Opinion

Guest Column

The American Legion celebrates 77 years

American Legion by Daniel A. Ludwig, National Commander, The American Legion
A sense of service and uncompromising dedication to the undergirding principles of our great nation characterize The American Legion. Service remains the Legion's overriding objective, a venerable legacy handed down through the corridors of history and nurtured by its current strength of nearly three million members.
   The American Legion, celebrating its 77th birthday March 17, continues to make resolute strides toward the next millennium by "Still Serving America," engaging in endeavors which exalt God and country.
   Each letter in the word "service" represents many Legion qualities.
   "S" stands for sacrifice, not only in time of war. Indeed, members of The American Legion family sacrifice their time and talents to serve the community.
   "E" stands for experience, the universal teacher of the lessons of life, many of which are difficult. Experience provides impetus to the quest to serve others. It also guides successful service to communities.
   "R" means respect, including a profound reverence for humanity and for the unifying symbol for which America stands, "Old Glory."
   "V" is for the vision with which The American Legion develops creative ways to make a difference in the lives of Americans.
   "I" reflects The American Legion's influence on the country: in each of the states and in the nation as a whole. American Legion influence is most salient in the formulation of public policy, resulting in creation of the Veterans Administration Medical System and the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, the GI Bill. Legion influence is channeled through programs serving the nation's youth, America's future.
   "C" represents compassion, which energizes our three million Americans to serve others. The American Legion family acknowledges the existence of people who need help.
   The second "E" signifies enthusiasm, the observable manifestation of humankind's inner spirit. Enthusiasm makes projects more adventure than chore. Enthusiasm is contagious within The American Legion and it inspires its members.
   No better words provide a practical definition of service within The American Legion: sacrifice, experience, respect, vision, influence, compassion, and enthusiasm.
   The results of American Legion service are not relegated to decades-old history. A sense of service inspired creation of the Family Support Network, which has been providing a special kind of hometown help to families of military personnel involved in Bosnia. It also served families of those who served in Operation Desert Storm.
   Service partnered The American Legion with the Foundation Fighting Blindness in the Seeds For Sight program.
   Service fostered development of the Child Welfare Foundation.
   Service created the nationwide Service Officer network, to help veterans receive their earned benefits.
   Service was what The American Legion had in mind when it established a veterans job training and job placement link with the Laborers International Union of North America.
   Service is the cornerstone of efforts to encourage government leaders to support a strong national defense, a sensible foreign policy and a constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from acts of intentional physical desecration.
   As The American Legion celebrates its 77th birthday, its members reflect on more than three-quarters of a century of service to God and country.
   The American Legion continues a proud tradition. Service forms the proverbial bricks and mortar. Outstanding Americans, the men and women of The American Legion family are "Still Serving America."

The American Legion is the nation's largest veterans organization.