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American Legion Centennial honored

Vietnam veteran Doug Wean reminded the crowd at the Let Freedom Ring Patriotic Program July 4 of the high cost of freedom.

“When we speak of freedom, we must remember the 1.4 million Americans who have given their lives from 1776 to 2019 to allow us to share this day,” he said.

Wean, a Mt. Morris native, told the audience that 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion, both nationwide and locally.

By that time, however, veterans organizations were already well-established in the Mt. Morris, beginning with Lt. John M. Smith Grand Army of the Republic Post 720, founded by local Civil War veterans in 1869.

“On Jan. 2, 1863, the Rock River Rifles and our Mt. Morris boys would engage in the vicious battle at Stones River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee,” said Wean, an American Legion Post officer. “On that morning, Lt. John M. Smith, the son of Stephen and Lydia Smith, farmers west of Mt. Morris, was mortally wounded, leading Company H of the 34th Illinois Infantry into battle.”

At the end of World War I, Mt. Morris veterans of that war formed American Legion Post 143. The post was chartered on May 19, 1919.

“One hundred years ago last month, the American Legion and the GAR first hosted this July celebration,” Wean said.

The Mt. Morris American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts helped finance the procurement of the Illinois State Freedom Bell which has hung in the bell tower on the downtown campus since 1966.

Following the long-standing tradition, those attending the Patriotic Program, including LFR Queen Samantha Bowers, braved the steamy but clear weather to ring the bell 13 times symbolizing the original 13 colonies.

The bell-ringing was followed by the Grand Parade, led by parade marshal Jeff Bold.

After the Kable Concert Band’s traditional patriotic concert that evening on the field at D.L. Rahn Junior High, fireworks topped off the celebration.