American Legion Working To Carry On For The Next 100 Years

The Oskaloosa Freedom Riders made a donation to the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

The Oskaloosa Freedom Riders made a donation to the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The American Legion is looking to celebrate 100 years of helping veterans, their families, and communities in 2019.

The American Legion got its charter from Congress in 1919, as war veterans from WWI came home. Today, there are more than 2 million members of the American Legion, and the group is working to make sure they are here for the next 100 years.

James Stephen Sweet is one of six National Vice Commanders for the American Legion, and he was in town with several other dignitaries from the American Legion to tour the facility and interact with the members. He represents the Midwest.

Sweet’s home post is Post #32 in Greenville, Mississippi and he is a U.S. Navy Veteran who served three deployments to Yankee Station, North Vietnam on the USS Bon Homme Richard CVA-31 with Attack Squadron 94.

Sweet says that he is on a membership tour, visiting different American Legion posts that have invited him.

The local posts and national leadership are then able to discuss how each could be of help to the other. Each American Legion post is antonymous of the national leadership, making decisions for themselves locally and their community.

Fundraising for various charitable work. The American Legion Riders of Oskaloosa, made a donation on behalf of Pioneer Plant in Hedrick for American Legion Legacy Scholarships. Every dollar that is raised goes to the program. Sweet said 100% of the money goes into the program. “We don’t pay anybody extra because we already have the administrative people set up in Indianapolis.”

After 15 years of a War on Terror, those recent vets haven’t yet begun to find their way to the American Legion in measurable numbers.

That situation isn’t so unusual. Sweet said that there was reservation from the WWI soldiers of the WWII soldiers when they were starting to join the American Legion. Vietnam soldiers, already raw from public sentiment, didn’t initially find the support at the Legion that they were looking for.

“I use to talk to those WWII veterans, and they said WWI veterans just treated them like you know, like a piece of crap. They did not want them coming in and telling them what to do and all,” said Sweet of the initial difficulty that comes from integrating veterans of different generations.

Some of those difficulties can be generational, but once a newer group of veterans become established, all of those differences start to become less of an issue as all generations appreciate each other.

“It always gets better,” says Sweet of the bond that develops between the veterans. “It just takes time. The more young veterans that get into a post, and they start doing their activities, then the other ones will see they’re serious about what they’re doing. It may be a different way that they’re doing it, but it’s the same. Everybody’s got the same goal. It’s just different ways of reaching it.”

“I feel sure that once these young veterans get settled into their lives and all, then they’ll realize the need for the American Legion,” added Sweet.

Overcoming the stereotype of a Legion as only being a bar can prove to be a challenge. The canteen, as it’s known, is a fundraising mechanism that helps to keep the facility open, and providing funding for the Legion’s many activities and programs.

Sweet recalled a time when many of the community functions centered around the American Legion post during the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. “It would have happened right here in this post.”

The American Legion has assistance programs for veterans with dependent children known as TFA. The second is called the National Emergency Fund that assist veterans in a time of need from catastrophic events like fire, tornado. An American Legion Post can also apply for the assistance program if similar events impacted them.

“There’s money out there to help veterans in so many different ways,” explained Sweet.

Oskaloosa resident and American Legion District 5 Commander Darrin Alderson has been one of the younger generations of legionnaires who have embraced technology to help keep people informed about the many things the American Legion is doing and is involved with.

“Facebook has been a big help,” says Alderson. “It lets people know what we’re doing.”

Those things like the Honor Guard duties, the flag presentations, or the Legion Riders check presentation are examples of the things Alderson works to promote.

Other family events like the Cornhole (bean bag) Tournament are examples of things happening at the American Legion that Alderson likes to showcase.

As you tour the facility, you get a sense of the history the Oskaloosa American Legion has. Photos of past commanders, patches from military units that members have served with, help to set the stage for the history of the American Legion Post #34 Harry L. Anderson has to offer to military veterans.

“Taking care of veterans is still an important part of it,” says Alderson of the American Legion.

“We’re also a good place for buddy checks,” adds Alderson. “I never would have went to the VA and got my first physical if it wouldn’t have been for joining the Legion.”

At that point, Alderson had already been out of the Marines for 18 years. “And I just finally had my first physical.”

“Probably the saddest number is 22,” said Sweet. “There are 22 veterans a day committing suicide. That’s one thing we’ve got to stop.”

“That’s where the American Legion post can come in and play such an integral part,” explained Sweet. “These guys know other veterans, whether they are Legion members or not.”

The American Legion has a hotline for veterans, member or not, to call for help in their moment of need to prevent suicide. Sweet said that the War on Terror and Vietnam veterans are those that are most currently at risk. “It’s just worn on the Vietnam Veterans for so long, and some of them never seek help. So when they reach the point where they just don’t care anymore, they’re committing suicide. Right now, it’s 22 a day. We just can’t have it.”

Any veteran is welcome to call the suicide helpline at 1-800-273-8255, no matter if they are an American Legion member or not. You can also text 838255 or chat online at

Alderson said that one of the things the Legion is working with is oversight and accountability with the Veterans Administration.

“We don’t want this thing foundering around,” said Sweet of the advocacy the Legion puts forward with the VA. “We put our 2-cents worth in and try to make it better.”

You can learn more about the Oskaloosa American Legion by visiting their Facebook page at –

Posted by on Nov 18 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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