In Boyne City, Mich., Post 228 has kept the youth involved in Americanism programs for almost two decades. By nurturing regular programming and being open to new ideas, the post meets the spark of patriotism in schoolchildren with a light.
In 2014, in response to an email from a veteran who later became a Legionnaire, the post helped rally groups to recognize the 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which was inspired by a flag-raising during the War of 1812.
The post bolstered the unofficial grassroots campaign by connecting with the local high school and church choirs, Post Adjutant Brian Morrison said. On Sept. 14, 2014, small groups all over the country, including those in Boyne City, where it originated, sang the national anthem at dawn.
But the post has roots within the community, especially with the schools and scouts, that are deep. The most popular annual event is the Veterans Appreciation Day, Morrison said, which is going nearly 20 years strong. On that day, school groups come visit the American Legion Hall, which is decked out with displays, equipment, uniforms and memories, and Legionnaires are available for questions. Some teachers give students related assignments or questionnaires.
"But a lot of them on their own just want to have a one-on-one conversation with a veteran," Morrison said of the students. "The kids get a lot more out of it that we don't see. Because especially with their phones nowadays. . . . Those pictures are still on there. Those kids will still know that when they look at those pictures years from now."
This tactic must be somewhat successful, as Morrison said at last year's Veterans Day ceremony, three busloads of kids "unexpectedly" showed up.
A low-key approach is one of the ingredients to success, Morrison said. One way that takes form is reaching out to individuals rather than organizations, for instance individual Legionnaires reaching out to individual teachers rather than an official Legion to school system. But it also seeps into the overall tone.
"We're not pushing Americanism, but people are there and we're waving the flag," he said.