The American Legion Department of Texas dedicated a monument, a century in the making, in the heart of downtown San Antonio on Saturday.
“It gives us a legacy landmark in the city of San Antonio, which is Military City USA,” said Al Alford, the 20th district commander who has overseen the project. “We now have national, statewide and local recognition of The American Legion, the principles of The American Legion. This is a significant day for us and we are very proud.”
The department funded the monument, which was unveiled during a ceremony outside the Cadena Reeves Justice Center on Dolorosa Street. Around 200 American Legion Family members, dignitaries, military supporters and others attended the ceremony.
The monument contains not only the shields of the service branches but the four pillars of The American Legion. Inside the 10-foot tall by 8-foot wide monument, a 50-year time capsule contains memorabilia from more than 100 posts from across Texas. Two plaques atop the monument were originally markers for the old American Legion Highway in Texas.
“We took those plaques out of storage, got them refurbished and straightened out,” Alford said. “The look is fantastic for our monument.”
As it did 100 years ago, the Legion held its department convention last week in San Antonio, which happens to be celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. On Friday, Mayor Ronald Nirenberg proclaimed July 13-16 as American Legion Department of Texas Days.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, a 21-year Air Force veteran, represented the mayor during Saturday’s unveiling.
“Continuing your service through The American Legion is really important,” Perry told the Legion Family members, encouraging them to pay particular attention to the Children & Youth pillar.
“That’s what we really need to count on. And let them know what it takes to be a person in service to the United States. But you don’t have to be in the military; service is giving back and helping others. That’s where it’s key for your organization in getting out to the schools, give them talks that opens their eyes to what you have done and what our predecessors have done in protecting and serving this nation.”
On Friday, Texas Gov. Gregory Abbott, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Nirenberg and others spoke at the department convention, congratulating Legionnaires on a century of service.
Department Commander John Hince focused his keynote address on the founders who set out to build a hospital for veterans returning from World War I with the signature wounds of that conflict.
“Our founders gathered here 100 years ago,” Hince said. “They set out to do something. We wonder in their vision, did they picture this happening 100 years later? Did they envision all the veterans hospitals and clinics spread out over Texas? Our organization has changed with the times. It’s changed with our membership as we welcome new generations to our ranks and as we support the four pillars.”
Hince hopes that veterans and civilians who walk past the monument will see more than just the design.
“When I look at it, every branch of the military is represented,” he said. “I see the four pillars. I see the emblem of The American Legion, which is the organization I have chosen to serve, as have our comrades out here. If passersby would walk by and just think that veterans have done a lot for our country, maybe that’s enough.”
He sees the monument’s time capsule as a way to communicate the Legion’s mission to future generations.
“We want those who follow us to have the same knowledge as we did to try and advance our organization,” Hince said. “We want to put it into the minds of our Legionnaires that it’s not just about what we do today. There is a legacy here. It has to be kept strong.”