American Legion Post 1 in Paris will celebrate its 103rd anniversary on December 13, 2022. It has maintained a strong presence in the city where the organization was born in 1919. Post Commander Bryan Schell and First Vice Commander Valerie Prehoda spoke with the American Legion about how the Post is building its future by drawing on its past.
What activities do you plan specifically around the history of the post?
Our research revealed the origin story of Paris Post 1 and our founding of Pershing Hall. Therefore, the most important activity will be the effective launch of our new Paris Post 1 Research Center, which will encompass our work and research, and provide opportunities for non-American Legion professionals as well as Legion members. to collaborate with us. We will also step up our efforts to save Pershing Hall from the current effort to de-memorize it, as well as focus our efforts on the Pershing Hall collection, much of which has been in storage for several decades. The Research Center will help focus the collection’s diaspora, identifying the disparate locations of artifacts and ensuring they are properly returned and preserved. As well as creating a public database regarding our Post 1 history and that of Pershing Hall across the centre, we will also work with our Post 1 families to better preserve and research the history of their loved ones who have come to France, such as the past Post Commander George Aubrey, who was killed in action in World War II after serving in World War I.
What impact has the ongoing pandemic had on your planning? Will there be virtual options for events?
The pandemic has encouraged us to do more social media sharing and video recording of our ceremonies and activities. We have also motivated our legionary and auxiliary members to write about our activities, take pictures and prepare articles so that we can share our excellent work more effectively through our newsletters. We are happy to have made Paris Post 1 almost 100% online over the past two years, and we plan to develop more in the future.
What is the current status of your position, in terms of membership and family?
For the most part we are all fine, but it has been difficult with the COVID lockdowns we have endured in France. Through careful planning and diligent effort throughout the process, we were able to hold a safe opening last November for approximately 50 Tomb Guards, their families and the leaders of the National Gold Star and Daughters of the American Revolution to make the trip to France for the centenary of the unknown soldier. pilgrimage. We were grateful to experience a smooth pilgrimage with everyone.
Thanks to our wonderful team at Paris Post 1, we were able to maintain a fairly stable number of members throughout this difficult period and were honored to receive the award for the great post office of the year for the department of France l ‘last year. We continue to work with our friends and family to attract more members for 2022 and we are enjoying success in this critical mission.
Does the City of Paris help?
The City of Paris has been a major supporter of the American Legion in Paris for many decades. During the pandemic, France has certainly offered its help to its citizens, businesses and associations. We were able to plan our ceremonies throughout the year, and we didn’t miss any! We are grateful to have the support not only of the City, but also of local mayors, especially in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, where America has many monuments and memorials located. The 16th Arrondissement and the National Office for Veterans and War Victims (ONACVG) support us for our annual ceremonies, including this year’s revive (reignition) at the Arc de Triomphe for the centenary of the Unknown Soldier.
What do you want people to know about how Poste 1 contributed to the history of the Legion as a whole?
Paris Post 1 has an extraordinary history, unique and essential to the founding of the American Legion. It is our honor to continue the duties of the legionnaires who began our post over 100 years ago and indeed the duty and service in France which covers the entire French nation. We carry forward a deep legacy of the American Legion that grew out of World War I and was solidified again in blood during World War II. We are the only Legion post in France, and we work hard to engage and connect with our American veterans and our community across the country. During the holidays, our Auxiliary traveled to Landstuhl, Germany, to bring gifts and donations, and to spend time with our wounded soldiers and their hospital staff who work endless hours. This summer, we will continue our DPAA MIA recovery mission from August 2021 in a remote area in the Calais region. And in June 2022, we will also co-host, with the American group Irreverent Warriors, a veteran suicide awareness hike from Utah Beach to Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. We are always happy when we hear from others who want to visit France or collaborate on an event with us. We welcome more opportunities in the future and are excited to share what we are doing with our new Paris Post 1 Research Center.