American Legion Post 13 has celebrated the 100th anniversary of the local post with a reflective look into the past and plans for the future of the local post.
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States, according to its website.
That same year, local Post 13’s first members, numbering about 50, gathered on May 29 in Buffalo.
“That was when we had the first American Legion meeting here in Buffalo,” Post 13 Commander Don Sillivan said.
For 100 years, Post 13 members have used their Funeral Honor Guard to lay to rest the veterans in Johnson County since the organization’s inception, Sillivan said.
The post also has a service officer who seeks out local veterans who may require assistance. The service officer is permitted to offer assistance up to $250. Should the veteran require more than that amount, both the Legion and VFW commanders are required to authorize more funds.
“We help out veterans anyway that we can,” Sillivan said. “For the last three years, we have worked with the VFW to help. It works out really good.”
To help raise funds, the Legion offers a breakfast on the second and fourth Sunday of each month, with profits going directly back to veterans and their families, Sillivan said.
Members have also participated in the Johnson County Fair and Rodeo, as well as coordinating and operating the Toys for Tots program every year, he said.
Operating in conjunction with the Toys for Tots program, the Legion’s Care and Share program collects toys for children who have had their names submitted.
With a new generation of veterans who have returned home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the American Legion is taking steps to ensure that the care of veterans and their families is a top priority, Sillivan said.
“When they first get out, most of them just want to get adjusted and get jobs,” Sillivan said. “And if they have families, they want to be with them and provide for them. We need to let them know that we’re to help them in any way we can, even if they are not a member.”
Post 13 is basing more of its activities around the family and less around gathering in a dark room to drink and tell war stories, Sillivan said.
“We don’t engage in that stuff anymore,” he said. “We’re becoming more family oriented. We have the Legion and the Auxiliary, the Riders and the Sons of the American Legion. But we have youth Americanism. We had about 90 grade-school kids write essays on Americanism this year.”
Legion members also assist with veterans assistance registration and offer assistance in navigating the red tape of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Sillivan said.
“Lisa Griffith is up at the Soldiers and Sailors Home,” Sillivan said. “But she is our service officer for this area. She’s on top of all of that. If a veteran is in need of help, they can go up there. She’ll direct them and guide them.”