With a cake cut by a naval officer’s sword, American Legion Post 20 celebrated its centennial Tuesday evening.
Post 20, affiliated with the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.. for all of the post’s 100 years, received its charter on November 19, 1919. The post was founded at the urging of the most celebrated American commander of World War I. General John “Black Jack” Pershing was an associate member of NPC. In the same year that Pershing helped found The American Legion, he also suggested a post within the Press Club.
At the centennial celebration—hosted by the club—NPC President Alison Kodjak noted that the Press Club itself is nearly 112 years old. “You’ve been with us just about every step of the way,” Kodjak told Post 20 members and guests.
She also pointed out that NPC represents the core American values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press—and Post 20 represents the core value of service to country.
“Post 20 has a very illustrious history,” former NPC president Myron Belkind said. Belkind is a member of Post 20 who spent more than four decades as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for the Associated Press. He served in the Army in Vietnam as a public affairs specialist.
Belkind said the post’s commanders have included John Cosgrove, 1961 NPC President. Cosgrove survived eight kamikaze attacks on his destroyer escort during World War II.
Sarah McClendon was another of Post 20’s commanders. McClendon covered the White House for five decades for her McClendon News Service. She served as a public relations officer for the Women’s Army Corps in World War II.
Post 20 member and 1956 NPC President Frank Holeman was an Army counterintelligence staff sergeant during World War II. Holeman was among the first U.S. occupation troops to land in Honshu in 1945.
Post 20’s current commander, retired Navy captain and Vietnam veteran Jim Noone, recounted the Legion’s legacy. Noone said that after World War I, the Legion demanded a single federal agency to aid veterans. That led to creation of the Veterans’ Bureau, which became the Veterans’ Administration, which became the present-day Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Post 20’s commander took a moment to recognize in absentia the post’s most distinguished current member, retired Navy Captain Jack Crawford. Crawford served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway.