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Legion News

Support National Poppy Day on social media

This year The American Legion Family has called upon Congress to designate May 26, 2017, as National Poppy Day to expand awareness and provide support everywhere for all who have served and sacrificed in the U.S. armed forces. NALPA members are encouraged to help spread the message by wearing poppies and sharing on social media who they are wearing the poppy for.

When posting National Poppy Day support to social media, please use the hastags #PoppyDay and #LegionFamily.

Click here to see samples of National Poppy Day social media postings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legion Family to mark Memorial Day

From traditional ceremonies to new initiatives, The American Legion and Legion Family members across the country will spend the long weekend marking Memorial Day with events that honor the fallen.

The American Legion will once again have a float in the IPL 500 Festival Parade on Saturday, May 27, in the Legion’s National Headquarters city of Indianapolis. The Legion’s float traditionally includes Legion Family members walking alongside, and wounded warriors riding on the float. This year’s float will center on World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, including a reconstruction of one of his planes.

On Friday, May 26, members of the Department of Illinois will volunteer at the fourth annual Chicago Veterans: Ruck March. More than 1,500 veterans, their families and military supporters are expected to participate in the event, which raises awareness for PTSD and veteran suicide. Participants will wear a 20-pound ruck sack and walk 20 miles through the streets of Chicago to represent the number of veteran suicides daily, and to honor and remember servicemembers lost at home and on the battlefield. Legionnaires will have a tent at the lunch stop to pass out bananas, water and poppies in honor of that day’s National Poppy Day, as well as have a service officer on hand to answer questions and information on Legion membership and other available veteran resources.

Tell The American Legion how your post commemorates Memorial Day, by posting a description and photos to the Legiontown blog.

And make sure that war memorials or monuments (to any conflict) in your area are included in the Legion’s Veterans Memorial Identification Project. If they aren’t, it’s easy to add them.

Legion Baseball, Boys State alumni capture effects of PTSD on film

War and the effects it has on troops returning home is captured in the award-winning film “Battle Scars,” a drama and thriller produced by two American Legion program alumni. The film won the Founder’s Choice Award at the 2015 GI Film Festival and will be available July 14 for Legion posts to screen.

“Battle Scars” is about a young Marine who is suffering from both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other wounds unseen after returning home from Afghanistan, and is trying to forget what happened during his service overseas but his father, also a veteran, won’t let him. He in turn crosses paths with a woman “who leads him into a violent world every bit as dangerous and isolating as the brutality that (he) so desperately left behind in Afghanistan.”

Danny Buday, writer and director of “Battle Scars” and a California Boys State alum, and associate producer Lane Carlson, who played American Legion Baseball for Post 491 in Bayport, Minn., spoke with The American Legion about the inspiration for the film and how their participation in Legion programs impacted their support for America’s military heroes.

The American Legion: Who or what inspired this film?

Buday: I’ve seen a few documentaries about the ongoing war in Afghanistan while on the film festival circuit with my feature “5 Star Day,” and I found myself most fascinated with the sections of the documentaries that focused on the soldiers trying to adjust once they came back home from their various tours of duty. Soon after, I read an article about a recent increase in certain types of IED blast wounds and the idea for “Battle Scars” was born.

The struggle and tenacity displayed by our injured soldiers was the main inspiration for this film. Our goal was to create a film that soldiers suffering from PTSD would find both entertaining and relatable. This film is dedicated to every servicemember suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Why is this film so important to you?

Buday: On average, 22 servicemembers a day die from suicide. That number shook all of our team members and was one of the initial catalysts that led us to decide to focus on a story about PTSD and, more specifically, how both a soldier and their family deal with the physical and psychological effects of trying to acclimate back home after a long tour of duty overseas. For me, I felt it was important to try and share a story that other soldiers might be able to relate to and find common ground with.

Carlson: For me, this film is an opportunity to really bring home some hard facts of what continues to happen to our soldiers each day. The war continues on for many soldiers returning home. This film hit home as I have friends that have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. My intention is to not only entertain and raise awareness for PTSD, but also offer out alternative healing modalities and organizations to help those dealing with PTSD.

Can you share what your experience with Boys State and Legion Baseball was like?

Buday: Boys State was an amazing experience and served as my introduction into the world of local, state and national politics while also providing a hands-on approach to mock government. My time during Boys State taught me valuable life lessons about how to work as a team toward a common goal and the value of the electoral process.

Carlson: I have fond memories of our coaches and team gathering at the Bayport Legion recreational area following our baseball games, eating pizza and sharing stories. We were always greeted with smiles and words of encouragement from Post 491.

Did your participation in Legion youth programs impact your appreciation for veterans?

Buday: My exposure to Boys State as well as my involvement in the Civil Air Patrol definitely played a role in my support for veterans and my desire to create a film that would resonate with veterans.

Carlson: I’ve always had the utmost respect for those men and women who’ve given their lives to help protect and serve. My exposure to the American Legion Baseball program definitely played a role in my support for veterans. I feel this film allows me the opportunity to give back to The American Legion.

What do you want viewers to take away from watching the film?

Buday: I hope audiences take away a better awareness and sense of compassion for the silent, psychological traumas that affect our soldiers. People see the external injuries of soldiers and most of them instantly feel an overwhelming sense of compassion, yet thousands of soldiers are coming home with PTSD each year and we can’t seem to find a way to focus the spotlight and attention on the tremendous amount of internal and unseen pain and suffering these brave men and women are coming back home with.

Carlson: It illuminates the physical and psychological injuries our soldiers face on a daily basis. Our main character has an injury that we want the public to talk about. It’s important for us to continue the conversation about PTSD and the alarming rate of suicides our soldiers are facing each day. It’s up to all of us to come together and help our brothers and sisters who have served this great country. We have the opportunity to transform, inspire and unite around those suffering from PTSD.

View a trailer of "Battle Scars" here. American Legion posts that wish to screen the film can contact Lane Carlson at lane@souline.org. The 94-minute film is not rated but does contain strong language and scenes of nudity.

Spring Meetings resolutions now available

During the Spring Meetings in Indianapolis in May, the American Legion National Executive Committee passed a total of 29 resolutions on everything from new war memorials to VA's treatment of patients with opioid problems. These resolutions are now available to view in the Legion’s Digital Archive; see the full collection here.

New Jersey event helps women entrepreneurs

Over 100 women business owners and entrepreneurs attended a leadership symposium supported in part by The American Legion Department of New Jersey on May 11.

The “Women Warriors in Business” event at Rutgers Business School was designed to empower women business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders toward success.

Bob Looby, the department’s employment and education chairman, said the idea for the event developed last fall.

“Basically I wanted to supplement the Boots to Business workshops with something bigger, more specific, just like when we supplemented our job fairs with the business courses,” Looby said.

The department wanted to find a way to help women veterans develop and grow their businesses. Sessions at the event included discussion of ways to strengthen leadership skills, methods to improve winning public and private contracts, and developing digital marketing.

Almost 32 percent of all businesses in New Jersey are women-owned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But Shy Hopkins of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center told NJTV Online that female entrepreneurs still face significant challenges in growing their businesses.

“Women not being confident enough to go out for loans when they have a small business, not being confident enough to go out for contracts. And that’s very important, very vital to the survival of a business,” Hopkins said.

Sponsors of the event included Prudential and M&T Bank, with support from the U.S. Small Business Administration, New Jersey Business Action Center, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and others.

Looby said it’s likely other similar events will take place.

He also praised the Legion’s Veterans Employment and Education Division in Washington, D.C. for their assistance in this and other projects.

“They’re great mentors, great leaders,” he said.

Breathing life back into the post

The situation was looking bleak in 2013 for American Legion Post 202 in Topsham, Maine. Things had gotten bad – not in terms of membership numbers, but in terms of participation. It had gotten to a point where Department of Maine Adjutant Paul L’Heureux was going to pull the post’s charters if it didn’t have anyone willing to step up as officers.

Enter Nik Hamlin, then in his mid-30s. After serving in the Army from 2000-11, including in Kuwait from 2002-03, Hamlin was living in nearby Brunswick and “wanted to have some kind of a social life. I wanted to be around other veterans and see what was out there.”

Hamlin joined Post 202 and found the going rough. “I think, for the most part, everyone had given up hope,” he said. “I became commander immediately, only because nobody else wanted to. I was the only one willing to because I was so new, and I didn’t know what it really entailed.”

But what Hamlin and a few fellow post-9/11 veterans did – through the use of new ideas and relationship-building – was turn things around at Post 202. Now an active member of its community, the post participates in Legion programs, provides scholarships and supports other veteran and youth programs in the area.

The post’s evolution brings a smile to L’Heureux’s face. “Obviously they had some fresh ideas,” he said. “We needed to give them a chance to try them out. And obviously it worked.”

Instead of walking away when he found the post struggling, Hamlin wound up serving as post commander from 2013-15. “This post does a lot of good for a lot of people and helps a lot of people,” he said. “I was afraid if this post went under, closed its doors, that there would be people out there that couldn’t get help that otherwise could if we were open. I wanted to ensure that this post would be open to ensure that people could continue to receive our help.”

The process for Hamlin wasn’t easy, or fast. “It took blending the generations,” he said. “That was really difficult. It took people talking about the post again. I wanted to breathe some life back into this post, both in my generation and in the previous generation.

“The more I got people talking about the post, the more people got interested in the post, and then the more things started happening. It was kind of a lead by example. I bust my butt, people watch me do it, and then slowly they start doing it as well.”

Hamlin said turning things around took finding the right people for the right positions. One of those was Matt Jabaut, who served in the Army from 1997-2005 and met Hamlin when they served together in Kuwait. Also in his mid-30s at the time, Jabaut was urged by Hamlin to begin hanging out at the post.

“The timing was right because I had been out (of the Army) seven, eight years at that point. When I first got out I wanted nothing to do with anything military. I was completely withdrawn. I was just focused on career and other things like that.

"When (Hamlin) got involved here, I got involved. That’s what drew me in: the fact that somebody I had served with here was getting involved with the Legion. I had no idea what the rest of the Legion was about. I just knew I was coming to help my former battle buddy.”

Within three months, Jabaut had a spot on the post’s executive board. “The more we dug and the more we uncovered stuff, the more difficult it became. But (Hamlin) had a lot of ideas and a lot of visions of what this place could be.”

One of the first things Hamlin wanted to do was have members of the executive board take The American Legion Extension Institute to understand the depth of the Legion. Jabaut said that experience was a bit of an awakening.

“This is a big organization that does a lot of things and has been around for a long time and is tied into a lot of things that I happen to connect with,” said Jabaut, who attended National Legion College in 2015. “That was kind of the pull for me.”

With a team in place around him, Hamlin turned the focus to increasing the post’s visibility. “We started doing stuff in the community, which made people feel good,” Hamlin said. “If people feel like what they’re doing goes to a good cause, they’re going to do more. Keep giving them that, and once you have that, give them ownership. All of the sudden you’re in charge of this. Now you’re going to do that, and you’re going to start recruiting other people to help you. It just keeps branching out.”

Jabaut and Hamlin also regularly communicated with Jason Hall, who had gone through a similar successful effort as the adjutant of Post 86 in Gray, Maine, for the past five and a half years.

“We had resistance because some of the older veterans wanted to do things the way they’d been done 30-40 years prior,” said Hall, a 2016 National Legion College graduate. “That was the biggest challenge. (Jabaut and Hamlin) helped me as much as I helped them. We bounced off a lot of ideas – new ideas that had never been tried before. They’d come support me and I’d come support them.

“Once we did, we’d get two people to do it, and then three and then four. And the next thing you know we have 20-30 people coming over to support (Post 202’s) fundraising, and they did the same for us. We had the same mission statement. Birds of a feather flock together.”

Jabaut also formed a friendship with 47-year Legionnaire and Past National Vice Commander William “Chick” Ciciotte, a former member of Post 202 and current member of George T. Files Post 20 in Brunswick. Jabaut calls Ciciotte a mentor, while the elder Legionnaire looks at Jabaut and sees the future of the Legion.

"In my opinion, he has a lot of potential for leadership in the state of Maine and nationally,” Ciciotte said.

And both Jabaut and Hamlin praised former post commander Adrian Cole, who served in the position from 2015-16, for continuing the progress. “He took over at a very volatile time,” Hamlin said. “It was just another corner to round, but it was a really tough one. He weathered it beautifully.”

“He led us through a lot of adversity and (was) kind of the face of being the bad guy in some people’s eyes, when all he was really doing was holding the standard of what our organization is supposed to be,” Jabaut said.

Membership has stayed steady over the past few years, but Hamlin said it’s a more active membership. There are 360 members of the Legion – around 50 of those are post-9/11 veterans – and another 240 in the American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of The American Legion. The post also has a Legion Riders chapter.

The post also has gone from struggling financially to now being able to keep its head above water.

“We used to have to fundraise all year long to pay for the Boy Scout charter,” Hamlin said. “We used to do car washes, raffles and 50-50s. We would beg, borrow and do whatever we had to do to come up with the money so we could pay for their charter so their parents wouldn’t have to have that burden. Now the commander comes up to us and says, ‘Oh, by the way, last night we paid the charter.’ We didn’t have to have a meeting on it or anything. It was just done.”

In addition to supporting the Scouts, the post also sponsors Boys State participants and provides scholarships to two local high schools.

“I think for us, it’s been a transformation … to what the Legion really should be: focusing on the community,” said Jabaut, who took over the post commander reins in 2016. “Getting back to people understanding and knowing that there are four pillars in The American Legion and what they are. Some of that had been lost over time.”

Jabaut said the post also wants to serve as a place where veterans feel they can get support. “They don’t always have a good place to go, and they don’t know about the places to go to get whatever they need, whether it’s support … or just sitting around and having people speak the same language as you,” he said. “It’s taking guys and using our service officers, either our post service officer or our department service officer, and getting them through the (Department of Veterans Affairs) system.”

And then there are the non-traditional activities like a softball charity game played in the winter for the third straight year. Hamlin saw an opportunity in 2015 to do something for the state’s homeless veterans and wanted that opportunity to be unique.

“I said, ‘We’re going to play in the cold so they don’t have to live in the cold,’” Hamlin said. “I thought it would be a good injection for the post as well, and I needed a charity event that could bring the community – people who weren’t members – in, and they could see us for what we are.”

Hamlin said the first year was “phenomenal.” Members of the community helped clear the field out from under five feet of snow and then stayed to support the event. It’s grown every year, and this year $1,100 was raised for the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance.

“It’s just not just us,” Hamlin said. “We’re inspiring everybody.”

But for Hamlin, the crowning moment was in 2015 when the post was renamed to honor one of Topsham’s own. Army Sgt. Corey Edwin Garver grew up near the post and was killed at age 26 when an IED went off near his patrol in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan in 2013.

Corey Edwin Garver Post 202 is the first in Maine to be named in honor of a U.S. servicemember killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. A display designed by Jabaut in the post’s upstairs meeting room honors Garver. “This is what I’m most proud of,” Hamlin said, gesturing to the display. “I pitched it to the membership one night. Standing ovation. There was no discussion.”

Garver’s mother, Ellen, came to the dedication ceremony in April 2015. “When she got done speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Hamlin said.

Though he got the ball rolling for Post 202’s transformation, Hamlin insists on sharing the credit for its success. “I was only a part,” he said. “The commander doesn’t get a vote. The commander kind of throws out suggestions, and everybody goes where they want to. I had a lot of people helping me. There’s no way I could have done any of this by myself.

“To see our post go from where it was to where it is now … I look it at and I see a Legion. And it makes my heart swell.”

Gear up for National Poppy Day

The American Legion Family has called upon Congress to designate May 26, 2017, as National Poppy Day to expand awareness and provide support everywhere for all who have served and sacrificed in the U.S. armed forces. View the pending legislation here.

In support of National Poppy Day, The American Legion encourages everyone to wear a poppy to honor those who have worn our nation's uniform. The Legion's National Poppy Day website at www.legion.org/poppyday provides quick access to the American Legion Emblem Sales “Poppy Shop,” which offers an assortment of items including the new National Poppy Day pin, kits for making lapel poppies for distribution, fundraising containers, charms, scarves and more.

To go directly to the Emblem Sale poppy merchandise page, click here.

Please keep in mind that in order to guarantee delivery before May 26, buyers must select an express shipping method. Additionally, orders placed on the following dates must choose the featured shipping method to guarantee delivery by May 25:

Monday, May 22 – three-day delivery

Tuesday, May 23 – two-day delivery

Wednesday, May 24 – next day delivery

The Legion's National Poppy Day website also offers multiple ways The American Legion Family can expand awareness locally and regionally. Under the heading “Get Involved” is a set of media tools and promotions that can be modified for local use, including press releases, sample social media posts and downloadable high-resolution graphics. The “History” section of the site has a full-color, downloadable poster featuring the poem “In Flanders Fields,” which led to the red poppy’s emergence as an international symbol of military sacrifice. Also through the website, National Poppy Day donors can make safe, secure contributions with their credit cards and dedicate their gifts to personally honor veterans now living or in memory of those who have passed. All donations directly support military veterans and families through American Legion programs.

American Legion Family members who plan poppy distributions and similar commemorations around May 26 and the week leading into Memorial Day are urged to use the hashtags #PoppyDay and #LegionFamily so activities can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

Legion testifies on veterans health, benefits legislation

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing May 17 in Washington, D.C., to seek testimonies from local veterans service organizations (VSOs) on more than a dozen draft bills that focus on critical issues affecting veterans and their families.

The bills focus on several hot-button issues that range from improving military and veteran caregiver services, to establishing more accountability and whistleblower protection for Department of Veterans Affairs employees. American Legion National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Director Louis Celli testified on the Legion’s behalf.

“Access to veterans health care, ensuring our veterans are able to receive the benefits they have earned, equity in services across the spectrum of veterans who faithfully served in defense of this nation, regardless of conflict, and accountability and transparency are some of the very foundational pillars that The American Legion continues to build on,” Celli said as he addressed the committee members. “Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of leadership and good governance.”

When it comes to good governance, Celli said the Legion wants to ensure that Congress provides the VA with tools that are functional, enforceable and allow the agency to act in a manner that promotes good order, discipline and esprit de corps. Poorly crafted legislative language that fails legal and constitutional standards only serves to ruin morale and create a system of indecision, as well as a lack of surety, he said.

“The American Legion fully supports holding bad actors accountable for their actions, and criminals should be prosecuted as soon as possible,” said Celli. “(We) support giving (VA Secretary David Shulkin) any and all tools necessary to lead his agency as needed, but also want to ensure that congressional language doesn’t cause unintended consequences we have struggled with in the past.”

To ensure there is accountability at all levels within VA and that the process is transparent, Celli said the Legion supports any legislation – to include the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 – that increases the authority given to the VA secretary to remove unscrupulous employees who are found to have engaged in wrongdoing. “Despite multiple verified cases of gross misconduct for multiple employees, the VA secretary had little authority to hold employees accountable, and many veterans subsequently lost faith in the system,” he said. “Egregious behavior would not be affected by this provision as it would surpass the already established evidentiary threshold of a preponderance of evidence.”

In addition to increased accountability, Celli said the Legion also believes in providing VA department whistleblowers with a means to solve problems at the lowest level possible, while offering them protection from reprisals and genuine protection for those who reprise against them.

The Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act would not only establish a new system that employees could use to report retaliation claims, but also require supervisors to report all retaliation claims to facility directors, eliminating the possibility for facility leaders to claim plausible deniability of such assertions, according to Celli.

“We do not want to encourage an atmosphere that reduces the burden of managers to collect appropriate documentation,” Celli said in his written testimony. “This is why The American Legion vociferously urged Congress to provide the secretary much-needed authorities so that he may take action to improve moral, incentivize desired behavior, deter misconduct and eliminate corrupt or uncaring employees.”

As the largest VSO in the United States with a myriad of programs supporting veterans, Celli said the Legion will not waiver in its support to ensure all veterans are treated equally under law. “It is imperative that Senate Bill 591 (Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act of 2017) not only pass but that benefits be expanded to all pre-9/11 veterans,” he said.

According to Celli, the struggle to care for veterans who are wounded takes a terrible toll on families. Perhaps the biggest is protracted frustration over how the current caregiver program operates, he said.

When the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 was passed and signed into law, Celli said this landmark legislation provided a comprehensive package of caregiver benefits including:

● Training to help ensure patient safety;

● Cash stipends to partially compensate for caregiver time and effort;

● Caregiver health coverage if they have none; and

● Guaranteed periods of respite to protect against burnout.

The package, however, is not available to most family members who are primary caregivers to severely ill and injured veterans. “Congress opened the program only to caregivers of veterans severely injured, either physically or mentally, in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001,” said Celli. “It is not open to families of severely disabled veterans injured before 9/11, nor is it open to post-9/11 veterans who have severe service-connected illnesses rather than injuries.”

For Celli, a veteran is a veteran. He said all veterans should receive the same level of benefits for equal service – the Legion has long advocated for expanding program eligibility and ending the obvious inequity it created.

“We have long supported our veteran caregivers by providing accredited representation, advice and education. We created a new Caregiver Coordinator position in our Washington (headquarters) office. We participated in the numerous roundtables conducted during the present review of the program,” he said. “The American Legion is also rolling out a comprehensive caregiver program to our departments and recently passed Resolution No. 24, the Caregiver Program.”

Celli said the burden of ensuring support for these caregivers does not, and should not, fall on the VA alone. The Legion is optimistic that providing expanded support services and stipends to caregivers of veterans, to all eras, is not only possible but also feasible.

“Together, with The American Legion Auxiliary, (the Legion is) building a comprehensive program that is sustainable and replicable, and will be included in the department and post activities and programs through our network of more than 15,000 posts, (Auxiliary units) and (Sons of The American Legion) detachments across the U.S. and abroad,” said Celli.

In terms of reforming the rights and processes related to veterans appeals, Celli said the Legion is proud to support the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. “This effort will streamline and modernize a program that desperately needs it, while preserving and expanding veterans protections,” he said. “And in the long run, the increased efficiency will save money while providing benefits faster and more efficiently.”

Furthermore, Celli said the Legion believes that benefits and services provided to women veterans should be improved, especially because this growing demographic has consistently been overlooked by the VA for decades.

Although VA has made improvements in women’s health care, many challenges remain. The Deborah Sampson Act, S. 681, would help rectify many issues women veterans face by:

1. Enhancing services that empower women veterans to support each other.

2. Establishing a partnership between VA and at least one community entity to provide legal services to women veterans.

3. Making adjustments to care that VA can provide newborns.

4. Addressing significant barriers that women veterans face when seeking care.

5. Requiring VA to collect and analyze data for every program that serves veterans, including the Transition Assistance Program, by gender and minority status, and require that VA publishes data as long as it does not undermine the anonymity of a veteran.

Celli said The American Legion recommends a change to the bill, which is a separate track to address specific needs of women veterans attending the Transition Assistance Program. "Additionally, (the Legion) request that the Department of Defense transfer contact information of all transitioning women veterans to VA and the Department of Labor. This would provide an opportunity for the VA, DoL and VSOs to follow up with women veterans after separation to offer additional support, programs and services.”

Celli said American Legion Resolution No. 147 calls on the Legion to work with Congress and VA to ensure that the needs of current and future women veteran populations are met. It also calls on VA to provide full comprehensive health services for women veterans department-wide. “Our 2013 report on Women Veterans Healthcare addresses all of the vital components of the Deborah Sampson Act, as well as Senate bill 804 (Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act),” said Celli. “(That is) why we strongly urge this Congress and the VA to immediately address these issues.”

Read the Legion’s position on other draft bills here.

Post goes 'above and beyond' to help local veteran

Justin Flowers and his caregivers were in a tough spot. Flowers, who served as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army from 1992-94 and now is paralyzed in his left leg, lives with caregivers Collin and Sharon Dockhan.

Flowers praises the care he receives from the couple – “they bend over backwards for me,” he said – but also said they’re the type of people who rarely ask others for help. So when the Dockhans were informed that they needed to move their driveway after nearby property was sold, it meant building a new ramp and deck so Flowers could get in and out of the house.

“(The Dockhans) are on Social Security, and he gets (VA benefits), so they don’t have a whole bunch of money,” Flowers said. “And this was a big project.”

Flowers said Sharon was passing around a flyer explaining their situation when she stopped at the Knox Helms American Legion Post 554 in Morley, Mich.

“A guy jumped up and said, ‘I think we can do this,’” Flowers said. “These guys at the Morley American Legion need the highest kudos possible for what they did. They drew up a plan, executed it … and in one day they put this deck and ramp together.

“I am just so floored by how they did this. One guy told the (local) news crew he was going to stay … until he got the deck done. For The American Legion to come out and help these people – they were doing this for me.”

Legion volunteers spent an afternoon building the ramp and deck, getting donations from Radle Construction and Big L Lumber. The post also donated $1,000 itself for lumber.

“How they came together like this … this is above and beyond,” Flowers said. “It really just amazes me that they did this.”

For video of Post 554’s efforts, click here.

Helping you celebrate Military Appreciation Month

Servicemembers and families are being honored during Military Appreciation Month with a variety of discounts. Below are some highlighted offerings, via Military.com. Keep an eye on the list for updates.

Affinia Hotel Collection. Book your summertime stay at any Affinia hotel in New York City and receive up to 25 percent off. Plus, they will donate $10 for every reservation made to Operation Homefront.

Blue Star Museums. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s military from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The list of participating museums is available at arts.gov/bluestarmuseums. 

California's Great America. All active-duty servicemembers and veterans get free regular admission to California's Great America through May 29 with a valid military ID. Plus, each military guest will be able to bring up to six additional guests at a discounted rate.

Carowinds. Carowinds offers free park admission to any active, inactive or retired servicemember May 28 and 29.

Cincinnati Zoo. Active and retired military receive free admission on Memorial Day. The offer also allows military personnel to purchase up to six half-price admission tickets for members of their immediate family.

Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg offers free admission during Memorial Day weekend to all active-duty military, retired, veterans, reservists, National Guard and their direct dependents.

Dell. As a special thanks for your sacrifice and service, all military members receive an additional 15 percent off select Dell and Alienware PCs and electronics. Claim your coupon by May 31; redeem by Aug. 4.

Dorney Park. Dorney Park in Pennsylvania offers free regular admission to any active or retired military personnel May 27-29. Military members can also purchase discount admission tickets for members of their immediate family (maximum of six).

General Motors. All active-duty, reservists, National Guard members, retirees, veterans within one year of discharge date and their spouses can receive $500 purchase bonus cash on eligible Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles through May 31.

Home Depot. All veterans are eligible for Home Depot's 10 percent military discount on Memorial Day with a DoD-issued ID, a DD-214 or a Veterans Driver’s License. (This discount is good for veterans on July 4 and Veterans Day as well.)

Kings Dominion. Kings Dominion is offering free park admission to any active or retired servicemember May 27-29.

Kings Island. Kings Island is offering military personnel free admission May 26-29.

Knott's Berry Farm. Knott's Berry Farm offers active, retired, and veteran military personnel free admission May 27-29, as well as up to six discounted tickets for $48 each.

Lowe's. Just in time for Military Appreciation Month, Lowe’s has updated their military discount to include veterans in their year-round 10 percent discount.

Michigan's Adventure. Michigan's Adventure is offering military personnel a free admission May 28-29. Military personnel may also purchase up to six additional tickets for immediate family members at $26 each.

Mission BBQ. Veterans and active-duty military get a free sandwich the week of May 15. (Dates vary by service branch.)

Mystic Aquarium. Veterans and active-duty members who visit Mystic Aquarium May 27-29 will receive free general admission. Dependent family members receive a discounted admission rate of $20.99 per adult, $15.99 per youth (13-17) and $13.99 per child (3-12). Get 10 percent off at the gift store too!

Rack Room Shoes. Rack Room Shoes offers their regular year-round Tuesday 10 percent military discount on Memorial Day.

Silverwood Theme Park. Military personnel and veterans get free admission May 27-29. Immediate family members also receive a discounted rate when purchasing tickets at Silverwood's front gate. They will also have special rates May 28-June 9.

Sleep Number. From May 15-June 4, Sleep Number offers an additional $100 savings on all Sleep Number mattress sets, 25 percent off selected Sleep Number bedding and special financing. (In store only.)

Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is offering veterans and active military personnel a free select meal on May 29.

Valleyfair. Active duty and veterans will receive a free regular admission ticket into Valleyfair May 26-29. They can also purchase discount admission tickets for members of their immediate family.

Virginia Aquarium. The Virginia Aquarium offers active duty, dependents and retirees half off general admission on Sunday or Monday during the month of May.

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