Members of American Legion Post #1 in Paris, France participated in the parade of the veteran flags at Versailles, France as part of the events marking the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
Four Questions Vice Commander Bryan Schell, American Legion Post #1
"We are a very high visibility American Legion Post since we are located in Paris, France."
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Our Commission's recent commemoration efforts in Versailles, France put us in touch with some friends whom we haven't seen in a while -- the members of the world-famous American Legion Post #1 in Paris. These Legion members stand on a long tradition, one that celebrates a direct line to our World War I veterans. Post #1 is the first, and the oldest, American Legion post outside of the United States, and was created by people who had just seen the Great War end months before. Since that time, they have fulfilled a unique and special role in representing our American veterans in France, and throughout Europe. Vice Commander Bryan Schell took some time to tell us about his special post, their history, and their current activities.
You have a very historic Legion Post. Tell us about it.
Bryan SchellParis Post 1 is a legacy post for the American Legion, it was created when American soldiers were still in Europe after WWI. It was a time when up to 2 million U.S. soldiers had just finished with a bloody war, and they had to wait sometimes up to 2 years to get a ship back to the USA. Some soldiers never made it back, some stayed because they fell in love or they had started a new life.
The idea of the American Legion was created in Paris in 1919 by these soldiers, and Paris Post 1 was opened up the same year. It is the first, and the oldest, American Legion post outside of the United States. We have been able to maintain our post during many difficulties including WWII when Paris Post 1 had to temporarily move to New York City during the Nazi occupation of Paris. One of our American Legion members stayed behind and joined the French resistance only to be executed by the Nazis while trying to defeat Germany.
Your Post has a very historic building as its home, and there is also a remarkable memorial there. Tell us about them.
In the early 1930's, the American Legion Building was created, and later renamed in honor of General Pershing as Pershing Hall. It served as the home for Paris Post 1 for many years, until the building fell into preservation issues. Since this time, we have survived outside of Pershing Hall with the hopes of returning in the future. The building is currently going through much needed historical preservation, and it will be re-developed over the next couple years.
Read more: Four Questions Vice Commander Bryan Schell, American Legion Post #1 in Paris
Veterans stand for the "Salute to the Services" medley during a celebration marking the restoration of the World War I Memorial Entrance at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Preston.
Fillmore County WWI memorial entrance restored for 100th anniversary
By Noah Fish
via the Post Bulletin newspaper (MN) web site
PRESTON, MN — Fillmore County is a red, white and blue district.
"Fillmore County remembers its history," said Nathan Pike, the Olmsted County veteran’s service officer and emcee of last week's celebration of the restoration of the World War I Memorial at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds entrance.
The World War I Memorial Entrance at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Preston was restored to mark it's 100th year. The structure was built 100 years ago, erected to honor soldiers returning from World War I.
"There were over 1,000 residents of Fillmore County that enlisted or were drafted into service during the first World War," said Pike. "Forty-eight of them were killed in action, and they did not return to Fillmore County."
Col. Joe O’Connor called for a moment of silence for those 48 men. He said the Lanesboro American Legion Post #40 is named after Henry M. Guttormson, the first casualty of WWI from Fillmore County.
"This entrance is a lasting tribute to WWI veterans, their families and the history of Fillmore County," O'Connor said.
About 50 people gathered for Tuesday's rededication. But in August 1919, about 10,000 gathered in that same spot to welcome soldiers home, Pike said. A good chunk of those soldiers showed up in uniform. O'Connor said they served barbecued beef at the event 100 years ago, and veterans were given free cigarettes and peanuts.
Sgt. Josh Krage, of Preston, talked about the emotions the memorial can generate.
Military service is "an emotional time for each and every one of us that has served," said Krage. "So when Col. (O'Connor) got emotional, I think we all did as veterans, because we know what we go through."
Krage reflected on what it means to be a veteran, and the weight that veterans carry.
"We understand what it's like on a fallen soldier detail, as we fold and hand the flag to a loved one," Krage said. "Or as we do the gun salute, we understand the emotions that come with it, because we understand that could have been us."
A parade of veterans from different segments of the armed forces assembled at the Trailhead in Preston and marched over the Fillmore Street bridge to the fairgrounds entrance, where retired and active military personnel, along with local residents, were waiting. Trainer planes from the WWII era flew overhead during the presentations.
Aside from the updated sign, renovations were made to the entrance to restore its structure before Tuesday's event. Sagging roof boards were repaired or replaced. Two large flagpoles were repaired, and the original turnstiles were sandblasted and repainted. The Fillmore County Fair Board used money from a Clean Water Legacy Heritage Fund grant, and funding from Harmony, Preston and Lanesboro Area Community Foundations. The Preston Historical Society and various local VFW posts also contributed to the restoration.
Read more: Fillmore County WWI memorial entrance restored for 100th anniversary