Photo by Tom Strattman

'God-empowered, America-strengthened'

The American Legion's national chaplain drew on a story from the aftermath of World War II in Europe to illustrate the power of selflessness and how that power helps define America. Rev. Daniel J. Seehafer's Sunday sermon in the patriotic religious ceremony of the 93rd American Legion National Convention was titled "Service: God-Empowered, America-Strengthened."

He told the story of a hungry young boy staring through the window of a pastry shop in war-ravaged London. Inside, the baker was preparing fresh doughnuts. An American soldier drove past the boy, noticed him, and pulled his jeep to a stop.

The soldier asked, explained Rev. Seehafer, "'Son, would you like some of those?'" The boy was startled. ‘Oh, yeah....I would.' So, that American soldier stepped inside and bought a dozen, put them in a bag and walked back to where the lad was standing in the foggy cold of the London morning. He smiled, held out the bag and simply said, ‘Here you are.' As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the child ask quietly, ‘Mister.....are you God?'"

The Wisconsin pastor said that such simple acts of kindness not only make differences in the lives of others, they also contribute to the strength and identity of the United States as a nation. "When we love people with no strings attached, we are doing something quite godly," he told a crowd of hundreds of Legionnaires and their families gathered for the service at the Minneapolis Convention Center. "We are, in fact, demonstrating in a real way what God is like."

Seehafer commended the entire American Legion Family for its selfless acts of service this year alone. He shared with the crowd the fact that over the last 12 months, the Sons of The American Legion raised $392,000 for the Child Welfare Foundation, which supports non-profit organizations that help young people in need. Rev. Seehafer found the SAL effort to be a perfect example of his sermon's title. "God-empowered?" he asked. "America-strengthened? Families touched and people helped? Indeed!"

He quoted American Legion Auxiliary President Carlene Ashworth's year-long slogan, "The Power of One," in recognizing the life of service led by Illinois Unit 232 member Gracie Schulz. A 74-year member of the Auxiliary, she gave countless volunteer hours and dollars serving the nation's largest patriotic women's organization, and when she passed away, she bequeathed $61,000 to the Auxiliary Emergency Fund. "She was dedicated to the Auxiliary mission and gave selflessly to honor and serve veterans and military families," the chaplain said.

Rev. Seehafer also reeled off a string of examples of American Legion members making differences in the lives of veterans and their families, coast to coast. He spoke of the spouse of a deployed soldier who nearly went homeless before The American Legion stepped in. He spoke of Legion assistance for a member of the U.S. Air Force, a mother with a 5-year-old child, who was robbed of her rent money. He noted the Legion's involvement in helping soldiers stationed at Fort Dix make it home to see their families for Thanksgiving shortly before a 12-month deployment.