Judge Williams

American Legion Turns 100

By:  JUDGE GERALD A. WILLIAMS
NORTH VALLEY JUSTICE OF THE PEACE

In March 1919, a group of World War I veterans founded the American Legion in Paris, France.  They formed an organization dedicated to service and to advocacy for veterans, military personnel, youth and patriotic values. 

Today, there are 13,000 local American Legion posts.  They are located in every state, as well as in Washington, D.C. France, Mexico, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

Any U.S. Military veteran, who has served our nation on active duty during wartime can join the American Legion. Although it is one of their more significant constitutional duties, Congress has not actually declared a war since 1942. 

Even so, membership is open to veterans of the conflicts in Korea and in Vietnam.  Anyone who has served on active duty since August 2, 1990, is also eligible for membership, given the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

The American Legion is one of our nation’s best volunteer organizations. 

In addition to blood drives, student awards and college scholarships, it sponsors two of my favorite programs: Boys State and Girls State.  I had the opportunity to attend Boys State in my youth in Oklahoma and later came back as a staff member.

High school students at Boys State and Girls State spend a week learning about city, county and state governments through being elected to various offices. Then they run mock cities, legislative sessions and court sessions.  There are also opportunities to participate in choir, band and sports.

For veterans, American Legion veterans service officers provide vital assistance in helping veterans obtain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, such as access to VA healthcare and to disability payments. 

These service officers provided assistance for approximately 181,000 claims and cases each year.   

Another function of the American Legion is to promote patriotism. 

Today, devotion and support for the United States is sometimes viewed with suspicion.  Some believe that patriotism is the same as a dangerous type of nationalism that results in fascism.  Such a concern reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of American exceptionalism.

The United States of America is not a great country because our people are better, our food is better or our sports teams are better.  We are a great country because of our system of government and its foundation based on constitutional separation of powers. 

Anyone claiming that our government is broken should instead look to see whether government officials are performing the duties of their office as designed. 

I am a member of the American Legion.  It is a service organization that does good work. 

In the Anthem area, the American Legion post is within a combined organization known as the Daisy Mountain Veterans.  It includes a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post.  Sam Crump is the President of the Daisy Mountain Veterans.              

Judge Gerald Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court.  His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.