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American Legion News

New Be the One PSA to debut during Indy 500

Source: May 23, 2024

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A new public service announcement promoting The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program will make its debut this weekend in front of millions of racing fans throughout the world.

The PSA, which is a collaboration between The American Legion and Wellcare, will make its official debut during Sunday's Indianapolis 500, which will be broadcast across the globe via television, and satellite and terrestrial radio.

The video features Michael "Rod" Rodriguez, a U.S. Army Green Beret veteran who now serves as the CEO and president of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation. Rodriguez was a 2022 guest on the Legion's Tango Alpha Lima podcast and spent 21 years in the Army, deploying 10 times.

In the PSA, Rodriguez asks viewers to, "Be the one willing to ask, guess wrong, even offend another to keep them safe. To remind them that they are valuable. If you know a veteran, be the one to reach out and make them a part of your life."

American Legion Family members are encouraged to share the PSA via either YouTube  and Vimeo. The PSA can be used to promote local Be the One events, as well as the Indianapolis 500, which will feature Chip Ganassi Racing's Linus Lundqvist driving the No. 8 American Legion Honda with Be the One messaging on its livery.

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

Next article: China launches drills around Taiwan after island's new leader takes office

China launches drills around Taiwan after island's new leader takes office

Source: May 23, 2024

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China on Thursday launched a two-day military exercise surrounding Taiwan that it described as a "powerful punishment" for the island's independence.

The drills, dubbed Joint Sword 2024A, include components from China's army, navy, air force and rocket force, China's Eastern Theater Command said Thursday in a series of posts to the Weibo social media website.

The training includes sea and air combat patrols, battlefield control and "joint precision attack" drills, a post said. The exercise effectively surrounds Taiwan, according to imagery shared by the command on Weibo. The drills began at 7:45 a.m., according to the state-sponsored Xinhua News Agency.

"This is also a powerful punishment for the ‘Taiwan independence' separatist forces seeking ‘independence' and a serious warning to external forces for interference and provocation," command spokesman Col. Li Xi said in one of the social media posts.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense condemned the exercise Thursday afternoon and said China's actions jeopardized regional peace and stability.

"We seek no conflicts, but we will not shy away from one to ensure our nation's safety and protect our beautiful homeland," the ministry wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The ministry regularly posts 12-hour updates on the number of Chinese aircraft and warships operating near Taiwan but had released no details of activity around the island as of Thursday afternoon.

The drills come just three days after Taiwan's new president, Lai Ching-te, was sworn into office. Lai, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, pledged to continue the direction set by his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing looks at Lai as a separatist, according to a report Monday by Japanese public broadcaster NHK. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin critiqued the congratulations U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave upon Lai's inauguration Monday.

" ‘Taiwan independence' leads nowhere and anyone who connives at and supports ‘Taiwan independence' is doomed to failure," Wang was quoted as saying Monday in remarks posted on the Foreign Ministry website.

China views Taiwan, a self-governing island, to be a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Lai in his inaugural speech called on China to "cease its political and military intimidation against Taiwan," according to a translation posted by Taiwan's presidential office. He also asked China to "share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as well as the greater region, and ensure the world is free from the fear of war."

The exercises are clearly meant to send a message to Lai and are consistent with "the coercive diplomacy Beijing has exercised toward Taiwan" in the past, said Jeffrey Kingston, a professor of history and Asian studies at Temple University.

Tsai "stood up to Beijing's bullying, and it wants to discourage such behavior," he told Stars and Stripes by email Thursday. China reacted similarly when Tsai visited California to meet with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in April 2023.

Beijing launched a three-day exercise, also called Joint Sword, around the island. Last year's drills were on par with Chinese exercises in response to Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in 2022, with five days of exercises that included missile launches, aircraft sorties and naval drills.

Next article: American Legion, Be the One to be seen by millions during Indy 500

American Legion, Be the One to be seen by millions during Indy 500

Source: May 23, 2024

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The No. 8 American Legion Honda and it's Be the One messaging will be on full display globally this weekend, with more than 200,000 fans in attendance and millions watching across the world during the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) rookie Linus Lunqvist will be driving the car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his first oval race behind the wheel of the No. 8 car. He'll start the race 27th 27th and this week talked about the overall experience at the IMS oval.

"This whole experience has been amazing," Lundqvist said. "You've been watching this race for so many years as a kid growing up. I've been a fan many, many years. The past four or five years. You get goose bumps when you watch the start of the race as a fan. I can only imagine what it's going to be like to actually do it."

Lundqvist currently sits in 13th place overall in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points standings and is leading the Rookie of the Year standings, sitting eight points ahead of CGR teammate Kyffin Simpson.

He said this week has been somewhat bittersweet. "I'm a little bit torn, actually. Kind of two camps within me," Lundqvist said. "One is you've been chasing your whole life and career towards this one dream. It's kind of upon you right now. You're going to start the Indianapolis 500. But I'm also a very competitive guy, which means that I'm not really happy until we're fighting at the front and being competitive. I just haven't been this week.

"At the same time I still want to enjoy this because I'm extremely privileged to be one of very few people to get to experience the Indianapolis 500. There's a little bit of two camps within myself."

But Lundqvist also said he's been able to draw from the experience of fellow CGR drivers like Alex Palou and Scott Dixon as he prepares for Sunday's race.

"I mean, that's one of the many privileges of driving with Chip Ganassi Racing is having teammates like Scott and Alex to kind of lean on," he said. "I kind of alluded to that earlier throughout the week, as well. Obviously, we have three rookies now going into this race with myself, Marcus (Armstrong) and Kyffin. I think it takes a little bit of pressure off of us in the sense that we don't have to focus too much on developing the car and extracting performance. You can leave that to Alex and Scott. You can take your time.

"It's not like we're doing laps and doing it for the fun of it. You're still learning and developing, but you don't need to push it to the absolute limit and try to find another 10th of a mile an hour. You can leave that to Scott and Alex, which I think has been good for us."

Palou, the defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champ, will start in the 14th position driving the No. 10 DHL Honda that also features American Legion branding. Palou leads the series points race and finished the 500 fourth last year after dropping all the way down to 28th after being put into the wall coming out of a pit stop.

"Last year we were super comfortable on (race day), and I would say it was pretty easy to pass," Palou said. "I think this year, we still are able to pass, but it's not as easy. You need to work a lot more. You need to wait a lot more. So yeah, we're struggling a little bit more. That doesn't mean that we're completely off, and especially at this race. But yeah, we have some work to do."

Palou talked about what he looks forward to on race weekend. "I would say my most favorite probably is driver intros," he said. "We've been here for two weeks or almost three weeks, and it's empty most of the days. Then when it's driver intros, they say your name, it's pretty special seeing everybody.

"Then I would say the parade on Saturday, it's also one of the best moments because you share more with the family and all that stuff. Yeah, it's a really special week for the drivers that get to do this race."

A reminder that The American Legion's activation display will be open for business Friday and Sunday this weekend. At the display, visitors can learn about The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, as well as take the pledge to Be the One for a veteran. Those who do are given a lanyard and a badge with the words "I Will Be the One" on it; those who take the pledge and are seen by Legion staff and volunteers around the track have a shot at winning a prize that could include autographed items, seat upgrades or a Victory Lane photo with the race winner.

And veterans can get assistance with filing or following up on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' benefits claims. American Legion Department of Indiana Rehabilitation Assistant Director Bryce Hullett already has assisted with approximately 50 veterans with their benefits claims already this month.

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

Friday, May 24 – Carb Day practice, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Pit Stop Challenge, 2:30-4 p.m. (both Peacock).

Sunday, May 26 – 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (NBC, Universo and Peacock).

On-track race day schedule (all times ET):

·       9:00-9:20 a.m. – cars to pit lane.

·       10:30 a.m. – cars to grid on front stretch.

·       11:47 a.m. – driver introductions.

·       12:21 p.m. – "God Bless America".

·       12:24 p.m. – National Anthem.

·       12:36 p.m. – "Back Home Again in Indiana".

·       12:45 p.m. – 108th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Facts and figures about the Indianapolis 500 starting field

·       Scott McLaughlin earned his first career Indianapolis 500 pole. He is the first New Zealand native and the second New Zealand citizen to win a pole for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Scott Dixon, who is a New Zealand citizen but was born in Australia, has won five Indianapolis 500 poles.

·       Scott McLaughlin's best qualifying position in three previous Indianapolis 500 starts was 14th in 2023.

·       Scott McLaughlin produced the fastest four-lap average speed in history for an Indianapolis 500 pole winner, 234.220 mph. The previous record was 234.217 set in 2023 by Alex Palou. Arie Luyendyk set the all-time four-lap qualifying average speed record of 236.986 in 1996, but his run came on the second day of qualifications and wasn't eligible for the pole.

·       Team Penske earned its record-extending 19th Indianapolis 500 pole. The team's last pole was delivered by Simon Pagenaud in 2019. Team Penske also has a record 19 Indianapolis 500 victories.

·       Team Penske swept the front row for the Indianapolis 500 for just the second time in Indianapolis 500 history, with Scott McLaughlin on pole, Will Power second and Josef Newgarden third. Team Penske first achieved the feat in 1988 with Rick Mears on pole, Danny Sullivan second and Al Unser third.

·       In 1988, pole sitter Rick Mears drove a yellow Pennzoil-sponsored car, No. 2 starter Danny Sullivan was a one-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and No. 3 starter Al Unser was the defending winner of the "500." This year, Scott McLaughlin drives a Pennzoil-sponsored car, No. 2 starter Will Power is a one-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and No. 3 starter Josef Newgarden is the defending winner of the "500."

·       Chevrolet-powered drivers earned the first eight starting spots this year. The last time one manufacturer earned as many of the top starting spots was 2013, when Chevy took the top 10 starting positions.

·       This is the 10th time car No. 3 has won the Indianapolis 500 pole. The last time was 2010 with Helio Castroneves of Team Penske. Car No. 1 has won the pole a record 13 times.

·       This is the second-fastest starting field in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed of 231.943 mph. The record of 232.184 mph was set last year.

·       This is the second-fastest front row in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed of 233.981 mph. The record of 234.181 mph was set last year.

·       Kyle Larson turned the fastest qualifying lap by a rookie in Indianapolis 500 history, 233.453 mph on the first lap of his Top 12 Qualifying attempt. The previous record was 233.297 by Benjamin Pedersen in 2023.

·       Kyle Larson recorded the second-fastest four-lap qualifying average by a rookie in Indianapolis 500 history, 232.846 mph. The record is 233.100 set by Tony Stewart in 1996.

·       There are eight former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021), Scott Dixon (2008), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Takuma Sato (2017, 2020), Will Power (2018), Marcus Ericsson (2022) and Josef Newgarden (2023). Between them, they have 12 victories. The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992. The fewest, other than the inaugural race in 1911, is zero in 1912.

·       There are six rookies in the field: Kyle Larson (starting fifth), Marcus Armstrong (16th), Kyffin Simpson (18th), Christian Rasmussen (24th), Tom Blomqvist (25th) and Linus Lundqvist (27th).

·       Other than the six rookies, Pietro Fittipaldi is the only driver in the field who didn't start the race in 2023. Fittipaldi's last start was in 2021.

·       Helio Castroneves is the most experienced driver in the field, with 23 previous Indianapolis 500 starts. The record is 35, set in consecutive years from 1958-1992 by A.J. Foyt.

·       Scott Dixon has led 665 career laps in the Indianapolis 500, the all-time event record. The only other driver in the field who has led more than 200 laps is Helio Castroneves (326).

·       The oldest driver in the starting field is Helio Castroneves, 49 years, 16 days on Race Day. The youngest driver is Kyffin Simpson, 19 years, 230 days. A.J. Foyt is the oldest driver to start the Indianapolis 500. He was 57 years, 128 days old when he made his last start in 1992. A.J. Foyt IV is the youngest driver to start the Indianapolis 500. His 19th birthday was on Race Day, 2003.

·       Helio Castroneves will be older on Race Day than Al Unser when he became the oldest winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1987 at age 47 years, 360 days old.

·       Kyffin Simpson will be younger on Race Day than Troy Ruttman when he became the youngest winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1952 at age 22 years, 80 days old.

·       Twenty different drivers in this year's field have led a total of 2,279 laps in previous Indianapolis 500s.

·       There are a combined 222 previous Indianapolis 500 starts among the 33 drivers in this year's field. The record is 260 years of experience, set in 1987 and 1992. There were 235 years of combined experience in last year's field.

·       The most-experienced row in this year's starting lineup is Row 7, with a combined 62 career starts (Marco Andretti 18, Helio Castroneves 23, Scott Dixon 21). The least-experienced rows are Rows 8 and 9, with two combined career starts (Row 8: Agustin Canapino 1, Sting Ray Robb 1, Christian Rasmussen 0; Row 9; Tom Blomqvist 0, Romain Grosjean 2, Linus Lundqvist 0).

·       There are seven former Indianapolis 500 Rookies of the Year in this year's field. The record is nine, in 1991 and 2021.

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

Next article: Register for virtual training on conflict resolution

Register for virtual training on conflict resolution

Source: May 23, 2024

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The American Legion's Internal Affairs & Membership Division will host its May virtual Training Tuesday on conflict resolution. The session will be led by Department of Indiana Northern Vice Commander Wayne Zeman, a member of Hamon Gray Post 83 in LaPorte, Ind. Zeman will share strategies for resolving conflict, active listening, managing emotions and effective communication. 

The training will be held Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

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: ‘It just resonated that we needed to do something about this'

‘It just resonated that we needed to do something about this'

Source: May 23, 2024

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In February 2022, Hyde Park-Mount Lookout American Legion Post 744 (Cincinnati) member James Hay heard fellow Legionnaires talking about a cemetery in an industrial area of the city believed to be the burial place of Sgt. William Brown, one of just three recipients of the Badge of Military Merit that eventually became the Purple Heart. Brown received the honor from Gen. George Washington.

After finding Fulton-Presbyterian Cemetery, located off a bike path, he found no entrance and the area fenced off from the pathway. The only way to access the property was at the end of a small street and behind the back lot of a private business. To add to the difficulty, Google Maps misidentifies its location – the cemetery is at the end of Dumont Street, not Carrell.

Locating the abandoned property only marked the beginning of Hay's efforts. There was heavy undergrowth and invasive species of plants that overran the entire cemetery, making it incredibly difficult to locate headstones.

"When I saw it, it just resonated with me," said Hay, a Marine Corps veteran. "These guys gave up everything," he continued, "Revolutionary War vets … and they're found here in this armpit piece of land. It just resonated that we needed to do something about this."

Rick Alrichs, a member of Mount Washington American Legion Post 484 in Cincinnati, agreed. "How could this cemetery be let go of?" he asked. "There are 80 to 90 souls there, especially vets, Revolutionary War vets. How do you abandon these guys?" the Army veteran added.

The next step for Hay was to find out who had rights to the property. He discovered that the cemetery was originally shared by the Fulton Church and the Columbia Presbyterian Church, in operation from the late 1700s to the late 1800s. Both churches no longer exist, and the Presbyterian Church headquarters in Cincinnati had ownership of the Presbyterian side of the property, with rights and responsibilities for the Fulton side from a court order in the 1960s.

"That's when I called the Presbyterian church, and they were great to work with," said Hay, who succeeded in getting transfer of the title to the lot, and assignment of rights and responsibilities, to Post 744. The church approved in August 2022, and the Hamilton County auditor completed the transfer in November 2022.

After getting the title, Hay said, "I knew it was going to be a multi-year project, and I didn't know how we were going to pay for it." Post 744 was unable to provide the financial support necessary to clean up and maintain the cemetery. Joel Belcher, a member of Squadron 484, wanted to help restore the cemetery, including fundraising. "Post 484 had money and wanted to support [Hay's] passion," Alrichs said. "[Hay] was doing it all on his own dime – getting equipment, paying for gas, paying the attorney to get control of the property, et cetera."

In addition to Post 484's direct financial support, Belcher is pursuing grants for the cemetery project. Southgate, Ky.'s VFW post also contributed to the cemetery restoration fund, and students in McNicholas High School's Military History Club in Cincinnati have volunteered to help clean up the property and work to identify grave markers.

Hay praised the students' hard work and noted that they came out to the property several times during the winter months, even when it was snowing. So far, they have discovered the headstones of at least seven Revolutionary War veterans who settled in the Columbia-Tusculum area of present-day Cincinnati after the war:

Jacob Allen Pvt., Continental Line, Revolutionary War 1763-1846

Alexander Barr 1st Bn., Westmoreland County, PA Militia, Revolutionary War 1785

John Campbell Continental Line, Revolutionary War 1750-1839

John Hammond Continental Line, Revolutionary War 1753-1840

John W. Langdon Continental Line, Revolutionary War 1759-1842

Hermanius Taulman Continental Line, Revolutionary War 1731-1796

Robert Tolman Continental Line, Revolutionary War 1794

"We've found what we believe to be about 80 different headstones so far," Hay said, but added that they are often found in fragments, and it takes time to piece them together to do background research on the names and dates.

Hay said that he is in "phase 1" of the project, which is focused on "cleaning up and treating the land on the cemetery." Although the Daughters of the American Revolution were the original caretakers of the veterans' graves, the overall condition of the property is still badly dilapidated from over two centuries of wear and several decades of neglect.

Hay noted that the business' owner has graciously allowed him and his volunteers to park on his property to enter the cemetery, but this is not a viable alternative for the public in the long term. Hay wants to "take down part of the fence and build a walkway off the bike path" near the site's historical marker. He would also like to restore an original Daughters of the American Revolution archway, found on the property, and lay it in the ground by the public entrance.

The second phase will include searching for more headstones and restoring them, while the McNicholas students will start doing historical research on the veterans buried at the cemetery. While the actual grave of Brown has yet to be identified on the property, Hay said, "if it's here, we'll find it. I'm going to use an underground utility finder" in the second phase of the project to detect gravesites.

"No matter what it takes, [Hay] will get it done," Alrichs added.

Jeffrey Layne Blevins is an Army veteran and professor in the Department of Journalism, and the School of Public and International Affairs, at the University of Cincinnati. He is a member of Post 484.

Next article: American Legion Family again at center of Memorial Day observances

American Legion Family again at center of Memorial Day observances

Source: May 22, 2024

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As Memorial Day approaches, members of the American Legion Family nationwide have observations planned, from traditional services at the post or a veterans memorial, or by performing gravesite honors.

The nation's capital is again a hub for Memorial Day activities. National Vice Commander Randy Edwards will be in Washington, D.C., to lay a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, while fellow National Vice Commander Bill Roy will take part in a similar ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

But in communities across the country, American Legion Family members will again lead Memorial Day ceremonies and events. Some already have gotten a jump on the holiday, having placed thousands of flags on the graves of veterans in their communities. Others will use the actual day, May 27, to honor those veterans no longer with us.

The following are examples of how American Legion Family members plan to commemorate Memorial Day. Please feel free to share how your post, district or department observe the holiday at www.legiontown.org.

Arizona

Freeman H. Sharp American Legion Post 70 in Parker is teaming with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7061 to conduct two Memorial Day ceremonies: one at the Colorado River Indian Tribes Cemetery and another at Parker Cemetery.

At Parker Cemetery, Post 70 will be honoring Legionnaire Anthony Drennan Sr. for his service in the U.S. Navy and his service to the community, including multiple terms as Tribal Chairman.

California

·         In Anaheim, American Legion Post 72 is co-coordinating a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony at Anaheim Cemetery and then hosting a reception afterward.

·         In Alhambra, the city is teaming with American Legion Post 139 for a Memorial Day ceremony at Alhambra Park Veterans Memorial.

Colorado

In Eaton, American Legion Norman Hutchinson Post 26 will conduct a ceremony at Eaton Cemetery. At the end of the ceremony, a rifle volley will be fired and taps will be played. Flags also are scheduled to be placed around Benjamin Eaton Memorial Park; Auxiliary Unit 26's Hometown Heroes banners will be hung in observance of Memorial Day.

"We honor the heroes of all wars, not just on Memorial Day but through our daily commitment to ensure that America remains a place worthy of such sacrifice," Post 26 said via news release.

Florida

In Key Biscayne, American Legion Post 374 is teaming with village officials for a Memorial Day ceremony that will include patriotic music, a wreath laying, displays and a reading of "In Flanders Field." Post 374 has partnered with the village since 2001 for such an event.

"What they did for this country is honorable, and they should be remembered every day," American Legion Post 374 Commander Michael King said of those being honored.

Illinois

·         In Plano, American Legion Post 395 will host a Memorial Day ceremony that will include a wreath laying and rifle salute. Following the ceremony, Post 395's honor guard will lead a parade to another ceremony that will include music from local school bands.

·         In Plainfield, American Legion Marne Post 13 will conduct its annual Memorial Day parade that will end with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Settlers' Park memorial.

·         In Morrison, Post 328 gathered with volunteers from the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and others to place 764 flags on veterans' graves at Grove Hill Cemetery.

Kansas

·         In Great Bend, members of American Legion Post 180 and Auxiliary Unit 180 will be handing out 3,000 poppies on the Friday and Saturday before Memorial Day, staging at different locations over the two days.

·         In Derby, American Legion Post 408 will conduct a ceremony at Hillcrest Cemetery. Cynthia Welch, 931st Air Refueling Wing commander at McConnell Air Force Base, will serve as guest speaker.

Maine

·         In Jay, American Legion Post 10 is teaming with other veteran service organizations to conduct wreath-laying services at area war memorials. The group also is conducting a parade with more than 35 units.

·         In Rockland, Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt American Legion Post 1 will conduct a Memorial Day ceremony at Chapman Park. There will be a reading of poetry and a wreath-laying ceremony.

Maryland

In Cambridge, American Legion Post 91 is hosting a service at Long Wharf Park in Cambridge.

Michigan

In Morley, members of American Legion Post 554 and Sons of The American Legion Squadron 554 joined with local Girl Scouts to place American flags on veterans' graves at Aetna Township Cemetery.

Minnesota

In St. Joseph, American Legion Post 328 will honor more than 600 veterans in a series of Memorial Day ceremonies. The post's Legion Family will march to St. Joseph Catholic Church for a service before moving outdoors for the tolling of a bell to honor the names of veterans from the community who have passed.

The post's Legion Family will also visit St. John's Abbey Cemetery and the Yankee Cemetery.

Missouri

In Hannibal, American Legion Post 55 is hosting a Memorial Day service and then lunch. Following the lunch, those in attendance will head to the riverfront to release a poppy into the river; afterward, the post's honor guard will visit four cemeteries and American Legion Riders Chapter 55 will ride to three other ones to honor the veterans buried there.

New York

·         In Nyack, CR & RO Blauvelt American Legion Post 310 and VFW Post 9215 will place flags on more than 900 veterans' gravesites – including two Medal of Honor recipients – at Oak Hill Cemetery. The two posts also are coordinating a community parade and ceremony.

·         In Spring Valley, Anthony Moscarella American Legion Post 199 is teaming with the Village of Spring Valley for a Memorial Day event at Village Hall that will include a rifle salute for Spring Valley servicemembers killed in action.

·         In Rockville Centre, American Legion Post 303 is hosting its annual Memorial Day parade, which will be followed by a ceremony at Veterans Park at the John A. Anderson Recreation Center.

·         In Endicott, American Legion Post 1700 staged a Memorial Day ceremony ahead of the actual weekend. Dozens attended the event, which included the handing out of flags and poppies. "A lot of the veterans cannot make it out during Memorial Day. It's quite a busy time with the parades and everything," Post 1700 Commander Dave Williams said. "So I feel that it's only right to come out here and spend time with them and have a service for them."

·         In Plattsburgh, Clinton County Legionnaires placed around 2,300 flags on veterans' gravesites in various cemeteries in the area. Members of the Civil Air Patrol, 4-H and the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York assisted the effort.

Ohio

In Bluffton, American Legion Post 382 is conducting a parade and then hosting a ceremony at Maple Grove Cemetery. After the Memorial Day observations, Post 382 will hold its annual chicken BBQ.

Pennsylvania

·         In Fairview, American Legion Post 742 is conducting a parade that will conclude with a ceremony.

·         In Girad, American Legion Post 494 is organizing a community parade through downtown.

·         In North East, American Legion Lake Shore Post 105 and VFW Post 4759 are hosting the annual Memorial Day Remembrance Parade.

·         In Erie, Boyertown American Legion Post 11 placed 2,500 American flags on the graves of veterans at the Highland Memorial Park cemetery ahead of Memorial Day. Some of the graves date back to the Civil War. "Being a veteran during the Korean War, it reminds me of some of the people who died valiantly," Post 11 Commander Charles Casey said. "Our veterans are ignored sometimes, and it hurts."

Puerto Rico

In Isabela, American Legion Post 68 is conducting a Memorial Day ceremony with Boy and Girl Scout Troops 459 that also includes members of the community. Members of the post also visit the local veterans memorial and visit three local cemeteries, where they place flags on the graves of veterans buried there.

Rhode Island

In Smithfield, Balfour-Cole Post 64's annual Memorial Day ceremony will take place at Veterans Memorial in Deerfield Park. The ceremony will focus on the 80th anniversary of D-Day, but will also promote the Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program. Post members will join with local Boys Scouts to place new flags and flowers on each of the war memorials and veterans' graves throughout the town.

Also, the post will collaborated with the Smithfield Senior Center for a clothing drive to benefit Operation Stand Down Rhode Island to assist local homeless and at-risk veterans.

South Carolina

In Goose Greek, American Legion Post 166 is kicking off Memorial Day weekend by placing around 3,200 flags on veterans' gravesites at the local cemetery. On Memorial Day, the post will host a ceremony that will be followed by a banquet honoring the 41 members of the post who are World War II or Korean War veterans.

The guest speaker for the banquet is Stacy Pearsall, a member of Post 166 and co-host of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast. The post also is dedicating a mural that Howe Hall AIMS Elementary students designed and painted for the post's building. Auxiliary Unit 166 also will present four veterans with Quilts of Valor.

Texas

In Odessa, American Legion Post 430 is hosting its annual Memorial Day event at the Ector County Cemetery.

"This is for the veterans who have given the ultimate sacrifice," Post 430 Legionnaire Preston Parrott said. "It's amazing how many people will come out. It's always been a big deal."

Wisconsin

·         In Hubertus, Goetz Saint Louis American Legion Post 522 is debuting its Operation Namesake program, with its Memorial Day focusing on one of its names, Hebert Goetz. The post will conduct multimedia presentation on Herbert Goetz's life and death, followed by a Memorial Day ceremony.

·         In West Bend, Lt. Ray Dickop Post 36's American Legion Riders will lead a community pre-parade through five area cemeteries to honor veterans buried there. The post also is coordinating a parade and then a program at Old Courthouse.

·         In Allenton, Fohl-Martin American Legion Post 482's honor guard will conduct ceremonies at eight cemeteries to honor the veterans buried there.

·         In Twin Lakes, American Legion Post 544 is hosting a Memorial Day parade and then a ceremony at the post. The post also will conduct Memorial observances at Mound Prairie Cemetery and St John's Cemetery.

·         In Silver Lake, Schultz-Hahn American Legion Post 293 is hosting its annual Memorial Day parade and memorial service. Refreshments will be served immediately following the service.

Next article: SAL hits $10 million in donations to CWF

SAL hits $10 million in donations to CWF

Source: May 22, 2024

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At the 2022 SAL Spring Meetings, SAL Child Welfare Foundation Committee chairman Mark Nave praised the SAL for reaching $9 million in donations to CWF and set the next goal.

"We're ‘fine at nine,' but now it's time to reach ‘the perfect 10,'" he said.

Mission accomplished.

The SAL this month reached $10 million in donations to CWF since 1988, continuing as the program's largest donor.

SAL National Commander Don "JR" Hall broke the news with a post on his personal Facebook page: "How about them Sons!!!"

"We had a goal to raise $407,000 this year to reach the $10 million mark for the years of work," Hall wrote. "Congrats to all of our membership that has had fundraisers, bought CWF merchandise and worked hard to get to and exceed the goal."

Hall added, "Thanks to every blue cap member that made donations over the years."

The CWF program year officially runs through May 31, so final donation numbers aren't known yet. Departments, posts, detachments, and squadrons that donate and want to receive credit for the 2023-2024 program year should ensure all donations are received at American Legion National Headquarters no later than Friday, May 31. Donations also can be made online at legion.org/donate. Donations support grants to youth-serving nonprofits that contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of children.

 

Next article: Veterans in INDYCAR: Paul Gootee

Veterans in INDYCAR: Paul Gootee

Source: May 22, 2024

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Throughout the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES, American Legion Social Media Manager Steven B. Brooks will be talking with veterans who work within the INDYCAR SERIES, whether for Chip Ganassi Racing, INDYCAR itself, or other racing teams, tracks or entities involved in the series.

This week we're talking with U.S. Army retiree Paul Gootee, who since 2018 has served as the Gasoline Alley supervisor at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) during any racing events, including this weekend's Indianapolis 500. Gootee, who served as an artillery officer in the Army from 1984 to 2004 and is a lifelong racing fan, talks about what led him first to the Army and then to working for Penske Entertainment, what his military service has helped him with as a civilian, and the importance of INDYCAR helping to amplify The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program.

Steven Brooks: What led you to joining the Army?

Paul Gootee: Truthfully? I was running out of money and needed to find a way to keep going to college. And the guy who lived next door to me in the dorm was in ROTC, and he suggested I compete for an ROTC scholarship. I did compete. I ended up one of 13, and I got a two-year ROTC scholarship to finish my education at Ball State. It covered tuition, fees, books, a little stipend. It didn't cover all the cost, but it covered the biggest cost. And the result of that was I owed the Army four years of active duty and four years inactive reserve if that's what I chose to do.

Question: And instead you gave them 20.

Gootee: Honestly, I got in, I liked it. I was blowing stuff up. I worked outdoors, which I enjoy. I had a wife and two kids at that point, and I kind of had to look longer term. And the Army's not a bad place to be at all. People ask me if I miss the Army. I don't miss the machine. But I miss the people. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the sense of purpose, the common effort to accomplish a mission. But I don't miss getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning and going running.

Question: What did you take from those 20 years in the Army that you still apply to your civilian life?

Gootee: I was an artillery guy, so there's not a lot of civilian applications for that specific skillset. July 4th is pretty good. But beyond that, leadership, organization, planning, coordination, supervision, training. Plan development. The kind of skills that I gained are ones that some would call "soft skills." Those things that I've gained through 20 years of supervising guys from team level to brigade level.

Question: How did you connect with Penske Entertainment after getting out of the military?

Gootee: I was born in Indianapolis, so I grew up going to (IMS), being around the track, seeing the news coverage for the track. My first race was 1973. I've always been a race fan. I have a son who is an optometrist and has a practice down in Nashville, Ind. One of his patients is my supervisor now (Bill Schnackel), and they were talking at an appointment, and my son was like, "My dad would love to (work at IMS). How can he do that?"

Question: So, then what does it feel like, being a lifelong race fan and growing up here, to work at what is called "The Racing Capital of the World"?

Gootee: It's a dream come true. I've said during my entire adult life my ideal job would be working at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I just went a roundabout way to get to it.

Question: INDYCAR has really shown support and has promoted our Be the One veteran suicide prevention program that we've brought into the series through our partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing. What does it mean to you to see your employer recognize that veteran suicide is a problem and that its willing to throw its support behind this effort?

Gootee: I wish there were more (similar efforts). It's a very sensitive subject to a lot of people, and (the collaboration's) willingness to hit it head on, bring it to the forefront so it is part of the conversation, is beyond that even. And (IMS) has always been veteran-friendly and supportive of our military.

Next article: The incredible stories behind Franklin High's Wall of Remembrance

The incredible stories behind Franklin High's Wall of Remembrance

Source: May 22, 2024

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This article, aside from quotes by The American Legion, originally appeared in The Tennessee Magazine, published by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. Carey, a U.S. Navy veteran, founded Tennessee History for Kids in 2004. The nonprofit helps teachers cover Tennessee history, American history, civics and basic social studies, and uses booklets, posters, in-services and the website www.tnhistoryforkids.org. Carey was a reporter in Nashville through most of the 1990s and has written six books.

A few weeks ago, I saw something in the hall of my son's school in Williamson County that astonished me.

Franklin High School has a Wall of Remembrance honoring its alumni who died in military service — along with those of the all-black institutions known as Franklin Training School and Natchez High School, which predated integration.

There are frames representing 33 men on the wall. They include people who died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and Iraq. There are photos of 32 of the 33, with brief descriptions of what they did in the military.

As a veteran, I'm overwhelmed by this Wall of Remembrance and the work that went into it. I've spoken to Lt. Col. William Hoover (a member of American Legion Post 215 in Franklin, Tenn.), who put it up when he was head of the JROTC program there, and I visited the Williamson County Archives, whose staff helped him do most of the research behind it. I'd love to see other high schools do something similar. (And if there is another high school that honors all its graduates who died in military service in this manner, please email me at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org, and I'll mention it in a future column.)

First, let me mention some of the stories of the people honored on Franklin High's wall, with tidbits I've found in their obituaries.

Stories of the dead

There are a lot of lessons on the Franklin High School Wall of Remembrance.

The earliest graduate on the wall is Capt. Silas Carlisle of the Class of 1932; the most recent is Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Bergman of the Class of 2008.

If you peruse the wall, you will notice that 13 alumni of Franklin High died in military service in 1944. The next highest year represented on the wall is 1966, when four alumni of Franklin High and Natchez High died in Vietnam.

Four of the 33 men on the wall were officers; 29 were enlisted men. The highest-ranking was Maj. James Conway, a special forces officer declared missing in action in April 1966.

Some of the stories on the wall remind us that many families had to wait a long time to learn the fates of their loved ones. Sgt. Mack Terry (Class of 1939) died at a Japanese prisoner of war camp. From my research, I learned that his family was notified that he was missing in August 1942; they were told that he had been taken prisoner in April 1943; they were notified that he had died in July 1943.

Reedy Sears graduated from Franklin High in 1939. His name appeared regularly in the Clarksville newspaper in the early 1940s, when he played football and basketball at Austin Peay. Sgt. Sears was a radio operator and gunner on a B-17 that was shot down over Germany in November 1944. He was declared missing at that time and declared dead a few months later.

Franklin High alum Petty Officer 2nd Class James Harper was one of about 800 crew members who perished when his aircraft carrier was bombed by the Japanese in March 1945. The name of his ship was the USS Franklin.

"He was determined to get into the Navy," Harper's mother said after he died. "He had a mind and a will of his own, that boy."

It is striking how young the Franklin/Natchez High alumni who died in the Vietnam War were. Among the Vietnam dead were Spc. John Woods (age 19), Pvt. Charles Hardison (19), Cpl. Larry Buford (20), Pfc. Richard Carothers (21), Pfc. Danny Marlin (21), Pfc. James Cunningham (22) and Spc. James Peay (22).

Speaking of Vietnam, it is notable that Tennessee's public school system was segregated during that war, but the U.S. military was not. Four of the nine Vietnam War deaths on the wall went to Natchez High, five to Franklin High.

Pvt. James Cunningham (Natchez Class of 1964) died in Vietnam while treating the wounds of his commander, who was almost certainly white. "After learning that his company commander had been wounded, and although enemy mortar rounds were raining upon the area, PFC Cunningham hurried to the aid of his leader," said Cunningham's Bronze Star certificate, which his family received posthumously. "As he was treating the wound, a hostile mortar round exploded nearby, fatally wounding him."

Cunningham was not allowed to attend school with white people, but he likely died trying to help a white person.

Story behind the wall

Hoover created Franklin High's Wall of Remembrance following the school's centennial in 2011. "As part of the celebration the school held a Veterans Night where we recognized veterans from all eras who were Franklin High graduates," Hoover told The American Legion. "We also recognized graduates killed in combat. After the amazing ceremony the thought struck me, ‘Now what? We had a wonderful time of remembering. Is that all there is?' Hence the idea of creating a lasting memorial, the Wall of Remembrance." 

Hoover then visited the Williamson County Archives and found that — thanks largely to longtime County Archivist Louise Lynch — it had enormous amounts of information to offer him. "Given the time involved and the research I had to do, I could not have found all these photos without the archives," says Hoover.

Franklin Principal Willie Dickerson, a Natchez High graduate, directed Hoover to put the Wall of Remembrance in the hallway across from the concession stand that is used during basketball and volleyball games. "We obviously wanted the students to see it," Hoover says, "but we knew that if we put it there that people who visit the school would be more likely to see it as well."

It took Hoover several months to put it all together, and it was dedicated in November 2012. "There were family members who came to the ceremony," Hoover recalls. "There were parents who came, widows who came, children of veterans who came. It was really special."

Hoover admits that it is possible that there are names missing from the list. "If we ever found anyone we overlooked, I would assume that this person would be added," he says, pointing out that he is retired from Franklin High School and its JROTC program.

Even though Hoover doesn't walk the school hallways every day anymore, "I still get choked up just thinking about the Wall," he told The American Legion. "I knew four of the honorees, none were my students, but just from being on campus and in the community, killed during the global war on terror.  Prior to Memorial Day every year, I would form my JROTC cadets in front of the Wall and talk about the sacrifices made on our behalf." 

Hoover shared with The American Legion that nine of the Wall of Remembrance honorees are buried in a nearby cemetery where members of his Legion Post 215 place 745 flags on the graves of veterans the Friday before Memorial Day. One of the honorees is the posts namesake, Brooks Fleming Jr. who was killed in action during World War II. 

How to do something similar

It would be refreshing to see other schools put together Walls of Remembrance similar to Franklin High's. Researching the wall would be a great project for a high school history class.

Here are a few tips:

The most obvious way to start a Wall of Remembrance is by word of mouth. If teachers advertise in local newspapers and social media that they are creating a list of graduates who died in military service, they might be surprised at how fast they can put together a list. Then, using research tools such as newspapers.com, it might be possible to track down obituaries, which would confirm the circumstances of their deaths.

I strongly endorse the use of county archives. Your archives might already have a record of known local veterans who died in military service, similar to the one in Williamson County. "We have two file cabinets with folders on many veterans from this county," says current archivist Bradley Boshers. "Some of these files contain government records, some newspaper articles and some photos."

Leesa Harmon, a public archivist for the Williamson County Archives, says she has had a lot of success with two websites. "I'm amazed at what I've been able to find on Fold3.com (a paid site) and teva.contentdm.oclc.org (a free site produced by the Tennessee State Library and Archives)," she says. "I've had a lot of success tracking down records and photos, especially of World War I veterans."

Finally, a word about population patterns: If you write a list of current high schools in Tennessee and compare it to a 1945 list, you will notice that there is little overlap. There are a number of reasons for this phenomenon: Schools consolidated; districts shifted; buildings were torn down and rebuilt in another location with a new name; interstates were built; apparel factories closed; car parts factories opened; new neighborhoods were developed; etc.

Let's also not forget that every black Tennessean who died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam went to an all-black high school. (I did a whole column about these institutions in February 2020 and tried to compile a complete list of them at that time.) These high schools are all gone, although some of the buildings are still in operation as integrated institutions.

My suggestion to a teacher wanting to do a Wall of Remembrance is to study the district covered by your current school and find out what school served that district in the early 1900s. Your wall might, like Franklin High's, include names from more than one school.

I can assure you, however, that a photo of a person who went to school in that same part of the county — and who then went on to die in World War II or Vietnam — will mean a lot to a young person today.

 

Next article: Always ready to pay their respects

Always ready to pay their respects

Source: May 21, 2024

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As Memorial Day weekend once again comes around, American Legion post honor guards across the country are preparing to conduct ceremonies and pay respects – as they do all year. Being a member of one of these guards takes training, practice and commitment.

One active honor guard is that of Samuel Woodfill American Legion Post 9 in Madison, Ind. The post was founded in 1919 and, according to post adjutant Charles Mihalko – who has built an oral history from speaking to its oldest members – has had an active guard for nearly 55 years.

It was stood up around 1970, "with just three or four veterans from the post going to every veteran's service in the area," Mihalko shared. Mid-decade, the group grew into the double digits and acquired matching jackets. By the end of the decade, the post commander had made it a mission to get the guard uniforms, rifles and blanks for proper honors. By the early 1980s they got a bus.

Today, Mihalko said, the Post 9 honor guard has 20-25 members at any given time, and gives the ideal number for a full event complement as 15. But not all members can attend all events – "we have completed a service with just nine members." Over the last decade, the guard has averaged 150-170 services, and about 500 volunteer hours, a year.

New members of the honor guard are obtained "mostly through word of mouth," Mihalko continued. Post events include a standard call for new members; the average of a Post 9 guard member is 65. A new member is immediately given a uniform, and spends their first few events observing from behind the firing line. During this time, instruction is given on firing procedures.

Post 9's membership comes from both Indiana and across the Ohio River in Kentucky; Mihalko announced that for this Memorial Day, the honor guard will participate in a morning ceremony in Bedford, Ky.

Next article: New Be the One PSA to debut during Indy 500