This week in American Legion history:
- Oct. 19, 1922: Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, is presented The American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal during the Fourth National Convention, at New Orleans. “I would rather have it than all the decorations that could possibly be bestowed by all the kings and potentates of the earth,” he says after receiving the award. A member of Post 1 in Washington, D.C., originally named for him but later changed to George Washington Post 1, Pershing announces he has no interest in leading The American Legion as an elected national commander but is happy to serve alongside his fellow veterans, among the ranks.
- Oct. 19, 1989: Devastation from Hurricane Hugo of late September 1989 and the northern California earthquake five weeks later leads The American Legion National Executive Committee to officially re-establish its Disaster Relief Fund. “I can think of no better way for our members to say, ‘Yes! We care about our fellow veterans,’” National Commander Miles Epling writes in a letter published in the December American Legion Magazine. The NEC authorization paves the way for the National Emergency Fund and makes it an ongoing campaign, with an initial seeding of $50,000 and a $1 million goal for the permanent endowment.
- Oct. 20, 1922: In New Orleans, at the Fourth American Legion National Convention, a resolution is passed to study the feasibility of building and operating a national home for the children of Legionnaires who are orphaned or are destitute. This is the beginning of the national American Legion Child Welfare Committee.
- Oct. 22, 1934: The American Legion National Convention in Miami, Fla., is conducted in open air. Policy and legislative direction on the adjusted compensation bonuses, an issue that has divided the Legion, is the convention’s most pressing concern. Future National Commander Harry Colmery, who would later draft the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, leads a committee to forge new legislation, approved at the convention, to call for the federal government to fully and immediately pay the bonuses, bonds to compensate veterans for their wartime service, due to mature in 1945.
- Oct. 25, 1988: The American Legion lobbies successfully to elevate the Veterans Administration to Cabinet level status, making it the Department of Veterans Affairs. Signed by President Reagan, it is enacted under President George H.W. Bush on March 15, 1989.