What anniversary did the Legion honor by paying for improvements to Arlington National Cemetery?
Its own, in 1969, the Legion’s 50th birthday. As part of the celebration, the organization decided to make a Gift to the Nation: bankrolling "the design and installation of permanent fixtures for the suitable illumination of the area of the Tomb of the Unknowns and Temple Facade of Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery," according to a Legion history.
The Legion and the Auxiliary both presented down payments to Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor in late 1968. In addition, a donation campaign was conducted through The American Legion Magazine urging every members of both organizations to donate $1 toward the project, for which they would receive a specially designed postcard. Ultimately, more than 84,000 postcards were mailed, and more than $189,000 was received. This amount not only underwrote the lighting project, but provided a permanent reserve fund for its care.
On March 15, 1969 – in the midst of ceremonies also marking the 50th anniversary of the Paris Caucus – President Richard Nixon formally took possession of the lighting system in the nation’s name, flipping the switch that turned it on. The Legion has never lost its affinity for Arlington, and is full of praise for the cemetery’s new online search tool and mobile application, ANC Explorer. Read more about it here. And as the Legion begins to prepare for its 100th birthday in 2019, talk has already begun on what the next Gift to the Nation might be.