A legion’s legacy

First Posted: 12/29/2014

DALLAS — Every year the Daddow-Issacs Dallas American Legion Post 672 participates in a state-wide essay contest with different topics about American history. This year’s topic hits a little bit closer to home.

The American Legion essay contest will be going with the topic “What is the American Legion and what does it do as an organization?”

According to Dallas American Legion member Clarence Michael, 78, the local American Legion has been participating every year for the past 15 to 20 years.

Topics are decided by American Legion state representatives and have ranged over the years from “What is our nation’s responsibility to our wounded veterans?” and “Should the Supreme Court be appointed or elected?”

“The state tells us what it’s going to be,” said Michael. “Sometimes the American Legion is saying that perhaps it should relate more to the American Legion topic. I think the last two we were happy with because they were talking about our wounded veterans and now what exactly does the American Legion do.”

How the essay contest works is students in grades 9-12 submit an essay on the selected topic and the best essay is submitted to its local American Legion. From there the essay can win at the local level, district level, regional level and state level.

Michael said there are three individuals at the Dallas American Legion that determine who the local winner is.

“There are certain rules you have to follow and basically we look at that part of it,” said Michael. “We look at their grammar and specifically we look at the content they have. They also have to write on there that they did not receive a lot of help from someone else; that it is their own essay. We’ve had some good essays in the past.”

Local schools that participate in the contest include Dallas High School, Lake-Lehman Jr./Sr. High School and some home schooled students as well. Michael also said Mountain Top American Legion participated one year.

The first place local winner gets $100, first place district winner gets $50 and sometimes a plaque and the state winner gets a $3,500 scholarship, a plaque and a trip to the PA American Legion Convention in July to read their essay to the assembled delegates.

Michael said they’ve never had a local essay make it past regional, so he does not know what the prize is for that level saying the representatives from those levels determine the prizes.

One of the reasons Michael said he is excited about this year’s topic is that people can finally understand what the American Legion is all about.

“I wanted to find out what people actually think about the American Legion,” said Michael. “One of the reasons I started putting more publicity in the newspaper is I would ask people to join the American Legion and they would respond with ‘Oh, I don’t drink.’ For a long time that was the anticipation that all we do is go to a bar and get drunk — that’s the not the American Legion.”

Michael continued by saying the Dallas American Legion is responsible for community activities such as the Memorial Day parade, decorating grave sites and American Legion baseball with all proceeds going back into the community to help with any community needs.

Another reason Michael is excited for this year’s essay topic is he hopes it will get younger veterans involved.

“One of the major problems is getting young people right out of the service to come and join us,” said Michael. “We have a lot of people who were in World War II who are (passing away). Today, to get the younger veterans to join I’m hoping that something like this will give them the idea that this is a nice organization to join. The more publicity we get out on the activities we do, the more we get these people from the more recent wars to join.

“We have to have someone take it over from us. We’re getting older, and we want to carry it on because it is a worthwhile activity.”

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