The American Legion has celebrated April as Children & Youth Month for the past 79 years. During this month, American Legion Family members are encouraged to show their local communities the Legion’s commitment to young people, whether by hosting youth activities at the post or by becoming involved in programs within the community that support young people.
Youth in Glen Falls, N.Y., are learning about the meaning of the American flag and the significance of poppies thanks to a new initiative by local Post 233.
The post created two business-size cards. One features the U.S. flag, and the other features poppies with a soldier next to a comrade's grave. The back of the cards provide detail on the meaning of each - Old Glory is more than 200 years old, represents courage, purity and justice, and must be treated with respect; while poppies honor the more than 1.3 million American war dead. Tony Garcia, a member of Post 233, shared the cards with a Glen Falls superintendent who purchased 3,000 of each to distribute to students and faculty.
“We want to make sure every student has one of these. We want our youth to understand the meaning of the American flag and why it deserves such great respect,” Garcia said. “And we want to help people understand the meaning of poppies.”
The post has plans to distribute the flag cards for a donation during a community Flag Day event in June.
Post 233 has also been working with local high school students for its new American Legion Speaker Series. Two of the three planned speaking events, which are open to the public, have been held at the Salvation Army’s gymnasium on a Wednesday evening.
The first speaking engagement was on local emergency services, the second one featured three survivors of the Nazi occupation, and the upcoming one will involve the local sheriff, who will share what’s going on in the community and how everyone can help.
The Nazi occupation survivors were women from France, Germany and Latvia. They shared their personal stories on how “life changed with instant loss of freedom” with Garcia, who then contacted the government teacher at Glen Falls High School about having three students read their stories to the audience.
Garcia said the women wanted youth to read their stories to provide the audience with a better understanding of their circumstances since they were young during the occupation.
“We are all about conducting programs for our schools and the community,” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, Post 1181 in Middletown, N.Y., developed a patriotism program for students in grades 3 through 12.
Members of the post and other local Legionnaires go into schools to present the 30-minute program, which consists of videos on Americanism and the birth of America, a flag demonstration, personal statements from Legion members about their time in the service and more. At the end of the program, a video of Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless America” following the 9/11 attacks is played and every student receives a wristband that says “Patriot.”
Since starting the patriotism program in 2015, Post 1181 has presented it to more than 19,000 students in seven school districts.
“We follow the (Legion’s) Four Pillars and realize it is the reason for our existence,” said Vincent Jim Scali, first vice commander of Post 1181.
For ideas on how to support and promote Children & Youth Month, download a copy of the “April is Children & Youth Month” brochure here. And share how your post is celebrating Children & Youth Month online at www.legiontown.org.