As they inducted three new members into the Hillsdale County Veterans Hall of Fame, the Hillsdale County Veterans Hall of Valor celebrated the 100th anniversary of the American Legion and honored the late Bishop and Rear Admiral Peter Beckwith on Thursday, Nov. 7 in Plaster Auditorium.
The three Hall of Fame inductees were Capt. John C. Auseon, 1st Lt. William R. Hill, and Tech. Sgt. Dale Dean Smith. Auseon served in the Vietnam War as a general medical officer, and Hill and Smith served during World War II in the United States Army Air Forces and United States Army, respectively.
“I don’t expect anything like this,” Smith said. “I just did what I had to do and that’s all there is to it. I think what they’ve done here is wonderful.”
Before presenting the awards, former United States Air Force Capt. Rachelle Williams took a moment to honor Beckwith and debut the Peter Beckwith Award, which will be given to outstanding high school students in the Hillsdale area, annually.
Beckwith served on the Hillsdale County Veterans Hall of Fame Board of Directors from its incorporation in 2016 until his passing in October 2019.
Williams said Beckwith’s “devotion to duty, his steadfast leadership, his humor, his attention to detail, and his love of God helped make this organization a viable part of our community.”
After the Hall of Fame inductions, Gary Easterling, the director of the American Legion Department of Michigan, spoke briefly about the history and mission of the American Legion.
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919.
Easterling said the founders aimed to form a veterans society that was different — that would be built to strengthen America rather than serve itself.
“The American Legion formed its identity according to four primary pillars of advocacy: veterans, defense of nation, children and youth, and Americanism,” Easterling said.
The Legion initiated many other veteran programs in the past century, including the passing of the G.I. Bill of Rights, which is U.S. Legislation passed in 1944 that provided benefits for WWII veterans.
The Legion has also aided areas struck by natural disasters and terrorist attacks in recent years.
“The Legion’s purposes have strengthened the nation,” Easterling said. “And as new posts begin their journey into the American Legion’s second century, they inspire a new vision that is equally as timeless and built to serve generations of Americans yet to come.”
Hall of Valor treasurer and former U.S. Navy Chief Jeffrey Rogers, who is also the Associate Dean of Men for Hillsdale College, required all the college male resident assistants to attend the event. He also encouraged them to bring their residents along.
“It is important for them to have an attitude of gratitude,” Rogers said. “They need to recognize all that these veterans have done for our country.”
Hillsdale College freshmen Conor Mulligan and Stephen Pearson said they were grateful for the opportunity to attend such an event.
“In high school, my teacher always told me that if I ever had the chance to meet a veteran I should go and thank them for what they’ve done,” Mulligan said. “They are the reason we have our amazing country now. They are people to respect and honor, and as men, to aspire to be like.”