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Front Page » March 14, 2006 » Local News » American Legion marks organization's 87th year
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American Legion marks organization's 87th year


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By TOM McCOURT
Sun Advocate reporter


Price American Legion Post 3 members represent local veterans at a recent funeral service in the Carbon County area. The United States veterans organization will celebrate 87 years of service to the nation on March 15.

The American Legion will be 87 years old on March 15. Price Legion Post 3 celebrated the event on Saturday with a patriotic dinner and guest speaker.

About 100 people, legionnaires and spouses, attended the March 11 celebration. Sun Advocate publisher Richard Shaw was the guest speaker.

The American Legion was founded in March 1919 shortly after the end of World War I by a group of United States veterans who were still stationed in France.

The servicemen saw the need to form an organization to grovide for wounded and disabled veterans. The constitution and bylaws of the American Legion were drafted in May 1919 at a caucus in St. Louis, Mo.

The American Legion was chartered by the U.S. Congress later in 1919 as a mutual-help, wartime veteran's organization.

But today, the American Legion is a community service organization as well.

The organization counts nearly three million men and women as members. Veterans from all of America's wars and conflicts are encouraged to enroll.

There are nearly 15,000 American Legion posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments, one for all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Philippines.

The national headquarters is in Indianapolis, Ind., with offices in Washington, DC.

In addition to thousands of volunteer members serving in leadership positions at posts across the country, the Legion has about 300 full-time employees.

Utah has the honor of hosting the national convention of the American Legion this year. The event will be held in Salt Lake City in August. The State convention will be held there in June.

The American Legion has been the foremost American veteran's association since it's inception. Over it's long history it has been a driving force in pushing key veteran's legislation through congress. The organization's crowning achievement was passage of the GI Bill of Rights in 1944. The GI Bill changed the face of America forever, according to Price Post Commander, Mario Dicaro, who spoke briefly at Saturday's event. The GI Bill provided the chance for a whole generation of Americans to get a college education at the end of World War II. "The GI Bill raised America's standard of living and helped to turn our country into the economic powerhouse that the world knows today. It helped to make us the greatest country in the world," Dicaro told the audience.

The Legion has championed the rights of Vietnam-ear veterans as well. In 1982, the American Legion gave 1 million dollars to the Vietnam Memorial Wall fund, making it the largest single contributor to the Vietnam Wall. The funds were donated by rank and file members and then presented as a single check from the organization.

In 1983, the Legion commissioned an independent study of the affects of Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans. "The American Legion - Columbia University Study of Vietnam-Era Veterans" was presented to congress in 1989. And in August 1990, the Legion filed a lawsuit against the federal government for not acting on information about the harm done to US troops by Agent Orange in Vietnam.

In 1993, the Legion partnered with the Laborer's International Union to form a unique job-training program for Desert Storm veterans returning to an uncertain job market. And in 1995, the Legion formed a Persian Gulf Task Force to help thousands of veterans suffering service-related illnesses caused by the first Gulf War.

In August 2005, at a national convention in Hawaii, the Legion adopted Resolution 169 that pledges full support to the US Congress, the president, and US soldiers who are sent to fight the War on Terror. Resolution 169 is a statement of the American Legion position on the war and the Legion's efforts to support those who are sent into harm's way. The resolution calls for those who may oppose the war to do so in ways that do not harm our nation's war efforts or damage the morale of our troops, as was done during the Vietnam conflict. The resolution calls for national unity in supporting the war, and authorizes Legion leaders to do all they can to disseminate accurate information about the war.

The Legion also does a great deal of community service work, and has done for many decades. In 1935, the American Legion began a program called Boy's State that has taught many thousands of young men the importance and the mechanisms of our government. A Girl's State program was instituted a few years later.

In 1938, the Legion began a high school oratorical contest that has awarded college scholarships to thousands of contest winners who give orations on the US constitution. Today, as many as 25,000 young people participate in the scholarship contest each year.

The Legion has a women's auxiliary organization that is made up of the wives, daughters and granddaughters of war veterans. And increasingly, there are more and more women war veterans. Women are welcomed into the ranks of the Legion with full fellowship and honor.

The motto of the American Legion is, "Still Serving America," and members of the Legion are doing just that. A color guard performs a military service at the funerals of war veterans, and does so at no cost to the families. Legion members donate their time and buy their own uniforms to be a part of the color guard. Legion members also participate in many community events, parades, and commemorations each year without charge or remuneration of any kind.

Unfortunately, the ranks are dwindling and the organization is in dire need of new members. According to Post Commander Dicaro, there are 106 members of Price Post #3, but the average age of members is about 70 years old. Most are World War II and Korean War Veterans. Fewer than half participate on a regular basis.

The Legion is asking for Vietnam, Gulf War, and Iraqi-era veterans to sign-up. Legion members are united in their efforts to reach out to other veterans in the community. They are asking for help and support to keep the organization alive and functioning.

One veteran sadly commented at the recent gathering, that if more young members cannot be recruited soon, there might come a time in the not too distant future when there will be no color guard to fire that last salute over the graves of our nation's heroes as they are laid to rest. That would be a sad day indeed.

There are four American Legion Posts in Carbon County. Post #3 in Price, with Mario Dicaro as commander, Post #21 in Helper, with Fred Martinez Jr. as commander, Post # 44 in Wellington with Dee R. Thayn as commander, and Post #137 in East Carbon with Jim Robertson as commander.

To Join the American Legion, veterans may contact one of the post commanders listed above, or go to www.utlegion.org . They can also call Mario Dicaro, commander of Price Post #3 at 637-1953, or contact Tom McCourt at 637-4544.

There are other veteran's organizations in the area too. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) can be contacted at 637-7424. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) by contacting www.utdav.org . And the Marine Corps League can be reached through Jack Allred at 472-5002, or Phillip Pendleton at 637-5546.



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