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The 2021 Legion of the United States Award, the first ever presented, was awarded on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2020. That date was chosen for the presentation because General Wayne was born on January 1, 1745, and we celebrated the 276th anniversary of his birthday. The first winner was local living historian and frequent volunteer Robert Jones, a retired educator who is active in supporting activities at The Historic Old Fort. He also portrayed our General Wayne at countless events. After winning the first award, Bob Jones also chaired the Committee that found our next living historian to portray General Wayne. Robert Jones will occasionally continue to portray General and President George Washington. (See Bob, at right, receiving first Legion of the United States Award.)
The background for the award began when J. Michael Loomis requested on July 17, 2017 that his Fort Wayne City Council representative, Jason Arp, introduce a resolution that designated a day honoring General Wayne in Fort Wayne. Nineteen months later, on February 26, 2019, such a resolution was introduced and passed 6-3 by the Fort Wayne City Council. It designated July 16 of each year as General "Mad" Anthony Wayne Day. This date was chosen to commemorate General Wayne's leadership at the Battle of Stony Point, New York on July 16, 1779, for which General Wayne received a Congressional Medal. The passage of this Resolution led to the founding by Mike Loomis of our Organization on March 19, 2019. Our Mission Statement is "to enhance area education about relevant history".
General Wayne was later called out of retirement by President George Washington in early 1792 to command the "Legion of the United States", the nation's first professional military forced created to defend the shores of the now-independent country, and to facilitate the national policy favoring westward expansion. General Wayne became the Senior Commander of the entire Legion, and he is the only person in U.S. history not serving as President of the United States to have received the title of "Commander-in-Chief". The Legion of the United States was renamed the "U.S. Army" in 1796, the year that General Wayne died.
At the time of President Washington's appointment of General Wayne as Commander-in-Chief" of the Legion of the United States, our nation begun to grow from the original 13 American Colonies. The "Northwest" territory was considered to be Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, not Oregon and Washington, Idaho and Montana. General Wayne commanded the Legion of the United States until his death on December 15, 1796. General Wayne was known for his talent in strategy and logistics. He was also a peacemaker, and after winning the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, he wrote the northern Native American tribes, in French, calling for peace. (See "The First American West", Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library; available through "American Memory", Library of Congress.)
The oldest unit of the now-U.S. Army is the 3rd Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard", which traces its lineage to the Legion of the United States. It is the sentinels of The Old Guard who protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb has been protected 24 hours a day since Midnight on July 2, 1937. Since June 6, 1948 (then called "Army Day"), it is The Old Guard that has been tasked with that assignment. General Wayne is therefore the First Commander of the regiment charged with protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Thus, the City of Fort Wayne has a strong connection to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in this regard.
The Legion of the United States Award is intended to honor those who served in the Legion under General Wayne's command. The Award recognizes “excellence in education” and “dedication to community service”, which attributes are consistent with our Mission Statement.
The Committee selecting the three Finalists for the award will be jointly chaired by noted American author, Alan D. Gaff ("Bayonets in the Wilderness"), and his wife, Maureen Gaff, a prolific researcher and collaborator. The Finalists will be chosen by January 31, 2023, and the Winner of the 2023 Legion of the United States Award will be announced on Monday, February 20, 2023, President's Day.