Jerry Bowen, American Legion Post 6 Commander, poses in the Legion on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Cheyenne. Bowen is a U.S. Army helicopter pilot veteran, having served in Vietnam and the Gulf War. Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Local veterans and their families will celebrate 100 years of support from America’s largest service organization this week.

The American Legion was founded March 15, 1919, by members of the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris.

Since then, it has grown from a small group of World War I veterans to a 2 million member nonprofit with the power to lobby for wartime veterans on the national stage – fighting for veterans’ assistance and rehabilitation, “Americanism,” national defense and youth programs.

The organization helped pass the GI Bill in 1944, and played a vital role in founding some of the nation’s first Veterans Affairs hospitals. Members host career fairs to ease the transition from service to civilian life, and push for decent benefits once jobs are secured.

Cheyenne will commemorate the anniversary from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the American Legion Department of Wyoming headquarters, 1320 Hugur Ave. Those interested in attending should call 307-634-3035 to RSVP.

“We’ve even asked Wyoming Gov. (Mark) Gordon to sign a proclamation honoring American Legion’s 100 years,” said Lee Buchschacher, Wyoming’s American Legion adjutant.

Wyoming is home to 6,000 American Legion members, 1,200 of whom live in Cheyenne.

“Many of our posts across the state have local funds used to help veterans and their families financially,” Buchschacher said. “We have two service officers at the VA hospital here who counsel veterans trying to get disability or medical coverage for service-connected injuries.”

The group has historically supported the Boy Scouts of America and youth baseball, too.

“It’s all about teaching young people,” Buchschacher said.

This legislative session, he spoke in favor of a bill requiring Wyoming public school students to pass a civics exam similar to the U.S. citizenship test to receive a high school diploma, associate degree or bachelor’s degree in the state.

The measure was ultimately postponed, but Buchschacher said it could have produced generations of more patriotic, well-informed students. This is just one example of the group’s local political activism.

When considering the future of the American Legion, Buchschacher said a few things are clear.

“We still live in a dangerous world,” he said. “We still need a military, and we will always have veterans that need help and assistance. We’re committed to keeping those promises to our veterans.”

Chrissy Suttles is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s business and health reporter. She can be reached at csuttles@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3183. Follow her on Twitter at @chrissysuttles.

Business and Health Reporter

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