World War II Veteran Tech Sgt. Dale Smith (right) being inducted into the Hillsdale County Hall of Fame. Rachel Kookogey | Col­legian

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.”