Since our founding, The American Legion has established itself as the most influential voice for veterans in the United States. But it is our advocacy for the youth of America that truly differentiates us from other organizations.
Our faith in young people was established early on, when members passed a resolution in support of Boy Scouts of America at our first national convention in 1919. Today we are one of Scouting’s biggest supporters, with American Legion posts chartering more than 2,400 units made up of approximately 58,000 youths.
While there is no doubt that some of our well-known youth programs like American Legion Boys State, Boys Nation, Legion Baseball, Junior Shooting Sports and the Oratorical Contest attract exceptionally talented young people, other programs such as Temporary Financial Assistance and the American Legion Legacy Scholarship benefit those who are in need or have suffered substantial losses.
Moreover, the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation educates the public about topics such as Huntington’s disease, juvenile diabetes, shaken-baby syndrome, autism and other conditions. Since 1954, CWF has provided more than $17 million in grants.
The halls of Congress, corporate boardrooms, university campuses and the National Baseball Hall of Fame are filled with American Legion youth alumni. The American Legion Auxiliary has made a similar impression through Girls State, Girls Nation and other youth programs. Our support for these young people is often repaid by their future support for veterans.
Such is the case of film producer Lane Carlson, who played Legion Baseball for Post 491 in Bayport, Minn. His 2017 award-winning film “Battle Scars” compassionately portrays the struggle and transition of a seriously wounded Marine who served in Afghanistan.
“My exposure to the American Legion Baseball program definitely played a role in my support for veterans,” Carlson said at the film’s debut. “I feel this film allows me the opportunity to give back to The American Legion.”
The writer and director of “Battle Scars,” Danny Buday, is an alumnus of California American Legion Boys State. Echoing Carlson, he said, “My exposure to Boys State as well as my involvement in the Civil Air Patrol definitely played a role in my support for veterans and my desire to create a film that would resonate with veterans.”
From sponsoring Junior ROTC units to law cadet programs, The American Legion fulfills the legacy of our organization’s founders, who valued young people enough to include them among our four pillars of service. It’s a legacy that continues to grow, as seen recently with the creation of the American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation.
April is Children & Youth Month. It’s a great time to lend your support to programs at your American Legion post or to visit the national website, legion.org, and learn about how The American Legion has made a difference for countless young people.