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The American Legion had its beginnings ninety-five years ago, at the close of World War I. In 1919, the son of President Teddy Roosevelt, General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. lobbied for and presented to Congress a draft for the creation of Veterans Service organization. This organization would be tasked with lobbying for the returning veterans’ rights and benefits. The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 for that purpose. They lobbied for the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, today known as the Veterans Administration. They lobbied for the creation of the G.I. Bill of Rights along with the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, and the National Association for Mental Health. The American Legion also lobbied for the creation of the Family Support Network (FSN) to assist families of service members deployed overseas. The FSN today continues to assist families affected by military activation and deployment. Thanks to the lobbying of the American Legion, in 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law, the Veterans Educational Assistance Act. This Act updates the G.I. Bill, making it easier for even more veterans to attend college.
The American Legion Cloister Post 429 was erected in 1933 and was at one time the center of the community. It started the first ambulance service to the community, built the first swimming pool and recreational park, today known as the “Tom Grater Memorial Park”. All of the land used to build the Ephrata High School and War Memorial Fund, was donated by Cloister Post 429, to aid and improve the community.
Today, the American Legion is being used as a venue for charitable events and fundraisers like Relay For Life, dances, weddings and receptions, meetings, and bingo for the community. We support the Veterans Place of Ephrata, giving struggling veterans a hand up. We also support the Coatesville Veterans Hospital. Our restaurant is open to the public and is one of Ephrata’s BEST KEPT SECRETS. So stop in and enjoy a peaceful family dinner out, and help to support the veterans serving you.
In 1921, President Harding proposed a bill to pay war veterans that served in World War I, “the World War Adjusted Compensation Act”, which granted each veteran that served overseas a $1.25 for each day served, up to $625 (That would be worth $7,899 in today’s market.) with a maximum of $500. All other veterans that did not serve overseas would receive a Certificate of Service maturing in 20 years. Some 3,662,374 certificates were issued ($43.7 Billion in today’s market. But no bonuses were paid to the returning veterans).
In 1924, on May 15th, President Calvin Coolidge vetoed a bill granting bonuses to veterans of World War I. This dragged on for years and then the Depression hit. People were desperate and wanted the money promised. Veterans and their families began to gather in Washington, in makeshift camps around the capitol. In total, 43,000 veterans and 17,000 WWI veterans gathered. On June 17th, the Senate defeated the bill for Bonus payments (62 to 18) and riots began to take place. On July 28th, 1932, the Attorney General ordered that the police were to remove the Bonus Army from their encampments. Police opened fire and two veterans were killed: William Hushkla and Eric Carlson, who were later buried at Arlington Cemetery. When told of the shootings, President Hoover ordered the Army to remove the bonus Army and their families. General Douglas MacArthur (Army Chief of Staff) then ordered Maj. George S. Patton to remove the marchers and to disband the camps. The 3rd Cavalry regiment, supported by six tanks charged the camps, destroying the camps and injuring many women and children. Spectators booed and yelled, “Shame, Shame!” The veterans and families were routed and the camps were burned.
This act helped to defeat President Hoover in his re-election bid. When President Roosevelt was elected, the Bonus army tried again to submit their claims. President Roosevelt provided encampments across the river in Virginia and supplied three meals a day for the marchers. Roosevelt opposed the Bonus payments, but proposed the Civilian Conservation Corps be established and that the veterans be the first to be enrolled. Congress passed the Bill and over the objections of President Roosevelt, paid $2Bllion to the veterans in bonuses. Along with the bonuses 25,000 veterans joined the “CCC”. And much of the nation’s major building projects around the country were built by the veterans that the government turned its back on.
Over the years many more benefits became available to returning vets. Korean veterans were all but forgotten. The Vietnam Veterans were treated the worst. Being “spit on” and the government refusing to acknowledge the effects of Agent Orange and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that effected millions of returning veterans over the years, this is only now b being recognized and treated. This is due to the efforts of the American Legion and the other Service organizations constant struggle in dealing with the government agencies that have been created to “help” the veterans.
Today’s vets are cheered and welcomed home and are being honored for their service. Because the general public now realizes that it is not the veterans but the politicians that are the cause of many of the world’s problems, rather than the troops that are sent to solve them.
David L. Dreibelbis
Cloister Post 429
300 Cocalico Dr.
Ephrata, PA 17523
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