Veterans Memorial American Legion Post 63

American Legion News

Ways to make gardening easier

Source: June 24, 2024

American Legion news feed image


What tips can you offer to make gardening easier on the body? I love to putter around and work in the garden, but my back and knees have caused me to curtail my gardening activities.

There is no doubt that gardening can be hard on a body. Joints stiffen up, prolonged kneeling causes discomfort, and bending and reaching can strain muscles. But that does not mean you have to give up your hobby. You might just need to garden differently by adding some specialized tools and knowing your limits. Here are some tips that may help.

Limber Up With gardening, good form is very important, as well as not overdoing any one activity. A common problem is that gardeners often kneel or squat, which puts extra pressure on their knees. To provide relief from these positions, gardeners will then stand and bend over for long stretches to weed, dig and plant. This prolonged standing and bending places strain on the back and spine.

To help protect your body, you should warm up before beginning. Start by stretching, concentrating on the legs and lower back. Once you start gardening, it helps to frequently change positions and activities. For instance, do not spend hours weeding a flower bed. After 15 minutes of weeding, stand up, stretch and switch to another activity like pruning the bushes. You should also take rest breaks.

It is also important that you recognize any physical limitations and not try to do too much at once. When lifting heavier objects, remember to use your legs to protect your back. You can do this by keeping the item close to your body and keeping your back as vertical as possible when squatting.

Get Better Tools The proper gardening equipment can also help. Kneeling pads can protect knees, while garden seats can limit back and knee pain. Lightweight garden carts and collapsible wheelbarrows make hauling mulch, dirt, plants or other heavy objects much easier. Long-handled gardening and weeding tools ease back strain by keeping you in a standing upright position vs. bent over.

There are also ergonomic gardening and pruning tools with larger handles and other design features that can make lawn and garden activities less painful. Your local garden store or online retailer may sell a variety of specialty lawn and garden tools that will ease the stress on your body.

Make Watering Easier The chore of carrying water or handling a heavy, awkward hose can also be difficult for some gardeners. Watering alternatives include lightweight fabric or expandable hoses, soaker or drip hoses that can be snaked throughout the garden, thin coil hoses that can be used on the patio or small areas, a hose caddy and reel for easier hose transport around the yard, or a self-winding hose. There are also a variety of ergonomic watering wands that are lightweight and easy to grip to reach those hard to-get-to plants.

Bring the Garden to You If your backyard garden has become too much to handle, you should consider elevated garden beds or container gardening with big pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, barrels or tub planters. This is a much easier way to garden because it eliminates much of the bend and strain of gardening but still provides the pleasure of watching things grow.

"Savvy Living" is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to NBC's "Today Show." The column, and others like it, is available to read via The American Legion's Planned Giving program, a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Consider naming The American Legion in your will or trust as a part of your personal legacy. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.

Next article: GI Bill at 80: ‘What has changed? What remains the same?'

GI Bill at 80: ‘What has changed? What remains the same?'

Source: June 21, 2024

American Legion news feed image

From the World War I veterans who conceived it to servicemembers not yet born 80 years after passage of the GI Bill, a Thursday anniversary event at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., paid tribute to the legislation that changed America and continues to do so, in ways unforeseeable in 1944.

The American Legion – with support from Capital Bank, ARK All-in-One Relocation, National University and the American Gold Star Mothers – led a celebration that spanned the landmark legislation's remarkable history, punctuated by a call to continue improving it for new veterans, their families and a different era. The event included a panel discussion with a diverse group of GI Bill beneficiaries, including first-generation Americans, first-in-family college graduates and the daughter of a wartime veteran who is now pursuing her master's degree thanks to her father's GI Bill benefits.

Nearly every speaker over a 90-minute program spoke of the GI Bill's success over the years, as well as the challenges now before it.

"We've got to do better," explained former Operation Iraqi Freedom combat officer, 32nd Under Secretary of the Army and American Legion member Patrick Murphy, first veteran of the war in Iraq elected to Congress. "I know this is a celebration, but we've got to do better."

Murphy made the point that "one in five military spouses who are looking for work are unemployed." And, he observed, "Most American families are dual-income families."

Seventy-three percent of today's young people, he added, want to serve the country in some way, if they can find a path. The nation can benefit from helping them choose military service, he told a crowd of nearly 200, noting that more than 1.1 million college students – veterans and their family members – are now using the GI Bill across the country and outperforming other students, notably in high-demand science, technology, engineering and math majors.

Murphy called on attendees to encourage young men and women to serve and ultimately do what the original GI Bill did for the nation after World War II – bolster the economy, improve lives and strengthen communities. "We, as leaders in Washington D.C. – as leaders across America – need to make it easier for these young Americans to give back," Murphy said. "They want to give back. Their hearts are in the right place."

American Legion Past National Commander Brett Reistad – who led the nation's largest organization of U.S. military veterans in 2018 and 2019 (the Legion's centennial window) – praised the vision of World War I veterans who worked tirelessly to build a bright future for men and women in uniform.

He posed a question for the audience to ponder. "Today, perhaps we should ask ourselves, ‘Are we thinking enough about the opportunities we are creating for Americans yet to be born?'  That certainly was what the World War I generation was thinking. And their legacy – so well illustrated by the success of the GI Bill – is a lesson for all of us."

Retired Col. Adam Rocke, also a combat officer, Legionnaire and pioneer of the Army's Soldier for Life program emceed the event. "I would not be standing here today if I did not raise my right hand in 1983 and commit to something bigger than myself," he said. "I entered the Army as a young private, served in the Old Guard, got out, and used my GI Bill benefits to put myself through college."

That ultimately led to a 34-year career in the Army – followed by over a decade of veterans advocacy – and the ability to send four of his children through college using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The 2009-adopted version allowed veterans to transfer their education benefits on to their descendants. "Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to make it – four kids through college – if it wasn't for the GI Bill."

"The success of the GI Bill is well-documented," Reistad said. "Called the greatest social legislation of the 20th century, it launched a new era not only for veterans, but for all of America. An expectation of education. An economy driven by well-paying jobs. Home ownership for ordinary citizens. And, importantly, an all-volunteer military force, incentivized by the benefits of the GI Bill."

Maj. Gen. Trevor Bredenkamp, commander of the Military District of Washington, said the GI Bill has endured and evolved because the needs of veterans – and the nation's gratitude – have not substantially changed over the decades. "What's changed, and what's the same?" he asked, reminding the audience of the challenges veterans, and the nation, faced when some 75,000 World War II veterans a month were being medically discharged and coming home to a support system not yet formed in the early 1940s. "Homelessness, unemployment, a lack of access to education and opportunity. It was our nation's responsibility then, as it is now, to act."

He spoke of 1944 American Legion National Commander Warren Atherton and Past National Commander Harry Colmery and their resolve to ensure the new generation of the time would be treated differently than those who came home from World War I. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 – which Colmery assembled from hundreds of transition-assistance American Legion resolutions and congressional bills – "transformed the landscape of American society, offering returning veterans a pathway to education and prosperity. In its first seven years, it allowed 2.3 million veterans to attend college and 7 million veterans to train in critical labor skills. By 1955, 4.3 million home loans would provide $33 billion to veterans, effectively transforming the American middle class and elevating our veterans into that category.

"But the GI Bill represented more than just a government program," Maj. Gen. Bredenkamp said. "It was a promise, a promise to honor the sacrifices of those who had volunteered to serve our country and a recognition of the value of military service to our nation. Again, what has changed? And what remains the same? It embodied the fundamental principle that those who had borne the burden of defending our freedoms deserve the opportunity to pursue the American dream."

He explained that the evolution of the GI Bill since the Post-9/11 version was adopted has allowed servicemembers to extend opportunities beyond themselves. "There's a soldier in my organization currently who uses student loan repayment to help repay his parents' Plus Loans under his mother's name," Bredenkamp explained. "He used the (DoD) Tuition Assistance Program to complete his bachelor's degree and has already passed along his Post 9/11 GI Bill to his daughter. That's three generations positively impacted because of the service of this soldier and the opportunity provided by the GI Bill and its evolution."

Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director of Education Service Joe Garcia, a U.S. Air Force veteran, shared with the audience the overall investment the federal government has made in veterans over the past 80 years. "At VA, we have paid out over $400 billion in GI Bill benefits to about 29 million beneficiaries. Those are very large numbers, right? But behind those large numbers are individual stories. I have to share one myself … my own."

Garcia said that after an eight-year enlistment in the Air Force, he was a student veteran at the University of Arizona. "For two years, I relied on the GI Bill to help me get through my education. I had to work a part-time job. I had a family. But the GI Bill was a primary resource to complete my degree, get a commission as an officer, and serve another 20 years. I would not be here if not for the GI Bill."

Garcia, whose granddaughter has used her own Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Space Force, discussed the various iterations of the measure over the decades and the newest development: the Digital GI Bill. "What's important about that are two things I will share with you. An automated claims for that original submission, to get your certificate of eligibility. When I did it… where is my 214? Where is my paperwork? … you've got to mail it in, and it takes weeks, maybe even months to get that certificate of eligibility. That was my road, years ago. Now, with the Digital GI Bill, we've automated that original claim, and a lot of that information is pre-populated from DoD. You've got a running start. So, instead of waiting weeks and maybe months, you can get a certificate of eligibility that same day. That's huge."

Another benefit of the Digital GI Bill, he said, is supporting "those that support the veteran, like the school-certified officials at all the colleges. They are the first touchpoint often for the veterans at a college." The new system, which has had some 6 million enrollments since 2023 using the new system, makes life easier for those who "in turn can help the veteran beneficiaries on the spot. So, a lot of progress has been made."

More important than any of that, he explained, is the GI Bill's longtime value as "a tangible way for a grateful nation to say thank you."

The World War I generation, which founded The American Legion, could never have envisioned such a thing as a Digital GI Bill. Their primary purpose in the years between the world wars was to correct the nation's treatment of those who had served and sacrificed. "(Wartime veterans) wanted more than a suit of clothes, a few bucks and a bus ticket home after facing death against a foreign enemy," Reistad told the crowd. "They wanted a chance to succeed in the nation they had vowed with their lives to protect and defend. The World War I generation said to every politician and every reporter who would listen, that veterans deserved better. And America deserved better. Changes these veterans demanded would forge a stronger nation, they argued."

"The GI Bill changed everything," said Army veteran and American Legion member Joe Wescott, legislative liaison for the National Association of State Approving Agencies, which oversees colleges that accept GI Bill-using veterans and their families. "No one could have foreseen the far-reaching effects it would have on our nation and on our society. Indeed, it opened doors that had been closed to minorities, to the poor and to women. Indeed, that GI Bill led to the greatest expansion of education in the 20th century."

Its evolution, however, must continue, he said. "Now, all of us have a great opportunity to do more for those who have given so much for us. Now is not the time to rest upon our laurels. Now is not the time to be slack in our efforts on behalf of our veterans. In fact, our nation calls upon us to dream, design and do more."

He said much more can be done to improve transition assistance, work with states and rein in bad actors who aim to exploit veterans using their GI Bill benefits. "This is our moment, to act audaciously for our heroes," Wescott said. "And I call upon our friends in Congress to at least convene a roundtable to address these new, innovative ideas and other ideas … so that we might ensure that we make good on the promise of the legacy we have discussed here this evening."


Next article: ‘Overpowered and overwhelmed': Black veterans pay tribute to fallen troops to commemorate Juneteenth

‘Overpowered and overwhelmed': Black veterans pay tribute to fallen troops to commemorate Juneteenth

Source: June 20, 2024

American Legion news feed image

Army veteran William Jones was handed a machete and M60 machine gun as the "point man" whose job was to advance first through the jungles of Vietnam to clear a safe path for other combat troops to follow.

"I was the first person to see the action or take a hit. I did not know if I would make it out alive," said Jones, 76, who stood with his adult daughter, Timika Jones, at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., to remember the troops who did not make it home alive.

Jones on Wednesday was part of a group of 27 Black veterans, along with family members serving as chaperones, on the first-ever honor flight to commemorate Juneteenth at war memorials and monuments in the Washington, D.C., area.

Juneteenth is a federal holiday on June 19 to remember the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Lincoln issued in 1863 declaring the end of slavery. The federal holiday was first observed in 2021.

Under a blazing hot sun, the veterans participating in the honor flight — many in their 70s and 80s — embarked on a daylong tour of Arlington National Cemetery, the World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial, among other sites.

The group traveled on an all-expenses-paid trip courtesy of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that has hosted nearly 300,000 veterans on flights and tours of Washington, D.C., since 2005. At 101, World War II veteran Calvin Kemp of Georgia was the oldest veteran to make the trip.

"I'm being treated like a celebrity today. I'm like Denzel Washington. I feel very honored," Kemp said, seated in a wheelchair at Arlington National Cemetery.

Kemp, a Navy veteran who served from 1943-1946, and the other veterans witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as several reporters from local TV stations filmed them.

The veterans had traveled from Atlanta to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport early Wednesday, where they were met with a water cannon salute as the plane taxied to the gate. The group then boarded two commercial buses for a day of activities.

The first stop was the Marine Corps memorial. An American flag atop a 60-foot-high bronze pole was the first sight the veterans saw as they arrived.

"It hurts me to my soul to think about my brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield," said Army veteran Dennis Brazil, who paused at the memorial to pay tribute to fallen soldiers. "It doesn't matter [which branch] they served. I am overpowered and overwhelmed."

"I was a draftee out of college when I entered the military. I saw people die on the battlefield. These are my fellow veterans," he added.

Brazil, who served as a corporal in Vietnam from 1968-1969, said the honor flight was his first trip to the nation's capital.

The mission of the Honor Flight Network is to recognize the service of U.S. military veterans — including many who are aging and infirmed — with tours of national memorials.

"Black veterans were charged with defending our nation, while also battling various limits placed upon them by society. This trip highlights their extraordinary courage and demonstrates gratitude for their tremendous service," according to the Honor Flight Network.

Jones, who is from Georgia, said he worked with the veterans group Disabled American Veterans prior to his retirement and has visited war memorials in Washington many times. But this trip was the first time he was able to visit with his daughter.

"I knew about my father's military history. But I felt I needed to learn more," Timika Jones said. "I trained for two weeks on how to survive in Vietnam and spent the next 11 months on the front lines," Jones said. "I was fortunate to make it out with just shrapnel injuries."

Next article: INDYCAR heads west for Firestone Grand Prix

INDYCAR heads west for Firestone Grand Prix

Source: June 20, 2024

American Legion news feed image

After a two-week break, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads to the West Coast this weekend for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

It's an opportunity for Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Linus Lundqvist – the driver of the No. 8 American Legion Honda featuring Be the One branding – to build on one of his best weekends of the season.

Lundqvist earned his first-ever INDYCAR pole during qualifications for the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America in Wisconsin. But on the race's opening lap, Lundqvist was pushed into a spin by CGR teammate Marcus Armstrong, who had qualified third.

The contact, which resulted in a penalty for Armstrong, happened in Turn 1 and allowed the field to pass Lundqvist. But he was able to battle back, running in the top 10 at times before settling into a 12th-place finish, his second-best finish in a points race this season.

The finish helped Lundqvist move to 18th in the overall INDYCAR points race and maintain his lead over CGR teammate Kyffin Simpson by 19 points in the Rookie of the Year standings.

Also featuring American Legion branding this weekend will be CGR's Alex Palou in the No. 10 DHL Honda. Palou, the defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champ, currently sits just five points behind first-place Will Power in the current points race. He's coming off a fourth-place finish in Wisconsin and won the Firestone Grand Prix in 2022.

The 95-lap, 212.61-mile Firestone Grand Prix will utilize a paved road racing track used for both auto racing and motorcycle racing. The track is 2.238 miles long and features a 300-foot elevation change. The course includes 11 turns, including the famous "Corkscrew" at Turns 8 and 8A. 

Race Notes (via INDYCAR):

·       There have been six winners in seven NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in the 2024 season. Pato O'Ward (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Streets of Long Beach, Streets of Detroit), Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park), Alex Palou (Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course), Josef Newgarden (Indianapolis 500) and Will Power (Road America) have all won in this season. The record for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.

·       There have been six winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races: Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O'Ward and Will Power. Dixon (World Wide Technology Raceway 2023, Laguna Seca 2023, Long Beach 2024 and Detroit 2024) and Palou (Portland 2023 and Indianapolis GP 2024) are the only drivers to have won multiple races over that stretch.

·       The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will be the 27th INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, but just the fifth since 2004. Teo Fabi won the first INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 1983. Scott Dixon won the race in 2023.

·       Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Colton Herta are the only former winners entered in this year's race.

·       Thirteen INDYCAR SERIES drivers have won at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca from the pole – Teo Fabi (1983), Bobby Rahal (1985), Danny Sullivan (1988), Rick Mears (1989), Danny Sullivan (1990), Michael Andretti (1991, 1992), Paul Tracy (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Bryan Herta (1998, 1999), Helio Castroneves (2000), Cristiano da Matta (2002), Patrick Carpentier (2003) and Colton Herta (2019, 2021). Team Penske has won six times at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Penske's winning drivers are Danny Sullivan (1988, 1990), Rick Mears (1989), Paul Tracy (1993, 1994) and Helio Castroneves (2000). Chip Ganassi Racing has four wins with Scott Dixon (2023), Alex Palou (2022), Alex Zanardi (1996) and Jimmy Vasser (1997). Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has three wins with Bryan Herta (1998, 1999) and Max Papis (2001).

·       Twenty-one drivers entered in the event have competed in past INDYCAR SERIES races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Scott Dixon has six starts, most among the entered drivers. Eight entered drivers have led laps at the track – Colton Herta 175, Alex Palou 118, Will Power 23, Dixon 22, Pato O'Ward 15, Felix Rosenqvist 11, Romain Grosjean 6 and Josef Newgarden 5.

·       Rookies Luca Ghiotto, Linus Lundqvist, Christian Rasmussen, Nolan Siegel and Kyffin Simpson along with veteran driver Pietro Fittipaldi will race an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the first time this weekend. Rasmussen won at Laguna Seca in INDY NXT by Firestone in 2022 and 2023.

·       Milestones: Scott Dixon will attempt to make his 330th consecutive start, extending his record streak … Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will make its 1,000th INDYCAR SERIES start at this event.

This weekend's broadcast schedule (all times ET):

Friday, June 21 – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 1, 5-6:15 p.m. (Peacock)

Saturday, June 22 – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2, 1-2 p.m.; 5:15-6:45 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifications (both Peacock).

Sunday, June 23 – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, 3-3:30 p.m.; Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, 6-9 p.m., (USA and Peacock).

To learn more about The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, click here.

Next article: PRIDE shines, heals veterans

PRIDE shines, heals veterans

Source: June 20, 2024

American Legion news feed image

It began simply enough with a question from a veteran Tuscaloosa, Ala., seven years ago: "What services are available for LGBTQ veterans?" 

"There were not a lot of visible services, you had to look around and know people," said Michele Hilgeman, a clinician psychologist investigator who works in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Tuscaloosa. "Many providers were unaware of how to serve LGBTQ veterans. Many veterans were unaware services existed." 

That's when VA began to ramp up, expand and promote what was available for the LGBTQ community. Hilgeman networked with another psychologist in Virginia to develop the pilot program in Tuscaloosa. The two-year project kicked off in 2018 and evolved into VA's PRIDE in All Who Served. 

"We got to see how people were dealing with stress, see their sense of being affirmed in their identity, their resilience, social connectedness — the things we were hoping to impact," she recalled. "We started spreading the word and it spread to 10 sites in the next year." 

Now, PRIDE is in more than 30 states, with more expansions planned. 

Gabrielle Metz, a licensed clinical social worker in the mental health department at the Birmingham VA, draws a comparison to the challenges of the LGBTQ community with the civil rights struggle in the south. 

"There is resilience, there is coming together, there is a story of overcoming," she said. "Obviously the work isn't finished. There is a societal nucleus that wants to see societal change. They want to see equality. At the end of the day, every veteran deserves the best health care we can give them."  

Metz, who works in the PTSD therapy program, is about to start her fourth group sessions with LGBTQ members.

"It's been really successful and amazing to see the transformation and connection between the veterans," she said. "It's an honor to facilitate a group like this where honesty, transparency and acceptance rule." 

Jaime Jennings (she/her pronouns), a pansexual transfem nonbinary veteran who lives in Birmingham, is among those who have attended sessions conducted by Metz. 

Jennings, who left the Army in 2021, came out in her 30s to her wife of 10 years. "She's been my biggest supporter, thanks to a lot of honest and open communication. She helps me out at every turn." 

A Birmingham resident, Jennings' next stop was for counseling at the local VA. It was a critical time since Jennings was suicidal and had a plan. "I just did not want to be around anymore." 

Taking the prescription drugs didn't work. That is until the talking began. 

"I had a gay man as my counselor and felt comfortable talking to him," she said. "Honestly after our first conversation, it was about being transgender. It was no problem. I have not had a single problem with VA in getting to where I want to be. I have been treated so well. I'm no longer in that state where I don't want to be around anymore. I'm just overall happier." 

Jennings describes a photo of she and her wife that illustrates the change. Jennings had a mustache, high fade and smile. 

"But the way I was conducting myself, you look at our eyes in that photo, they're just dead," she said. "Now, just looking at myself, I see so many changes, just being more open and honest to just being happier. Overall, I've just changed so much for the better. Now, I like me." 

Jewel Forest retired after 20 years in the Army, including time during Don't Ask, Don't Tell. 

"My experience in the military was wonderful, but being LGBTQ in the military was not," she said. "It was very difficult in the beginning. You have to live a double life. I just had to learn how to live my life by serving my country and being me."

Forest, a member of American Legion Post 171 in Birmingham, started as a patient with Metz a year ago. 

"It's been wonderful for my healing journey," she said. "I'm very appreciative of Gabrielle. It has uplifted me so much." 

Hilgeman credits The American Legion for being engaged in the effort to improve care for LGBTQ veterans. 

"It's about having conversations, talking about women veterans and talking about LGBTQ veterans," she said. "A lot of it is having conversations, relationship building and awareness building. When they were here (for a System Worth Saving visit), they were interested in LGBTQ veterans and what we're doing in terms of suicide prevention. And that really matters."

So whatever happened to the veteran in Tuscaloosa who posed the initial question? Marine Corps veteran Cassandra Williamson is still an active collaborator with the PRIDE in All Who Served program.  

Next article: Connecticut post facing possible closure of building stages six-digit fundraising effort

Connecticut post facing possible closure of building stages six-digit fundraising effort

Source: June 20, 2024

American Legion news feed image

Bolton-Kasica-Patterson Post 68 in Berlin, Ct., was charted in 1920. Around 27 years later, its membership built a facility to call home. But that facility was in danger of possibly closing down a few years ago. The roof needed severe repairs, and the post was out of money.

But after what amounted to close to a two-year fundraising effort, the post has a repaired roof and a little bit of money left over to make the day-to-day operations and any future repairs a little easier. And it's because of a complete American Legion Family effort, along with support from the community, that allowed Post 68 to raise nearly $130,000 during that span.

"We've come a long way," said Vince Triglia, who has served as post commander for 13 years and has been a member for 23. "We were kind of living paycheck to paycheck. We do have a canteen, but once COVID hit, obviously all operations were shut down. And that nearly killed us. We had literally no income. I thought this was it, that we were going to have to give everything up but our charter.

"But we made it through. We really sort of defied the odds. We're not exactly rolling in dough, but … we went from not having anything in our pockets to having something at least to fall back on for that just in case, rainy day type of thing."

Triglia said that before the pandemic hit, the Town of Berlin received funding to provide grants for façade upgrades throughout the community – one of which was designated for Post 68. The only condition was that the grant would pay for half of the cost of the upgrade, while the post would cover the other half.

"The bottom line was, we had no money," Triglia said. "Through the years there was regular wear and tear. And we didn't have the money (to match the grant), so we got bypassed on that."

Triglia said a veteran who served on the Berlin Economic Development Commission started to help the post get local contractors to help with low-cost/no-cost maintenance. "But our biggest problem was that we were having roof problems," he said. "Any heavy rainfall and we would take in as much as two to four inches of water."

At that point, a member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 68, Karen Mortensen Cote, led a unit effort that took the lead on fundraising efforts. "Her backstory was that she had done fundraising … and these ladies put together all kinds of fundraisers, from dances to comedy shows, car shows to dinners," he said. "There was a whole list of that they did and assisted us with. We did it as a Legion Family, and she kind of spearheaded it."

Word of the fundraising effort spread through local media outlets, as well as social media.

"The guy who did our roof, he's from the southern part of the state, and he heard our story," Triglia said. "And he happened to be a Marine. He contacted me, and he gave us a sweet deal."

With the cost of the roof repair taking up a large brunt of the money raised, the post has benefited from its members, some of whom are tradesmen and have been able to do additional repairs necessary.

"Everything else we're doing – the façade upgrades – are all done by sweat equity and whatever cash we have to buy materials," Triglia said. "We've been able to save a lot. And if it wasn't for the sweat equity of it, we'd be broke again, because the cost of labor is through the roof. So, we've been very fortunate in that way."

Triglia said the post also has benefited from local government leaders, who have used their network connections to get construction experts to assist with efforts at a reduced cost, including a landscaping project this summer that won't cost the post a cent. He's also thankful to the around 300 people who donated during the fundraiser.

"There were a lot of elements to this whole thing, and it grew to where it was almost overwhelming," he said. "But that's appreciated."

The community support didn't come without some public relations work first. Triglia said the post had developed a poor reputation within the community, being seen as only a bar where occasional trouble took place. "It took us awhile to get out of that stigma of what people thought we were," he said. "But once we started getting back into the (Legion) programs … we sponsor the Boy Scouts. We do scholarships again. That made a difference."

The post's actually made it to the American Legion World Series in 2009 but had since dropped off; Triglia said the post has recently started sponsoring a baseball team again.

Rebuilding the post's image also included Triglia and a few other members go "post-hopping", where the group would visit other Connecticut Legion posts to see what they were doing and to reintroduce Post 68.

"It was just a whole group of people that cared enough," Triglia said. "I promised my older guys … I would never shut that building down. They built that specific to them. And so far, we're not shutting the building down. It's still a struggle. But it's a lot easier knowing there's the support between the town, individuals, private companies in our town that have really given us the boost that we needed to be where we're at."


Next article: Best practices for welcoming new members

Best practices for welcoming new members

Source: June 20, 2024

American Legion news feed image

Learn best practices for welcoming new American Legion members into the post by tuning in to the June 25 virtual Training Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern. Register for the Training Tuesday

Legionnaire Ventura "Ace" Tounsel of Texas will share strategies for making all members feel valued; address common issues and ensure inclusivity; provide ways to engage new members through events, websites and social media; and explore training resources. He also will discuss the importance of traditions and ceremonies for welcoming new members and provide tips for involving new members in programs and activities.

All members of the American Legion Family are encouraged to join the training. For more information about Training Tuesdays, please visit legion.org/training/training-tuesdays.

Next article: Convention news: hotel map, calendar of events, campsites near New Orleans

Convention news: hotel map, calendar of events, campsites near New Orleans

Source: June 20, 2024

American Legion news feed image

At legion.org/convention/resources, those planning to attend the 105th American Legion National Convention in New Orleans in August can find the latest news and information, including:

A map of the convention hotels relative to the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Convention registration and hotel arrangements must be arranged via your department headquarters or adjutant.

A tentative calendar of events, including meetings, trainings and more. Events are subject to change without notice.

A list of campsites around New Orleans, including a downtown RV resort and a state park on Lake Pontchartrain.

Next article: Legion supports bill to fund veteran construction apprenticeship programs 

Legion supports bill to fund veteran construction apprenticeship programs 

Source: June 19, 2024

American Legion news feed image

The American Legion supports the Spectrum and National Security Act, a reauthorization bill that would provide funds for veteran construction apprenticeship programs, improve security of U.S. communication networks and more. 

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, sponsored the Spectrum and National Security Act, which will modernize the nation's spectrum policy to protect our communications networks against foreign adversaries, restore Federal Communications Commission auction authority, secure critical broadband funding to keep Americans connected, and invest in CHIPS and Science innovation initiatives that will boost U.S. technological competitiveness.  

Veterans Employment and Education Commission Chairman Jay Bowen said The American Legion looks forward to working with Congress to ensure passage of the legislation. 

"The bill promotes both licensed and unlicensed spectrum innovation, removing some of the restrictions to development," he said. "And significantly, this bill will provide funding for education grants related to veteran apprenticeship programs to enhance technical education and opportunities for veterans. We are thankful for Sen. Cantwell's leadership, and the opportunity to expand veteran education in technology fields." 

The bill, S4207, is now in a Senate committee.

"By modernizing federal spectrum strategy and restoring auction authority, we can promote innovation, boost U.S. competitiveness, and complete the ‘rip and replace' necessary to strengthen our national security," Cantwell said. "Importantly, this proposal will also allow us to make important investments, such as $500 million to educate, train, and expand our future telecommunications workforce."

Stay in touch with legislative priorities and advocate on behalf of veterans by signing up here to receive Grassroots Action Alerts.

Next article: Legion Family leads Flag Day commemorations

Legion Family leads Flag Day commemorations

Source: June 18, 2024

American Legion news feed image

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. flag on June 14, 1777. And in the decades since its founding, The American Legion has led Flag Day observations in its communities across the nation.

This year was no different. Legion Family members from all over the United States, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, used the day to honor the flag and, in many cases, respectfully dispose of unserviceable flags collected throughout the year during retirement ceremonies.

The following are a few examples of those efforts. Legion posts that conducted Flag Day events are encouraged to share their stories and photos on Legiontown.org in the Rally Around the Flag section.


In Sterling, American Legion Post 20's annual Flag Day retirement ceremony at Pioneer Park included members of Boy Scout Troop 19 and Cub Scout Troop 19, who posted the colors and then took part in the retirement ceremony. Members of the public also were invited to participate in the retiring of the flags.


In Shreveport, American Legion Post 14 conducted a flag retiring ceremony to dispose of unserviceable flags donated to them by the community. Post 14 collects the flags year-round to ensure they are disposed of in a respectful manner.

"I would hope that when people see this ceremony that it moves them, that it brings them closer together. It's another patriotic holiday," Legionnaire Ben Cothran said. "This is our nation's flag. This is the banner that we all fall under, and I would hope that seeing the actual disposal process of the flags that are torn, tattered and unserviceable that it would bring people closer together."


In Ishpeming, American Legion Post 114 hosted a flag retirement ceremony. "The honor and respect that we show the flag, it's not just for all the good things that has happened with our nation that the flag represents," said Timothy Walters, Post 114 and District 12 commander. "It's also the bad things. It's still our flag. We still show honor and respect to it, good or bad. But it's our history. So honorably retiring a flag is showing respect to those that came before us."


·         In Bemidji, American Legion Post 14 teamed with Elks Lodge 1052 for a ceremony that included displaying different versions of the U.S. flag from its beginning to now.

·         In Rochester, American Legion Post 92 conducted a burning ceremony to properly dispose of retired U.S. flags provided by community members.


In New Carlisle, American Legion Post 286 conducted a large flag retirement ceremony that properly disposed of between 8,000 and 10,000 flags.


·         In Corry, Elmer C. Carrier Post 365 conducted a flag disposal ceremony that included support from Boy Scout Troops 79 and 159, and Girl Scout Troop 30734.

·         In Luzerne County, Post 558's Legion Family hosted a retirement ceremony for hundreds of flags placed in its drop box over the past year. Joining in the effort were members of the post's American Legion Baseball team and local Boy Scouts. "It's a day to memorialize both the adoption of the flag that the country has consecrated," Post 558 Commander Carmen Pitarra said. "And the proper disposal and memorial service for flags that have to be destroyed."


In Beaumont, American Legion Post 33 and Boy Scout Troop 122 spent Flag Day retiring unserviceable flags that the Scout troop had collected through its collection box.

U.S. Virgin Islands

In St. Croix, members of American Legion Posts 85, 102 and 133 took part in a special ceremony to retire worn and damaged flags, and were joined by Auxiliary Unit 102 members.

"It is a sentimental ceremony for veterans because we fight, we bleed for that flag," Post 102 Commander Secundino Roman-Cruz said. "Whenever we see a flag being tampered with, it is us being tampered with."

West Virginia

In Parkersburg, American Legion Post 15 conducted a flag disposal ceremony at the post, explaining in detail the ceremony that goes with the burning of the flags.

"Being in the Legion, everyone here is pretty patriotic," Post 15 Commander Lee Starcher said. "We do respect our flag. It is important for people to remember the significance of the flag."


In Chippewa Falls, American Legion Post 77 and the Elks Lodge 1326 held a Flag Day event that both honored the flag and detailed its history. Unserviceable flags also were retired during the event.


Next article: Ways to make gardening easier