This week in American Legion history:
- Nov. 23, 1934: American Legion Past National Commander James Drain is appointed to serve both as the organization’s national treasurer and as national judge advocate at the same time.
- Nov. 24, 1968: The American Legion joins forces with Indiana high school basketball coach Sam Wiley in the development and promotion of National Family Week, an effort adopted by multiple community and faith organizations to strengthen the American family at a time of increasing divorce rates.
- Nov. 26, 1943: American Legion National Commander Warren Atherton calls on service officers nationwide to collect and wire testimonies of cases where newly discharged, disabled veterans are lacking government support. In less than 24 hours, 1,536 such testimonies arrive at national headquarters.
- Nov. 27, 1979: Orville E. Kelly, a 49-year-old member of American Legion Post 52 in Burlington, Iowa, announces in the media that he has been approved for VA disability compensation for lymphatic cancer related to ionizing radiation exposure in 1957 and 1958 during 22 atomic tests he witnessed in the Marshall Islands. He dies seven months after the decision, which the VA argues does not set a precedent for veterans seeking disability benefits for other service-related radiation exposure. The decision, however, is cited in efforts to obtain recognition and benefits for others exposed during military service and for those who came into contact with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and with burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following his death, Kelly’s widow, Wanda, assumes leadership of the National Association of Atomic Veterans, which works to gain government acknowledgement and treatment for conditions related to radiation exposure in the military.
- Nov. 29, 1943: Armed with hundreds of case studies from across the country, representing nearly every congressional district, American Legion National Commander Warren Atherton presents to the House Veterans Affairs Committee voice after voice of disabled GIs awaiting word on benefits, unable to get medical treatment, relying on their families, churches, charities and Legion posts for whatever help they can get. His goal is to gain support of an omnibus bill to assist military veterans in the readjustment process to civilian life.
- Nov. 29, 1978: The American Legion of Iowa Foundation is incorporated, inspired by Past National Commander Hanford MacNider of the Hawkeye State, whose “Iowa Idea” triggered thousands of community improvement projects across the country over 50 years earlier. The foundation raises and distributes funds for worthy local projects on a grant basis. Over the next 30 years, the foundation awards nearly $2.5 million for activities ranging from Junior ROTC to medical supplies for clinics to museum exhibits to remember POWs and MIAs and college scholarships.
- Nov. 30, 2015: The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland rules that even though the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, a 40-foot-tall monument erected by The American Legion in 1925, takes the shape of a cross, its purpose is not primarily religious and does not violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The American Legion, working with First Liberty Institute, is listed as a co-defendant in the case to protect the Bladensburg “peace cross” where Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies continue to be conducted.