It’s been almost 100 years since members of the American Expeditionary Forces founded the American Legion in Paris following the end of World War I. It was officially chartered by the federal government in September of 1919, and quickly grew to become one of the largest and most influential veterans organizations in the world.

On Friday, Norman’s American Legion Post 88 will celebrate the centennial with an open house from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at 710 E. Main St. Post 88 is only a few years younger than the American Legion as a whole, having been chartered on Sept. 11, 1920. The event is open to the community and will demonstrate “the legacy and vision of national and local outposts alike.”

“Come visit us, meet some of our members and learn about the services that the American Legion can provide to you or a veteran friend who may need assistance with a VA benefit claim,” post member Harley McPeek said.

The post is looking for stories from residents about how the American Legion has impacted Norman and the Cleveland County community. 

“Our post’s history is part of the community’s history, and we’ll have a stronger future together if we understand and share the significance of our relationship,” Post 88 Commander Ernest Martin said. “The legacy of our post in our community will go a long way toward shaping a vision for the next 100 years. To do that, we want to hear from those who have benefited from American Legion advocacy at every level, and how we can build on that.”

Post 88 was recognized last year for the second year in a row as Oklahoma’s “Post of the Year.” Martin was honored by the national American Legion with an excellence award for meeting 100 percent of the post’s membership goals. The 22-year service veteran served as a paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry.

The American Legion is comprised of U.S. military veterans who volunteer their time to assist other veterans and their families. The 501(c)19 veteran service organization features accredited veterans service officers every Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m on the third Monday of every month to assist veterans in Cleveland, Garvin, McClain and Murray counties with federal pension and disability claims. The assistance is available to veterans and their families free of charge.

Throughout the year, the American Legion interacts with the Norman community in a variety of other ways. They work extensively with local Boy Scout troops and visit local schools to discuss the importance of proper flag etiquette and the history of the American flag.

On Memorial Day, legionnaires from Post 88 honor deceased veterans by placing American flags on their graves and playing taps at local cemeteries. The post supports programs like Boys State, Girls State and Sons of the American Legion. It also supports veterans in need with food boxes and emergency assistance.

For more information on Post 88 or the open house, contact McPeek at 686-8654 or Martin at 527-8498.

Caleb Slinkard was hired as the editor of the Norman Transcript in August of 2015. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Commerce and previously was in charge of several newspapers in northeast Texas.