He lives in a part of Germany where the U.S. military footprint is fading, but Josh Settle, who at age 15 was elected commander of the SAL Detachment of France last spring, is not even the only top-level American Legion Family officer in his home. His father, James, is commander of the Legion's Department of France. Josh's Germany-born mother, Isolde, is the Department of France Auxiliary president.
National records can neither confirm nor deny that this is the first time in history an American Legion department commander, Auxiliary department president and SAL detachment commander all from the same family served in those capacities at the same time. It is, at the very least, a rarity.
James Settle joined The American Legion in 1999 after a 21-year career in the U.S. Army. A former MP, James served as an American Legion post adjutant, department adjutant and vice commander at-large before his election as department commander last June.
As his dad was advancing in the Legion, young Josh was at his side, having joined the SAL in 2002. "He took me to the meetings since I was small," Josh said. "I didn't know anything different. I liked the patriotism. You don't find that in Germany."
By the time he was 11 years old, Josh was the SAL detachment chaplain, saying prayers at meetings and sending get-well and sympathy cards to Legion families. With dual citizenship, Josh said he was "taught to love my country — both of them. I was taught to be proud to be German and American."
The Settles work hard to keep American patriotism alive in western Europe. They participate in major U.S. holidays and ceremonies, and at least twice a year the family joins other Legion Family members in commemoration activities that honor nearly 11,000 Americans who are laid to rest, or remembered as missing, at the Lorraine Cemetery near St. Avold, France, an American Battle Monuments Commission site that has more U.S. graves than any other World War II cemetery in Europe.
The Settles agree that membership growth in Europe is a big challenge when a considerable portion of department and detachment members live in the United States. Those members who live in Europe are often asked to represent both the Legion and the SAL at ceremonies. "When we are at an event, we always say to bring both caps – your American Legion and SAL cap – to show that we support one another," James said.
"The key words are family and teamwork," Isolde said. "I believe here we are building a stronger American Legion Family. It's all of us working together."