Jack Monahan has a strong understanding and appreciation for the history of U.S. involvement in the Great War. Walking through the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut, he relishes explaining an exhibition of illustrations by Harry Everett Townsend, an Army combat artist during World War I.
Last year, then-National Commander Charles E. Schmidt appointed Monahan The American Legion’s representative on the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, a responsibility of which he’s proud.
“World War I is the hinge on which all of 20th-century history pivots,” says Monahan, a 20-year Army veteran and commander of La Place-Champlin American Legion Post 18 in Essex, Conn. “It’s important from a sociological and historical perspective. But more than that, it’s important to keep alive the memories of what was achieved by that generation.
“That generation, the doughboys and bluejackets, left a country to go fight overseas for people they never met against people who hadn’t attacked (Americans). It was, in my mind, a means of bringing our values and our culture to bear on a crisis in Europe. It changed history.”
Monahan, who has an undergraduate degree from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in European studies from Cornell University, said the Legion’s youth programs are what initially piqued his interest in joining the organization. But when he learned about the Connecticut Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Fund – which assists needy wartime veterans and their families and is administered by the Legion’s Department of Connecticut – he was sold.
“It was a way to continue serving veterans,” Monahan says. “I eventually became the administrator of that fund. It was absolutely transformative. When I left the Army, I felt I wanted to do work worth doing. It was exactly the kind of work I hoped to do.”
Branch of Service Army (1975-1995)
Military job Infantryman, armor officer, foreign area officer
American Legion post Post 18, Essex, Conn.
Years in The Legion 22
- American Legion representative on U.S. World War One Centennial Commission
- National Finance Commission (2007-present)
- American Legion Endowment Fund Corporation member (2001-2007)
- Department treasurer (2007-2014)
- Post commander (2014-present)
- Post adjutant (2009-2013)