Post notes 105th year of legion

The American Legion Post 59 of Fredonia, held a 105th birthday banquet honoring the founding of The American Legion.

Commander SFC Denise Puskar welcomed the crowd and delivered the following speech and presented awards for service to P59. The following received the awards, Jennifer Hewitt, Nancy York, Steve Smith and Commander Puskar’s Adjutant Jasen Erick.

Here are Puskar’s remarks:

“It was supposed to be the “war to end all wars,” but the wounds and scars were as horrifying as any conflict that preceded it. Trench warfare, mustard gas and what was then called ‘shell shock’ took their toll on many of our World War I dough boys.

Newspapers in the United States reported incidents of disabled veterans, starving and ignored by the government, collapsing on street corners.

“Some communities, not wanting to deal with their disabled warriors, hid them from sight. Major American cities had “ugly ordinances,” which required disfigured people to cover their injuries – even those sustained in war. These heroes were forced to wear masks or hoods in public to conceal their faces or face arrest and imprisonment.

“More than 300,000 soldiers returned home with serious or physical or mental disabilities. Having put an enormous amount of its financial resources into mobilizing the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, the government paid little attention to the problems of rehabilitation or long-term medical care for wounded Veterans.

“Elected officials and government bureaucrats had forgotten the promises made in President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Care for those who had borne the battle was no longer a priority in postwar America.

“Some lawmakers displayed their insensitivity to wounded warriors by questioning the moral fiber of disabled veterans who were seeking compensation and financial assistance. It was during this period of widespread disregard for our veterans that The American Legion was born.

“In the early days of The American Legion, Past National Commander Hanford MacNider wrote, ‘The first duty of The American Legion is to see that those men who came back from the service, blind, maimed … broken in health … who must live through war forever in their homes throughout the country … get a square deal from the Government they fought for.’

” ‘A square deal’ is what President Teddy Roosevelt, the father of one of the American Legion’s legendary founders, promised to all Americans more than a decade earlier. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree – as Teddy Roosevelt Jr., the son of the Rough Rider himself, became a leader and advocate for this new organization called ‘The American Legion.’

“Of the American Legion’s founding, Teddy Junior voiced that his only regret was – quote – ‘that my father could not have been alive…to see the action of this body of Americans,’ unquote.

“Among other timeless truths, The American Legion was dedicated to the promotion of ‘peace and goodwill on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.’

“In the American Legion, a veteran was a veteran regardless of religious faith, or whether they were enlisted or commissioned, black or white, male or female.

“In fact, women Legionnaires were able to vote for national commander before they could legally vote for the president of the United States.

“Through the Legion’s hard work and efforts, the U.S. Veterans Bureau was created. It was the forerunner of the Veterans Administration and later, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“For 105 years now, The American Legion has led the charge as America’s leading advocate for Veterans health care and rehabilitation, children and youth programs, a strong national security policy and one-hundred percent Americanism.

“When the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its power, The American Legion passed Resolution 407 in 1923. It declared that groups fostering racial, religious or class strife were “un-American“, a menace to our liberties.” And “inconsistent with ideals and purposes of The American Legion”

“In 1944, Harry W. Colmery, a Legion past commander, wrote the first draft of what later became the “GI Bill of Rights,” the Legion’s greatest legislative achievement. It made education, home and business loans available to millions of veterans and revitalized the American economy.”


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