OSKALOOSA — The American Legion Auxiliary Post 34 belatedly celebrated its 100th anniversary more than a year later.
Last weekend, members of the organization celebrated the milestone by inviting guest speakers while acknowledging long-standing members and initiating new ones.
The American Legion Auxiliary was originally formed in 1919, with plans for the 100th anniversary originally scheduled for 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders delayed the celebration for a year.
The legion is composed of spouses, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, and sisters of American war veterans, where they dedicate their work to supporting the military, veterans, and their families.
Nicole Clapp, the National President for American Legion Auxiliary, was one of the invited guest speakers for the event.
Originally from a small Iowa town called Gladbrook, Clapp said she was involved with the entity since she was 4-years-old. She first discovered the legion by watching volunteers give out plastic poppies, the official flower for American Legion families.
After learning her Grandfather served in World War I, Clapp went on to live a life of serving the American Legion Auxiliary, where she eventually took up the role of National President.
In her speech, Clapp noted how several of her future speaking engagements were canceled a year ago when the virus was becoming more widespread throughout the United States.
While sharing her story and lamenting the frustrations from the pandemic, she also noted how previous national presidents of the legion also worked through the Vietnam War and 9/11. After explaining how those persevered, she went to say that she could handle getting through the pandemic.
Kelly Elliott, the President of the American Legion of Auxiliary Department of Iowa, was another guest invited to the celebration.
Elliott said she joined the American Legion Auxiliary in honor of her father, who served in the Vietnam War. She became involved through another member who encouraged her to join.
“Just serving our veterans and making sure that they have what they need, and making them comfortable is the biggest reason why I am [involved],” Elliott said.
Around the end of the event, new members gathered around candles as they recited a pledge. By the end of their initiation, a new generation was formed in front of an older one.
Additionally, a display was presented in the back of the room detailing the history of the American Legion Auxiliary Post 34, as well as clippings of news stories on the local entity.
“Oskaloosa has a great deal to be proud of,” Clapp said. “They were a unit that was struggling for membership, and now if you would be here today, you can see they're blossoming and the community is coming out in grand support.”
After reflecting on a difficult year, Clapp said it’s important to stay involved with a resource that makes other people feel good.
“There's so much going on in the world that sometimes makes us sad and frustrated that if we think back to young people that are willing to take an oath to protect the country and to die for me, it's the least I can do is to get back on the home front,” Clapp said.
Elliott shared a similar message, feeling it was important to give back to the group of people who have served the country.
“All the service that they've given, it's my honor to serve and give back to them,” Elliott said. “We are the largest patriotic organization in the world, and just giving back to people, not only our veterans but to our community youth with our youth programs, it’s an honor to be able to do that.”