The Paul H. Hughey American Legion Post 25 in Washington Court House is reflecting on its past 100 years of service in preparation of its celebration to mark the occasion in March.
Organizers of the American Legion 100 years of service celebration announced Tuesday that local historian Paul LaRue will be the keynote speaker and Dan Roberts will emcee on March 23. The event will be held at the American Legion Post 25 with a social hour beginning at 6 p.m. and the program starting at 7 p.m.
In an effort to celebrate the long life of the organization, several members gathered Tuesday to talk about the first 25 years of Post 25.
According to articles and research provided by Glenn Rankin — Fayette County Honor Guard member and local veteran — 22 men signed an application for a charter here in the county on July 5, 1919. The post — named after Paul Harper Hughey, a young lieutenant who was shot down by Germans on Sept. 14, 1918 — was a struggle to keep active the first few years, but managed to stay afloat until a permanent charter was finally issued on April 5, 1923. This was the first post chartered in the community, though it wouldn’t be the last.
“From the research I have done, the post was organized in 1919, but they didn’t get that charter for a few years and it was in a bit of a disarray,” Rankin said Tuesday morning during the monthly veterans breakfast at the American Legion Post 25.
“They started this overseas in France, and it was done to take care of the returning veterans,” Dave Frederick, United States Air Force veteran and American Legion member, said. “The care of veterans is what started the American Legion. It was started after the French Foreign Legion and they decided they wanted something like it here and formed it in 1919 after the war ended. Congress passed a resolution authorizing it, those were the first veteran service organizations in the United States.”
Through the work of the early application signers, approximately 60 more veterans had joined the temporary organization and became “Charter Members.” About three months before the charter was issued, a group of Navy Marine post Legionnaires came from Columbus to initiate the almost 150 members in the temporary post at a special meeting on Jan. 8, 1923.
Then in November of 1925, the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary Unit was organized and received its charter on Feb. 1, 1926 with a membership of 125 members. The unit completed many duties for the club, including remembering veterans’ families with food baskets around the holidays and assisting with the annual Christmas Party for 300 children. Additionally, they worked with the Legion on other projects, such as Little League Baseball, junior band activities, Boy Scouts, Veterans Day celebrations, and contributed to many organizations financially.
According to an article, the American Legion Post 25 made its headquarters in Memorial Hall for the next 20 years until 1943 when the Knights of Pythias building on North Fayette Street was purchased.
“Decision of the Legionnaires, virtually all of whom were veterans of World War I, to buy a permanent home for the post was based largely on the feeling that larger quarters would be needed when veterans returned from World War II,” the article said.
Just as expected, the Post’s membership expanded and had about 300 veterans of both World War I and II. By the time these veterans were returning home at the end of World War II, the new home had been paid for. Membership was continually encouraged as it gave a place for soldiers to be with other soldiers and to find assistance for various needs coming back into civilian life.
This is the first in a series of four articles detailing the history and celebration of the American Legion Post 25 and covers the first — roughly — 25 years (1919-1944). Stay with the Record-Herald as coverage continues in the next article with a brief explanation of the next 25 years leading up to the 100-year celebration next month.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.