MANCHESTER — The American Legion celebrated a century in New Hampshire on Sunday, unveiling a commemorative plaque marking the 100th anniversary of the veterans’ organization establishing a chapter in the Granite State.
The bronze plaque hangs on a brick wall at the west end of the former State Armory, where on May 5, 1919, 47 veterans gathered to elect a temporary chairman and secretary along with 12 delegates to represent New Hampshire at the national convention in St. Louis.
“I think it’s great to mark 100 years and remember those that gave their loyalty to The American Legion back in 1919,” said Mike Lopez, a former Manchester alderman who served as chairman of The American Legion Department of New Hampshire Centennial Committee.
The ceremony was held in the old Armory, which is now a large banquet room at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Manchester.
The plaque notes the date and time of the meeting as well as the names of the officers selected that day along with the 12 men chosen as delegates for the national convention, including Frank Knox, former publisher of the Union and Leader who served as Secretary of the Navy during World War II.
The plaque also noted that a total of 69 American Legion posts were formed in New Hampshire in 1919, of which 41 remain active.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig read a proclamation declaring Sunday “American Legion Centennial Day” in the city. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, also made brief remarks thanking the Legion for its many contributions to the Manchester community.
“I applaud you all for your work in commemorating this historic moment,” Pappas said, noting the many people who will see the plaque posted near the armory entrance. “They’re going to see this plaque and they’re going to understand what happened here 100 years ago today and the commitment that still burns bright in the veterans’ community here in New Hampshire.”
Lopez also took a moment to honor honorary chairman Joe Caouette, a 68-year Legion veteran who died Dec. 24. Caouette held posts including Department of New Hampshire commander, national vice commander and served as a member of the national executive committee.
“People like him made The American Legion,” Lopez said after the ceremony.