Post 43’s history coincides with the formation of The American Legion. That took place during the Paris Caucus for “Comrades in Service,” which convened in Paris, France on March 15-17, 1919. In June of that same year, a group of 15 WWI Veterans from Naperville, IL, met to form a local American Legion Post.
The group, led by Chauncey W. Reed, mailed an application to the state American Legion on June 25th and State Headquarters issued a charter, dated July 5, 1919, which designated Naperville American Legion Post 43. The Post received its National Charter on August 1, 1920.
Post 43 began with 126 charter members. They represented the more than 300 Naperville Veterans of World War I – some 10% of the community’s population at that time. Seven of those Napervillians lost their lives in the conflict. Post 43’s first Commander was Chauncey W. Reed, the leader of the group that applied for the organizing charter. Reed later served in the U.S. Congress for more than 20 years. He was succeeded by Win G. Knoch, a community leader, lawyer and both a County and Circuit Court Judge. Other prominent Post 43 members include Naperville Mayor Chester J. “Chet” Rybicki, and Naperville Councilman Don Wehrli. Post 43 has had 77 Post Commanders, since it was chartered in 1919, which have contributed to the success and longevity of this Post.
From its beginning and continuing throughout its history, Post 43 has maintained steadfast support for programs that serve our Country, Veterans, Young people and its Community.
An early example of that civic dedication took less than a decade to appear. In 1920, Post 43 spearheaded fundraising to erect the Spirit of the American Doughboy statue in Naperville’s Burlington Park to honor WWI Veterans. Dedicated on Memorial Day in 1926, the six-foot copper statue, resting on a stone base, depicts a WWI soldier, bayonet fixed, advancing into battle. The statue, one of more than 100 installed in communities across the country, was created by Indiana sculptor E. M. Viquesney. It is notable for its attention to authentic uniform detail right down, in the words of the sculptor, to “every buckle, every snap, every strap.”
In the 1920s Post 43 assumed responsibility for organizing Naperville’s Memorial Day parade, which the Grand Army of the Republic had previously managed. The American Legion now co-sponsors with the Veterans of Foreign Wars this annual patriotic event and associated ceremonies, including placing flags on the graves of local Veterans.
Post 43’s close relationship with the community continued through the years. An example of these close ties between the Post and the city of Naperville occurred in 1933.
To coincide with the National Convention of the American Legion held that year in Chicago, the city declared October 3rd a holiday to allow citizens to attend the convention parade, described in the proclamation as one of “the largest ever presented by the Legion and will be the greatest spectacle of this character in the history of the City of Chicago.”
During the 1940s, Post 43 sponsored an annual carnival and car raffle to raise money for community projects. These included the donation of playground equipment and books for Naperville’s Nichols Library. One especially significant result of these fundraising efforts was the donation of an emergency rescue vehicle for the Naperville Fire Department.
Post Home Purchased
Another milestone in Post 43’s history came in 1947 with the purchase of a Post Home as a permanent meeting place for members. Members of Post 43 funded the purchase of a building owned by the Naperville Oddfellows Temple Association by buying varying numbers of bonds, each with a face value of $100. Currently, portions of the Post Home building at 10 W. Chicago Av. in Naperville are rented to commercial interests with the top floor retained by Post 43 for meetings of Post Trustees, certain Post activities; and is used by affiliated groups, such as Boy Scout Troop 106. Current monthly Post meetings are now held at the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873.
In the mid-1980s, Post 43 supported the creation of Veteran’s Park in Naperville as a site honoring Veterans of all services. The park was dedicated on November 11, 1989. Situated on the banks of the DuPage River, the park is a popular picnic area and is the site of annual Memorial Day commemorations, and Veterans Day Ceremony.
Patriotism and Veterans
Post 43 re-visited one of its earliest projects in 2001 with the start of a community effort to restore the Spirit of the American Doughboy statue. Over the years, the statue had deteriorated from the effects of weather and vandalism. By the turn of the century, the statue’s needs for repair included replacement of a missing arm and bayonet and general restoration.
The Post was a sponsor of a fundraising campaign aimed at paying for the statue’s repair as well as improvements to the surrounding park area. Those efforts culminated on May 25, 2003 with a rededication ceremony attended by Veterans, civic organizations and city officials.
In another campaign to build closer relationships between Veterans and the community, Post 43 helped organize the 2009 Healing Field of Honor in Naperville, which was a joint collaboration between the Exchange Club of Naperville and the Naperville Park District. From November 8th to 14th, 2009 U.S. flags were displayed on 8-foot poles in an open space in the center of the city to honor “the men and women of the United States Military who have served our Nation or are currently serving at home or abroad.”
In addition to the display, proceeds from the subsequent sales of the flags helped support the operations of Fisher House for visiting families at nearby Hines VA Hospital.
In 2013, Post 43 supported efforts by the Naperville Century Walk Foundation and other civic organizations to add a second statue at the city’s Burlington Park as a complement to the existing Spirit of the American Doughboy. A local historian discovered in a Michigan antique store a Spirit of the American Navy statue, created by the same sculptor, Ernest Moore Viquesneys, who created the Doughboy statue. The sailor statue -- one of only eight created -- was always meant by the artist to serve as a companion to the Doughboy depiction.
A $73,000 fundraising campaign to restore and install the sailor statue culminated in October 2013, -- on the birthday of the U.S. Navy – with the installation of the Spirit of the American Navy figure, which faces the Doughboy statue across the city park.
Post 43 currently has over 540 members. The Post continues to participate in Veterans Day observances, including visits by Veterans to local schools and the ceremony at Naperville’s Veterans Park.
Reflecting these and other efforts and for service to Veterans and the Nation, Post 43 has been recognized by various awards. A partial list includes: Certificate of Meritorious Service from the National Department of the American Legion, Numerous awards for the Post Newsletter, Keeping Posted, Naperville Exchange Club’s Spirit of America award
In addition to special campaigns, Post 43 supports an array of ongoing programs in support of veterans, young people and the community. These programs include: Boy Scout Troop 106; Premier Boys State; Illini Girls State; High School Oratorical and Middle School Speech contests; College Scholarships; and annual recognition of Citizen of the Year Awards to members of the local leaders for contributions to Veterans, Youth and the Community.
History of The American Legion
The American Legion began following World War I with a meeting of 20 officers who were tasked with finding means to boost troop morale. One of the officers, Lieutenant Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., suggested forming an organization made up of Veterans and dedicated to Veterans’ well-being.
A larger meeting, known as the Paris Caucus, convened in March of 1919 and adopted a temporary constitution and designated the organization name: The American Legion. Later that year in St. Louis, some 1100 delegates expanded on the Paris proposals by completing the organization’s constitution and setting up the outlines of its permanent organization. In September of 1919 the U.S. Congress granted a charter to the American Legion, followed by the group’s first convention held in Minneapolis.
Today, the American Legion is one of the largest non-partisan, non-profit groups in the U.S., dedicated to four pillars: Patriotism, Youth, Veterans and National Defense. These pillars cover a multitude of programs to benefit the many thousands of our nation’s Veterans, service members, young people and ordinary citizens. These programs are carried out through more than two million Legion members belonging to over 13,000 local posts located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
Among The American Legion’s contributions was its key role in creating the U.S. Veterans Administration, passing into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, or GI Bill of Rights that among other accomplishments has assisted in obtaining college educations for some 8 million Veterans, formation of American Legion Child Welfare Foundation that has awarded more than $11 million to organizations that help America’s children and its continuing efforts to raise awareness over the fate of American Prisoners of War and those missing in action.