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American Legion News

Legion supports bill to fund veteran construction apprenticeship programs 

Source: June 19, 2024

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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

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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.

Colorado

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.

Louisiana

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."

Michigan

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."

Minnesota

·         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.

Ohio

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

Pennsylvania

·         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."

Texas

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."

Wisconsin

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: Best-selling author to join combat nurse in special event

Best-selling author to join combat nurse in special event

Source: June 18, 2024

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New York Times best-selling author Kristin Hannah, whose 2024 novel "The Women" has already topped 2 million in sales, speaks June 26 at 7 p.m. at the Helena, Mont., Civic Center. Joining her in the special event is Diane Carlson Evans, recipient of The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal, the combat nurse who led a 10-year fight to install the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Attendees of the event will have the opportunity to hear firsthand from Hannah the inspiration and research that went into "The Women," which included close collaboration with Carlson Evans, author of "Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse's 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.," a detailed autobiography of her time as a Vietnam War combat nurse, the aftermath and the relentless effort to bring the Vietnam Women's Memorial to life in 1993.

Premier admission, which includes a pre-signed copy of "The Women," is $30 plus a $3 service fee, with seating to begin at 6 p.m. General admission is $10, with seating to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase through the Helena Civic Center website. (Click to learn more or to buy a ticket.)

Carlson Evans, a past recipient of The American Legion's Patriot Award and member of the former American Legion 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee, is a member of Lewis & Clark Post 2 in Helena, Mont.  The American Legion is urging President Biden to present Carlson Evans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

See a 2017 video and feature story about Carlson Evans, her Vietnam experience and the years that followed.

Learn about her book, "Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse's 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C."

 

 

Next article: Tickets on sale for 2024 American Legion World Series

Tickets on sale for 2024 American Legion World Series

Source: June 18, 2024

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General admission tickets for the 2024 American Legion World Series are on sale now.

Each $35 general admission ticket includes admission to all 15 games. The 97th American Legion World Series will take place Aug. 15-20 at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C., the permanent home of the ALWS.

"We have always aimed for pricing that fits most people's budgets and allows them to attend all the games," said ALWS Committee Chairman Eddie Holbrook. "Prices for all of our reserved seats will hold steady also, as well as those for day passes."

General admission tickets may be purchased online at ALWS.us or in the ALWS office in Shelby at 117A West Warren St.

Single-day game passes will also be available in August at the stadium.

Next article: Army veteran's journey from ‘derelict' to champion wrestler 

Army veteran's journey from ‘derelict' to champion wrestler 

Source: June 18, 2024

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Sally Roberts is an athlete, Army veteran and the founder of Wrestle Like A Girl. On this week's episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, she delivers her message: "It's OK to suffer, it's OK to endure, it's the lessons we learn from it."

Roberts, the first in her family to graduate from high school, had a troubled childhood and found her salvation in wrestling. Admitting she got into wrestling because she was a "derelict," who was committing break-ins and getting into fights, Roberts credits wrestling for changing her life and helping her to build a winning mindset.

"Regardless of our limitations the only thing that holds us back is our mind," says the three-time wrestling national champion and two-time world bronze medalist. "And it is up to us to determine, are we driving ourselves and are we going to drive that positive mindset narrative or is there going to be a different narrative that tells us we are unworthy, we are incapable, we are limited, we have a disability and it is going to hold us back?

"I've seen time and time again that people who show up and hit life hard and get hit hard by life, nothing holds them back but their mind."

After not making the 2008 Olympic team, she joined the Army, went into Special Operations and volunteered for deployment in Afghanistan.

"My wrestling career really set me up for success in the military," she said. "Foremost, it made me appreciate and find the joy in suffering. And depending on what you are doing in the military, there is a fair amount of suffering."

Upon redeployment, she joined the world class athlete program.

After concluding her military and athletic career she founded Wrestle Like a Girl, the national advocacy organization for girls and women in wrestling. Her mission-driven organization aims to empower girls and women using the sport of wrestling to become leaders in life.

"Anyone can do hard things," she says. "From my perspective, for far too long we thought girls should be these quiet, demure, very feminine and soft creatures. And I've learned from wrestling that women are either running from something or to something. And the idea that women don't have to endure and they don't suffer or have hardship is completely false."

Also in this episode, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Joe Worley and Adam Marr:

• Riff on the discovery of an alligator sunning itself on a runway during a FOD Walk.

• Highlight American Legion-Olympic connections, including a World War I Army veteran and Paris Post 1 member.

• Talk about the Army's new method to assess potential head trauma injuries.

• Discuss a new agreement to help military spouses with telework opportunities. 

Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 250 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Next article: ‘The people of Texas are informed that … all slaves are free' 

‘The people of Texas are informed that … all slaves are free' 

Source: June 17, 2024

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In April 1865, the Civil War effectively ended with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union Gen. Ulysses S, Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. But the end of the war – nor President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation issued nearly three years earlier, declaring all slaves in the Confederacy as free citizens – didn't bring and to slavery in Texas, the westernmost Confederate state.

Slavery continued there until Jun 19, 1865, when more than 2,000 Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, the Commanding Officer of the District of Texas.

With Granger and his troops came General Orders, No. 3, which read:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

June 19 was celebrated by freed Black Americans in Texas as Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day as early as 1866. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday, and in June 2021, Congress passed a resolution – signed into law by President Biden on June 17, 2021 – establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorations already have taken place this year and will continue through the week. In Alton, Ill., American Legion Post 354 took part in the 33rd annual Juneteenth celebration, which featured Legionnaire and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth as the special guest. Hundreds attended the event, which included barbecue provided by Post 254.

"Juneteenth for me is about the history of this country, what Black veterans like me have contributed to this country," said Post 354 Legionnaire Earl Watts, who was manning a grill at the event.  

American Legion posts taking part in or hosting Juneteenth celebrates are encouraged to share their stories and photos on Legiontown.

Next article: Supporting at-risk troops and grieving military families

Supporting at-risk troops and grieving military families

Source: June 17, 2024

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Army veteran Jon Ganues is a survivor. He has lost an Air Force son and two cousins to suicide. He also overcame his own suicide ideation, dating back to 1993 when he served in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

In 2009, his son died by suicide.

"That turned our lives upside down," he recalled. "The stigma and all the emotions of anger, shame and guilt washed over our family."

Seeking support, they reached out to a military family survivors group. But the fit wasn't right as the other families were grieving for those lost on the battlefield. A year later, the Ganues family found the community and support they needed at an event conducted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a nonprofit organization.

"They were laughing, joking, functioning," he recalled. "We realized that's what we wanted in our lives. Through TAPS, we were able to move forward. We found people who knew what we were going through."

Now, Ganues is a manager of the TAPS Men's Program. His organization offers support via 25,000 suicide prevention partners through various virtual and in-person programs.

"We do provide specialized programming and we want them to have the space where they can process and work through the challenges they have," he explained.

Ganues was among those on a panel, "Supporting Families Who Serve," who addressed more than 200 VA clinicians, Department of Defense DoD professionals and others on the final day of the third annual VA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conference June 11-13 in San Diego.

Liz Clark, director of the DoD Suicide Prevention Office, talked about how the department is striving to reduce the number of servicemembers lost to suicide. Clark revealed how a DoD committee has taken a deep look at solving the crisis.

"The committee looked at not just trying to prevent death, but looked at programs, resources and support that make life worth living," she said. "We're extremely grateful for the expertise that this committee brought us."

Clark said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last fall approved 83 actions and 127 recommendations aimed at reducing suicide through five key lines. Over the next five years, DoD is allocating $1.75 billion to bolstering these efforts under the five areas, which are:

• Fostering a supportive environment.

• Improving mental health care.

• Addressing stigma and other barriers to care.

• Revising and modernizing suicide prevention training.

• Promoting a culture of lethal means safety.

DoD is also looking at a more comprehensive approach to working with troops who may be at risk.

"We know that non-medical counseling is imperative, especially when addressing stigma," she said. "We know the stigma is real."

That correlates directly with The American Legion's Be the One mission, which aims to destigmatize mental health counseling and support, as a means to achieve the goal of saving the lives of at-risk veterans and servicemembers.

Next article: Empowering, educating those at risk of suicide

Empowering, educating those at risk of suicide

Source: June 17, 2024

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More than 200 professionals on the front lines of preventing veteran suicide received vital new information, resources and support during the third annual VA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conference June 11-13 in San Diego.

A variety of speakers, including Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough, Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs Terri Tanielian and others, covered a wide range of critical topics. Smaller breakout groups and panel discussions were aimed at distilling information, fostering conversation and forming partnerships to help reduce the number of veterans and servicemembers lost to suicide.

The breakout sessions featured topics including how to incorporate Buddy Checks on the statewide level, supporting families and securing lethal means, evidence-based suicide prevention practices, peer support, children of military families, moral injury and more.

Among the breakout session speakers was Dr. Craig Bryan, an American Legion member and the director of Ohio State University's Division of Recovery and Resilience. He is a board-certified clinical psychologist with expertise in cognitive-behavioral treatments for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder.

His presentation, "Evidence-Based Suicide Prevention Practices," covered new research and analysis on various treatment methods.

Bryan pointed to a comparative analysis of 50 years of research studies that analyzed how different therapies have helped those coping with suicidal ideation and thoughts of self-injury. The evidence was clear: Cognitive therapies have demonstrated a comparably high rate of success, while just using medication has a far lower success rate.

He also corrected a couple of myths:

•  Mental illness does not actually precede suicide attempts. "Suicide is caused by factors of mental conditions."

• In-patient hospitalizations do not deter patients contemplating suicide. "It's actually more likely to increase suicide risk."

Bryan also highlighted a successful therapy, CBT-SP, which he researched and studied with Dr. David Rudd, an American Legion member who conducted his first clinical trial of suicide prevention in the early 1990s.

Their protocol had a 60% reduction in suicide attempts over two years. Other random controlled trials showed reduction rates between 42% and 60%.

"Sixty percent is pretty damn good," he said. "I'd like to get to 70%, even 80%."

Bryan's team is also still recruiting volunteers for research studies. "Our greatest need right now is recruiting military personnel and veterans with recent suicidal thoughts or suicidal behaviors for a paid research study testing two types of therapy," he said.

Eligible participants will be able to receive up to 12 sessions of therapy either in person or virtually via telehealth. To learn more, send an email to strive@osumc.edu or complete an online screening questionnaire at https://redcap.link/strive_osu.  

Next article: Five Things to Know, June 17, 2024

Five Things to Know, June 17, 2024

Source: June 17, 2024

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1.   North Korean troops have been observed creating anti-tank barriers, reinforcing roads and carrying out other military projects within the Demilitarized Zone, according to the South's military on Monday. South Korean intelligence agencies spotted the improvements near the border in recent days, army Col. Lee Seong-jun, a spokesman for the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a news conference Monday. Lee declined to elaborate on the North's activities at the border and said the South's military was still analyzing its operations.

2.  The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower may be one of the oldest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy, but it's still fighting — despite repeated false claims by Yemen's Houthi rebels. The Houthis and online accounts supporting them repeatedly have alleged they hit or even sank the carrier in the Red Sea as it leads the U.S. response to the rebels' ongoing attacks targeting both commercial vessels and warships in the crucial waterway. That's put its leader, Capt. Christopher "Chowdah" Hill, and his social media profile directly in what has become an increasingly bizarre internet front line as the campaign goes on. And while he shrugs off his posts, they represent the new level of information warfare the Navy is having to fight as it faces its most intense combat since World War II and tries to keep the morale of the nearly 5,000 personnel aboard the Eisenhower high and munitions ready as their deployment stretches on.

3.   Israel's military announced on Sunday that it would pause fighting during daytime hours along a route in southern Gaza to free up a backlog of humanitarian aid deliveries for desperate Palestinians enduring a humanitarian crisis sparked by the war, now in its ninth month. The "tactical pause," which applies to about 12 kilometers (7½ miles) of road in the Rafah area, falls far short of a complete cease-fire in the territory that has been sought by the international community, including Israel's top ally, the United States. It could help address the overwhelming needs of Palestinians that have surged in recent weeks with Israel's incursion into Rafah.

4.   Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday pledged America's full support in backing Ukraine and global efforts to achieve "a just and lasting peace" in the face of Russia's invasion, representing the United States at an international gathering on the war and meeting with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss his country's vision for ending it. As she arrived at the meeting venue overlooking Lake Lucerne, Harris announced $1.5 billion in U.S. assistance through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That includes money for energy assistance, repairing damaged energy infrastructure, helping refugees and strengthening civilian security in the wake of the aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

5.   A Chinese vessel and a Philippine supply ship collided near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Monday, China's coast guard said, in the latest flare-up of escalating territorial disputes that have sparked alarm. The coast guard said a Philippine supply ship entered waters near the Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands, part of a territory claimed by several nations. The Philippines says the shoal falls within its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone and often cites a 2016 international arbitration ruling invalidating China's expansive South China Sea claims based on historical grounds.

Next article: Stopping and restarting Social Security benefits

Stopping and restarting Social Security benefits

Source: June 17, 2024

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LEARN HOW YOUR PLANNED GIFT CAN HELP THE AMERICAN LEGION

I recently got an unexpected inheritance and do not need Social Security income right now. Is it possible to suspend my benefits and restart them at a later age?

There are two different options that allow Social Security beneficiaries to reverse their claiming decision. To be eligible, specific conditions must be met. Here is what you should know.

Withdraw Benefits If you are in your first year of collecting retirement benefits, you can apply to Social Security for a "withdrawal of benefits." They will let you withdraw your original application for retirement benefits, but it must be within 12 months of the date you first claimed them.

If you opt for a withdrawal, Social Security will treat it as if you never applied for benefits in the first place. However, opting for a withdrawal requires you to repay all the benefits received, including those of any family members who have been collecting benefits on your earnings record, such as a spouse or minor child. This requirement also includes repayment of any money withheld from your Social Security payments – for example, to pay your Medicare premiums.

You can only withdraw your application for benefits once, and you can apply again later when the monthly amount would be larger. To withdraw your benefits, fill out Social Security form SSA-521 and send the completed form to your local Social Security office. If you change your mind, you have 60 days from the date they approve your withdrawal to cancel the request.

Suspend Benefits If you are not in the 12-month window or if repaying your Social Security benefits is not financially feasible, there is another option to reverse benefits, although you must be at full retirement age or older to be eligible.

Full retirement age is 66 and 6 months for those born in 1957, but it rises in two-month increments every birth year to 67 for those born in 1960 and later. You can find your full retirement age at SSA.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/ageincrease.html.

At full retirement age, you can "suspend" your Social Security benefit without the need to repay it. Choosing to suspend will stop your monthly benefits and those of any dependent family members (except a divorced spouse).

During the suspension, you will also accrue delayed retirement credits, which will increase your monthly retirement benefit by up to two-thirds of 1% for each suspended month (or 8% for each suspended year) up until you turn 70.

Suspended benefits would automatically resume at that point. Alternatively, you could choose to resume Social Security benefits earlier, but you would only receive delayed retirement credits for the period when benefits were suspended.

You can request a Social Security suspension over the phone (800-722-1213), in writing or in person at your local Social Security office. The suspension would begin the month after you make the request.

If Social Security benefits are withdrawn or suspended and you are enrolled in Medicare Part B, you will start receiving a quarterly bill from Medicare for payment by mail or electronically. Normally, Medicare Part B premiums ($174.70 per month in 2024 for most beneficiaries) are deducted directly from monthly Social Security payments. You can also sign up for Medicare Easy Pay, a service which automatically deducts your premium payments from your savings or checking account each month.

"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: Legion supports bill to fund veteran construction apprenticeship programs