As an officer in the Westminster American Legion Post 31, I have had numerous people ask me: What does the American Legion do? It is first and foremost a service organization. Within most American Legions are the “Legion Family.” This includes the American Legion, the Sons of the American Legion, the Legion Riders and the Auxiliary. The fact that so few people know what the American Legion really does for our community is simply our own shortcoming.
What I will outline in this column will be about Post 31, but similar activities occur in the other American Legions in our county and the VFW Posts as well. Each post commander attempts to identify and recognize areas within their communities where they can have an impact in dedicating their efforts and resources.
The American Legion was founded in 1919 and chartered by Congress as a patriotic veterans organization. The organization has evolved into a very influential nonprofit organization throughout the country serving our nation and communities.
The Sons of the American Legion is for male descendants of members of the legion or of family members who served during a time of conflict. The Auxiliary is the sister organization of the Sons of the American Legion and is the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization.
The Legion Riders is a service organization made up of members from the American Legion, Sons of the American Legion or the Auxiliary who combine their love for motorcycles and serving the community.
Our post commander, who is also the Carroll County commander, Alex Whitney Jr., spoke at our Christmas party. He reflected on the contributions to our community that our post had done. Whether he knew it or not, he was reinforcing why we feel good about being a part of the American Legion and volunteering our time and I believe why others should consider joining our organization.
In 2017, Post 31 made a $25,000 commitment to Carroll Community College to provide a perpetual scholarship for a veteran or the child of a veteran to further their education. We provide two annual scholarships of $2,000 each to graduating seniors. We contributed $5,000 to the National Child Welfare Fund and $5,000 to the American Legion National Emergency Fund. We supported many other organizations to include Johns Hopkins Children’s Fund and Shriners Hospital. We sponsor the Westminster Memorial Day parade, an oratorical contest for high school kids, the Westminster Halloween parade and many other events. We also support ongoing programs like Boys State, Young Marines, Venture Crew and Scouting.
The Sons of the Legion, the Legion Riders and the Auxiliary also had a very productive 2017 as they supported Carroll Hospice, shipped care packages to our service men and women serving overseas, donated to children and youth suicide prevention, and so much more.
Additionally, if you have a veteran family member who is buried in Carroll County you will find an American flag placed upon their grave every Memorial Day weekend. People like Jim Smith pull together a crew of people and for three days to locate and place over 3,500 flags honoring those who served.
If you are a person who would like to get involved to support our veterans, our community and meet new friends while doing something good, give me a call. If you are a person or part of an organization who thinks the American Legion may be able to help you, give me a call. We have five American Legions in Carroll County — Hampstead, Mount Airy, Sykesville, Taneytown and Westminster, all serving their communities. I would be happy to make an introduction for you to one of our post officers to see how you might fit in. Remember the American Legion motto: “For God and Country.”