American Legion Department of Texas District 20 members were part of a special celebration that recognized 230 high school graduating seniors who are enlisting in the U.S. military. The 11th annual “A Night in Your Honor” was hosted by Our Community Salutes San Antonio at Pedrotti’s Ranch in Helotes, Texas, May 18. The American Legion was there to provide the future servicemembers, and their parents and/or guardians, with information about how The American Legion can be of support and service to them.
“We had a great time speaking with the young men and women and giving them information about what The American Legion is and letting them know that when they come back on leave from boot camp that they can join their local post,” said Burrell Parmer, commander of Fred Brock American Legion Post 828 in San Antonio. “We let (the families) know that your son or your daughter is entering another family. And with The American Legion, you can be a part of this family too. That’s the kind of information we wanted to pass to all attendees.”
Our Community Salutes San Antonio is a nonprofit created in 2012 to recognize and honor high school seniors who plan to enlist in the military after high school graduation. During the recognition ceremony, they have a community resource fair that connects the future servicemembers and their families with military support groups. This was the first year that The American Legion participated. The idea to be a part of the event was introduced to District 20 by Parmer, a retired Marine who has been involved with “A Night in Your Honor” since it started.
“I brought it up that this is something that The American Legion needs to be a part of. We have an opportunity to be face-to-face with not just the future servicemember but also their parents,” he said.
Members from four American Legion posts in District 20 attended the resource fair. They included District 20 Commander John Hafner of St. Hedwig Post 539; Mr. and Mrs. Allen Lott of Alamo Post 2; Humberto Quintanilla of Business and Professional Post 10; and Parmer and Edward Jones of Fred Brock Post 828.
Parmer said some of the family members were veterans and didn’t know they were eligible for Legion membership or the resources that The American Legion provides.
“It was good to have the visibility for people to come up and ask us those kinds of questions,” he said. “I think it’s important for the families to know that we care. It’s not just about recruiting but letting them know that you’re part of a family. You can be a part of an extended family, The American Legion. We told some of the parents that wherever your son or daughter go, across this world and overseas, you can find an American Legion post. If you’re a member that’s your home. So you’ll always have a home away from wherever you go.”
The graduating seniors recognized during the “Night in Your Honor” represent high schools in Bexar County and the surrounding area. They enjoyed a dinner and received a “Thank you for your service” certificate, a challenge coin, a stole of their respective branch of service and a gift bag. They also had the opportunity to shake hands with senior leaders from their military branch of service and hear from keynote speaker U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox.
“It’s a great program,” Parmer said. “These people are special. They are part of the one percent of Americans that want to come into the military and serve so we should recognize them.”
Pilots in three T-28 Trojan warbirds are scheduled to execute flyovers during the first three days of the 2022 American Legion World Series in August.
Warbirds are vintage military aircraft now operated by civilian organizations or individuals. The T-28s headed for Shelby, N.C., are retired military trainers now owned by The Museum of Flight in Rome, Ga.
The first flyover is planned as part of the Parade of Champions on Aug. 11, opening day of the tournament. All eight of the regional teams vying for the national title will line up on Veterans Field between the third and fourth games of the day. The pilots will execute another flyover of the stadium during the Aug. 12 evening games. The T-28s will be on display to the public at the Shelby-Cleveland County Regional Airport from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 13; the pilots will execute a final flyover at the stadium that afternoon as part of USAA Military Appreciation Day.
“It will be loud and lively,” says Robert Farrow, the ALWS volunteer who coordinated the Warbirds’ appearance. Farrow, a U.S. Navy veteran and a retired air traffic controller, has produced and served as air boss for several air shows.
“These aircraft travel across the county raising awareness of aviation and the important role it has played in shaping our nation’s history,” Farrow says. “It’s a great way for us to remember and honor the sacrifice of veterans who have served in the past, as well as those currently serving on active duty.”
The Museum of Flight, established in 2010, has displays and a collection of flight and military memorabilia in addition to the warbirds, which are flown in air shows around the southeastern United States.
Two of the T-28s served in Operation Farm Gate in Vietnam, while the third is attributed as the first T-28 to land on an aircraft carrier, the USS Tarawa.
Museum of Flight Director Christine Lewis told the ALWS committee: “Thank you for the opportunity to execute our mission, to increase the awareness of aviation through the flight of historic aircraft while supporting the local children’s hospital (in Georgia). I’ve heard it said, ‘Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero.’ What the ALWS does is just that.”
Farrow also coordinated another military group to awe the fans before the championship game on Aug. 16. The U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, will perform before the 7 p.m. game.
The Golden Knights are headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“The Golden Knights are the premiere skydiving team in the world – the best of the best,” said Andrew Hopper, an Army veteran, Shelby City Councilman, and member of the ALWS committee. “As a former paratrooper, I am excited for the City of Shelby to have them perform here. I’m sure everyone, especially the American Legion officials here, will enjoy this. It’s going to be a fantastic day!”
The 95th American Legion World Series is scheduled for Aug. 11-16. General admission tickets go on sale June 1.
Since getting its charter in 2009, American Legion Riders Chapter 138 in Spencer, Mass., has staged two major rides per year – one in May and the other in August. Each one of those is attached to a name or title, which is meant to represent a cause or honor someone or a group.
The most recent took place on May 22, despite temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. And this time, the title was “Never Forgotten” to honor those lost during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in nearby Holyoke.
In late March 2020, a COVID-19 outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke led to the deaths of 76 of the veteran residents living there while infecting 80 employees. It was one of the deadliest outbreaks in the nation – and one Chapter 138 is determined to not let anyone forget.
“I think it kind of fit the narrative of ‘never forgotten’,” Chapter 138 Director Dan Meloche said. “It’s important that those who lost their lives through this don’t fade away in our memories down the road.
“We do two major riders every year. We’ve had World War II rides. We’ve had Vietnam rides. A young man from Spencer who was wounded in Iraq and lost part of his leg, we had a ride for him.”
After leaving Post 138 and arriving in Holyoke some 40 miles later, the Riders dismounted outside of the Soldiers’ Home as the residents were brought outside. Marine Corps veteran and Chapter 138 Rider “Red” Burdett gave a short speech. “Everyone had a tear in their eye after he was done,” said Meloche.
After the speech and presenting a $1,000 donation to the home to be used to fund activities for the residents, each of the Riders left a penny on the granite stone in front of the home.
“There’s several different variations, but typically if you go to a cemetery and you see coins on a tombstone, they’re there for a reason,” Meloche said. “The very first level of recognition is a penny, and that means you’re paying respects to that person. We made sure everybody had a penny … to show our respect and to designate that they are not forgotten.”
The Riders then headed to nearby Granby Post 266 for snacks before returning to Post 138 for food, music and raffles. Meloche said the reactions from those the chapter wanted to honor make the effort that goes into planning and carrying out the ride worth it.
“Even though we know these things exist as part of our everyday life – veterans in veterans’ hospitals and so forth – you don’t get a full appreciation for their plight until you see them wheeled out in wheelchairs with blankets on a lot of them,” he said. “Some of them are up in age. And how happy they were to see us. The veterans appreciated it.”
Click here to see video from the ride.
Dear American Legion Family and Friends,
Memorial Day, once again, is upon us.
As veterans and servicemembers we understand the true meaning of the holiday, which too often gets blurred with media touting mattress sales and other trivial pursuits. Instead, the holiday represents a sacred day when we pause to remember our fallen brothers and sisters.
Throughout our nation, American Legion Family members will take time to honor our comrades. Legionnaires will lead community-wide commemoration events (available resources include a suggested speech and ad, both available here). Sons of The American Legion squadrons will place flags at the resting places of veterans. And the American Legion Auxiliary will share the inspiring message of Poppy Day, which is Friday. (Learn how you can get involved.)
These are among the ways we honor our pledge to remember the sacrifices of veterans. I hope you will take time to honor at least one veteran on Memorial Day. That could mean placing a flag or wreath at a gravesite. It could be participating in a remembrance event at your post, in your community or elsewhere. Or it could represent a solemn moment of reflection.
(Let us know how you, your post or other group honored veterans on Memorial Day. Share your story with us.)
Regardless of how you honor the fallen this weekend, I thank you.
As the nation’s largest and most influential veterans service organization, The American Legion is the country’s leader in educating the public about Memorial Day, what service and sacrifice mean, and the role we play in communities.
Your support for this sacred day and value truly demonstrates how The American Legion is …
Veterans Strengthening America.
Paul E. Dillard
The American Legion
In Davidson, N.C., Michelle Parris dedicates each of her walks to Mike Gunkel, a Marine veteran and her partner of 12 years who died in 2020.
She’s making her miles count to deal with her grief and to do good for others, as part of 100 Miles for Hope – a fitness/wellness event in which participants log 100 miles by Labor Day, Sept. 5, as they fundraise for The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation. All proceeds from registrations and donations go directly to supporting disabled veterans and military families. (Learn more and register for the third annual challenge here.)
The first year, she did 200 miles power walking; the second she rode 100 miles on a trike due to an injury; and this year, she’s back on foot.
“I just hit the pavement old-school style, put my Hoka (shoes) on and out the door I go with my music. I know exactly how far the four-mile walk is,” Parris said.
In 2020 during the first 100 Miles for Hope, Parris could tell Gunkel was not doing well physically, noting some changes, she said. But she didn’t realize the extent of the personal and health issues he had been hiding until she received an urgent call from the hospital the Friday after Labor Day. He had congestive heart failure and was put into a medically induced coma. Parris said she had to argue to be present because of Covid-19 restrictions, and she honored his end-of-life wishes, staying with him until after he passed.
Miles completed and partner gone, Parris decided to start her miles over, logging 100 more power walking just for Gunkel. The first walk after his death, Parris’ shuffle of music delivered a message from a song she’d never heard before by one of Gunkel’s favorite artists, Ozzy Osbourne. It was “See You on the Other Side.”
Having met online, Parris and Gunkel first met in person at a renaissance fair and hit it off. After a miscommunication led to Parris being stood up, Gunkel apologized.
“‘You, sir, may ply me with food, drinks, baubles and gifts,’” she told him in her best English accent. “‘And maybe — just maybe — I will let you keep my company.’ And he did after that for 12-and-a-half years.”
Parris recalled Gunkel’s love for cooking and barbecue, a native Texan, along with his wit. She said his military service illustrated his investment in helping others. In 1983, stationed in North Carolina, she said he’d just finished dropping off his buddies when he heard the news about the bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. He whipped his car around, collected his friends and returned to base. He volunteered through work.
“He would be one of those 10 percent doing 90 percent of the work,” she said. And, she said, he believed in Parris’ dream of showing Italian greyhounds, supporting her all the way to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “He saw that in me. He knew I could get there and he believed in me,” she said.
Per Gunkel’s wishes, there was no funeral, which Parris said has prolonged her grieving process. His ashes were scattered across two favorite renaissance fairs.
100 Miles for Hope has become a way to give back and to honor Gunkel’s memory and generosity, as well as a way to cope with emotions.
“(The walks) mean a lot of things. Part of it is to get the anger out, to grieve. Sometimes I just cry on my walks. Sometimes I'm remembering our happier times. It's really all of that, and more,” she said.
On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to noon. Other days in the year that the flag is to be flown at half-staff include Peace Officer Memorial Day (May), Patriot Day (Sept. 11), National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service (October) and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (Dec. 7).
The flying of the U.S. flag at half-staff and other common flag questions were addressed by Ann Byars, youth education and civics manager for the National Americanism Division, during The American Legion’s virtual Training Tuesday session May 24.
Byars said that she is often asked if the flag is to be flown at half-staff on Armed Forces Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. “These are full-staff days for the flag,” she reiterated. “Unless your state governor or the president of the United States has a half-staff proclamation issued, the United States flag is to be displayed at full staff.”
To be notified of when the flag is to be flown at half-staff:
- Sign up for the Flag Alert e-newsletter at legion.org/newsletters for notification when the U.S. flag is to be displayed at half-staff.
- Subscribe to the Flag Alert text notifications. First, text Flag to 534466. You will receive a text asking for a valid email address for the two-step authorization. Once that is complete, you will receive the text alerts.
Flag retirement ceremonies are often held on or around Flag Day by American Legion posts, so Byars reminded listeners to drop off unserviceable flags at their local post for proper disposal. Section 8, paragraph K of the U.S. Flag Code states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
A common question often asked about is how to display the American flag at a meeting. Left to right facing flag order should be:
City or county flag
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Space Force
The American Legion flag
More flag resources
Order American-made flags at https://www.americanlegionflags.com/.
Purchase “Let’s Be Right on Flag Etiquette” book here.
Find more flag resources at legion.org/flag.
Since its founding in 1919, Paris American Legion Post 1 has participated in area Memorial Day activities. As part of its 103rd-anniversary year, plans for 2022 are as big as ever.
Sunday, May 29, will feature events at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, the Post 1 Mausoleum at la Défense, Suresnes American Cemetery and the Arc de Triomphe. That same day, the American Battle Monuments Commission will conduct ceremonies at their cemeteries throughout France.
The department of Tarn, in the south of France, will host a variety of events even before Memorial Day, some of which include a parachute dive at Albi Airfield on Thursday, May 26; a ceremony at an area stele (monument) to the dead from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) on Friday, May 27; and a World War II vehicle exhibition in Lautrec on Sunday, May 29.
In the department of Oise, north of Paris, a ceremony for Americans killed in Oise during World War I and World War II will be held on Saturday, May 28.
And in Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, Post 1 will host a ceremony on Monday, May 30, at the “Iron Mike” statue at Pont de La Fière commemorating the fierce battle the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers faced when going ashore on D-Day.
For more details on events around Memorial Day and throughout June, visit Post 1’s website.
After two years of either being entirely cancelled or rerouted, the Ride for America returns on Memorial Day for the 24th year. Co-founded by M. Stan Mauldin, an American Legion Rider and past commander of American Legion Post 233 in Loganville, Ga., the ride raises money for a variety of charitable causes, including The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.
More than 850 motorcycles took part in the escorted ride in 2021, which had to be rerouted because of COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s ride will travel from Loganville to Madison; following a Memorial Day ceremony, the ride heads back to Post 233 for lunch, music and prizes.
“The last two years were tough for many of us, including the families that we support,” Mauldin said on the event’s website. “The United States of America is the greatest nation in the world, so the Ride for America volunteers believe that we will once again ride with pride and support our veterans.”
Further north and east, Memorial Day will be the backdrop for the unveiling of New Jersey Legionnaire Joe McElroy’s Project Poppy. A member of Post 38 in Haddonfield, McElroy came up with the idea for the project after seeing the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” ceramic poppy display at the Tower of London.
McElroy worked with Haddonfield resident Lisa Quanci and other local volunteers to create Project Poppy, which consists of 3,837 poppies being installed at Haddonfield Memorial High School. The amount represents the number of New Jersey men killed during World War I.
The Memorial Day installation ceremony will include remarks by Post 38 Commander Stephen Pecorelli and Haddonfield Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich, military honors, placing of flags representing each U.S. war and the reading of “In Flanders Field by the Haddonfield Memorial High School Honor Society.
“We’re very detached from the people who maintain our freedom,” McElroy told The Sun Newspapers. “Memorial Day is a day to remind ourselves of those who paid the price for that freedom.”
The following are a few more examples of how American Legion Family members have or will be commemorating Memorial Day. Please let us know how you did so by sharing your stories and photos at www.legiontown.org.
In Carlisle, Rollie Crowder Post 133 Carlisle will place flags on servicembers’ graves in at least three cemeteries on May 28 for the fifth year. They will be assisted by members of Post 133’s American Legion Baseball team and a local Boy Scout troop. The public is invited to participate in the effort.
In San Diego, American Legion Post 6 will conduct a Memorial Day ceremony at Greenwood Memorial Park. Post 6’s honor guard will lead the ceremony, which will include a guest singer.
In Newport Beach, American Legion Post 291’s honor guard will conduct a ceremony at Pacific View Cemetery and then later on in the day a similar ceremony at the post.
In Colorado Springs, Neal Thomas Jr. Centennial Post 209’s honor guard will render a rifle salute during the ceremony at Pikes Peak National Cemetery. National Membership & Post Activities Committee Chairman Jay Bowen, a member of Post 209, will be the guest speaker at the ceremony, which is expected to be attended by more than 400 people.
Meanwhile, members of Post 209’s American Legion Family will place roses on the Vietnam Memorial and Forward Air Controllers Memorial at Memorial Park.
In West Hartford, American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96’s 100th birthday will coincide with the town’s Memorial Day parade and ceremony. U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen Edward Banta will serve as the keynote speaker for the ceremony and grand marshal for the parade, which will include local high school bands, marching groups from veterans and community organizations, police and fire departments, Scout units, sports teams and town officials, and a C-130 flyover.
Department of France
Paris Post 1 will conduct several ceremonies, including at the American Legion-AVA Iron Mike park at La Fiere near Sainte Mere Eglise, in Normandy, France. Post 1 Vice Commander Valerie Prehoda will be presenting a wreath on behalf of The American Legion.
Rehfeldt-Meyer American Legion Post 474 is teaming with the Village of Matteson for “A Day of Remembrance Memorial Day Parade & Concert.” The day will include a pre-ceremony at the post before a parade, which will be followed by another ceremony at the post, as well as a “Battle of the Bands” between local schools that will transition into a Memorial Day concert.
In Knoxville, Iowa, American Legion Post 168 placed 1,200 flags on the graves of veterans buried in the area on May 24, and on May 26 the post decorated Graceland Cemetery with the Avenue of Flags and followed with a short ceremony. The flags will be taken down May 31.
American Legion Riders Chapter 471 in Portsmouth, Ohio, is teaming up with American Legion Post 276 in South Shore, Ky., for a community event on Memorial Day. The event will take place at Post 276 and will include free hot dogs, free bounces houses for children and free entertainment.
Post 471 also is doing a 50/50 drawing and will raffle off a Harley-Davidson Sportster and Michael Kors handbag. Post 471 also will use the event to sign up new members.
On Memorial Day, Berkley American Legion Stanley J. Fons Post 374 is conducting ceremonies at 11 a.m. at the City Hall Gazebo and at the post at noon. The post is teaming up with the Daughters of the American Revolution and The Royal Canadian Legion to conduct the ceremonies.
After having to take a break due to COVID-19, American Legion Post 305 in Cole Camp is resuming its Memorial Day tradition of visiting local cemeteries to honor the veterans buried there.
American Legion Post 43 in Florham Park is conducting a parade and then hosting a picnic. The post’s parade has been a Memorial Day tradition for more than 70 years.
In Brooklyn, American Legion Post 1636 will participate in the Bay Ridge Memorial Day Parade.
After having to conduct a small ceremony the past two years, Post 15’s American Legion Family in Poland is bringing back its annual Memorial Day parade. Post 15 is inviting all World War II veterans in the area to serve as grand marshals. A car will be provided in which veterans can ride.
American Legion Post 193’s Legion Family and the town of Chapin are teaming up to conduct an outdoor Memorial Day ceremony at Chapin Town Hall. An indoor reception will follow the ceremony.
In Allenton, the American Legion Post 483 honor guard will visit eight local cemeteries to pay respect to the veterans buried in each. The honor guard will visit St. Mathias Cemetery, St Peter’s Cemetery, Sacred Heart Cemetery, St. Anthony Cemetery, SS. Peter & Paul Cemetery, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, St. Lawrence Cemetery and St. John’s Cemetery.
Tony Kanaan and fellow INDYCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou are representing The American Legion for the second consecutive season. Each driver is doing more for The American Legion this racing season than just wearing the gear and steering the sponsored cars.
They are playing pivotal roles in educating the public about The American Legion’s Be The One initiative to reduce the rate of veteran suicides. Additionally, they are participating in the Legion’s third annual 100 Miles for Hope fitness and wellness challenge.
Prior to the season, each driver gave exclusive interviews to The American Legion. (Johnson talked about his grandfathers’ military service and other topics, while Palou discussed what it means to be living in America, fitness and more.)
Here are excerpts from the Q&A with Kanaan, edited for brevity and clarity.
Question: Entering your second year representing The American Legion, how has it inspired you to be driving for and cheered on by veterans who dedicated their life to serving America?
Kanaan: As a veteran driver, you think you have a pretty solid fan base. I remember at last year’s Indy 500 how many veterans and people associated with the Legion were there. That’s when I knew my fan base had grown. It touched my heart. I’ve heard all my life how my story has been an inspiration. But I think their (veterans’) stories are much more inspiring than mine.
Question: What does it mean to you to be supporting The American Legion's commitment to reducing the rate of veteran suicide?
Kanaan: It’s a big responsibility, you are talking about lives. You are talking about people with families. I lost my father when I was 13 — not from suicide — but I know it created an empty space in my life. We don’t want anybody to lose their life.
Question: What does the playing of the national anthem before a race mean to you?
Kanaan, who was born in Brazil but immigrated to America: We live in the best country in the world. I see how Americans are extremely proud of their flag. And since I became one, it makes me proud to sing the anthem. It's a feeling of respect and being grateful to be able to be accepted in this country.
Question: The American Legion 100 Miles for Hope challenge encourages members to cover 100 miles by Sept. 5 while raising donations to the Legion’s Veterans & Children Foundation. Why is it important for non-athletes to exercise regularly and how should they approach the challenge?
Kanaan: Just get out and exercise. It doesn’t matter if you are walking, hiking, biking, swimming, running or just moving. It clears your mind. That’s what drives me. And if you are depressed, it’s even more important. You just can’t sit around. You need to get up and move around. You will feel much better. That’s why we are doing the 100 miles fitness challenge.
In addition to maintaining his fitness for auto racing, Kanaan is also training this year for the Ironman Kona, the top triathlon race. He completed it more than a decade ago and had planned to return in 2021 before the race was cancelled. The Indy 500 and Kona are considered to be the highest level of their respective sports.
Question: Compare and contrast the differences between the Indy 500 and Ironman Kona races.
Kanaan: The stoke level is completely different. Race car driving is something I know. I dominate and I depend on other people. Even if I do everything right, but the people on my team don’t, we’re not going to win. Kona is all my responsibility. If I fail, it’s because I did something wrong — in my training or my approach to the race, or the race itself. When I first did it, I felt really proud.
Question: How should someone new to fitness incorporate goals into their plan?
Kanaan: If you can walk a mile, walk a mile. Then set a goal to walk two miles. As long as you are off your couch or chair and you are moving, that’s what we want. Age is just a number. Set a goal — walking for one minute, five minutes, 10 minutes …
Question: Have you found that fitness has a side of benefit of strengthening your mind, as well?
Kanaan: Your mind is always working but your body needs to work to give your mind the energy to work. It makes you feel more productive. It allows you to do things and enjoy things once again.
Question: You are inspiration to many. Any last words of encouragement for American Legion members and others?
Kanaan: I hope people get off the couch and ‘Be The One’ to help, and to exercise.