American Legion celebrates 90 years

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By Kirsten Laskey

The American Legion will observe its founding today.

While the celebration will be simple, a few blue and gold balloons will hang from the local post’s marquee and a sign recognizing the legion turning 90 will be displayed, it will honor a very long and successful history of helping veterans and the community.

Since its founding in 1919, more than 15,000 American Legion Posts have sprung up throughout the United States to serve veterans, their families and children in local communities.

Leland Lehman, past commander, service officer and department vice commander of the Los Alamos post, said the original charter members met in 1946 in the military mess hall.  

The local chapter put in a temporary charter in 1947 and it was declared a charter a year later.

Since then the local chapter has kept busy.

“Our local stuff includes civic activities of all sorts,” Lehman said.

“Our main events are Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Other community stuff we do would be the Fourth of July Children’s Parade (which the legion sponsors) and then we alternate with the Elks with hosting the community dinner every year on Thanksgiving.”

That is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Additional services include sponsoring and supporting several of the athletic teams at Los Alamos High School, and giving financial assistance to organizations such as the Children’s Miracle Network and the National Child Welfare Program.

“Kids and veterans are a big deal,” Lehman said.

There are few achievements that the local post is particularly proud of during its history.

During the Cerra Grande Fire, Lehman said the American Legion helped make sure no one went hungry by cooking food.

In fact, during the first three-four days of the fire, it was the only one handing out meals, Lehman said.

Also during the fire, Lehman said between the local post and the national organization, $87,000 was distributed through grants and checks to fire victims.

“There’s a very strong community spirit in theorganization,” he said.

The legion is valuable to area because its serves everyone.

“For most of the veterans, it’s a social gathering point, for others in the need, it offers help,” Lehman said. “We do things in the name of education, give kids a sense of patriotism and service to country.”

He added freedom isn’t free and those who enjoy it should help others achieve the advantages of freedom.

If interested in joining the legion and helping it with its work, or to new renew a membership, call the American Legion Post 90 at 662-7772.