American Legion marks 100 years with open house

Officers of the American Legion J. J. Webb Post 95 in Guernsey are shown in this photo taken in the 1960s. They include (FRONT, L-R): Don Robbins, Finance Officer; Ed Bristow, Historian; Steve Caligiore, Post Vice-Commander; Robert Conner, Adjutant; (BACK, L-R): Ralph Davis, Chaplain; Gene Stapleton, Post Commander; Charles Parker, Service Officer; Nick Costopoulos, Sergeant-at-Arms.

GUERNSEY—This year marks the 100th anniversary of the existence of the American Legion organization in the United States.
On September 11, a day that will forever be a day of remembrance to America, the J. J. Webb American Legion Auxiliary Unit 95 will host an open house for the community at First State Bank in Guernsey. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend this special recognition of Guernsey’s J. J. Webb Post 95 between 4 and 7 p.m.
Guernsey’s Legion Auxiliary Post received their charter in March of 1972 and has remained active along with members of the Post in Guernsey and the surrounding area.
Charter members of the Auxiliary Unit included Dorothy Alden, Kathy Alden, Carolyn Cline, Guin Conner, Patricia Conner, Barb Costopoulos, Barb Frederick, Ellen Reffalt, Mary Roberts, Edna Sprague, Mary Alice Stapleton, Lou Vannelli, and June Walker.
In addition to the Auxiliary, Guernsey also has an American Legion Riders organization made up of Legion members in the Platte County area. Legion Riders provide a variety of services in their communities as well as nationally. They raise funds for children’s hospitals, schools, veterans homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships. The local group has also participated in escort rides for military veterans whose remains are being transported to their final resting place. They hold national rides to bring attention to a number of causes such as raising funds to assist families of veterans who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
The J. J. Webb name was selected by the Guernsey American Legion Post to honor two brothers who were raised on a ranch north of Sunrise. A complete accounting of the brothers was written by the first Post Auxiliary Historian Edna Sprague for a scrapbook she presented to the group. Jack Alvin Webb (19180-1945) and James Frederick Webb (1920-1944) both served and died while serving with the Marines in World War II. A machine gunner, Jim was wounded in action August 2, 1944 during a battle in the Marianas Islands. He died 13 days later on a hospital ship. Ironically, while testing a malfunction in a landing vehicle track, his brother Jack drowned off the island of Guam on August 2, 1945, exactly one year after his brother suffered the wounds that would take his life less than two weeks later. Jack’s death came just one month before the documents of surrender to end the war with Japan were signed on the battleship USS Missouri September 2, 1945. Although their lives ran parallel and they never met up during their service in the Pacific, they were buried together, originally in Guam and then moved later to Hawaii when the National Cemetery was built at Punchbowl Crater on the island of Oahu.
The American Legion was founded in March 1919 in Paris, France, by U.S. World War I military personnel stationed there who were dedicated to four pillars of service and advocacy: veterans, military personnel, youth and patriotic values. The American Legion today consists of 55 “departments” in each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, France, Mexico, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
There are approximately 13,000 local posts worldwide. Current national membership is about 2 million. Combined with the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion, membership in what is known as the American Legion Family exceeds 3 million.
American Legion membership is open to military personnel and veterans who have served their nation on active duty during wartime. Eligibility has been open to all who have served on active duty since Aug. 2, 1990, the beginning of continuous U.S. armed conflict in the Middle East and other locations around the planet.
The Legion has been instrumental in the creation of a number of major institutions of American society, including formation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, creation of U.S. Flag Code, passage of the GI Bill and more.
American Legion posts annually:
■ Donate more than 3.7 million hours of volunteer service in their communities
■ Provide assistance on more than 181,000 VA benefits claims and cases
■ Donate more than 80,000 pints of blood to collection centers nationwide, which makes the Legion the nation’s single largest blood donor
■ Awards more than 8,000 medals to Junior ROTC students
■ Sponsors more than 2,500 Scouting units serving more than 64,000 young people
■ Awards more than $4 million in college scholarships
■ The American Legion will mark its 100th anniversary with a 15-month celebration running from its national convention in August 2018 through Veterans Day 2019.

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