In the early 1940s, thousands of injured, medically discharged veterans returned to the United States and discovered little help available from the country for which they sacrificed. When The American Legion initiated the action to get the GI Bill passed in Congress, American Legion Auxiliary members began an all-out campaign to promote passage of the bill. The ALA rallied for veterans alongside Legionnaires for the passage of such a significant piece of history.
“Too often, when I tell young troops or new veterans that The American Legion wrote their GI Bill of Rights, campaigned tirelessly to get it passed, and continue every day to work to improve it, they are astonished,” National Commander
Charles E. Schmidt shared. “‘I had no idea The American Legion did that. … I thought it was a government program,’ they say, almost collectively.”
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans opened a special exhibit, “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Salute to the GI Bill” earlier this summer. Through touch-screen videos and illustrated panels, the exhibit brings to life the dramatic story of the Legion’s push to get the bill passed. The WWII Museum will host the exhibit until Dec. 18, 2017, at which time it will travel to a different venue. The exhibit showcases the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 cover and signature pages, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Also displayed is the typewritten and hand-edited speech Roosevelt gave after signing the bill, and a pen he used to sign into law The American Legion’s 10-point plan to improve opportunities for veterans.
Schmidt expressed his sincere hope that “as The American Legion centennial story is told over the next two years, that new generations will understand what this organization has done, is doing, and will continue to do in a second century of service.”
For more information, visit the museum’s website here.