the American Legion and grow the numbers of our membership so that we will have an even bigger voice with Congress to enact legislation to help our military, veterans, and their families.

Currently, the Legion has more than 13,000 posts worldwide organized into 55 Departments: one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Philippines.

With more than two million members, it has become one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the U.S.

Over the years it has used its influence to win many “battles” for veteran benefits, including the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau in 1921, which was the forerunner of the Veterans Administration (VA).

In 1989, the Legion was successful in getting the Secretary of the VA as a member of the President’s Cabinet, which was an important step in getting veterans heard. The Legion continues to lobby for adequate funding to cover medical, disability, education, and other veteran benefits.

One of the greatest single legislative achievements of the Legion was when the original G.I. Bill of Rights was signed into law in 1944. It paved the way to education for WWII veterans, many of whom had not even finished high school because they quit to enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor. With the G.I. Bill they were able to go to school, get better jobs, buy houses in the suburbs, and raise families. For every dollar spent on educating veterans, the U.S. economy eventually gets back $7.

In 1954 the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation was formed. Today, more than $11 million has been awarded to youth organizations and projects designed to help America’s children. From the very first year in 1919, the Legion passed a resolution in support of Boy Scouts of America.

Today, the Legion is the chartering agency for more than 1,700 scouting units, made up of approximately 64,000 youths. In 1925 the Legion created the American Legion Baseball program. Today, more than 50 percent of Major League Baseball players are graduates of the program. About 82,000 youths play on Legion-sponsored teams each year.

In 1935, the first American Legion Boys State was convened to help youths gain an understanding of the structure and operation of the federal government. Today, more than 19,500 young men participate in Boys State each year. Oklahoma’s Boys State takes place only 30 miles from Grove in Miami, and the local Legion post is now interviewing boys who are juniors in high school for selection as this year’s Grove delegates. 

In 1938 the Legion held the first annual National High School Oratorical Contest, with the first national contest being held in Norman, Oklahoma. Today, national contests are held in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the Legion has its National Headquarters.

More than 3,400 high-school students from around the country compete annually in the contest at the local, state, and national levels, with winners receiving thousands of dollars in college scholarships.

This contest is to promote a greater understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Grove’s oratorical winners went on to win the state competition and compete at Indianapolis in the finals for four years in a row in the mid-2000s.

Other important areas of concern the Legion has been instrumental in is the fate of prisoners of war in Vietnam. They are urging a full accounting of all POWs and troops missing in action and have formed a special group from among the nation’s major veterans organizations to continue pressing for further resolution of this issue.

In 1982 the Legion presented a $1 million check to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for construction of the Wall in Washington, making the Legion the largest single contributor to the project.

In addition to this, the Legion has further been a strong advocate for Vietnam War veterans suffering from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. They sponsored an independent study on it in 1983, and presented Congress with the results of the “American Legion-Columbia University Study of Vietnam-era Veterans” in 1989.

In 1990 the Legion filed suit against the federal government for failure to conduct a Congress-mandated study about the effects of Agent Orange. The VA is doing better in compensating Agent Orange veterans, but this issue still needs major focus, as the numbers of veterans who die every year or live with the diseases caused by their exposure to this chemical are staggering.

In 1995 the Legion also formed the Persian Gulf Task Force to enhance service for the newest generation of wartime veterans, thousands of whom suffer from illnesses linked to their service in the Gulf region.

For more information on joining Grove’s Qualate-Pritchard Post 178, persons interested may come to a meeting, which takes place at noon, on the second Tuesday of each month, with lunch served at 11:30 a.m., for $3, or call or text Post Commander Ronnie Moore at 918-314-9872.