When I was a little girl, I watched my father as he left for the Legion hall every week and as he left to go to his Navy Reserve unit in full uniform.
He was a proud World War II veteran, who served bravely at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific and saw kamikaze pilots attack his own ship.
Much later, my own brother served several tours of duty off the shores of Vietnam in the U.S. Navy following my father’s lead.
Both of them became members of the American Legion.
So today, I am talking about how, 100 years ago in Paris, France, a group of World War I U.S. military personnel far from home founded the American Legion. The Legion is an organization dedicated to honoring four pillars of advocacy: veterans, defense, youth, and Americanism.
A century later, the American Legion consists of 55 departments in each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, and France, Mexico, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. It operates in more than 12,500 local posts worldwide.
The current United States membership of the American Legion is nearly 2 million people, making the American Legion the largest veterans service organization in the nation.
Here in Maine, between 17,000 and 18,000 veterans are proud members of the American Legion.
Good morning, I am Governor Janet Mills, and I thank you for listening.
The American Legion has been at the forefront of the creation of major institutions and public policy in American society, including the institution of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States Flag Code and passage of the GI Bill and so much more.
American Legion posts provide more than 3.7 million hours of volunteer service every year in their communities.
They donate more than 80,000 pints of blood to collection centers nationwide - making the Legion the nation’s single largest blood donor.
They award more than 8,000 medals to Junior ROTC students.
They sponsor more than 2,300 Scouting units that serve more than 64,000 people and they award more than $4 million in college scholarships.
The American Legion is the nation’s leading ambassador to honoring and remembering the nation’s military sacrifices through thousands of memorials and monuments all around the world.
And the American Legion brings together our military men and women who share a deep bond built on service and on dedication to our nation.
For these reasons and many more, I am honored to join with the American Legion this week in celebrating its accomplishments and supporting its dedication to our communities, states, and the nation by declaring March 15, 2019 as American Legion Centennial Day.
I am also proud that the 100th Anniversary American Legion Plague is now hung outside my office in Augusta, so that every visitor to the State House will witness and honor the Legion.
I hope on your next visit to the State House you will check out this beautiful plaque and join me in honoring the 100th Anniversary of the American Legion.
I commend the Legion on its 100th Anniversary, and I thank all of its members for their dedicated service to our country.
I am Janet Mills, Governor of the State of Maine, and I thank you for listening.