In 1919, World War I veterans assembled to form an organization that would allow them to demonstrate their deeply rooted spirit of patriotism while continuing to support their fellow veterans.
As local veteran Ed Green notes, the American Legion's preamble states that part of the reason for the organization's existence is to ensure the preservation of "the memories and incidents of our associations in the great wars ..."
But such words can often prove meaningless without the proper context - and for Green, this came through his own Vietnam War-era naval service.
When graduating high school in Arkadelphia, Ark., in 1962, Green's educational future appeared certain following his acceptance into Henderson State University.
However, a trip to visit out-of-state relatives would lead to a brief delay in his educational endeavors.
"I went to Texas after graduation to see my grandparents and uncles," Green recalled. "Many of my uncles had been in World War II and I had grown up listening to them tell fascinating stories of their service."
While visiting with his family, Green added, "I told one of my uncles that I didn't feel as though I was ready to return to school that fall, and he suggested that I join the Navy."
Green took the advice and enlisted. He was sent to San Diego during the summer of 1962 to complete his boot camp, but it was not until he was well into his training that he told his mother of his decision to forego college for the military.
"My mother had been adamant about my attending college ... and my uncle was even afraid to say anything to her," Green laughed.
The sailor in training remained in San Diego to complete electrician school and in late summer was assigned to the USS Donner - a dock landing ship that, Green notes, participated in the D-Day landings and could transport a large contingent of personnel and equipment for beach landings and assaults.
Though his duties consisted primarily of keeping "anything electrical" on board the ship in serviceable and working condition, Green soon learned the seriousness of military service when the ship deployed off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"That was the first time," he recalled, "that I remember thinking this was serious."
But as history has demonstrated, the crisis soon passed and Green's duties shifted into a cycle of helping train Marines destined for service in Vietnam.
Ported in the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, the USS Donner would pick up Marines at Guantanamo Bay and transport port them to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, where they practiced securing the beaches during a simulated assault exercise.
A couple of days later, the Donner would meet up with the Marines and return them to Guantanamo Bay.
During the latter part of Green's naval experience, he participated in a Mediterranean Cruise that was part of a NATO exercise, which included military personnel from France, England and Italy.
While he was in the Navy, Green said, "I was a thrifty person and invested and saved my money." His intent was "to attend college and get my degree."
The GI Bill was soon approved for Vietnam era veterans and Green left the service in August of 1966 to use the program to attend Henderson State University, graduating in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in education.
The same year, he moved to Jefferson City when offered a teaching job at Jefferson City High School. Green was married in 1977, and the following year, left his teaching career to accept a full-time position at the Callaway Nuclear Plant, where he remained until his retirement in 2007.
In 1991, he aptly demonstrated his post-naval educational trajectory when he graduated with a master's degree in secondary education from Lincoln University.
With four years of naval service providing him an appreciation for the sacrifices made on his behalf during war's past, Green has remained active with the American Legion Post 5, having served four years as the post's historian and is now the second vice commander.
But the veteran asserts that there is more to the American Legion's mission than simply providing a place for veterans to relax and have an enjoyable time.
"The camaraderie that you experience here with other veterans is good," Green said, "but the one thing we should never forget is all of those who have given their lives in service to the country - the sacrifices our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents made for us."
Green added, "And that is why this organization was founded many years ago ... and it's what we continue to do to this day."
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.