In 1919 World War I had just ended and a group of war-weary veterans in Paris convened and formed the First American Legion. Their goal was to form a nonprofit organization that honored veterans and servicemen. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the son of president Teddy Roosevelt, came upon the idea of the organization and helped draft a document stating that the group "...desiring to perpetuate the principles of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy for which we have fought, to inculcate the duty and obligation of the citizen to the State; to preserve the history and incidents of our participation in the war; and to cement the ties of comradeship formed in service, do propose to found and establish an Association for the furtherance of the foregoing purposes."
From those humble beginnings that group has grown to almost 3 million members serving in over 14,000 posts across the world. They have helped establish the modern day Veterans Administration (VA), the GI bill, as well as many other U.S. military policies. Their goal is to “help veterans and their families, educate our community’s children, keep our community safe, and lend a helping hand to those in need.”
The only American Legion to serve Jones County, Lueders Clearfork American Legion Unit 661, was formed right after World War II by returning veterans from the war. The building is located at 929 SE Hwy 6 on the main road in Lueders. The pride and joy of the local group is the grand Lueders limestone fireplace that is the focal point of the main room.
It currently has 45 members of the American Legion and 45 members of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary. To be a member of the American Legion one has to have served the military during a time the country was at war, as defined by Congress. These times are between April 6, 1917-November 11, 1918; December 7, 1941-December 31, 1946; June 25, 1950-January 31, 1955; February 28, 1961-May 7, 1975; August 24, 1982-July 31, 1984; December 20, 1989-January 31, 1990; August 2, 1990-Present. To be in the women’s auxiliary one has to be related to someone that is a veteran.
The American Legion is a big supporter of programs such as the Boys State and Girls State where high school juniors get to go to Austin to see how the state government works. They also put out flags on Memorial Day in four different cemeteries in Jones County.
On December 1, they will be having a Christmas Party to raise money for the Lueders Fire Department and collect stuffed animals for the Noah Project. The Women’s Auxiliary will be going to the Veteran’s Hospital in Big Spring on December 10 to help out with a gift show where items are donated and the veterans in the hospital can pick out one gift for themselves and other items for their families. The ladies will then gift wrap the items for the veterans. In January they start taking applications for their scholarships and host an oratorical test that is for high school students. The students are given a topic pertaining to some subject dealing with the constitution, about which they have to deliver a speech. In February they host a pancake supper to help raise money for the scholarships.
For the last decade the Lueders Clearfork American Legion has had a float in the Texas Cowboy Reunion annual parade. They also clean up a two mile section of Hwy 6 twice a year as part of the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program. They are currently making plans to help out some of the victims of Sandy.
They meet once a month on the 1st Thursday of the month.
They will be hosting a Veteran’s Day cookout on Saturday, November 10, at 6:00 p.m. and then having a flag disposal ceremony afterwards. This year is particularly exciting because the Hawley Girl Scout troop will be coming to watch the ceremony.