This week the largest Veterans Service Organization in the world celebrates its 100th Birthday! The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans’ organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Membership swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country. Today, 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.

Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, won hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth. It all began in 1919 at the close of World War I.

From March 15-17, 1919 members of the American Expeditionary Force convened in Paris for the first American Legion caucus. The first gathering on US soil happened right here in our own State of Missouri! On May 8-10, 1919 the St. Louis Caucus was held. "The American Legion" is adopted as the organization's official name. The Legion's draft preamble and constitution was approved. A national executive board was formed. The National Executive Committee adopted the Legion emblem on June 9. On Sept. 16 Congress charters The American Legion.

The first American Legion convention convened in Minneapolis, November 10 -12, 1919. The Constitution and preamble are adopted. Delegates vote 361-323 to locate the Legion's national headquarters in Indianapolis, instead of Washington. A resolution is passed in support of Boy Scouts of America. Today, the Legion is the chartering agency for more than 1,700 Scouting units made up of approximately 64,000 youths.

One-hundred years ago, doughboys gave birthday to the largest veterans’ service organization in the world! Ever since, Legionnaires have been busy birthing even more!

On Aug. 9, 1921 the Legion's efforts resulted in the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, forerunner of the Veterans Administration. Today, the Legion continues to lobby for adequate funding to cover medical, disability, education and other benefits for veterans.

June 15, 1923 saw the first "Flag Code" drafted during a Legion conference in Washington. Congress adopts the code in 1942. Today, the Legion is at the forefront of efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag from physical desecration.

July 17, 1925

The Legion created the American Legion Baseball program on July 17, 1925. Today, more than 50 percent of Major League Baseball players are graduates of the program. About 82,000 youths play on Legion-sponsored teams each year.

In September 1932, The Sons of The American Legion is officially recognized during the 1932 National Convention in Portland, Ore. Veterans wanted to pass on its legacy to a new generation! On June 23, 1935 the first American Legion Boys State convenes in Springfield, Ill., to help youths gain an understanding of the structure and operation of the federal government. The first Boys Nation, bringing together youth leadership from all the Boys State programs, convenes in 1946. Today, more than 19,500 young men participate in Boys State, and 98 in Boys Nation, from 49 of the 50 states. How important is the American Legion Boys State? Ask President Bill Clinton! He attended one in his home state of Arkansas! Or, look to television. Have you ever watched NCIS – New Orleans. The lead actor, Scott Bakula, attended the Boys State of MISSOURI as a youth! You don’t have to go that far either. Ask the young men from Neosho who have attended. Adam Doubek, Neosho High School Class of 2008 and son of American Legion Past National Chaplain Reverend Doctor William Doubek was sponsored by Neosho Post 163. Adam is now working in banking in Tulsa and raising a family. This year five young men from the area being sponsored by local organizations and Post 163. What will their future hold?

On June 1, 1938 the final round of the Legion's first annual National High School Oratorical Contest is conducted in Norman, Okla. Today, more than 3,400 high-school students from around the country compete annually in the contest, which promotes a greater understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Winners receive thousands of dollars in college scholarships.

Sept. 19-21, 1942 the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion was changed for the first and only time since it was written in 1919.  The word “War” is changed to “Wars.” The following year, on Dec. 15, 1943, Past National Commander Harry W. Colmery started to write in longhand, on Mayflower Hotel stationery in Washington, the first draft of what will later become the "GI Bill of Rights" – considered the Legion's single greatest legislative achievement.

On June 22, 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the original GI Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act, ushering in monumental changes in U.S. society. Higher education becomes democratized after 8 million veterans go to school on the GI Bill, get better jobs, buy houses in the suburbs and raise families. For every dollar spent on educating veterans, the U.S. economy eventually gets $7 back. Since then millions of American Veterans have attended trade schools, colleges and universities going on to be American leaders. Even more have bought homes and started businesses. And the majority do not even realize that the have the American Legion to thank for it!

This week the American Legion celebrates its 100th birthday! Along with the national organization, Neosho’s Clyde R. Burdick Post 163 celebrates its 100th birthday too! One of the oldest posts in America is right here in our hometown! Tell the world!