SILER CITY — The date was March 15, 1919, a scant four months after the end of World War I — the “war to end all wars,” as President Woodrow Wilson called it.
That day, approximately 1,000 American officers and men gathered in Paris and adopted a tentative constitution establishing the American Legion.
Later, in early May, a similar convention in St. Louis endorsed the Paris group and eventually the two combined into what typically is known today as “the Legion.” Among the notables in the organization’s creation were Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Sgt. Alvin York and Col. Henry L. Stimson, who would become Secretary of War under presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Since that small beginning, the Legion has grown to almost two million members in 12,000 communities, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, France, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Philippines. They all have the same aim, as their charter states, of being a “patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness.” It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.
Now, one of the four Legion posts in Chatham County is on the edge of a significant step into the future: Post 93 in Siler City will celebrate its 100th anniversary and move into its second century at a celebration luncheon at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Siler City Moose Lodge on Alston Bridge Road. In addition to the meal, which is free of charge to veterans, their guests and visitors, there will be door prizes and a raffle for a shotgun.
And while the deadline to RSVP to the event has passed, Legion commander Carin O’Brien says the door is still open to anyone wanting to attend.
“We’d like to know how many are coming for planning purposes,” she said. “But mainly we want to connect with the vets around here. While there are veterans from older times still around, we also want to connect with those from later years. Even if someone hasn’t responded, we want them to come”
Membership eligibility originally was limited to personnel serving between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918. It has since been expanded to include American citizens on active military duty from Dec. 7, 1941, through the present day and those who were honorably discharged.
Nationally, the Legion has a distinguished service record, including presenting the first draft of the “G.I. Bill of Rights” which sent many service personnel on to higher education and an effort that resulted in creating the U.S. Veterans Bureau, which later became the Veterans Administration.
But not all the action has been on the national scene. Given, as Commander O’Brien says, that the Legion is “a positive organization wanting to uplift and help the community,” Post 93 has a resume of considerable local achievements. They include hosting the Red Cross and assisting in a quarterly blood drive, “adopting” a portion of the Harold Andrews Road for periodic litter and trash collection and sending high school students to Boys State and Girls State, a program that teaches them about the functions of government.
In addition, a future goal is to send students to the state Student Trooper Program where participants are given an up-close and personal look at life as an N.C. State Trooper. And through the years, Post 93 has been synonymous with summer baseball in the county as the sponsor of a Chatham County team.
“The Legion is all about membership,” says O’Brien, a 20-year veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne. “All ages in the community benefit from what the Legion does.” And to that effort, Post 93 is working to help strengthen the three other posts in Chatham County — 292 in Goldston, 283 in Pittsboro and 277 in Siler City.
Scott Busenlehner, 93’s vice commander, and other members have been working, as he says, to “get the posts more active. We’re looking for members who will get involved and step up to leadership positions so the posts can remain alive.”
Any veteran who is interested can contact him or District Commander John Gerlett by email at NCDistrict13@gmail.com. Gerlett also serves as Post 93’s adjutant and treasurer.
“An increase in dedicated members,” O’Brien says, “would allow other posts to engage in comparable community activities. That’s what we’re all about.”
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