American’s veterans have done everything asked of them in their mission to serve our great nation. In the spirit of celebrating America’s birthday, it seems fitting to also honor an organization embarking upon 100 years of service to our veterans and this country: The American Legion.
“The American Legion is the oldest veterans group in America. A lot of people don’t know that. Unfortunately, many people, including current members, don’t know what the Legion stands for and what it has done for our vets and this country. We want to change that,” said Lester Pate, adjutant, and chaplain for Barstow, CA Post 324 as well as chaplain for district 25 which includes 26 posts.
Pate, age 73, served in the Air Force from 1963-67. Ironically, he joined the American Legion in 1968 as the organization was preparing to celebrate the 50-year anniversary. Pate eventually went on to serve as commander of Post 14 in San Bernardino, CA—also 100-years old—from 1981-82.
“I joined because it was part of the agreement I made with my future father-in-law in order to marry his daughter,” Pate chuckled. “And here I am 50 years later as part of the 100-year anniversary.”
Carrying on the tradition of service to our country, Pate recently celebrated his grandson, Kevin Lindsey’s promotion service to staff sergeant in the Air Force.
“I presented my grandson with my staff sergeant stripes from 52 years ago and encouraged him to join his local Legion.”
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 with a focus on service to veterans, servicemembers, and communities. According to their website, today’s membership stands at over 2 million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments: one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
“As we head into our centennial year, we want to be about educating not only our current members beginning at the local community level but encouraging new memberships,” said Pate.
Pate went on to describe what’s known as “The Four Pillars of Service” while highlighting some of the forgotten or little-known services of the American Legion.
1. Veteran’s Affairs and Rehabilitation
“This includes things like the GI bill which helps with education, VA loans to buy homes, health issues, PTSD and more,” said Pate.
2. National Security
“We encourage a strong military with diplomacy.”
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for His friends.” John 15:13
“We want to make people proud again. I read recently that 43% of millennials do not consider themselves patriotic. That’s a shame and we want to change that.”
4. Children and Youth
“A country is as strong as its youth. We must train them about our history and protect them. The American Legion’s support for Boy Scouts of America began at the Legion’s first national convention in 1919. To my knowledge, we are the largest sponsors of the Scouts— more than 2,500 Scouting units across the country. And American Legion Baseball is one of the nation’s most successful amateur athletic programs.”
The American Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that depends entirely on active membership, participation, and volunteerism. For more information or to support your local American Legion, go to https://www.legion.org/
“The American Legion strives to embody the service and honor that was demonstrated by four Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943, during World War II. As the Scripture says, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for His friends.’”