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American Legion celebrates 100th anniversary this year

By Staff | May 12, 2019

Officers and members of American Legion Posts from Faribault County, pictured above, held a meeting earlier this month in Bricelyn.

Anniversaries are special, something to be noted and observed. A 100th anniversary is even more extraordinary and is something to truly be celebrated.

It was 100 years ago the American Legion was founded. It actually formed on March 15, 1919, at the American Club near Place de la Concorde in Paris, France, by members of the American Expeditionary Forces. It was chartered on September 16, 1919, by the U.S. Congress. It is a nonprofit organization.

It is the largest wartime veterans service organization with nearly two million members and more than 12,000 posts in communities throughout the United States. In addition to posts in every state, the American Legion has posts in the District of Columbia, France, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

The patriotic veterans organization focuses on service to veterans, servicemembers and communities. It has evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential non-profit groups in the United States.

Many local Legion Posts are also celebrating their 100th anniversary. Winnebago Post No. 82, Blue Earth Post No. 89, Bricelyn Nels Lee Post No. 165, Elmore Post No. 192 and Wells Troska Post No. 210 were all organized in 1919. The centennial posts are to be recognized during the 2020 Faribault County Fair according to Randy Olson, a member of Post No. 82 and past 2nd District Commander.

The other Legion Posts in the county are Delavan Edward Holt Post No. 486, Kiester Post No. 454, Minnesota Lake Fred J. Werner Post No. 287 and Easton Post No. 569.

Legion Posts with names in them, such as the Delavan Edward Holt Post No. 486, are ones which include the name of a local or national World War I veteran.

Locally, many people know of the visible activities of the American Legion. Color guards are seen at parades, Memorial and Veteran’s Day programs and sporting events.

These events are made possible by the nine American Legion Posts which operate in this county.

There are many other ways in which service is given in support of veterans by the Legion Posts in our county.

“We, (the Legion) always render honors at funerals of all persons who have served in the military, whether they are, or are not, members of the American Legion,” Joel Rauenhorst, Commander of Easton Post 569, says.

The Easton Post also holds a fundraiser on Sept. 11, every year, to raise money which is used to send care packages to any local active duty military serving abroad, Rauenhorst says. The money collected is also used to support first responders, fire departments and law enforcement departments within the county.

“Another service provided by the area Legion Posts is the flag disposal program which is done with the Boy Scouts,” Rauenhorst comments.

People attending the Faribault County Fair grandstand shows will see Legion members taking tickets and helping out with the grandstand events, according to Rauenhorst.

There are also four Sons of the American Legion Squadrons in Faribault County, Larry Helland, 2nd District S.A.L. Commander, says.

Those four squadrons are Blue Earth, Bricelyn, Kiester and Wells.

According to information provided by Helland, S.A.L. was established in Minnesota in 1964 and is organized under the jurisdiction of the Local Post of the American Legion. Eligibility is open to all male descendants, adopted sons and stepsons of members of the American Legion.

Another group known for their charitable work is the American Legion Riders.

“One of the goals of the Legion Riders is to take care of children of the veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The Legion Riders do this by paying for the college tuition of the surviving children,” Randy Olson, of Winnebago, who is the District Two director for the Legion Riders, explains.

Olson mentioned even more ways local posts contribute to Faribault County. These include helping purchase defibrillators for emergency personal, radios for police and fire departments, contributing to Relay for Life, sponsoring a blood drive, sponsoring the Boy Scouts, donating fishing rods to the Lura Lake Association and buying bike helmets for 60 children in Winnebago for the bike safety program.

“We also lobby for our veterans at the state and national legislature,” Olson says.

Following is a list of some of the accomplishments of the American Legion:

Helped get the G.I. Bill through Congress and signed into law in 1944.

Formulated a “Flag Code” which Congress adopted in 1942.

Formed American Legion Baseball in 1925. Today, more than 50 percent of Major League Baseball players are graduates of the program.

Began the Boys State program in the 1930s. Past alumni include former President Bill Clinton, commentator Tom Brokaw, former professional basketball player Michael Jordan and former astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Formed the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation in the 1950s.

Advocates for POWs and troops missing in action.

Major donors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Initiated support programs for servicemember’s families such as the Family Support Network and the Legacy Scholarship fund.

Current commanders in Faribault County are Robert Thorson of Winnebago Post No. 82, Paul Kafka of Blue Earth Post No. 89, Larry Helland of Bricelyn Nels Lee Post No.165, Wayne Risk of Elmore Post No. 192, Leonard Sonnek of Delavan Edward Holt Post No. 486, Steve Koester of Kiester Post No. 454, Pat Laird of Minnesota Lake Post No. 287, Charles Klocek of Wells Post No. 210 and Joel Rauenhorst of Easton Post No. 569.