A-K Valley museum hosts American Legion talk in former Tarentum Legion post
Paul Kennedy has made it his mission to educate Pennsylvanians about everything the American Legion does for its members and the communities they serve as the organization celebrates 100 years of service.
Kennedy, a past vice commander of American Legion in Western Pennsylvania, spoke to about 20 people on Sunday as he stood in a historic former American Legion building, now the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum in Tarentum.
“I think it’s really nice to have a community that’s maintaining a building like this,” he said. “To have people that volunteer to do this is unbelievable.”
The building, which formerly housed American Legion Post 85, was constructed by World War I veterans in 1931. After World War II, the ballroom was updated with reflective blue Carrera glass walls and etched with American Legion insignia and World War II battle names.
In 1967, the building was donated to the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society, which was being founded.
Kennedy gave a brief history of the American Legion, starting with its inception in 1919 and highlighting some of its most notable contributions to veterans, among them pushing for the creation of the GI Bill and the Veterans Administration.
“It reshaped the future of America,” Kennedy said of the GI Bill.
The Legion touts itself as the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ service organization. It is committed to mentoring youth, sponsoring community programs, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security and continued devotion to fellow service members and veterans.
The Legion also fought to get post-traumatic stress disorder recognized and treated in veterans, as well as get compensation and help for veterans affected by wartime diseases from things like Agent Orange.
Henry Martone of Aspinwall is a museum member. He learned a lot during Sunday’s presentation. He brought his 15-year-old grandson, Zach Martone, with him.
“It was fascinating,” he said. “I wasn’t familiar with a lot of their programs.”
Martone was surprised to hear the American Legion was responsible for creating the GI Bill.
Members of the Brackenridge American Legion Post 226 also were in attendance.
Brackenridge post member Larry Lehew said he’s glad Kennedy is putting a spotlight on what the American Legion does for its communities.
He said they are hoping to draw in some younger members.
“We have a hard time filling (the roster) to march in the parade,” he said.
Tarentum Councilwoman Carrie Fox said she was happy Kennedy was able to come to Tarentum and see the building.
“I think it’s remarkable,” she said. “It’s always breathtaking.”