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American Legion News

‘Everyone loves a good competition, right?'

Source: April 19, 2024

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The American Legion has featured, in some form, a National Concert Band Contest since the 3rd National Convention in 1921 and a National Color Guard Contest since the 11th National Convention in 1929. Applications are currently open for the contests at this year's convention in New Orleans – deadlines are April 26 for concert bands and July 26 for color guards. 

Post units who have never competed at the national convention are always welcome – information on rules and categories, as well as applications, is available at legion.org/convention/contests – but some have been traveling to the contests for years or even decades. Among these are the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, sponsored by Post 264 in Tonawanda, N.Y., and the Newport Harbor American Legion Post 291 Color Guard of Newport Beach, Calif. The band has been American Legion champion 22 times, most recently in 2019; the color guard is also a multiple-time champion, most recently in 2023, and will serve in New Orleans as the National Commander's Color Guard, the prerogative of the champion. Representatives from both units spoke with The American Legion about how they do it year after year, and how units thinking of taking the plunge can set themselves up for success.

How long has your group been competing?

Dave Abrahamian, band president and Squadron 264 member: The band was formed in 1929 by World War I veterans and Post 264 members. Currently 80 members at full strength, we draw our membership from a broad cross-section of western New Yorkers. The members have diverse occupations and backgrounds. A large number are instrumental music educators, or graduates or students of university music programs. Membership is open to all based upon placement evaluation and section vacancies. None of the musicians are compensated.

We rehearse and perform year-round. Formal concerts are performed between the months of September and June in area schools and theaters, and concerts and parades during the remaining months of the year throughout western New York and Ontario.

We have been New York State American Legion Senior Band champion almost continuously since 1947; American Legion Senior Band National Champion in 1972-1973, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019; and Canadian National Exhibition International Band Champion on six occasions. We have and always will stand ready to aid in any worthwhile community function and uphold the great tradition of The American Legion.

Brian Fleming Jr., honor/color guard commander and post first vice commander: Our team has been competing in the national competitions since 2012. The first two years were commanded by my predecessor, Al Hoyo. In 2014 I assumed responsibility as commander of the team, and in 2015 our team brought home our very first first-place trophy.

What is the timeline, from decision to commitment to prep?

Abrahamian: The band votes on the opportunity and thereby makes a commitment to attend. There are sign-up sheets, logistics and cost estimates. Many years ago, we were able to raise the funds required to attend this event – that is no longer true. The funding the band is able to raise now is capable of funding maybe half the transportation and housing costs. The band members must cover the remainder if they wish to attend.

When a trip becomes too expensive, we may not be able to attend because the burden on our members becomes too great and we would lose too many. The expense of attending this event has increased far more than our ability to keep up with rising transportation, housing and logistics expenses. However, the National Concert Band Contest is a season highlight we look forward to participating in when we are able.

Fleming: In January, we begin our discussions about who will be returning to the competition team for the upcoming year. By the end of February, those who have committed to the team begin practicing and creating our new routine for the year. This timeline gives us four months to practice for preparation to participate at the department level, and six months to prepare for the national convention competition.

How do you recruit? Is it just within your post family? What is the turnover rate?

Abrahamian: We draw from quite a wide area. We recruit from high school and college bands for openings; after shadowing, they will audition if they feel ready for it. Turnover is not very high – they enjoy what the band does, what it represents.

Fleming: We recruit members for the competition team directly from our post honor guard/color guard teams. We require a full commitment to the team at the post first, and if a member presents an interest to the competition team, they are encouraged to join us in our practices and get put on a waiting list until a position is vacated and needs to be filled. All members of our team are Legionnaires. On average, we lose one team member a year due to various reasons.

How much of a weekly commitment is it?

Abrahamian: Selected pieces become part of concert repertoire (the summer season ends soon before the convention), so people are used to it. We announce our pieces when we reach the convention city; the rules are one march and two contrasting pieces.

Fleming: Our team practices once a week for two hours starting at the end of February.

What are the costs, and how do you raise money for them?

Abrahamian: Performers raise funds, and we have fundraising activities like a donation drive. 

Fleming: The costs could get pretty extensive, depending on your teams' obligations year over year. The two main expenses that could get to be a concern are the airfare and travel costs, and the cost of hotel rooms. Our team is very fortunate that it is written into the annual budget to have funds set aside to ensure we can go compete.

Why do you keep coming back?

Abrahamian: The contest offers a platform for growth. We support the Legion, honor and entertain, showcase our talents, get meaningful feedback from well-known judges and leave our best performance on the stage.

Fleming: Everyone loves a good competition, right?

There are a handful of reasons we continue competing. The cohesiveness it builds within our own team back home; the comradery it provides by engaging with other teams across the nation; and the exposure we get to the overall American Legion, much further than just our own post. And never to overlook the pride that is displayed throughout our department, district and post. (And, of course, all the pretty trophies we keep bringing back home.)

Do you have any advice for new units looking to commit to their first competition?

Abrahamian: Remember that there are two categories: competition and exhibition. Remember that you have to fund it. And remember that you can get feedback, and support the Legion.

In order for an organization to form a concert band, the following instrumentation should be represented in the areas of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. Woodwind: flutes, piccolo, oboes, bassoons, clarinets (and clarinet family). Brass: trumpets, French horns, trombones, euphoniums, tubas. Percussion: snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, timpani, mallet instruments. You can see that it is not such a simple task to find accomplished personnel in all these areas.

Fleming: Come out and participate! Use YouTube videos of previous years' competitions to get familiar with how other teams perform. Get contact information for teams that have competed in the past and talk about previous experiences. And practice, practice, practice.

Next article: Arizona Riders chapter donates $40,000 to Fisher House

Arizona Riders chapter donates $40,000 to Fisher House

Source: April 18, 2024

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In 2017, Merrell-Mitchell American Legion Riders Chapter 39 in Gilbert, Ariz., teamed up with the CHAMP Foundation to fundraise for the Tucson Fisher House, which provides free accommodations to the families of servicemembers and veterans receiving care at military and Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities throughout the world.

Each year, the fundraising effort result in between $6,000 and $9,000 for the Fisher House. But when Sons of The American Legion Squadron 39 member Steve Coffman was elected the Riders director two years ago, he wanted to raise more.

Coffman, a member of Squadron 39's Executive Committee, tasked Chapter 39 Ride Captain David "B" Bernheim with coming up with a new fundraising angle. Bernheim and his wife, Mary, did just that, and the results have made Coffman's wish come true.

Thanks to Bernheim's "Walk a Mile in Their Boots" project, around $70,000 has been raised over the past two years by Chapter 39 and members of the post's American Legion Family.

"Walk a Mile in Their Boots" is a two-part event that starts with Chapter 39 visiting local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to visit with the veterans living there. Chapter members meet with the veterans in the morning, thanking them for their service. In the afternoon comes the walk, in which members of the chapter – many in combat boots – walk a mile around downtown Gilbert, raising funds – and awareness for the Fisher House – along the way.

The result a year ago was $30,000 raised, so Coffman set a goal for this year of at least matching the 2023 total. But when all was said and done, members of what Post 39 calls its Legion Family – the Riders, post, Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion, Semper Fi Committee and color guard – had raised between $38,000 and $39,000. That's when Coffman said Past Post Commander Chris Ellis stepped up to say he'd donate the difference to make the donation total an even $40,000.

"That blew my socks off, totally blew my socks off," Coffman said. "I'm beyond honored. I'm so humbled to be a part of this."

Coffman said the Riders chose Fisher House because they wanted their fundraising efforts to stay local; working with the CHAMP Foundation, a nonprofit organization created for the collection of donated monetary funds from the public to be used for an identified cause that supports veterans and their families.

"We've had many members who've had the opportunity to stay at the Fisher House. For us, it's a local organization that needs support," Coffman said. "We said, ‘If we're going to raise money, we're going to focus on those donations staying here in Arizona to benefit our active duty, our veterans and their families. The Fisher House was an ideal combination for us, working with the CHAMP Foundation, so that we know exactly where that money is going and that it can be accounted for. Everything that we do for our veterans and our active-duty and their families stays right here in Arizona."

To deliver the donation, each year the Riders contingent from Chapter 39 makes the three-day ride to Tucson, making stops at American Legion posts along the way. This year, the approximately 60 Riders included a stop at Cochise Stronghold Post 141 in Pierce, where the Riders chapter donated $1,000. Other stops included Swift-Murphy Post 32 in Safford and at Post 24 in Tombstone before wrapping up at Post 36 in Tucson on April 14. Post 36 provided a lunch and then an escort to the Fisher House. Post 36 also donated $2,000 in gift cards to the Fisher House.

And while the Chapter 39 Riders were still at Post 36, Riders from Post 27 in Apache Junction donated $1,000 to the cause.

Coffman expects the chapter's effort to continue to grow – and hopes to see it expand outward.

"This thing, this event, this idea, is gathering momentum," he said. "During the state Riders meeting a few weeks ago, I issued a challenge to all chapters in Arizona to adopt what we're doing here at 39. Let's not make this a 39 event. Let's make this a state event.

"And I would hope that other chapters across the country, not just Arizona, take up this endeavor and support their local Fisher Houses. In today's world, they need as much money as they can get."

Next article: Welcoming our Afghanistan allies

Welcoming our Afghanistan allies

Source: April 18, 2024

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Fatima Jaghoori fled Afghanistan with her family in 1999 after her father was killed saving the lives of two American doctors.

Her father freed the kidnapped Americans and led them safely to the border with Pakistan. On his return trip, he was ambushed and killed.

"Our family had to flee in the middle of the night to Pakistan," said Jaghoori, who was 2 at the time. "The two doctors — God works in mysterious ways — found out that our father died and they vouched for us. We came over through the humanitarian process to the United States, seeking refuge."

That experience placed her on a path to a lifetime of service.

"That's the reason I joined the military," said Jaghoori, who served as a medic for nine years in the U.S. Army and did tours in Iraq. "This country has given me so much. I have nothing but gratitude and love for this country."

The Jaghooris are members of the Hazara minority group in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Hazaras were persecuted by the Taliban. After Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021, there were significant fears about whether they would again persecute the Hazaras. 

"There has been genocide committed against our ethnicity for over 100 years," she affirmed. "My uncle was killed in the (Afghanistan) Civil War. There has been a lot of death and turmoil within our familial history."

Jaghoori is part of the Manhattan Afghanistan Resettlement Team (MART) in Kansas. She helps other Afghanistan women navigate their exodus, guiding them to safe houses, plotting out their travel to America and helping them resettle when they arrive.

She is a member of American Legion Post 17 in Manhattan, which plays a crucial role in the resettlement.

Among the Afghanistan natives who Jaghoori helped resettle in Kansas are Lagifa Mahmagi and Fatima Farahmand. (They spoke to The American Legion, with Jaghoori serving as a translator.)

Mahmagi was a soldier in the Afghanistan army, fighting the Taliban and supporting American troops. When U.S. forces pulled out in August 2021, her life took a dramatic turn.

"As soon as they made the announcement that Kabul had fallen, I felt like all the roads in my life had shut down," she said. "Being a woman, being a soldier in the military, I knew I was going to get gunned down, pretty much hunted."

Thanks to Jaghoori and MART, Mahmagi arrived in America two months ago, moved into an apartment earlier this month and is taking English as a Second Language classes. She understands and smiles broadly when asked about what freedom means to her.

"The amount of feelings I get are unexplainable but to know that I can freely work, that I can freely get an education, and just really be me is all I can say about it. I can just be me."

Farahmand arrived from Afghanistan two years ago so she could continue her education, which was forbidden under the Taliban rule. She is studying carpentry.

"I am so happy to be here because in Afghanistan, the girls cannot study and they can't go to university," she said. "I want to graduate earlier so I can get a job and stand on my own two feet, and be able to help my two sisters and give them a better life."  

Post 17's involvement began when Jaghoori and retired Army veteran Matthew Burany met.

"It feels really great that we can do this for the Afghanistan allies," said Burany, the service officer for Post 17. "Fatima came to our veterans coalition meeting, asking what she can do to get her family out and others out of there. Since the drawdown was so sudden, nobody knew what they could do. I told her I would do as much as I could. Hopefully, I will be able to do even more."

On April 12, Post 17 hosted its third dinner for Afghanistan allies and other refugees, who number nearly 250 in Manhattan. The meal consisted of traditional Afghanistan dishes, featuring spicy chicken, rice and vegetables, spinach stew, okra stew, as well as a flat bread, rice pudding and a special Persian cake. After dinner, tea was served.

"This is how we get the community more involved with The American Legion and with MART, since they only started in 2022," Burany said.

Department Commander Randy Frank, a member of Post 18 in Arkansas City, attended the dinner and offered support and help to members of the MART board.

"It's a great accomplishment of what they are doing with the members of the community, letting the Afghan refugees know that we still care and we have their back because of all that they did for us during the war," he said. "I believe this effort is going to continue to grow."

Simply put, it's about giving back, Frank said.

"The values of The American Legion demonstrate that we care about all veterans," he said, alluding to Jaghoori, Mahmagi and other Afghanistan veterans who have resettled in the United States. "They helped us in the commitments we made. We are here to take care of them as well and provide what services we can to help them out."

That American Legion support extends from the Midwest to Capitol Hill.

"It's reassuring knowing the impact The American Legion is having on the Afghanistan Adjustment Act, and knowing they support it and speak about it," she said. "For Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, be aware that The American Legion is doing something for our allies and to not go into these moments of despair, like feeling ‘I did all that for nothing.' What you did matters. I'm just thankful for this organization and for all the support."

Jaghoori and MART are passionate about assisting others.

Last Memorial Day, they helped clean up a cemetery. And just last month at Post 17, they hosted a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans dinner. Afterward, two of the honorees praised the Afghanistan women, saying they hadn't previously been thanked in such a way.

"Why has this never happened before," Jaghoori asked rhetorically. "Honoring other soldiers is like honoring (her father)."

Jaghoori embodies her dad's service and sacrifice.

"Our family very much believes in serving others," she said. "Do the best for the most people that you can, which is why I think this is so amazing. MART is so amazing. I can see why people get sucked into public service for such a long time. It's exciting to see them bloom like little rose bushes."

Her dedication extends beyond helping her sisters in arms. She provides hope and resources for those who helped American troops. Those who fought the Taliban. And those who simply want an education.

"These girls can't go to school (in Afghanistan)," she said. "Knowing that with them being here less than a year, they got their CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistant) and they are doing fantastic and they are excelling at life. They're just amazing humans."

Jaghoori is only just getting started.

"I get to see them build their whole life. How beautiful is that? Just knowing and seeing that, I'd go through hell and back. And the opportunities I've had in life, I don't think they will ever get. But I will try to get them the best opportunities available. It's beyond rewarding."

 

Next article: INDYCAR Series headed to Cali this weekend

INDYCAR Series headed to Cali this weekend

Source: April 18, 2024

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Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Linus Lundqvist will again be behind the wheel of the No. 8 American Legion Honda featuring Be the One messaging this weekend when the NTT INDYCAR Series heads west for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. But though the messaging remains the same, race fans will see a different version of the car.

Lundqvist's livery this weekend also is promoting Netflix's upcoming comedy film "Unfrosted," directed by and starring Jerry Seinfeld. The No. 8 car will sport a special "Unfrosted" paint scheme that is the texture of an unfrosted Pop-Tart along with images of Seinfeld and some cast members. "Unfrosted" is set in Michigan in 1963, the year before Pop-Tarts hit grocery store shelves as milk and cereal ruled breakfast.

Lundqvist currently sits in 23rd place in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points race. He was 23rd in the season opener in St. Petersburg but was running 15th before being pushed into a barrier with 36 laps to go, costing him three laps. But he followed that up with a sixth-place finish in the non-points Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge.

Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champ Alex Palou enters this week's race in sixth place in the series standings. He'll be carrying American Legion branding on his car and is coming off a dominant win in the Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach features 85 laps over 167.28 miles on a 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit encircling the Long Beach Convention Center. The course runs down scenic Shoreline Drive and offers numerous overtaking opportunities, including Turn 1.

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

·         Friday, April 19 – 5:50-7:05 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice (Peacock).

·         Saturday, April 20 – 11:25 a.m.-12:25 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2; 2:25 p.m.-3:55 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifications.

·         Sunday, April 21 – noon-12:30 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup (Peacock); 3-6 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES race (Peacock and USA).

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach notes (via INDYCAR):

·         This weekend's Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will mark the 40th INDYCAR SERIES event on the historic Long Beach street circuit. Mario Andretti won the first INDYCAR SERIES race in 1984. Kyle Kirkwood won the race in 2023.

·         Three California natives are entered: 2018 and 2019 race winner Alexander Rossi is a native of Nevada City, while Andretti Autosport's Colton Herta hails from Valencia. Rookie Nolan Siegel, the INDY NXT by Firestone points leader, is making his first official NTT INDYCAR SERIES start at Long Beach. The 19-year-old driver hails from Palo Alto.

·         Al Unser Jr. has won the most times at Long Beach (six), while Will Power and Alexander Rossi are the only entered drivers with multiple wins. Power won in 2008 and 2012, and Rossi won in 2018 and 2019. Other former race winners scheduled to compete are Scott Dixon (2015), Colton Herta (2021), Josef Newgarden (2022) and Kyle Kirkwood (2023).

·         Six drivers have won the race from the pole – Mario Andretti (1984, 1985 and 1987), Al Unser Jr. (1989-90), Helio Castroneves (2001), Sebastien Bourdais (2006-07), Alexander Rossi (2018-19) and Kyle Kirkwood (2023).

·         Twenty of the 27 drivers entered have competed in INDYCAR SERIES races at Long Beach. Will Power has 17 starts, the most among all entered drivers. Nine entered drivers have led laps: Power 172, Alexander Rossi 151, Scott Dixon 104, Josef Newgarden 81, Colton Herta 71, Kyle Kirkwood 53, Alex Palou 24, Graham Rahal 4 and Agustin Canapino 3.

·         In addition to Siegel, four other NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookies –Tom Blomqvist, Linus Lundqvist, Christian Rasmussen and Kyffin Simpson - are expected to compete. All five rookies and Pietro Fittipaldi will be competing in their first INDYCAR SERIES race on the streets of Long Beach.

·         Milestones – Josef Newgarden will attempt to make his 200th INDYCAR SERIES start at Long Beach…Newgarden needs to lead two laps to pass Tony Kanaan for 11th on the INDYCAR SERIES all-time laps-led list…Scott Dixon will look to extend his consecutive starts streak to 323 – the longest streak in INDYCAR SERIES history.

Next article: VA halts taking away gun rights from veterans who require help managing their benefits — but only for 6 months

VA halts taking away gun rights from veterans who require help managing their benefits — but only for 6 months

Source: April 18, 2024

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A new ban that has stopped the Department of Veterans Affairs from taking away the gun rights of veterans who are found to be incapable of managing their own financial affairs will expire in six months, VA officials said.

The VA in March ended its weekly practice of submitting the names of veterans appointed fiduciaries to handle their VA disability benefits to the FBI's national background check database.

The database contains information on people prohibited from buying or receiving firearms. Inclusion in the database legally disqualifies veterans from owning, possessing or buying firearms from licensed dealers.

The VA's Veterans Benefits Administration, which disperses monthly benefit payments to veterans, has been required by federal law upon the VA's appointment of a fiduciary to manage a veteran's benefits to submit the veteran's name to the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, or NICS, as ineligible to own or possess firearms, according to the agency.

The new temporary provision does not overturn current law but essentially blocks VA from adding the names of veterans appointed fiduciaries to "the FBI-prohibited persons database in the NICS system," said Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for the Gunowners of America, a nonprofit lobbying organization with two million members.

Terrence Hayes, the VA press secretary, said the provision restricts VA from "using appropriated funds" to make reports to the NICS system without a court order or ruling.

The provision had bipartisan support, including from Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., who for several years sought to overturn the practice by the Veterans Benefits Administration to notify the NICS system of veterans appointed fiduciaries.

Tester said he knew of veterans who refused to apply for or collect VA benefits because they were worried about losing their gun rights. He said the law has punished people who receive VA benefits but need help managing their money.

The new legislation does not amend the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which authorizes the VA to report the names of "incompetent beneficiaries" to the FBI database that gun dealers check before selling firearms. Passage of the Brady Act in 1993 led to the establishment of the national background check system for firearm licensees. Since 1998, the VA has reported veterans appointed fiduciaries to the NICS database.

But the new policy, while temporary, means only those veterans declared by a court or magistrate as mentally incompetent and an imminent danger to themselves or others will be reported to the NICS system and legally lose their right to buy, possess or own a firearm.

Navy veteran Abraham Conrique, an 82-year-old, part-time cab driver in Maryland, said he understands there are situations when a veteran should not have access to a gun, given his own personal history of service-related mental health problems.

"I never had a court hearing over my mental health. But I'm smart enough to know that I shouldn't have firearms with my level of PTSD. Some veterans need those restrictions," said Conrique, who referred to his own diagnoses in 2020 for post-traumatic stress disorder.

But only a judge should have the power to make that decision, said Conrique, a petty officer second class during the Vietnam War, with deployments in Vietnam and Japan.

The policy was adopted as an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024, signed into law last month. But it has an expiration date of Sept. 30, which is the end of fiscal 2024, said Kathleen McCarthy, communications director for the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

"I will note that we are working on a permanent solution to this issue," she said. "Anything that's included in an appropriations bill is only authorized for that fiscal year, so next year the policy would need to be included in the appropriations bill for the following fiscal year and so on."

The temporary provision is also limited in scope. It does not restore gun rights to veterans appointed fiduciaries prior to March 2024. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and American Legion have expressed support for legislation to end permanently the VA practice of submitting the names of veterans to the FBI's database.

Patrick Murray, the VFW's national legislative director, said at a hearing last month of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs committees that a VA administrator "should not be the person who removes the constitutional right to gun ownership. That is for a judge or magistrate to decide."

Next article: Woman veteran who found ‘healing' with the Legion now taking on suicide prevention, Be the One

Woman veteran who found ‘healing' with the Legion now taking on suicide prevention, Be the One

Source: April 17, 2024

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Rocio Palmero served in the U.S. Navy from 1992 to 1994 and then in the Navy Reserve for the next 12 years. But when she left the reserves in 2006, she felt lost. Those feelings amplified when she went to college and didn't meet a single other veteran in two and a half years.

But after getting a job with the nonprofit U.S. VETS, Palmero came into contact with The American Legion and eventual future Department of California Commander Jere Romano. Learning more about the organization and at the urging of several of its members, Palmero joined Community Post 46 in Culver City, Calif.

She's taken on leadership roles at the post, area and district levels, and now she's expanding to bring information to her community about The American Legion's top priority: veteran suicide prevention.

On April 26 at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles, three California American Legion posts – Post 46, Post 8 in Los Angeles and Ronald Reagan Post 283 in Palisades – are teaming with the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (MVA) for a Veteran Women Suicide Prevention Conference.

The event, organized by Palmero, is open to all veterans and service providers and will feature first-person narratives from two veterans who have been at risk for suicide, an expert panel addressing current suicide statistics, and a presentation on military sexual trauma and other significant risk factors for suicide.

Palmero said in the past six months, four women veterans have died by suicide in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. "We all know that these issues are going on, but nobody's doing anything about it," she said. "We need to address this stuff now. We need to have these conversations now. It's not a training. These are conversations where facts and figures are coming out and conversations are being had in these fields."

Speakers include representatives from The American Legion, the VA Center for Women Veterans, the U.S. Army Reserve, U.S. VETS and Psycharmor, a nonprofit and training provider for military cultural awareness for members of the military-connected community and anyone who wants to more effectively engage with them.

The event also will feature a presentation from the LA County Sheriff's Department Veteran Mental Evaluation Team.

"We have a powerhouse of panelists," Palmero said. "They are people who can talk about and give others the ideas on how we can support our veterans. What are things we can be looking for? What is something that somebody is experiencing that I might not realize they're experiencing?"  

Palmero, who now serves as Post 46's vice commander, as well as Area 6's and District 24's chaplain, said she found a calling in the Legion years after leaving the military.

"I struggled for many years because I wouldn't identify as a veteran, and I didn't realize I was having mental health issues," Palmero said. "And people would see me, but they wouldn't say anything. And the majority of the reason was because I wasn't around other veterans. I'd stopped drilling in the reserves … and then I went to an all-women (college), and there were no other veterans. I was there for two and a half years and never met any other veterans. And I tried. I was very lonely, and I didn't realize that's what I was feeling."

After going to work for U.S. VETS, she became familiar with The American Legion, where she met Romano, California's department commander from 2022 to 2023. Talking with Romano and his wife, she discussed trying to find post. Four months later she joined Post 46.

"It was people just reaching out to me, being open to me asking questions or telling me about the history and why it's important," Palmero said. "And one of the things that stuck out to me was that in 1919, when The American Legion was established … I had access to join The American Legion as a veteran from World War I before I had the right to vote in this country. And that did not fall on deaf ears.

"It became part of my healing. All of the sudden I didn't feel like I was ‘crazy.' I didn't feel like I had to deny part of myself. When you stop working at Target, you're no longer a Target member. When you stop being a plumber, you're no longer a plumber. But once you stop serving in the military, you don't stop being a veteran. You'll be a veteran the rest of your life. And I was able to surround myself (with other veterans)."

Palmero said what she and others are trying to do in the Los Angeles area falls in line with The American Legion's Be the One suicide prevention program.

"Having these conversations gives us the opportunity to listen with awareness. To comfort with awareness," she said. "I really believe having these discussions empowers people, instead of walking away from someone because we don't know what to do. This gives them the information to say, ‘Hey, this is someone you can help just by listening. Just by talking.'

"And there are some American Legion posts where people don't know how to have this conversation. So, they'd rather stay quiet sitting next to someone in need. So, I think this is going encourage all of us to Be the One."

Next article: Legion racing car goes ‘Unfrosted'

Legion racing car goes ‘Unfrosted'

Source: April 17, 2024

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The American Legion and Chip Ganassi Racing are promoting Netflix's upcoming comedy film "Unfrosted," directed by and starring Jerry Seinfeld.

Rookie Linus Lundqvist will drive the No. 8 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda during Sunday's Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The car will sport a special "Unfrosted" paint scheme that is the texture of an unfrosted Pop-Tart along with images of Seinfeld and some cast members.

The partnership will help broaden the reach of Be the One, The American Legion's primary mission, which aims to reduce the number of veterans lost to suicide. 

"We are honored that Jerry Seinfeld, the ‘Unfrosted' team, Chip Ganassi and others are supporting this mission," said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer of The American Legion. "We've witnessed and heard stories of how Be the One has literally saved the lives of veterans and active-duty servicemembers who were in crisis. Our desire is to continue to reinforce the Be the One message and this unique collaboration has the ability to further amplify and extend our mission to additional audiences."

Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, agreed.

"It is great to have an opportunity to partner with a brand like Netflix through our relationship with The American Legion on a fun project like this," he said. "Jerry Seinfeld and his brand of comedy are known by everyone and his love for cars is legendary. It will be fun to put those two passions together on the racetrack with a car that promotes ‘Unfrosted.'"

Seinfeld has been thinking about the Pop-Tart for a long time. With "Unfrosted," he's now sharing that vibe with the world. The movie is set in Michigan in 1963, the year before Pop-Tarts hit grocery store shelves as milk and cereal ruled breakfast.

"Making a movie about Pop-Tarts has led to so many wonderful, unexpected surprises, and as a car guy, I honestly cannot believe our film's logo will be on an INDYCAR entry this weekend," said Seinfeld who directs, co-writes and stars in the new film. "I am grateful to Chip Ganassi Racing for making this happen, and honored to be affiliated with The American Legion and the work they do to support American veterans."

The film will be released on Netflix on May 3.

 

Next article: Alaska Legion post to share military, post-military experience with prospective recruits

Alaska Legion post to share military, post-military experience with prospective recruits

Source: April 17, 2024

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When Vince Winter became commander of Henry "Gene" Burton Sr. Memorial American Legion Post 13 in Sitka, Alaska, three years ago, one of the things he wanted to do was reinvigorate the post's programs and renovate the post facility.

But another goal was to become involved with the community's youth with the post. That started with providing challenge coins to young men and women entering the military after graduating from high school. But now that effort has expanded to reaching out to potential military candidates before they enlist, to provide them a view of both the military and post-military life.

On May 13, Post 13 is hosting a military Q&A session in which members of the post will be on hand to answer questions from high school students about what to expect both while in the military and when that service is over. The students are encouraged to bring their parents or guardians; a free meal will be provided to all that attend.

Winter said with Sitka being such a remote area, sometimes the issues are different for its citizens and that military recruiters don't always understand that.

"We deal with a lot of stuff out here with our kids that veterans deal with every day," said Winter, a U.S. Army veteran. "The opportunities here are completely different. And the recruiters come in here and they do the best that they can, but they're not always answering questions the best way they can because they're still in (the military). They don't understand what life is outside the realm as well.

"We thought it would be a great opportunity because we were already working with the recruiters when they come here. We're getting them into the schools because of the ties that we've built."

The post also has extended invitations to the Q&A session to teachers and guidance counselors. Recruiters from the Army, Coast Guard and National Guard will be in attendance. The Coast Guard recruiter also will have Space Force paperwork available for those interested in that path.

"We can tell them what to expect while in the service, share our experiences, and then what they need to do when they get out of the service and how to prepare for it," Winter said. "That's one thing the military never taught any of us: how to prepare for life afterward. They train us to do our jobs, and when we get out we're kind of lost. They give us that DD-214, and when you're still a young kid, you don't know that your DD-214 is a ticket to everything. At the time you just shove it in your back pocket, and you forget about it.

"So, we want them to be armed with everything they can. They can come talk to us one on one. We want to get these young leaders in here so they can understand what to look for.  They can ask all the questions they want."

Included in that guidance will be advice as to what specific job within the military each potential recruit can look for. "We can gear them toward jobs that will benefit them in the long run," Winter said. "We have a debate team here at the high school that I think is a 10-year champion. These people should be looking at cyber-intelligence or flying drones or something. If these individuals can ask, ‘Hey, I want to know more about this job,' it makes it a little bit more direct and better (when talking to a recruiter) so that when they get out (of the military) they're more secure."

Winter also said the post's effort to assist in military recruiting comes at a time when the U.S. Armed Forces were 41,000 people short of its recruiting goal for fiscal 2023.

"We need to step up as veterans. Right now, the national security crisis is unreal," he said. "Our numbers are down. And these people are the ones protecting our front lines. We need to get these people in there to where they can do the most good for us."

 

 

Next article: Sign up for suicide prevention training 

Sign up for suicide prevention training 

Source: April 17, 2024

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Dear American Legion Family members and friends, 

The American Legion saves lives and changes lives.

You may have heard me say that during a visit to a post or department, during an interview with media or elsewhere.

Nothing — absolutely nothing — is more important to The American Legion, or me personally, than our mission to save veterans on the edge of suicide. Be the One has helped elevate this conversation to a national level. Now more people than ever before are receiving the mental health counseling they need.

It's working. But we can do more.

That is why The American Legion has partnered with Columbia University to host free training classes that provide the tools we need to safely intervene when a veteran is demonstrating troubling signs.

There are afternoon and evening virtual classes scheduled, as well as opportunities for in-person training at Spring Meetings, National Convention, Fall Meetings and at other times. Learn more and register for a session at this link. The page will be regularly updated as more classes are scheduled.

This valuable, life-saving training takes less time than it does to watch a movie, take in a baseball game or wait in line at the DMV.

It's just 90 minutes. An hour and a half that can save a life and change a life. Join me and sign up now.

National Commander  

Daniel J. Seehafer 

Next article: Best cellphones for seniors

Best cellphones for seniors

Source: April 17, 2024

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LEARN HOW YOUR PLANNED GIFT CAN HELP THE AMERICAN LEGION

Can you recommend some good cellphones for seniors?

For older adults, choosing a cellphone is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. While some seniors love the cutting-edge smartphones with advanced features, others will prioritize simple phones with basic functions. The "best" cellphone will depend on the user's comfort with technology, preference and budget.

To help identify the best cellphones for older adults, it is important to consider what features users prioritize in order to narrow down the options. For example, some may choose full-featured smartphones because they are comfortable with technology. Others who are less tech-savvy will prefer phones with fewer features. Alternatively, individuals coping with vision, hearing or dexterity issues will want a phone with specific accessibility features tailored to their needs.

Smartphones Smartphones will appeal to users who are comfortable with technology and are willing to spend more for a top-tier phone with a range of accessibility, health and safety features. Typically, smartphones will include internet access, a web browser, email capabilities, a high-resolution camera and the ability to download and run applications independently. There are numerous companies producing smartphones today, but the largest include Apple, Android, Samsung and Google. Each brand will have its own unique features and accessories, with prices varying across different phone models. For tech-savvy individuals, it is recommended to research each brand to find the most suitable model. Many big-box retailers have smartphones on display to allow consumers to test out features.

Cellphones with Built-In Safety Features There are cellphones specifically designed for seniors with memory issues or advanced cognitive decline. These phones feature uncluttered, simple functionality that allows users to stay in touch with family and friends while also reducing common problems such as unnecessary calls to emergency services, spam and fraud. Such phones typically include safety features such as SOS links, nurse hotlines and fall detection.

Easy-to-Use Cellphones Today phone companies are still producing easier-to-use phones, such as easy-to-navigate senior-centric smartphones, and simplified flip phones if the user does not want or need all the functionality of a full-featured smartphone. Simple smartphones offer list-type menus rather than icons, and come with enhanced voice-command technology to assist users. Other options for simple cellphones may provide large buttons, big screen type, pre-set dial options and easily accessible SOS emergency buttons that will alert pre-selected contacts by call and text.

"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. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Consider naming The American Legion in your will or trust as a part of your personal legacy. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.

Next article: ‘Everyone loves a good competition, right?'