Naperville Post 43 celebrating 100th anniversary of American Legion
The Naperville American Legion Post 43 invites the community to join in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the organization's founding.
Immediately after the end of World War I, hundreds of thousands of impatient draftees remained in France. They were pining to go home, but knew it would take months to move them all back to the U.S. Morale was plummeting. This particularly concerned Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son of the 26th President. His answer to the morale problem was to propose a new servicemen's organization, one dedicated to the welfare of veterans, one which would include all members of the American Expeditionary Forces, as well as those soldiers, sailors and marines who remained stateside during the war.
Roosevelt left active duty and, along with others, helped to found the new organization. The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veteran's 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.
Its founding convention was held in Minneapolis, Nov. 10-12, 1919. Roosevelt wanted membership to be open to all veterans who served at least one day on active duty during wartime, to honor them all, recognizing that in the military you do what you are trained to do and go where you are sent.
With over 2 million members in the American Legion, it is the largest, and the oldest federally chartered veteran's organization.
Since its founding, the Legion's activities have been guided by Four Pillars: veterans affairs & rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and children & youth. It is committed to mentoring youth and sponsoring wholesome youth programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service-members and veterans.
Each of the Four Pillars births a variety of programs that benefit our nation's veterans, its service-members, their families, the youth of America and ordinary citizens. These programs make a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives each year. The organization's positions and programs are guided by resolutions passed by American Legion National Convention delegates, and by its committee and commission members. These programs, and the men and women who take the time to perform them, allow the American Legion to make a difference on the local, state and national levels. It's who we are and what we do.
The American Legion is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, with considerable political influence as a result of its large membership and involved veterans, perpetuated by its grass-roots involvement in the legislation process, from local districts to Capitol Hill. The individual Legionnaires' sense of obligation to community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington.
Each year, American Legion department and local service officers help thousands of veterans receive VA benefits they earned through service to their country.
The Legion conducts, promotes, and supports hundreds of career fairs for veterans and transitioning service members, bringing employers face-to- face with job hunters.
Its programs include: American Legion Baseball; Scouting; Youth Cadet Law Enforcement; Boys State/Nation, a national high school oratorical contest; Operation Comfort Warrior scholarships; Legion Riders; National Emergency Fund; Career Center; Education Center; Health Center; Troop & Family Support; Homeless Veterans Assistance; Women Veterans; Temporary Financial Assistance; and Veterans Advocacy on Capitol Hill.
The Legion also raises millions of dollars in donations at the local, state and national levels to help veterans and their families.
Service to the community
Naperville Post 43's history coincides with the formation of the American Legion during the Paris Caucus for "Comrades in Service," which convened in Paris, France on March 15-17, 1919.
In June of that same year, a group of 15 World War I Veterans from Naperville met to form a local American Legion Post.
The group, led by Chauncey W. Reed, mailed an application to the state American Legion June 25, and State Headquarters issued a charter, dated July 5, 1919, which designated Naperville American Legion Post 43. The post received its National Charter on Aug. 1, 1920.
Post 43 began with 126 charter members. They represented the more than 300 Naperville veterans of World War I -- some 10 percent of the community's population at that time. Seven of those Napervillians lost their lives in the conflict.
Post 43's first Commander was Chauncey W. Reed, the leader of the group that applied for the organizing charter. Reed later served in the U.S. Congress for more than 20 years.
He was succeeded by Judge Win G. Knoch, a community leader, lawyer and a county and circuit court judge. Knoch matched wits with Clarence Darrow, and rubbed elbows with several presidents.
Other prominent Post 43 members have included Naperville Mayor Chester J. "Chet" Rybicki, and Naperville Councilman Don Wehrli.
From its beginning and continuing throughout its history, Post 43 has maintained steadfast support for programs that serve the nation, veterans, young people and the Naperville community. In 1920, Post 43 spearheaded fundraising to erect the Spirit of the American Doughboy statue in Naperville's Burlington Park.
About this same time, Post 43 assumed responsibility for organizing Naperville's Memorial Day parade, which the Grand Army of the Republic had previously managed. The parade, associated ceremonies, and placing of over 2500 flags on veterans' graves are now co-sponsored by Legion Post 43 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Judd Kendall Post 3873.
During the 1940s, Post 43 sponsored an annual carnival and car raffle to raise money for community projects. These included donating playground equipment and books for Naperville's Nichols Library. One especially significant result of these fundraising efforts was the donation of an emergency rescue vehicle to the Naperville Fire Department.
Another milestone in Post 43's history came in 1947 with the purchase of a post home as a permanent meeting place for members. Members of Post 43 funded the purchase of a building owned by the Naperville Oddfellows Temple Association at 10 West Chicago by buying bonds, each with a face value of $100.
Currently, portions of the building are rented to commercial interests, with the top floor retained by Post 43 for meetings of post trustees, certain post activities, and use by affiliated groups, such as Boy Scout Troop 106. Post meetings are now held at the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 building.
Post 43 supported the creation of Veteran's Park, dedicated Nov. 11, 1989, to honor veterans of all services. Situated on the banks of the DuPage River, the park is a popular picnic area and is the site of annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.
In 2001, Post 43 revisited one of its earliest projects, launching a community effort to restore the Spirit of the American Doughboy statue. Over the years, the statue had deteriorated due to the effects of weather and vandalism.
Post 43 also assisted in organizing the 2009 Healing Field of Honor, a joint collaboration between the Exchange Club of Naperville and the Naperville Park District. From Nov. 8-14, 2009, U.S. flags were displayed on 8-foot poles in an open space in the center of the city to honor "the men and women of the United States military who have served our nation or are currently serving at home or abroad." Proceeds from the subsequent sales of the flags helped support the operations of Fisher House for visiting families at nearby Hines VA Hospital.
In 2013, Post 43 supported efforts by the Naperville Century Walk Foundation and other civic organizations to add a second statue at Burlington Park as a complement to the existing Spirit of the American Doughboy. A local historian discovered in a Michigan antique store a Spirit of the American Navy statue, created by the same sculptor, Ernest Moore Viquesneys, who created the Doughboy statue. The sailor statue -- one of only eight created -- was always meant by the artist to serve as a companion to the Doughboy depiction.
A $73,000 fundraising campaign to restore and install the sailor statue culminated in October 2013 -- on the birthday of the U.S. Navy -- with the installation of the Spirit of the American Navy figure, which faces the Doughboy statue across the city park.
Post 43 participates in Veterans Day observances, including visits by veterans to local schools and the ceremony at Naperville's Veterans Park.
In addition to special campaigns, Post 43 supports an array of ongoing programs in support of veterans, young people and the community. These programs include sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 106, funding attendance of local high school students at Premier Boys State and Illini Girls State, the demanding high school oratorical contest, which has produced a half dozen state winners and three students who reached the national finals in Indianapolis, middle school speech contests, two annual college scholarships of $5,000, and recognition of Citizen of the Year Awards for volunteer service to veterans, youth and the community.
For information, visit Post 43's website at www.naperlegion.org or contact Jim Vahle at (630) 864-7183 or email@example.com