An Oregonian's place in the Legion's birth
By Ken Olson
via the American Legion web site
He was a beloved soldier, family man, Oregonian and visionary co-founder of The American Legion. And George A. White’s legacy infused a gathering of veterans, families and dignitaries who packed American Legion Post 10 in Albany, Ore., March 15 to mark the 100th birthday of the nation’s largest veterans service organization.
“He was there from the very beginning,” Oregon Alternate National Executive Committee member Andy Millar said. “He was a true Legionnaire.”
“I get choked up because of my dad,” added Steve Adams, first vice commander of the Department of Oregon, who began accompanying his father on visits to American Legion posts when he was 6 years old. “He made me promise to never forget World War I because that’s when The American Legion was born.”
The centennial celebration drew veterans from across the state. Their service spanned generations, from David Russell – who survived the sinking of USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – to Don Weber and Rick Dominguez, whose long military careers included deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. But the event that brought them together at Post 10 last week started when four American officers met in Paris in January 1919.
Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. had invited White, William Donovan – future founder of U.S. intelligence services – and engineer and architect Eric Fisher Wood to dinner to discuss low morale among American troops. The war-weary soldiers were apprehensive about returning home to an uncertain future after enduring brutal combat along the Western Front. At a meeting of 20 officers a month later, it was White who proposed a large gathering of American service members to discuss these perplexing issues. As many as 1,000 American troops attended what became known as the Paris Caucus beginning on March 15, 1919, that formed The American Legion.
When Roosevelt and White first sat down in a restaurant in Paris in January that year to discuss launching an organization to represent U.S. veterans of the Great War, “the question was, ‘Who is going to take care of the boys when they all get home? Who is going to care about them and their jobs?’ Because at that juncture, there was no Veterans Administration,” American Legion Past National Commander Charles Schmidt said during the centennial celebration.
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