Delta, Fillmore posts boast 150 members of veterans group
Veterans across the nation and globe will celebrate the 100th birthday of the American Legion this month.
Founded on March 15, 1919 after World War One by members of the American Expedentiary Force in Paris, France, the Legion was created to service veterans, servicemembers and communities, according to www.legion.org.
The movement quickly gained momentum, and was officially chartered by Congress in September 1919. By 1920, the Legion had 5,400 local posts that continue to operate today.
Now, the Legion has 13,000 posts worldwide and 2.2 million wartime veteran members with two local posts in Millard County: Post 61 in Fillmore and Post 135 in Delta.
Millard County currently holds 150 members, plus 110 in affiliated organizations such as the American Legion Auxiliary, which is comprised of women who have had spouses and family members in the armed forces, and Sons of the American Legion, said Wayne Jackson, current Post 61 member and former commander. Jackson also serves as the state finance chair for the American Legion.
The Legion Hall in Fillmore was constructed in 1926 and named to the National Historic Register on January 24, 2011.
“I’m a firm believer in what the Legion does for its veterans and their families,” Jackson said. “We’ve sent out local [servicemembers] and when they come back, we make sure they feel thanked and welcomed home.”
The Legion, in coordination with city and county officials, also helps spouses and families of military members while they serve away from home, like roofing projects and other needs, Jackson said.
The Legion also extends its influence to aid local youth by sending young men and women to Boys and Girls State, programs sponsored by local cities to educate youth on the political process and legislative procedures, and the Oratorical Contest.
The contest focuses on encouraging patriotism among youth through American based topics. Students are encouraged to write essays on their beliefs of America’s importance and honoring our nation’s freedoms.
In 2018, the American Legion provided $1.3 million in scholarship funding for local boys and $1.6 million for girls, Jackson said.
Post members are also annually seen performing flag ceremonies for school assemblies and final rites for servicemen funerals, said Post 135 member Ken Topham. Topham has been a member of Delta’s local post for approximately 27 years.
Members of both posts have been “key players” in commemorating their fallen brethren in arms, Jackson said, especially in constructing monuments displaying the names of Millard County veterans.
A brick monument stands outside the Millard County courthouse, erected in 2001 and inscribed with the names of the county’s veterans from East Millard County. Metal plaques, installed in 2015 and completed in 2016, hang in the RJ Law Community Center with the names of West Millard veterans.
The East Millard Veterans Monument, constructed in 2001 sits outside the Millard County courthouse.
“I’ve been quite impressed with that project,” Topham said. “We made a real effort to get as many names as possible; some of the names go back to even before World War One. It’s been a very significant thing.”
The local legion also purchased and donated a flagpole to the Kanosh Reservation, Jackson said.The Legion has also implemented crucial educational and healthcare programs for America’s veterans.
In August of 1921, the Legion’s efforts resulted in the creation of the U.S. Veteran Bureau, which was the forerunner of the modern Veterans Administration.
One of the most influential was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act—commonly known as the GI Bill—in 1944. The bill “transformed America in the second half of the Twentieth Century, helping veterans receive benefits for healthcare conditions based on honorable service, including the acceptance of Agent Orange exposure,” Jackson said.
After being signed in by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the act also helped nearly eight million veterans attend high education, purchase housing and raise families.
Three thousand veteran service officers also work to provide veterans with opportunities to receive healthcare, Jackson said. “Whatever benefit is available, the VSO can get,” Jackson said. “Service records, medical appointments…everything.”
The Legion-drafted “Flag Code” in 1923 also laid out guidelines for the preservation and upholding of the American flag, and continues to be at the forefront to keep it from physical desecration, legion.org reports.
“The American Legion family of Millard County is excited to share both the legacy and the vision of our organization,” Jackson said. “We’ve done a lot of good and intend to keep doing it for another century.”
The legion means “a great deal to me,” Jackson said. “Especially because of my era as a Vietnam Veteran.”
For Topham, the Legion means” the right to express the gratitude for the privilege of serving in the armed forces of our country.”
“It’s also for the respect of the men who served, our flag, God, and the things we can still participated in every day that makes things meaningful,” Topham said.
A banner commemorating local veterans, hangs in front of Post 61’s Legion Hall.
A celebration honoring the organization was held on March 12 at the Fillmore Legion Hall.