The American Legion celebrated its 100th birthday on March 15, 2019. The first 100 years of The American Legion has been filled with many firsts and a whole century of advocating for our nation’s veterans, active military, and their families, creating opportunities for our nation’s youth, and working for our local communities.
The American Legion was born out of Lt. Col Teddy Roosevelt Jr.’s idea to start a veterans organization after the first world war. Roosevelt convinced 20 officers to join him for dinner to plan the well-known Paris Caucus. This caucus was held March 15-17, 1919. The caucus then planned to hold another caucus in America. The St. Louis Caucus was then held in May 1919 to adopt the official name “The American Legion”, a preamble, and constitution. The American Legion was chartered by Congress as the only war-time veterans service organization on September 16, 1919.
The Nebraska American Legion was officially chartered on August 1, 1920, but the foundation for the state organization was started much earlier. On April 5, 1919, a mass meeting of Nebraskans was held in Omaha to make plans for a state convention. Allan A. Tukey of Omaha arranged the meeting that was held in Lincoln on May 3 and he served as chairman of the meeting. WWI veterans from 18 counties attended the meeting and they elected John A. Maher of Lincoln as the first ever Commander. It was made known at the meeting that there would be no distinction of rank, branch, or place of service, no distinction in class, creed, or color, and no deception or selfishness in The American Legion.
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Over its 100 years, the Nebraska American Legion has supported the youth of the state through various programs. Each year an Eagle Scout of the Year is chosen to honor their dedication to scouting. For 79 years, almost 400 young men are sent to Boys’ State each June to learn more about patriotism, government, and leadership. Started by Nebraska in June of 1968, the Junior Law Cadet Program is held each year to teach high school students about law enforcement careers. Nebraska held its 81st annual Constitutional High School Oratorical Contest in January to continue to teach students about the constitution and how it protects our rights as Americans. The Junior Shooting Sports program was formed to teach gun safety and marksmanship to middle and high school students. The Nebraska American Legion Baseball program has over 4,000 players from across the state and continues to be one of the top five programs in the nation by number of teams registered. Each year the Nebraska American Legion awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to descendants of American Legion members and students in ROTC programs at a Nebraska University school. County Government Day is held in many of the 93 counties of Nebraska. It is a day where high school students are able to learn how their county government functions and the necessity of such a government.
The Nebraska American Legion continues to honor the service of those who give back to our communities. Each January a Law Enforcement Officer and a Firefighter/EMS personnel from Nebraska are recognized for their hard work and selfless bravery while performing their duties. Each June one elementary, middle, and high school teacher from Nebraska are recognized for their hard work and dedication to teaching our states youth and promoting patriotism.
Congratulations on 100 years Nebraska American Legion and here is to another 100 years of supporting our nations military and veterans.