March 15 was an important milestone for The American Legion. When you read my article in the winter issue of NALPA about the “endgame,” one of two thoughts may have crossed your mind. “I did everything possible, and it worked out great. I was prepared.” Or, “I wasn’t able to do all I had planned to do, and I missed it.”
If you pulled off an American Legion 100-year birthday celebration, great job. Your planning and preparing paid off. If it didn’t go as planned, let me be the first to tell you that it’s OK. It is not the end of the world, and it is not the end of the opportunity to use the 100th anniversary to promote your post, district or department.
We are now in the 100th year of the beginning of your organization. There are stories to be told to the community. There are opportunities to promote The American Legion in your newspapers, on radio stations, and to new members. There are your post and department’s first organizational commander, adjutant and executive board, and the decisions they made. You can share stories about the founders of your post and talk about other firsts that happened that first year in existence.
Remember that the initial meeting was in Paris March 15-17, 1919, and the second meeting happened in St. Louis, known as the St. Louis Caucus. Committees were established to write the founding principles of The American Legion. Do you know how many delegates from your department were present in St. Louis? Do you know who attended the caucus? Did you know the minutes are available online in the Digital Archives at www.legion.org?
There are stories to be told about what your department did to shape The American Legion at the St. Louis Caucus.
Are there records of the first meeting of your post or department? There is time to plan and submit a story to local media about that time and place. In Michigan, our minutes show they met on June 28, 1919, in the Moffat Building in Detroit. One of the first motions made was to call all veterans in the state to assemble in Detroit in July to welcome home the soldiers who were sent to fight the Bolsheviks in Russia, also known as the “Polar Bears.”
In June, I will write a story about the beginning of the Department of Michigan and send out to media outlets.
We can write about the meetings and the events, but then there are the individuals who were there. What can we learn about them? When did they serve in the military? Where were they from? What did they do in their American Legion position? Those can be stories that promote who we are as an organization. If the information is available, they could provide several stories throughout the summer to be placed on your social media accounts, in your newsletters, and sent to your local media.
Take advantage of the story opportunities coming up for the year. They can be short stories or long content pieces. They can be tidbits that show work being done. For example, when Teddy Roosevelt visited the Department of Michigan in August of 1919, the executive committee voted to have ice cream sandwiches, cigars and cigarettes be served. I have learned many things in the course of reading our minutes for the department. What can you learn from your past meeting minutes, if they exist?
Each person, event and action that was taken by your post or department is a potential story to be told to your members and your community. Don’t stop celebrating The American Legion’s 100 years. It is not over, and our rich history will continue if you decide to write about it.