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The American Legion turns 103: A brief history of the organization formed to aid WWI veterans

America’s boldest advocate for military veterans is celebrating 103 years of service.

Congress officially chartered the American Legion on Sept. 16, 1919, to serve veterans, service members and communities following World War I.

The group quickly evolved from “war-weary” veterans to “one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States,” according to the American Legion’s website.

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American Legion spokesperson John Raughter told Fox News Digital that the organization’s long-lasting legacy has been remarkable yet tireless, as legionnaires nationwide have carried on their service “long after they hang up their military uniforms.”

“From the drafting of the original GI Bill in 1944 to the passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act in 2022, The American Legion’s history over 103 years is one of significant accomplishment and service,” he said.

Raughter also said via email, “With current issues such as veteran suicide and transitional challenges faced by Global War on Terrorism veterans, The American Legion will continue to be the leading advocate for the men and women of the Armed Forces for the next 103 years and beyond.”

Here’s a brief history of the American Legion’s standout accomplishments over the last century, according to the Legion itself. 

The first Legion convention took place on Nov. 10, 1919, in Minneapolis. There, delegates voted for their national headquarters to be in Indianapolis.

As membership grew quickly, local chapters popped up across the country, allowing for more veterans to become involved.

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On Aug. 9, 1921, the Legion’s efforts led to the U.S. Veterans Bureau, which preceded the Veterans Administration.

The organization continues to lobby for funding to cover veterans’ benefits, including medical, disability and education, through these agencies today.

On July 17, 1925, the American Legion Baseball program was created for youths; it graduates about 50% of Major League Baseball players. 

Amid World War II, the American Legion changed the verbiage of the preamble of its constitution from “war” to “wars” for the first and only time in September 1942.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the original GI bill into law on June 22, 1944, offering veterans better educational, professional and financial opportunities in the U.S.

In 1950, the American Legion voted to contribute funding to mental health fields, which was a catalyst for launching the National Association for Mental Health.

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The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation was established on July 9, 1954. Today, it’s blossomed into more than $11 million awarded to youth organizations and projects to help America’s children.

The organization became greatly involved amid outcry during the Vietnam War in the 1960s — and today it still requires a full accounting of POWs and troops missing in action.

A $1 million check was granted by the Legion to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to construct the Wall in Washington in 1982.

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After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the American Legion stepped up by reactivating the Family Support Network and creating the American Legacy Scholarship Fund for children of military killed on or after 9/11.

Now, the American Legion has nearly two million members in more than 13,000 posts, including international and U.S. territory chapters in Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.

Richard Pecci, a Vietnam veteran and the current commander of his local American Legion — Admiral Farrugut Post 1195 in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. — reflected on his membership in comments to Fox News Digital.

“The American Legion means so much to me,” he said. 

“They’ve given me the opportunity to serve other veterans in my community and assist others, going to classrooms to educate and mentor young people.”

He added, “We raise funds for all kinds of causes, such as youth scholarships and veteran assistance programs.”

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“More importantly,” said Pecci of the Legion, “we have a place for other veterans to go where they feel safe and know that there’s somebody else there who went through what they did.”

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