There is a memorable scene at the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” in which a dying Captain Miller tells Private Ryan to “earn this.”
It was his way of reminding the private that heroic men had given their lives for him and that he owed it to them to live a good and moral life.
In a sense, that is exactly what The American Legion is asking all of us to do. For we all owe an enormous debt to the fallen men and women who died defending this great country.
This debt was very much on the minds of The American Legion founders when they gathered in Paris just a few months after the end of World War I. They did not form the organization out of self-interest. They did it to serve their comrades, their communities and their country. It often takes a veteran to remind the public of the sacrifices those in uniform and their families continue to make.
To give you an idea of why The American Legion exists and why we proudly observe the birthday of this great organization, let us reflect on the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion.
“For God and Country, We associate ourselves together for the following purposes:
“To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and good will on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”
Legionnaires can be proud of the many accomplishments during our organization’s 93 years of service to America. We are also proud of the support that the community has given the American Legion over the past 93 years. As it has been since our founding, when America calls, American Legionnaires will continue to do as Captain Miller implored. Through service, we will justify the sacrifices made. We will “earn this.”
God bless you and God bless America!