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Legion has Wyoming Roots

Written by Dick Perue

Although the date on this “Roundup” may read a day after Veterans Day, it is never too late to salute our veterans and the brave men and women now serving in all branches of the armed forces. – Dick Perue, Air Force veteran and member of Angus England Post 54 American Legion.

While searching for information for this week’s “Postcard” the following interesting facts were discovered:

Ferdinand Branstetter Post No. 1 of Van Tassell, pop. 18, has not only the distinction of being the first American Legion Post organized in Wyoming, but this little post was the first to be established in the United States. Van Tassell, Denver, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. were the first Posts organized, and their charters were all signed June 28, 1919.

The first meeting of the Post was held that same day and called to order by Wyoming State Chairman Alfred H. Beach. A motion was made and carried that the Post be named in honor of Ferdinand Branstetter, who came to Wyoming from Nebraska about 1914 and filed on a homestead south of Van Tassell. Inducted into the service during World War I, he was one of the first from the Van Tassell area to cross the broad seas and fall on the field of honor.

Charter members were: Mitchell Ammons, Floyd Deuel, Edward C. Calhoun, Albert Chapman, Carl Dallam, Harry Heckert, Harrison Kellogg, Forest Porter, Don C. Taylor, George Ringsby, Nels Nelson, Harry Housh, Warren Jones, Joseph Wright, Ernest Hennebeck, Thomas Ammons, Oscar Miller, Hill Z. Boyles, Tula G. Winey, Otis M. Deeder, Andrew Garretson, Warren Waranock, Otto Kanaka, Stanley Peters, Clarence Kuttner, Ward B. Hill, Carl Hayes, Earl Alderman, Ivor Parker, John Zulinski, Haskell Best and O.B. Peterson.

At the Oct. 4, 1919, meeting, the main order of business was the election of Edward Calhoun, Floyd Deuel and Warren Jones as delegates to the first State Convention of the Legion, which was to be held in Douglas. The Commander E.C. Calhoun was also sent as a delegate to the first National Convention of the American Legion, which was held in Minneapolis, Minn.

In 1921, the Van Tassell Post held Memorial Day Services, and through the years, many impressive ceremonies were conducted by members. Post No. 1 assumed the caretaker responsibilities for the Van Tassell cemetery for many years and was responsible for many improvements in the community.

The structure that originally housed the Van Tassell American Legion Post is no longer in existence. However, the site is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places and both a memorial plaque and state historical marker have been erected, as is shown below.

The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Membership swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country.

Today, membership stands at over 2.4 million in 14,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments – one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.

American veterans who served at least one day of active federal duty during wartime, or are serving now, are potentially eligible for membership in the American Legion. Members must have been honorably discharged or still serving honorably.

A soldier from Saratoga stood guard in Paris, France during the organizational meeting of the American Legion. . . . but, then, that’s another war story.