Due to a recent change, veterans can now find out in advance if they and their family members are eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery. To share this information, as well as answer other questions regarding VA memorial benefits, The American Legion and VA staff recently teamed up for a live chat on Facebook.
Previously, eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery could only be determined after the death of the veteran or family member. With the change, veterans can find out if they are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery before the time of need. This “pre-need” eligibility determination helps families plan in advance and streamline access to burial benefits that veterans have earned through military service for themselves and their eligible family members.
Many of the chat questions were related to eligibility, including whether or not it was necessary to have served in a war zone. VA staff responded that veterans with other than a dishonorable discharge and their spouses generally are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Those inquiring were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
Other veterans inquired as to how long it normally takes to hear back from VA after applying for pre-need eligibility. The average wait time is 90 days. And the question of whether spouses could also be buried in a national cemetery was presented. Those spouses also were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
The chat also provided 10 frequently asked questions about memorial benefits. Included in those were:
• I plan to be buried in a private cemetery and all I want is a government headstone. Can I use the pre-need burial form to determine if I’m eligible for a government headstone or marker? Yes. We encourage you to submit a completed VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery even if you are only interested in receiving a government-furnished headstone or marker. VA will maintain your pre-need application, supporting documentation and decision letter in an electronic information system. At your time of need, your family member or individual responsible for the disposition of your remains must submit a VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker. They should write in box 27 entitled “REMARKS” on VA Form 40-1330 “decedent has a VA pre-need decision letter”.
• Who can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination? Veterans and spouses can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination. Family members, authorized representatives and agents can apply on behalf of eligible claimants. Learn more here.
• What happens after you determine that you are eligible for VA burials? VA will save the pre-need claim form, supporting documentation and decision letter in a recallable system to expedite your burial arrangements at your time of need. At time of death, should your family or personal representative request burial in a VA national cemetery, VA will confirm eligibility based on the laws in effect at that time.
To view the chat in its entirety, click here.
Three American Legion district commanders will be honored on stage during the 2017 national convention for winning their respective categories in the Race to the Top competition. The contest honors district commanders in five categories who attain at least 100 percent of the district's assigned membership objective, and have the highest percentage of membership over the previous year.
The winners, along with a guest, have won an all-expense paid trip to Reno, Nev., during this year's national convention, Aug. 18-24, as a distinguished guest of National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. The trip includes round-trip airfare, tickets to the National Commander's Banquet, and hotel accommodations for six days and five nights. The winning district commanders also will receive a Legion cap that signifies they are a Race to the Top winner.
For the 2016-2017 membership year, there was not a category III or IV winner.
The 2017 Race to the Top winners are:
Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 4 Commander Roger L. Archibald of Utah
Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 6 Commander John W. Griffin of Georgia
Category V (districts with 7,500 or more members) – District 10 Commander Edwin B. Long Jr. of Ohio
Second place winners will receive a $500 check. They are:
Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 20 Commander Robin D. Rucker of South Carolina
Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 19 Commander Grady D. Richardson Jr. of South Carolina
Third place winners will receive a $375 check. They are:
Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 9 Commander Demorise E. Allen Jr. of Montana
Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 7 Commander Kurt S. Lepinski of Illinois
The American Legion played a prominent role in Samantha Goerger’s life in 2014. It was the year she represented the Department of North Dakota in the Legion’s National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis; attended Auxiliary Girls State; and won a $20,000 Samsung American Legion Scholarship. The 20-year-old from Wyndmere, N.D., credits her participation in the Legion programs and scholarships earned for being able to attend Princeton University.
“(The Samsung scholarship) has allowed me to focus my studies toward law … something previously unreachable. And the Oratorical Contest has given me a background in law and politics that facilitates my decisions and my studies,” Goerger said. “Truth is, my experience (at Princeton) would be completely different if it wasn’t for The American Legion.”
Goerger’s knowledge of The American Legion’s program and scholarship opportunities began in 2011 when her sister, Marie, won the Samsung American Legion Scholarship. That following year, Goerger participated in the Oratorical Contest as a freshman in high school and made an appearance at the national level in 2014 as well as 2015.
“The Oratorical Contest gave me historical background (on the U.S. Constitution) and speaking skills that I never would have gotten anywhere else. This is very important at Princeton as the environment calls for experts in their fields,” Goerger said. “I would hardly call myself an expert (on the Constitution), but it allows me to engage in the conversation with the confidence that I built from the (Oratorical) contest.”
While both Goerger and her sister attended Girls State, a requirement of the Samsung scholarship, their grandfather’s military service also made them eligible to apply.
“Throughout my life he has inspired me to form an appreciation for all veterans and has caused me to be active in The American Legion community,” said Goerger of her grandfather, Stanley Whicker, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War and a member of American Legion Post 6 in Grand Forks, N.D. “My experiences with veterans has taught me the abstract history that cannot possibly be taught in a school setting.”
When Whicker learned of Goerger receiving the Samsung scholarship, she said he “chuckled and said, ‘Well, I guess my time out there was worth it.’ From then on he began taking more interest in American Legion activities in his area.”
Thousands of American Legion Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State attendees apply to the Samsung American Legion Scholarship every year, and one area on the application that helps applicants stand out is community service. While growing up in rural Wyndmere – a population of less than 450 — Goerger became a certified emergency medical responder and volunteered with the ambulance service; revitalized and helped reopen the town’s teen center; and organized a yearly 5k run that raises funds for the Richland-Wilkin Kinship organization, a mentorship program for youth ages 5 to 16.
“It is important to find what you are passionate about, do it, and find a way to convey that passion in your (scholarship) essays,” Goerger said. “Helping others is a true passion of mine.”
As a Samsung scholarship recipient, Goerger received an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., along with the other 2014 scholarship recipients, and she is a member of the Samsung American Legion Alumni Association.
“I really enjoyed the Washington, D.C., trip and think back on it often,” she said. “We received tours of the war memorials and monuments … seeing the memorials through the eyes of servicemembers was very formative and I won’t forget it.”
There have been 1,971 recipients of the Samsung American Legion Scholarships since its inception in 1996. The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship awards up to $10,000 for undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need. Apply online here.
In light of recent reports about dangerous conditions and concerns over patient safety at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, The American Legion invites all D.C. area veterans and their family members to a town hall meeting to discuss their VA care.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, inside of the auditorium at the VA hospital, 50 Irving Street NW, Washington, D.C.
The town hall event is one of about a dozen that the Legion will conduct around the United States this year. The Legion hosts these events to hear feedback from veterans about the quality of health care they receive at their local VA facility.
Representatives from The American Legion's Washington office, American Legion D.C. department, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the district’s congressional delegation will be in attendance.
In preparation for a job search, you dust off your old resume and tack on your most recent job, new skills and training. But without editing or deleting old information, your resume becomes a hodgepodge of outdated accomplishments, awards and skills.
It's time to declutter your resume. To clean up your act, follow these five steps:
Step 1: Narrow Your Career Goal
Tom Kelly, president of Executive Recruiting Solutions, says many job seekers' biggest problem is not being sure of what they want to do, adding that it's particularly an issue for those branching out into new careers or industries. "The resume starts to lose focus," he says. "A whole bunch of extra stuff ends up in it in order to try to appeal to a wider range of employers or industries."
Kelly recommends limiting your resume's focus or creating more than one version if you have multiple target jobs. "It's best to declutter the resume by targeting one to three industries, max," Kelly says. This makes it easier to consolidate down to relevant content.
Step 2: Condense Your Opening Summary
Les Gore, managing partner of Executive Search International, recommends including a qualifications summary near the top of your resume. "Tell me a little about your background," he says. "Don't go overboard, and don't overdo the selling. Be succinct and descriptive in terms of your experience and collective knowledge."
And forget about crafting lofty mission statements or "me-focused" objectives that talk about wanting a fulfilling career with opportunity for growth, advises Harvey Band, managing partner of recruiting firm Band & Gainey Associates. "You're wasting page space with that, and you're wasting your time and mine," he says. "Use the top third of the page to communicate your most recent experience and your most impressive accomplishments. Get my attention. Then I'll keep reading."
Step 3: Edit Work Experience
Your resume's experience section should provide an overview of your career chronology and a few highlights of key accomplishments for your most recent work experience. For professionals on an established career track, this may mean summarizing experience more than 10 to 15 years old into an "early career" section.
"I like to see summaries of earlier careers versus long, detailed explanations," says Kelly, who recommends job seekers provide brief, one-line descriptions of earlier positions. "You don't have to list every job that you've had out of college on your resume."
Gore agrees. "Often, I see way too much information on responsibilities and not enough on the accomplishments," says Gore, who reviews hundreds of resumes each month. Although he finds it helpful for candidates to provide a brief overview of the range of their responsibilities, Gore recommends these details be summarized in just a few sentences.
When trying to weed accomplishments for space reasons, think numbers. "Take a hard look at what you're saying," Band says. "If you can't back it up with numbers, percentages or quantify it in some other way, then cut it."
Gore also likes the quantitative approach, as does Kelly, who suggests quantified statements have more value to an employer than more general, nonquantified accomplishments.
Step 4: Consolidate Education
The education section is another area where you can gain space when updating your resume. Although detailed information about internships, courses, academic honors and extracurricular activities can be important for new or recent graduates, professionals with four or more years of experience can omit or greatly condense this information, says Kelly.
Step 5: Select Your Skills
Many job seekers know the importance of keywords. But be careful not to go overboard, cautions Band.
Band says if your skills section resembles a laundry list of random terms, you need to do some serious editing. "The best resumes are custom-created for a specific opportunity," he says. "If you're targeting your resume, then you don't need to try to throw in every single skill set that you think might be important."
And now's a good time to dump outdated technology, too. "Fortran, Cobol and other outdated computer programs need to go," says Kelly. Not only can you gain some valuable space, but you'll avoid coming across as a dinosaur.
Think Like an Employer
Throughout each step of the resume-decluttering process, Band advises candidates to address the three key questions employers want your resume to answer: What can you do for me, what have you done before, and can you do it for me again?
It all started with Father Rick Curry and Connie Milstein who both shared a belief that no veteran should be unemployed, especially those who are looking to pursue their career goals and begin a new chapter in their lives.
Drawing on their experiences as social innovators and advocates for disabled veterans, military spouses and caregivers, together the two founded Dog Tag, Inc. to ensure veterans are business ready, competitive and employable upon transitioning into civilian life.
Dog Tag is a unique, five-month entrepreneurial program that offers experiential learning as well as a tailored curriculum at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. The linchpin of the program is Dog Tag Bakery – a two-level, 4,200-square-foot storefront facility located in the heart of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. – which features a café and upstairs bakery with a production/baking area, training and meeting room and an office space to manage the business.
“The bakery actually serves a greater purpose,” said Dog Tag CEO Meghan Ogilvie. “We’re just not a bakery. We’re a nonprofit so the bakery is a nonprofit as well. We started the program before the bakery even opened.”
Dog Tag Bakery provides a vehicle for veterans to put their newly acquired skills into context. Veterans not only learn every aspect of a small business from operation to marketing, but also take part in learning labs which include interview and networking skills preparation, resume writing assistance, networking events and mock interview days with partner organizations.
“Above the café is our classroom (which) is where we host our fellowship program. We have no more than 12 at a time — fellows, we call them, who are veterans with service-connected disabilities, spouses and caregivers,” Ogilvie said. “The goal is that they get the hands-on training and understanding of what it looks like and feels like to run a small business.”
The curriculum serves as an introduction to business from an academic perspective and consists of seven different courses: accounting management, communication, corporate finance, marketing, business policy and entrepreneurship. In addition, a supplemental lecture series is also woven into the program wherein speakers, including seasoned entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders and CEOs representing the full spectrum of private and public sector opportunities, offer their perspective and open their networks to the fellows, according to Dog Tag's website.
“What we’re trying to do is empower individuals to define what success means to them,” Ogilvie said. “This is kind of imperative in that people are concerned about charity. And for us, we consider ourselves an opportunity – it’s an opportunity to get an education from Georgetown University, it’s an opportunity to work in a small business, and it’s an opportunity to build a network.”
For Ogilvie, the recipe to success is having a bakery that serves as an incubator for employment and small business development. It’s not about numbers or opening bakeries all over the country, rather, it’s about starting innovative programs like Dog Tag that focus on individual growth and success, she said.
“I think what separates us is that we are a holistic program that puts together education, employment experience and then the deep dive into personal understanding,” said Kyle Burns, senior program director. “Not only what makes me a good employee, but also what are my big dreams and big passions and how do I reach that place in a career path. It’s a really good eye opener for our fellows just in terms of helping them get a really solid skillset to be able to launch their business enterprises, or to have good working knowledge when they work for other people.”
By offering four different working rotations through the storefront and nonprofit positions, Burns said Dog Tag goes beyond education and job training to ensure the fellows are fully supported and become leaders in their chosen fields. “There’s absolute joy in watching their stories progress and watching their lives unfold and seeing how everything is much more positive, much more holistic and much more sustainable than what it was before they walked through our doors,” she said.
When it comes to representing a sample of the talent and drive that exists in the veteran community, Cassaundra Martinez and Aundrea Hunt are among the lucky few who were chosen for Dog Tag’s Winter Class of 2017.
Martinez, an Army veteran who is also a military spouse with six kids, said she hopes the program will allow her to explore the possibility of owning her own human capital consulting firm, as well as provide the tools necessary to positively impact the community on a grander scale.
“Giving back is a part of my DNA,” said the Tennessee native. “A gift isn’t a gift until you give it away. For me, it’s using my time, my talents and my treasures to be able help others in my community and even further.”
Having recently been recognized as Army Spouse of the Year, Martinez looks forward to discovering more ways to support and enable military spouses to rise to their potential and gain fulfilling, portable careers.
“In this program, I’m able to get into really three pillars of how to develop that success,” she said. “Live business rotations, classes at Georgetown, as well as advanced seminars and different learning labs. This program is like no other program that I’ve seen within the veteran community.”
As a former member of American Legion Post 39 in Gilbert, Arizona, Martinez said the Legion has helped her connect with other like-minded veterans and servicemembers. Being able to share that sense of comradery and form relationships has really impacted her life in a positive way, she said.
“The recipe for success for a veteran entrepreneur is really building relationships and partnerships in your community, guiding and creating that support around you, and then utilizing your experiences and education and background to make a difference,” said Martinez. “At Dog Tag, there is this element that wasn’t visible when I applied. We identified these values that are personal to us. From those values we’re able to create purpose and direction. That’s what’s unique about this experience – it’s individualized and we all start from different places in our lives. Through this program, we’re able identify our own individual unique interests and skillsets, and use those to make business decisions going forward.”
For Hunt, a former Air Force airmen turned Army Reserve captain, Dog Tag was the answer to meet the growing need for uniformed servicemember benefit advocacy and transition planning. She decided to apply for the fellowship to help make her proposal for a Uniformed Service Members’ Assistance Center into an actual small business venture.
“The main thing that I think separates Dog Tag from other bakeries is the whole sense of community,” said Hunt, an at-large member of the Legion. “What I think is really wonderful about this program is that it was started by non-military members, but people in the community who had ties to the military community. Unlike most other programs, (Dog Tag) focuses more on the transition in respect to the act that we’re from the veteran community.”
Hunt said Dog Tag is a good way of allowing veterans to explore higher education opportunities as they fulfill their business aspirations.
“The recipe for veteran entrepreneurship is take care of self first, come up with a great plan, identify a need. I think you can start with your own needs,” Hunt said. “And collaborating in the community. Go to other veterans and also outside the veteran community so you’re not looking at things in a vacuum. Once you’ve done all of that, then do it. Don’t spend so much time researching that you never actually put in a practical application. Don’t be afraid to fail, but also don’t be afraid to succeed.”
This Memorial Day, Vermont Teddy Bear — the nation’s top producer of handcrafted teddy bears — is showing its patriotic colors with limited-edition bears to support The American Legion.
The bears feature a white T-shirt and uniform cap with The American Legion emblem; the caps can be personalized with a city, state, district, American Legion post or name of choice.
Vermont Teddy Bear also carries a collection of bears honoring all branches of the military.
Twenty percent of proceeds from sales of the bears will be donated to The American Legion to help fulfill its commitment to assist those who have served and are currently serving in the U.S. armed forces, and to promote patriotic values in communities everywhere.
These specially designed bears are available through Dec. 24, 2017. They can be ordered online by visiting www.vermontteddybear.com/legion or by calling toll-free at (800) 829-BEAR (2327).
Miss America Savvy Shields will make a public appearance on Sunday, Aug. 13, at The American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
Shields will throw out the first pitch during Sunday's games, as well as speak, sign autographs and take photos with fans at a ticketed meet-and-greet.
Shields is a student at the University of Arkansas and was crowned Miss America 2017 last September during the competition at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. She is currently serving as the national goodwill ambassador for Children's Miracle Network (CMN) hospitals, which The American Legion has supported through several Child Welfare Foundation grants. A portion of ticket sales from the meet-and-greet will benefit CMN.
The appearance of Shields is being coordinated by the Miss Shelby Organization and its Executive Director, Danyel Phelps. "You can't get any more American than Miss America and baseball," Phelps told the Shelby Star.
Games for the Legion's 91st World Series in Shelby begin Aug. 10, and will conclude with the championship game Aug. 15. Games starting Aug. 12 will be televised live on ESPNU, while games scheduled for Aug. 10-11 will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Stay informed of events, game schedules and more surrounding the upcoming ALWS at www.legion.org/baseball.
Hollywood Boulevard was teeming with energy as the tented areas for special guests filled with the friends, family and co-workers of the next recipient of a star embedded on the world famous Walk of Fame. Red carpet and a ceremonial cover concealed a star in front of a stage that faced an array of cameras and reporters. Behind the stage was an unusual presence of first responders, an honor guard, servicemembers and American Legion members who have a long history with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but are far less involved in the current celebrity climate. Hundreds of fans roaring with enthusiasm gathered around the star on April 17 as the guest of honor arrived.
Gary Sinise was awarded the 2,606th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his acting career and support of military servicemembers and veterans.
Military service is deeply rooted in the Sinise family. His dad served in the Navy during the Korean War and two of his uncles served in World War II, and his wife comes from a military family. And while Sinise is not a veteran, his contributions to the veterans community are well regarded.
"Gary has been a major supporter of veterans and veteran organizations through his foundation and the Lieutenant Dan Band that have been sharing their love for veterans and their music for many years," said Hollywood Post 43 Commander Tim Shaner. "We were proud to have been a part of his celebration and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and wish him well in all that he does in the industry and for our veterans."
Sinise has overwhelmingly earned his star as an actor, director and producer. Many know him for his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor in the Oscar award-winning film "Forrest Gump." He also costarred in "Apollo 13" alongside Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon; directed, produced and costarred in "Of Mice and Men;" and he's been nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. This all started in Chicago when, at age 18, he started the Steppenwolf Theater Company.
Sinise is frequently recognized for his endless commitment to supporting and serving America's men and women who defend and protect our nations way of life. His charitable work includes the 2011 launch of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which gives back to America's defenders, as well as his time as the national spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life memorial foundation, which raised a memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2013, to honor America’s three million disabled veterans. He also was involved in raising funds for the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
Sinise co-founded Operation International Children with author Laura Hillenbrand to give concerned citizens a way to reach out to children in war-stricken countries and support American troops in their efforts to assist them from 2004 to 2013. And in 2008, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor awarded to citizens exemplary deeds for the service of their nation. He was the third actor to ever receive this honor.
The military knows Sinise for his Lieutenant Dan Band Concerts at bases and hospitals around the globe. “We know him for his countless visits to hospitals in the combat zones or here in the United States where he will simply hold the hand of one of our wounded heroes,” said Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command who spoke on behalf of members of the armed forces that appreciate the support Sinise has shown. “To those of us who wear our nations cloth, Gary earned his star rank a long time ago. He’s been our fundraiser, our campaigner, our MC, our supporter, our advocate, and our ally.”
Fellow Walk of Famer Patricia Heaton, the star of "In the Middle" who is best known for her role as Debra Barone in the comedy series "Everybody Loves Raymond," talked about being a fan of Sinise since the 1980s when she admired his Steppenwolf productions.
“He was such an inspiration to me with his acting work. Since then he has become an inspiration to me for what he represents and who he is as a person," Heaton said. “My pal Gary Sinise exemplifies what it means to be a person of selflessness, courage, good cheer, hard work and humility.”
Joe Mantegna, a friend of Sinise, a Walk of Fame inductee and last years recipient of Post 43's Honorary Colonel Award for his dedication to supporting veterans, said, "Many of us grew up in the era of Bob Hope and he was the gold standard for people who support our military. All I can tell you is there is no living person in our industry who does more for our military than Gary Sinise.”
The star to honor Sinise is located in front of a store called The Supply Sergeant that was founded by World War II veteran Jack Arian in 1946. “I’m thrilled to have a star on the Walk of Fame in front of Jacks store,” Sinise said, who acknowledged other veterans in the crowd including a 93-year-old World War II veteran who fought in Gen. George Patton’s Army. “I’m grateful for these heroes and all those who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success I’ve had in the movies and television business to be able to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom."
Sinise had a long list of people to thank who have supported him along the way, none more than his family. He gave heartfelt acknowledgement to his wife, Moira, and their children, including his daughter Sophie who will give birth to his first grandchild next month.
Sinise is recognized by the entertainment industry and the military community as a true American patriot. “I’ve been so blessed over the years, I thank everyone for coming out today. God bless America,” Sinise said.
American Legion Hollywood Post 43 has had a longstanding relationship with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame.
"The post has been a part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame since day one," Shaner said. "Hollywood Post 43 has a long list of celebrity members who have become a part of this great tradition along with other outstanding actors like Gary Sinise."
Past post members with stars on the Walk of Fame include Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable and Mickey Rooney.