American Legion Celebrates its Centennial in Webster.tif

Dr. George Converse was the first commander of the Otis Taylor Post. He served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I.

Webster’s American Legion Otis Taylor Post 96 and the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 96 will celebrate the American Legion’s 100th anniversary locally in conjunction with Memorial Day observances Monday, May 27.

The Otis Taylor Post was granted a temporary charter on Oct. 3, 1919 and its final charter on Feb. 12, 1930. The Post was named after World War I soldier and Webster resident, Private Otis Taylor, Co. E, 107th Engineers, who died in Jan. 19, 1918. Its first commander, Dr. George Converse served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I.

The American Legion as a whole traces its roots to March 15-17, 1919, in Paris, France, in the aftermath of World War I. The national organization was federally chartered on Sept. 16, 1919. During the American Legion’s first convention Nov. 10, 1919, members and officials formed the American Legion Auxiliary to support the American Legion and all Veterans.

A year after the Legion was formed, it had chartered more than 5,400 local posts, many of which continue to operate today. Since its founding, the organization grew to more than 13,000 posts around the world and more than 2.2 million wartime veteran members.

The Auxiliary has three-quarters of a million members in more than 8,000 communities. In 2018, the organization’s volunteer hours had an impact of over $1 billion through services to service members, veterans, their families and communities.

Throughout its first century, The American Legion built a legacy based on such accomplishments as leading the way to create the U.S. Flag Code, helping to start the Veterans Administration, drafting and helping pass legislation like the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 and the G.I. Bill.

The Legion also helped veterans receive benefits for health care conditions based on their honorable service including acceptance of Agent Orange exposure as service-connected. Today, there are nearly 3,000 accredited service officers worldwide who assist veterans with their benefit claims and other concerns.

Webster’s Post 96 currently has 59 members and 60 members in the affiliated American Legion Auxiliary. Legion members perform Honor Guard services for the funeral service of any veteran upon request. Each year the Auxiliary and Post conduct special community events such as the Poppy Distribution, Memorial Day programs, Gandy Dancer Days Root Beer Floats & Brats, Pancake Breakfast during the Central Burnett County Fair, Military History Museum, Quarterly Veterans Appreciation Luncheons, and hosting the Webster/Siren Community Red Cross blood drive.

Youth programs include sending high school students to Badger State Girls and Boys, an annual statewide leadership forum, awarding scholarships, presenting a Veterans Program at the Webster Schools and a third grade Poppy Poster Contest. The Auxiliary ladies conduct fundraisers that pay for care packages sent to veterans in assisted living homes, hospitals, and to local veterans who are house-bound and veterans serving today.

As one care package recipient said, “It is nice that we are remembered for the service we did for our country.” Another veteran commented he really liked the quarterly military appreciation luncheons where he has time to talk to fellow veterans.

Post Commander Bill Beetcher said “The American Legion and Auxiliary are an important part of our community and we’ll continue to serve our veterans, our communities and our youth as we have for the past 100 years.” He added, “We invite other veterans to join us to help carry on this proud tradition of service.”

The public is invited to the Memorial Day service Monday, May 27, 10 a.m. at Oak Grove Cemetery and then to a roast beef dinner fundraiser at the Webster Community Center starting at 11 a.m. As part of the Centennial celebration, there will be a special performance by the Indianhead Barbershop Chorus at 12:30.

Post 96 meets monthly on the first Tuesday, 7 p.m. at the Community Center preceded by the Auxiliary meeting at 6 p.m. For additional information about membership, donations and programs, contact Pat Beetcher, Auxiliary Unit President 715-566-4077 or Bill Beetcher, Post Commander 715-566-0350.

[Pat Beetcher contributed to this story]