The American Legion is turning 100, and Post 38 in downtown Fort Myers is celebrating a centennial of its own. The Rabe O. Wilkison Post, as it’s also known, was established on Sept. 5, 1919, just months after the national organization formed in the wake of World War I. The post is planning several ways to mark the occasion, culminating in a visit from the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall on Sept. 7 and 8 at JetBlue Park.
“This is a legacy that honors all those who’ve served, and we’re proud to carry on the tradition that began when this post became the very first in all of southern Florida,” Post 38 Cmdr. Kevin Boyd said. “Part of the reason the American Legion exists is to extend the patriotism of our veterans into continued service to those who need it most, and this milestone is a testament to the perseverance and dedication of our members.”
The American Legion has more than 13,000 posts and over 2.2 million wartime veteran members around the world. Throughout its first century, the organization helped start the Veterans Administration, was instrumental in the creation of the GI Bill, led the way to create the U.S. Flag Code, and helped veterans receive benefits for illnesses related to their service.
Post 38 raises money to award scholarships to Southwest Florida children, helps veterans in need and supports several charitable endeavors in the community. It was named after Rabe O. Wilkison, an Immokalee native drafted into the Army in 1918. He volunteered for a World War I mission that a commanding officer warned would offer only a 1-in-100 chance of survival.
Wilkison nonetheless forged ahead and was killed on Sept. 16, 1918 in the battle at St. Mihiel in France. Less than two months later, the war was over. Wilkison was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1963.
“He embodied the valor and bravery we all want in those sworn to protect us,” Boyd said. “That’s why it’s so important to commemorate this anniversary and make sure stories like his continue to be told.”
The names of more than 58,000 who died or remain missing in the Vietnam War will be on display when the traveling wall comes to JetBlue Park. Sponsorship opportunities remain for those who want to help honor their sacrifice. To get involved, contact George Tice at email@example.com or 239-738-0601, or Jim Squadrito at 401-261-9096 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit centennial.legion.org to see some of the other ways the American Legion is marking its 100th anniversary.