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Legion News

American Legion implores White House to protect vets ‘borrower defense’

American Legion National Commander James “Bill” Oxford is imploring President Trump to sign legislation which would relieve students from repaying loans that were issued because they were defrauded by disreputable schools.

“Veterans have been aggressively targeted due to their service to our country,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford said. “Student veterans are a tempting target for certain online and for-profit schools to mislead with deceptive promises, while offering degrees and certificates of little-to-no value. We urge President Trump to sign House Joint Resolution 76, which allows for a ‘borrower defense’ to be used by students to obtain discharges to loans that were issued because of these false promises. This is the type of legislation that our delegates called for when they unanimously passed Resolution No. 82 at our 2017 national convention.”

Oxford added that Trump stood with veterans in 2019 when he exercised his executive authority to order the Department of Education to forgive hundreds of millions of student loan debt for veterans with severe disabilities. “We are hoping that President Trump will once again come to the aid of student veterans,” Oxford said. “Under current conditions, it is nearly impossible for veterans to successfully use a ‘borrower defense.’ The American Legion believes this needs to be fixed. We hope that he will sign this needed legislation.”

National Commander Coronavirus Updates

29 May 2020, Afternoon

Coronavirus captures the headlines but unfortunately other disasters still occur. American Legion Post 443 in Sanford, Mich., knows this too well. After dam failures caused massive flooding in the area, the post acted as a relief center supplying personnel hygiene products and cleaning supplies to affected residents. Moreover, its American Legion Riders chapter has been raising funds to rebuild a damaged monument to Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Burgess, who was killed in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

Hurricane season begins next week. Wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes will continue to happen. Now is a good time to consider donating to The American Legion National Emergency Fund.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 May 2020, Morning

From Buddy Checks to food drives, communities across the country have gained an even greater appreciation for The American Legion as a result of our response to COVID-19. But it takes members to make these activities and programs possible. That’s why it’s essential that we continue to proactively recruit and retain members. Kudos to the five district commanders who earned first place in our Race to the Top competition. These commanders all achieved 100 percent of their membership goal by March 31.

They are Steven A. Anderson of Utah (category I), Jack “J.D.” Baker of North Carolina (category II), Devil “Bo” Durham of North Carolina (category III), Bruce Carl of Florida (category IV) and Robert G. Suelter of Florida (category V). Well done.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 May 2020, Afternoon

Throughout the COVID-19 emergency, we have seen the amazing commitment American Legion posts have toward their communities. There are many outstanding programs and activities conducted and sponsored by posts that go unnoticed. That is why I am a bit disappointed that only 27 percent of American Legion posts have submitted their Consolidated Post Reports. Humility is fine but posts should still spread the word about their activities so they can attract the attention of Congress, the media and veterans searching for an organization worth joining.

There is still time to submit your CPR. The deadline is July 1. You can download the form here or fill out and submit at www.mylegion.org.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 May 2020, Morning

It is heartbreaking to see the horrific damage that COVID-19 has inflicted upon members of our Greatest Generation. Even before the coronavirus existed, The American Legion officially called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to open its doors to surviving U.S. World War II veterans. Delegates at our 2017 National Convention unanimously passed Resolution No. 3: WWII Veterans Hospital and Medical Eligibility.

Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R.-N.D., would accomplish the mandate of our resolution. No means test should be required for these elderly veterans. In fact, they already passed the most important “means test” of all on V.E. Day and V.J. Day. Their service “means the world would be saved.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 May 2020, Afternoon

There is a new breed of veteran now and The American Legion welcomes them with open arms.

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. It includes a provision establishing the U.S. Space Force as an Armed Force. This meets the membership criteria established in The American Legion federal charter, which is now open to those who “served in the Armed Forces…any time after December 7, 1941.

There is a lot of negative news this year, most of it associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Space Force should be an inspiration for all of us. Their mission is needed in a world where our potential adversaries have shown a willingness to weaponize space. Moreover, the United States has not added a new service branch since the U.S. Air Force was created in 1947. For those currently serving in our U.S. Space Force, you have a strong advocate in The American Legion. Come join us today!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 May 2020, Morning

One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the sky-rocketing unemployment rate. But there are other economic hurdles facing veterans such as a decrease in retirement savings, an inability to pay bills and funding higher education without going into excessive debt.

Fortunately, The American Legion is sponsoring an online financial literacy workshop, Thursday, 11 am – 12 noon (Eastern Time). Just register here if you can make it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 May 2020, Afternoon

A search on the broadcast monitoring site TVEyes revealed 154 television and radio segments and stories mentioning The American Legion during a 24-hour period that covered most of Memorial Day. The search covered stations all over the United States but it was by no means exhaustive. We also know that many events do not receive the media coverage that they deserve.

The results are strong evidence that COVID-19 did not stop American Legion Family members from observing one of our most solemn days. I’m proud to lead an organization that realizes that Memorial Day isn’t simply a day off.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 May 2020, Morning

Yesterday we observed Memorial Day. Today, I would like to salute another group of heroes.

Through May 21, the Department of Veterans Affairs listed 30 VA employees who passed away due to COVID-19. They worked in various facilities across the country. These are just known coronavirus deaths and by now the figure could be higher.

Dying in the service of veterans is the definition of noble sacrifice.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 May 2020, Memorial Day

Dear American Legion Family,

Scripture tells us, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

This Memorial Day, The American Legion expresses its gratitude to the one million men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives in service to this country since the American Revolution.

The American Legion will never forget their courage and their sacrifice. God Bless America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is National Poppy Day, our opportunity to wear a visible reminder of a universal symbol of sacrifice.

It is also my last update before Memorial Day. This weekend is an excellent time to wear a poppy or poppy pin, light a candle of remembrance (#candlesofhonor) and fly the American Flag. I plan on doing all three.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 May 2020, Morning

Every day we are seeing dozens of stories about American Legion posts serving communities and they never get old. American Legion Post 66 in Clinton, Conn., recently prepared 42 complementary lunches for members of the local police and fire departments.

Taking care of people who take care of us. It’s what The American Legion does.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 May 2020, Afternoon

Memorial Day is a day to honor our fallen veterans. Period. Full stop.

That does not mean we should feel guilty about enjoying time off and celebrating our way of life with our family and friends. Prior to making the supreme sacrifice, some of my fallen friends enjoyed many Memorial Day weekends and celebrated what has been called the unofficial beginning of summer. At The American Legion, we hope that you take some time to reflect the meaning of the day by lighting a candle of honor (#candlesofhonor), attending a virtual Memorial Day service or simply saying a prayer for our fallen heroes.

But there is also time for recreation and leisure. Take advantage of some of the Military Appreciation Month discounts and specials offered on the national website. You have earned that right as a veteran. But please remember to be safe. The coronavirus does not take holidays.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 May 2020, Morning

As difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic has been on communities across the United States, we would be much worse off without the efforts of the National Guard. Many of these men and women have left their homes and jobs to help build field hospitals, decontaminate nursing homes and deliver emergency supplies.

I find it disturbing that many Guard units are operating under 89-day federal deployment orders. This is one day short of the required 90-day period required for some home loan, education and retirement benefits to kick in. Yesterday, I issued a statement asking the president to fix this. As commander-in-chief he has the authority to extend their federal orders. Keep visiting www.legion.org to see what develops.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Retired Australian Army Brigadier General George Mansford penned a poem about ANZAC Day, an observance in Australia and New Zealand that is similar to Memorial Day. The scenes described in “When Dawn Breaks,” are reminiscent of the “Candles of Honor” that we are hoping to see on Monday in neighborhoods across the United States. When asked if we could run his poem, Gen. Mansford replied, “How could I say no to our American cousins?”

When Dawn Breaks

I was told of a plan by some far wiser than me

History is to be made this ANZAC dawn, for all to see

No virus can kill our spirit, or blind our eyes to a very special day

No parades or cheering crowds, yet all as one, we will do it our way

In early dawn, there will be lights, candles and torches, row upon row,

In front of family homes, they will flicker and glow

Beloved national flags of show from windows, fences and lawns

All to be readily seen by the ghosts of our Fallen, in light of dawn

Their long columns will march on the streets, unseen and with no sound

Imagine them as it once was, so young with dreams abound

Marching to war, heads held high and never looking down

In that special dawn, on parade again in every street of every town

When the sun rises high, and families are back behind closed doors

The columns will be gone and the streets empty once more

Surely you heard the echoes of their footsteps as they marched away?

To a camp where they sleep, until bugles call for the next ANZAC Day

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

This Friday is National Poppy Day. The American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters will be hosting a Facebook watch party at noon, EDT, on May 22. You can visit Facebook.com/alaforveterans to show your support.

There are other ways to show your support, while maintaining safe social distancing. For more information, visit www.legion.org/poppyday. You can also post poppy images or Poppy Day activities on social media. Please use #poppyday so people will be able to share your stories.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

This Memorial Day will be different but no less significant than previous years. Public closures of many cemeteries and social distancing require a uniquely 2020 approach.

One special way to honor America’s fallen heroes is to light a candle of remembrance for display on your front porch or other visible location at dusk on May 25. A red candle can symbolize the bloodshed in defense of this nation, white for the purity of the sacrifices made by our POWs and MIAs, and a blue candle for the eternal love that departed veterans have given to this country.

I would love to hear about your Memorial Day observance. Share your story with a photo on www.legiontown.org or post it on social media using the hashtag #candlesofhonor.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

America lost a true hero last week. Secret Service Special Agent Ronald Shurer II received the Medal of Honor from President Trump in 2018 for his actions as a Special Forces soldier during a 2008 battle in Nuristan, Afghanistan.

The 41-year-old veteran passed away Thursday while undergoing treatment for lung cancer at a Washington, D.C. hospital. We have seen many heroes in this country throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Medal of Honor recipients, however, are in a category all to themselves. Rest in peace, Special Agent Shurer. Our condolences to your family.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterans unemployment rate at the beginning of March was 3.5 percent. By April, it had more than tripled to 11.7 percent. No doubt it’s even higher now.

Fortunately, The American Legion has been sponsoring career training and job fairs with Hiring Our Heroes. You can find a schedule of events and some excellent webinars here.

If you’re an employer, you can help by hiring veterans. We can all patronize veteran-owned small businesses. Times are tough but we will survive this together.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I just came across this quote by Alexander Hamilton as reported in Ron Chernow’s excellent biography on one of America’s greatest founding fathers. “Justice and humanity forbid the abandoning to want and misery men who have spent their best years in military service of a country or who in that service had contracted infirmities which disqualify them to earn their bread in other modes.”

Well said, Alexander. It’s especially worth remembering now.

Bill Oxford

15 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

With the cancellation of most major sporting events and television shows on a production hiatus, people may be running out of viewing ideas. Sergeant First Class Brian Eldridge of the U.S. Army Field Band recently sent an email to national headquarters promoting his unit’s virtual concert series.

So if you want to view a combination of talent and patriotism, watch their streamed performances on YouTube.com/ArmyFieldBand. You can also visit the U.S. Army Field Band website for a complete schedule. Happy viewing.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The Grand Lake News reported that American Legion Post 334 in Ramona, Okla., and its Auxiliary unit fed more than 225 families of people working in the law enforcement, firefighting and medical fields on May 6.

Many of my coronavirus updates are about the great activities of American Legion posts in communities across the country. Even in the toughest of times, American Legion Families continue to shine.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

We’ve all seen the stereotype of a bureaucrat saying “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” At The American Legion, however, we REALLY are here to help and we have a century-long track record to prove it.

In order to truly assist, we need to know what is needed. That is the point of our COVID-19 Impact Survey and our buddy checks. More than 22,000 have responded to our survey since April 15 and I’m hoping to hear from more of you. Nearly 90 percent of the survey takers have indicated that coronavirus represents “some threat” or a “large threat” to their health. Not surprisingly more than 40 percent said “communication with friends and family” was the most beneficial resource to their emotional well-being, thus reinforcing the need for the survey.

If you haven’t done so already, take the survey here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s not surprising that a high percentage of first responders are military veterans. Service and sacrifice are synonymous with each of these professions.

Tomorrow, May 15, is Peace Officers Memorial Day. The president of the United States has authorized that American Flags be displayed at half-staff. The American Legion has a long history of support for law-enforcement. The COVID-19 emergency is just the latest chapter in the history of peace officers putting the safety of others before their own.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Few missions are as noble as feeding the hungry. American Legion Post 483 in Rosedale, N.Y., has embraced such a mission with the support of the BlaQue Resource Network, a community group based in Queens.

The post has been feeding more than 1,000 families per week, as the COVID-19 crisis has severely damaged the economic health of the Big Apple. In addition to delivering food to seniors quarantining in their homes, the post has been operating a food pantry every Wednesday. If you are able to volunteer or in need in food in the New York City area, call Timothy Turane at (323) 818-6673.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Legionnaires at American Legion Post 36 in West Bend, Wisc., are welcoming volunteers to help celebrate Armed Forces Day this Saturday. The Legionnaires and other volunteers all plan to maintain social distancing while placing more than 5,000 American flags on the graves of veterans buried in more than 100 cemeteries spread throughout Washington County.

The volunteers are encouraged to wear face masks and bring their own hand sanitizer. The events begin at 9 a.m. at Washington County Memorial Park and Holy Angels Cemetery. The project will also cover flag placement on city light poles.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The best buddy-checkers are those who are informed. If a veteran is in need of help, the buddy-checker should do everything possible to either assist or connect the veteran with someone who can.

Most Legionnaires are not mental health professionals. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs just kicked off a “Now is the time” online campaign in recognition of Mental Health Month.

On the campaign website, veterans can hear stories of recovery and find a list of resources that have been vetted by VA. Most importantly, if the veteran is having thoughts of suicide, IMPLORE the veteran to call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. Also, please follow up with the veteran and call a first responder if you believe he or she is in immediate danger.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Any Navy veteran can tell you that living aboard a ship or even an aircraft carrier can be cramped at times. Social distancing can be difficult to nearly impossible.

American Legion Auxiliary members throughout Utah have made and donated 1,000 face masks for personnel stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan. Some members are making financial donations to pay for shipping and supplies.

I am impressed with the many American Legion Family members who have adopted different military units. They are serving at a time when America is battling an invisible enemy.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Arizona American Legion Family members have taken community service to a higher level. District 11 and 12 Legion Family members have teamed with the Harvest Compassion Center in Phoenix to operate four food distribution drives over the last few weeks. Incoming District 11 Commander Bobbie Kimelton predicts that they will have conducted 10 to 12 such efforts by the time the national emergency ends.

The districts comprise of 40 posts and the distribution has been aimed primarily toward military members, veterans and their families.

“I think the thing that was most exciting for me out of all this is that this has not become an American Legion thing,” she said. “It’s a Legion Family thing. We have (American Legion) Riders delivering food to the (Northern Arizona VA Heath Care System) in Prescott. They’ve been delivering food bags to the Hopi Reservation and the Navajo Reservation. It’s just blown up into a huge, huge thing.”

As my friends in the Navy say, BZ.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

American Legion Legislative Associate Lawrence Montreuil will be speaking at a virtual veterans town hall on Thursday afternoon. Margarita Devlin, principal deputy Under Secretary for Benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs will also speak, along with representatives of other VSOs at the event which is sponsored by the Association of Defense Communities and Blue Star Families.

The program is titled, Addressing the Needs of Veterans During COVID- 19. It will be held at 3 pm (ET) on May 14. Register here: https://bluestarfam.us/thv-0b674.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

When I listen to anything Winston Churchill said during the darkest times of World War II, I cannot forget what he emphasized - NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! We, as Americans, are in a period of legitimate national crisis, BUT we WILL emerge STRONGER and better because of it. We cannot give up! We must maintain, preserve, and continue to be who we are and do what we do.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Seventy-five years ago today the war in Europe was won. The “VE Day” celebrations were so jubilant that President Harry S Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took to the radio to remind people that the war in the Pacific was still on.

Still, the importance of the European victory could not be overstated. Freedom won.

One of the greatest tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic is the harmful effects the disease has on our World War II veterans. Today, we continue to be inspired by the tenacity, toughness and sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our economy. Particularly hard hit are veterans who spent many of their prime working years serving their country.

Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring. You can seek out positions in your area by visiting https://www.vacareers.va.gov/.

Amazon is also seeking veterans, transitioning servicemembers and their spouses for a variety of positions. Amazon has three upcoming webinars scheduled:

Thursday, May 14: 5-6 p.m. EDT https://tinyurl.com/vfj5n4t

Tuesday, May 19: 12-1 p.m. EDT https://tinyurl.com/sebe55h

Thursday, May 28: 3-4 p.m. EDT https://tinyurl.com/tspeh85

If you are an employer, please consider hiring a veteran. It’s smart business.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. Healthcare workers are our infantry in the coronavirus war. One person who knows about war and healthcare is Diane Carlson Evans, the 2018 American Legion Patriot Award recipient.

In her soon-to-be released book “Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse’s 10-year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.,” Diane explains her own PTSD healing process.

“I was not ashamed to be diagnosed with PTSD,” she wrote. “For me, healing has meant remembering and honoring not just human beings but also memories. I look at them now without fear but a quiet reverence: they are a part of me and are what inspired me to continue to serve my country as an advocate for veterans.”

We are certainly glad to have you as an advocate, Diane. Welcome home.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is the first day of National Nurse Week. It is especially significant in 2020, when nurses risk their lives simply by showing up for their shifts.

Right before the COVID-19 emergency led to widespread stay-at-home orders, I was pleased to present The American Legion Distinguished Health Care Provider of the Year Award to Mary Ballard at our Washington Conference. Mary is the Registered Nurse Manager for the Oklahoma VA Medical Center’s Home-Based Primary Care Team.

Nominated by American Legion Post 353 in Mustang, Okla., her nomination letter stated, “She is a veteran. Her husband is a veteran, and she has a son who is a veteran. Mary cares for her patients in the way she wants other nurses to care for her veteran family members. She cares, and her passion shows.”

Mary, thank you for your continuing service to America and to the veterans of Oklahoma.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

When listing the many heroes that have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should remember the farmers of America. In spite of some empty supermarket shelves and issues of supply, the agricultural industry of this nation is ensuring that America does not face a widespread famine.

It’s exciting that American Legion Post 83 in Merced, Calif., is staging a “virtual” livestock show for hundreds of 4H and Future Farmers of America participants next month. The post has been assisting with donations for the event which will allow exhibitors to showcase their animals by video and receive the recognition that they deserve. The Merced County Shelter-in Showdown is especially important since the annual county fair was cancelled because of the pandemic. Post 83 has discovered a unique way of not only serving the youth of its community, but honoring those who do so much to feed America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Just as public health concerns have caused the cancellation of the 2020 American Legion National Convention in Louisville, it has had the same impact on the Sons of The American Legion. Fortunately, SAL National Commander Clint Bolt and his team of national officers have agreed to continue serving until the 2021 National Convention. The authority for these extensions was authorized through a recent resolution approved by the National Executive Committee.

Because of current restrictions on travel and public gatherings, these extensions will allow for American Legion and SAL national officers to resume visits to departments once public officials determine it is once again safe to do so.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

In a statement issued on May 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced its participation in clinical trials to be used in the fight against COVID-19. VA medical centers in Denver, New Orleans and Palo Alto, Calif., are assessing whether drugs such as Gilead Sciences Inc., remdesivir are effective against COVID-19. The Atlanta VA will work with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to study whether the rheumatoid arthritis drug sarilumab could be effective with coronavirus. Veterans interested in participating in these studies should contact VA centers in those cities or visit VA.gov for more information.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Officials in Marion County, Indiana, home of our national headquarters, and Washington, D.C., have extended “stay-at-home” orders until May 15. While The American Legion will always believe that serving veterans is an “essential” calling, we are fortunate that technology allows your national staff to work from home rather seamlessly. To ensure the safest possible environment for the staff, we are tentatively planning to bring the employees back to the office on June 1. Naturally dates could change later on as events dictate.

Other than dropping by their office, please do no hesitate to contact staff as you normally would. Even if done remotely, your national staff continues to serve.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Food by the truckload, four to be exact, arrived April 23 to a food pantry courtesy of American Legion Post 1 in Rockland, Maine.

The Courier-Gazette reported that the Legion helped re-stock the inventory of the Area Interfaith Outreach food pantry at a time when the community really needed it. That’s what The American Legion does. We support our communities.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

This week President Trump signed legislation which continues funding for the GI Bill to students impacted by the coronavirus. It is the second measure taken since the emergency was declared.

The latest act protects veteran work-study programs and provides extra insurance for students whose colleges close. Students who are unable to reach their places of work-study employment will continue to be paid.

Congress and the administration deserve credit for remembering veterans during these challenging times. Nearly one million individuals received some type of veteran education benefit last year. Past Nationl Commander Harry Colmery would be proud.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Survey results released by the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday confirm what The American Legion has said for years: VA really is a “System Worth Saving.”

Since 2017 more than 4 million veterans have been surveyed and for the first time results as of April 12 reveal that 90.1 percent trust VA’s outpatient services. This is an all-time high for VA and a 5 percent increase in trust since the surveys began three years ago.

The COVID-19 crisis is testing VA like it’s never been tested before. There is always room for improvement but that applies to every other healthcare system as well.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Never underestimate the tenacity or adaptability of Legionnaires. While produce and meat shortages have occurred in various pockets of the country throughout the COVID-19 emergency, Post 15 in Sumter, S.C. is still operating a very robust farmers market.

Now modified as a drive-thru, customers typically wait in line for more than an hour to pick-up their orders. But the service is worth it and the The American Legion Farmers Market is an important fixture in its community. In a little more than a month, vendors sold 542 pounds of pork products, 42 pounds of cheese, 62 dozen eggs, 72 pints of honey and 200 gallons of strawberries. Not is only is The American Legion providing an important venue for food purchases, it is allowing farmers to continue to feed their own families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

You’re never too young to lead. The website Pennlive.com reported that 9-year-old Dominic Baker organized a food drive in Pennsylvania’s Steelton and Swatara Townships. Not surprisingly the young man is a member of the junior Sons of The American Legion through Steelton American Legion Post 420.

“I’m not sure we can ever express how proud we are of our son,” Dave Baker said. “He came up with this idea all on his own. He originally wanted to give blood but I had to explain he wasn’t old enough to do that.”

Auxiliary Unit 420 President Lisa Iskric reported that Dominic’s idea generated enough donations to fill up “a truck and a car.” The effort generated a statement of appreciation from the Swatara Township Police Department. Well done, Dominic!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

A recent report by the Department of Defense reveals that an increase in military suicides and suicide attempts occurred between 2018 and 2019. Active-duty suicides increased 13 percent over that time. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, troops might feel more isolated than in previous years.

Not only are our Buddy Checks hugely important as we look out for our Legion brethren, we should pay special attention to military families and those who are deployed. Many posts have “adopted” military units. Others are involved with Family Readiness Groups. It’s always a morale-booster for those serving our nation to know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Most importantly if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 for veterans. You could also text at 838255.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring and this is good news for veterans. Long before the coronavirus existed, The American Legion has been concerned about personnel shortages in the health-care system which was created to serve veterans.

A statement by VA reports that the department hired 3,183 new staff members, including 981 registered nurses, from March 29 to April 11. “As VA proactively bolsters its workforce, the department expects to hire another 4,500 staff members, during the next several weeks,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie added.

The economic hardships inflicted by COVID-19 will provide enormous challenges for millions of Americans. Veterans, who have spent many of their prime working years serving their country, will be hit especially hard. The best way to thank a veteran is to hire one.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Lone Star Legionnaires at Post 166 are showing that they have a heart as big as Texas. KXXV-TV reported that the post opened its parking lot in Temple, Texas, and partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank to operate a drive-thru distribution service.

“I’m guessing right now we’ve had close to 800 maybe 900 cars,” Legionnaire John Potts told the ABC-affiliate last week. Potts addded that the post made its parking lot available after a previous request made to a different venue had been denied.

Like I said yesterday, when an opportunity closes another often opens up. It’s just another great example of The American Legion serving its community.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It certainly has a nice ring to it. “Operation Victory Virus,” is a campaign conceived by American Legion Post 25 in California’s Imperial County. Together with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 138, members hope to produce 1,000 face masks for use by the county’s emergency workers.

The Holtville Tribune reported that on April 17 Unit 138 President Karen Gibbs and other Auxiliary members completed and delivered 41 masks. They are cutting and stitching the materials themselves and are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“When my daughter, Misty, heard about the masks, she told me, ‘the home-made masks are awesome; I’m so proud of you,’” Gibbs told the newspaper. “I taught her and my daughter, Carrie, to sew.’”

I have to second Misty’s sentiments. The American Legion National Commander is also proud of you.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Often when an opportunity closes in The American Legion, a new one opens. Such is the case with our System Worth Saving (SWS) and Regional Office Action Review (ROAR) site visits.

Due to the suspension of national travel during the coronavirus emergency, the Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Commission’s executive committee voted unanimously to cancel the remaining SWS and ROAR site visits scheduled for this year. They also agreed to revisit the matter if circumstances change.

In announcing the cancellations, VA&R Chairman Ralph Bozella asked the national staff to strengthen visit protocols and volunteer training. This time will not be wasted. Through better and more robust training, your American Legion SWS and ROAR teams will have even more effective and productive visits in 2021 and beyond. And you can rest assured that The American Legion continues regular engagement with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and is monitoring VA’s COVID-19 response.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

During its meeting last October, your National Executive Committee passed Resolution 6: 75th Anniversary of World War II. While the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly limit the number of public observances that would have otherwise occurred to mark this historical event, you can rest assured that The American Legion’s media team will acknowledge these important milestones in all its national media platforms.

Seventy-five years ago this week, American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River in Germany. Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, was the final blow to the Nazi regime. After the meeting, the U.S, Soviet and British governments released statements reaffirming their determination to completely destroy the Third Reich government. We owe our freedom to the heroes of World War II.

The type of determination and sacrifice that led to victory in World War II will also get us through our current challenges.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

It isn’t just The American Legion serving communities during the COVID-19 emergency. Sons of the American Legion Squadron 586 and the South Jefferson Rescue Squad in Adams, N.Y., prepared over 500 barbecued chicken dinners and delivered them free courtesy of their drive-through service last Sunday. Television station WWNY reported that the meals were gone in 30 minutes and were the result of a team effort with donations coming from the Six Town Chamber of Commerce in Adams and a charitable foundation from Rochester, N.Y.

Even during a tragic pandemic, we are seeing the best of America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

One of the most devastating aspects of COVID-19 is the harm that it is inflicting on members of the Greatest Generation. Philip Kahn piloted missions to Iwo Jima and this month transferred membership from American Legion Post 160 in Great Neck, N.Y., to Post Everlasting as a result of the coronavirus. The 100-year-old truly lived a fascinating life. During World War II, he survived a sniper attack and was wounded by a booby trap. As an electrical foreman, he later helped build the Twin Towers. In a sad coincidence, a century ago Philip lost his infant twin brother to the Spanish flu epidemic.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

One of the top-rated television broadcasts during the COVID-19 pandemic has been “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on ESPN about basketball great Michael Jordan. As a native of North Carolina, I’ve always admired his “Airness.”

While people were amazed at Jordan’s skills and his drive to win, I am not surprised that he developed into one of the all-time best leaders to grace an NBA court. What would you expect from a graduate of The American Legion Department of North Carolina Boys State program?

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Memorial Day observances may have a different feel this year. Much will depend on the recommended guidelines in local communities pertaining to public gatherings. Regardless, it is important to honor those who sacrificed their lives for this country – even if it is done with a virtual or webcast ceremony.

Every Memorial Day, your American Legion National Headquarters provides a recommended speech for those who wish to deliver ceremonial remarks. They can be delivered verbatim or localized and changed based on the environment, audience or nature of the event. It is fitting that the 2020 remarks, which can be found here, also recognize a new group of heroes – the health-care workers who risk and sacrifice their own lives while helping us through the COVID-19 emergency. We will never forget that Memorial Day is observed in honor of our fallen servicemembers, but there is also room to acknowledge others who gave their all.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

All masks are not created equal. And if the mask is not worn properly, it can give the user a false sense of security. These are just some of the helpful tips that one can find on the Center for Disease Control website. In order for The American Legion to continue serving veterans and our communities, we must practice common sense and safety. For more on CDC face-covering guidelines visit here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Historically, when troops deployed their family back home would worry about the safety and wellbeing of their faraway servicemember. But the COVID-19 emergency has redistributed the stress to a more mutual equation. Troops now have the additional worry of how their loved ones are faring.

I am pleased that the 11th District of The American Legion in the Department of Illinois has joined an effort with the Doodlebug workshop to gather cards, letters, drawings and notes of encouragement for forwarding to troops downrange. The campaign will continue through May 16.

According to a recent article in the Daily Herald, mail of this nature can be sent or dropped off at the following locations:

DoodleBug Workshop, 314 S. Main St., Wheaton, Il 60187; Geneva American Legion Post 75, 22 S. 2nd St., Geneva, Il. 60134 or American Legion Post 589, 35371 Mignin Dr., Warrenville, Il. 60555.

The notes will not eliminate all stress associated with the coronavirus. But it will let the troops know that we acknowledge and appreciate their service.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I am proud of The American Legion response to the COVID-19 emergency. In addition to increasing Buddy Check calls, posts have held blood drives and provided food and supplies to people in need.

An emergency becomes an even bigger tragedy if you don’t learn. As impressed as I am with our organization, you can help us become an even better American Legion. Simply take a few minutes and respond to this survey. This data will help us better serve those who have served America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I recently received a letter from Isabella He, a junior at Pittsford Mendon High School, in Pittsford, N.Y. She is the founder of Teens for Veterans and has done volunteer work for American Legion Post 899 in Pittsford.

In her letter she wrote, “After years of interacting with these veterans, my generation and community have developed a greater appreciation for those who served our country. In return, our veterans have felt a stronger bond forming between themselves and the community. I am very proud of this achievement.”

Isabella, you should be proud. You should especially be proud of the virtual concert that you organized. Now, for everybody’s listening enjoyment, click here for “We are thinking of You” by Veterans for Teens.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Even in the middle of a pandemic, motorcycle enthusiasts in The American Legion can still find a great reason to ride. After gathering donations from members and additional support from Spanky’s Bar in Kenosha, Wis., and Red Oak Restaurant in Bristol, Wis., District 1 American Legion Riders in the Badger State made a delivery to a local hospital last Thursday. The Riders presented healthcare workers at the Froedtert South Medical Center with 100 free sandwiches.

“I thought, ‘we can do something,’” American Legion Rider Jim Rosco said in the Kenosha News. “These guys are putting their lives on the line.”

Veterans know something about putting lives on the line. In this war against a virus, it is the healthcare workers that are our infantry.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I was pleased to listen to the VA Secretary’s weekly conference call to Veteran Service Organizations last week. Secretary Robert Wilkie again emphasized the importance of veterans calling their local VA facility before showing up for medical services. It is important to reduce exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible,

Certain regions of the United States are doing far better than others. Secretary Wilkie mentioned that the veterans community west of the Mississippi has not seen the type of numbers as their counterparts in the east. For instance, VA was only aware of one veteran in the entire state of Montana that tested positive for the Coronavirus and that veteran was being treated at home. As of April 15, San Diego had three veterans who tested positive, San Francisco had one and Reno had none. These very manageable numbers out west led Secretary Wilkie to say that he sees the groundwork for re-opening regular processes at VA in those areas to occur “sooner rather than later.”

Predictions about this pandemic have varied widely over the last few weeks. But the one thing most of us can agree on is that the VA workers have done a tremendous job serving veterans, even as they risk their own health in doing so.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Let’s hear it for the blood donors in the Buckeye State. At least 13 American Legion posts in the Department of Ohio have scheduled a combined total of 29 blood drives through December 31. The COVID-19 pandemic makes blood donations especially important.

On Monday, Post 470 in Coldwater, Ohio, collected 75 units of blood. Post 648 in St. Henry, Ohio, is planning a drive from 12:30 pm to 6:30 p.m. on April 29. Post 584 in Marion, Ohio, will accept blood donation from 11 am to 5 p.m. on May 14.

Blood donations really are the gift of life.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

These are frightening times for children. School closures and stay-at-home orders have had a dramatic effect on their normal activities. But it didn’t stop American Legion Post 402 in Wayland, N.Y., from cheering up local children by holding a drive-thru Easter candy giveaway last weekend.

“This is our way of being able to still bring Easter to the community,” Wayland Auxiliary member Judy Perkowski told The Evening Tribune. “We are doing what we can to lift up everyone’s spirits in this time.”

This is what The American Legion Family does. We lift up America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Kudos to Legionnaires and American Legion Auxiliary members at Post 219 in Alexandria, Ky. WCPO reported that World War II veteran Dale Reid recently celebrated his 96th birthday. Rather than spending the time shuttered alone at home with his wife, members serenaded him by singing happy birthday in a mini flash mob-type gathering outside his home. People all maintained social distancing, while at the same time letting Dale know that he was special.

We are still able to creatively celebrate our camaraderie in The American Legion Family, even if we are socially distant for now.

I would also like to extend a special thanks for all of the birthday greetings, cards and wishes that I received yesterday, April 15.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only emergency that many people are now dealing with. Tornadoes recently took the lives of at least 33 people and left millions without power in southern regions of the United States. Homes and businesses across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina have been damaged.

Current members of The American Legion and Sons of The American Legion can apply for assistance through our National Emergency Fund if they incurred property damage to their home as a result of a declared natural disaster. Help is available online at www.legion.org/emergency/apply. This is just another great way that The American Legion is still able to serve America. If you have not been impacted by this latest natural disaster but want to help, you can make an online donation at www.legion.org/donate and select the National Emergency Fund.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Long before anyone ever heard of the coronavirus, The American Legion was concerned about the health and well-being of our World War II veterans. Delegates to our national convention passed a resolution in 2017 calling on the Department of Veteran Affairs to accept all World War II veterans into the VA system and exempting them from a means test. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the ending of that war. The veterans of the Greatest Generation deserve access to the health care system that was created to serve veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The Buddy Checks are working. Last week I called in as a guest on the Frontlines of Freedom radio show and podcast. The host, Denny Gillem, is a Legionnaire in Grand Rapids, Mich. He told me that his American Legion post had recently called to see how he is doing. His status as a radio show host had nothing to do with the call. It was just his post, 1111, checking to see if he is ok. That’s the purpose of a Buddy Check – Legionnaires checking on each other and helping when we can. This is a perfect example of what Legionnaires mean when we pledge “our devotion to mutual helpfulness.” Buddy Checks are new but this devotion is as old as The American Legion itself.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 April 20, afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

How do you listen to a stay-at-home order if you have no home? How will you receive a relief check from the federal government if you have no bank account or even a mailing address? These are just a few of the many issues facing homeless veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is assistance available. The American Legion national website offers a complete list of homeless veteran resource experts broken down by each state. If you are experiencing homelessness or know a homeless veteran, please reach out to one of our experts. Assisting veterans is one of the many reasons why we have an American Legion.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Despite the challenges that the COVID-10 emergencies have inflicted on healthcare delivery, a statement issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs on April 13 shows a dramatic increase of veterans accessing VA mental health care services through telehealth and virtual counseling sessions. VA reports that in March, these appointments jumped 200 percent from the prior month. Phone consultations increased by 280 percent.

“VA is open for business and we continue to provide same-day mental health services and mental health screening for veterans at-risk who require attention at any of our facilities,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “There is no doubt that VA’s early embrace of new technology is aiding veterans and I applaud VA health care workers and veteran patients for embracing it.”

Veterans in crisis or those who are concerned about a veteran in crisis, should call the national hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Not all Legionnaires were required to file federal income taxes in 2018 or 2019. They also may be entitled to relief as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress in March.

According to an April 10 news release issued by the Department of the Treasury, the IRS has set up a new web portal for non-filers to receive their relief payment. Millions of Americans are eligible to receive $1,200 payments from the federal government. Simply enter your bank information in the web portal, “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” Politico reports that paper checks will not be sent until May, for those who did not file taxes electronically or provide the federal government with their banking information.

The IRS has also announced that it will launch another portal for filers who chose to submit their taxes without providing banking information. Last month, the IRS announced that the filing deadline for 2019 federal taxes has been automatically extended from April 15 to July 15, 2020.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Through e-mail, your National Executive Committee approved a resolution last week cancelling the 2020 national convention previously scheduled for Aug. 28- Sept. 3 in Louisville, Ky. The terms of the elected and appointed national officers will continue until the closing session of the 102nd National Convention in Phoenix scheduled for Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2021.

The decision was difficult and easy. It was difficult because we are well aware of the importance of such an event. An enormous amount of planning for the Louisville gathering had occurred and never in our 101-year history have we cancelled a national convention. But the decision was also easy because the safety and health of our members and their families must be our top concern.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern history. We must respect the guidelines and restrictions put in place by public health officials and government leaders. Because of this turn of events, Louisville has been selected as the site of our 2026 national convention, the next available year.

In the meantime, we will continue to serve veterans and our communities through Buddy Checks, blood drives, advocacy and the practice of our four founding pillars.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 April 20, Good Friday

Dear American Legion Family,

This is Easter weekend, a time of hope for Christians as they celebrate the resurrection of their Lord. It’s also a time of hope for America. Numbers seem to indicate that social distancing and other safety measures are having a positive impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. The best and brightest doctors in the world are working hard to find effective treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus. And The American Legion has always believed in the determination and grit of the American people to overcome any obstacle.

Have a wonderful Easter and pray for our health care workers, our military and our neighbors.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Occasionally, national headquarters receives questions about canteens, lounges and other operations at various American Legion post homes. We have received an increase in these calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bottom line is that your national headquarters has no say in these matters. These are not national programs of The American Legion and, constitutionally speaking, departments and posts are autonomous and in control of their own operations.

That said, we are not indifferent to the hardships imposed by closures due to the national emergency. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $350 billion to protect employees and assist businesses. Included among them are non-profit organizations. More information can be found at www.treasury.gov; for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce checklist, click here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

During these times of economic uncertainty, the Department of Veterans Affairs is understandably offering relief to veterans who may have difficulty paying VA for debts owed. According to guidance that we have received from the White House, the veteran must call VA to receive the relief. For benefit debts, call the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648 to make arrangements. For health care debts, call the Health Resource Center at 1-888-827-4817. Extensions for claims are also being granted. Those with questions pertaining to claim extensions should call 1-800-827-1000.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 April 20, afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

After consultation with our National Americanism Commission, I have decided to cancel the American Legion Baseball World Series, as well as the regional baseball tournaments for 2020. While the World Series wasn’t until August, the season’s games were scheduled to begin in May.

We are also suspending Samsung Scholarships to be awarded in 2020 due to the cancellations of many Boys and Girls State programs. Those who were awarded previous Samsung Scholarships will still have access to any unused funds that they may need.

The American Legion is justifiably proud of its outstanding youth programs and we look forward to bringing them back in future years. But National Americanism Chairman Richard Anderson explained the situation perfectly.

“These times are unparalleled,” Chairman Anderson said. “And while it’s distressing to think of all those youth across the nation who are disappointed to learn of the cancellation of American Legion programs this year, it would be a much greater tragedy if even just one of those youth were to fall ill during a program. The Americanism Commission feels this is the right thing to do.”

I agree.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Among the many shortages we are experiencing lately is fresh produce. Leave it to the Legionnaires of Post 301 in Austintown, Ohio, to overcome and adapt. According to WKBN-TV, the post worked with the Youngstown Community Food Bank and the Feed the Children Network to collect enough food to provide nourishment for 200 families. They even had food left over, which was donated to a local church. Another great example of how Legionnaires and their friends in the community serve their neighbor.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 April 20, afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Since day one of the current national emergency, I’ve been advising American Legion departments, posts and Legion Family members to listen to their local authorities. Our organization has believed in maintaining law and order since our founding and included it in the Preamble to our constitution.

As national commander, it’s only fitting that I respect and share with you the national guidance set forth by our elected leadership. The White House and Center for Disease Control have issued guidelines titled, “30 Days to Slow the Spread.”

You have probably heard most before. They include:

• Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities

• If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.

• If your children are sick, keep them at home. Do not send them to school. Contact your medical provider.

• If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people.

• If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.

For more information, please visit, CORONAVIRUS.GOV.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s easy for me to provide frequent updates on the coronavirus. A quick scan of the day’s news usually provides new reports of American Legion posts serving their communities.

Today, I offer a salute to Post 159 in Kennebunkport, Maine. Legionnaires there are offering ongoing errand assistance, including pickup of groceries or prescriptions, rides to the doctor or help making other needed appointments. If you’re in the area and need some help, call Post Finance Officer Chris Meyer at 207-956-2056. The assistance, Chris says, is being offered to everybody, regardless of veteran status. You can also learn more about this great post by visiting the Post 159, Kennebunkport Facebook page. And while you’re there, give them a “Like.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion firmly believes no veteran should ever be left behind. We are concerned that the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act is too reliant on federal tax returns in identifying Americans receiving rebates. This would leave out a significant number of Americans, including many disabled veterans and their families with little incomes, who are not required to file a tax return.

I was happy to join leaders of other veteran service organizations Friday in writing a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. We pointed out that the federal government has many other ways to identify VA beneficiaries including disability compensation, pension, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and other non-taxable payments. Not only can they cross reference records that they already they have, but they also have records for Social Security recipients.

We should never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The legislation that was passed is needed to quickly help millions of Americans who have been devastated by the economic downturn. Now it’s time to improve the delivery process.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

They make them tough in Oregon. Various media outlets have reported that 104-year-old World War II veteran William Lapschies has recovered from COVID-19. He first showed symptoms on March 5 and was one of the first residents of the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ home in Lebanon, Ore., to test positive. But days after he experienced a spiked temperature and heavy breathing, VA spokespeople reported that he had recovered.

Fellow World War II vet Bill Kelly, 95, of McMinnville. Ore., also reportedly recovered from the virus. His granddaughter wrote on Facebook that Kelly said, “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this (coronavirus) bull----.”

Well said. The American Legion salutes your service.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Social distancing requirements have presented a new set of obstacles that American Legion posts have never faced during prior national emergencies and disasters. But the current crisis has proven that Legionnaires are as creative as they are tenacious.

In Dover, Mass., Post 209 has launched a food drive to benefit local agencies, a pantry and a church. Post 335 in South Gate, Calif., is providing care packages to senior citizens sheltered at home. American Legion Post 328 in Riley, Ind., will hold a free drive-thru cookout on April 4. These are just a few of the many reports that we are receiving every day of American Legion Family members serving their communities during these tough times.

As this continues, we may look back at this time as perhaps The American Legion’s finest hour.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

During a conference call with major veteran service organizations on Wednesday afternoon, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie implored veterans who are not feeling well to call their local VA centers before coming in. Dropping in unannounced endangers the veteran and others around the veteran. While VA is seeing nonveterans in New York City, it has not had to open beds to nonveterans in other areas at this time. As the numbers rise in other cities, you may see the VA expand its fourth mission – which is to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense during times of national emergency or war.

Not all veterans are comfortable receiving telehealth, but it is an option that many should consider and would reduce exposure opportunities for COVID-19.

While calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline have understandably increased at a time like this, I was pleased to hear Secretary Wilkie say that they have also the increased the staff who answer those calls. Once again, if you are a veteran who is feeling stressed or have thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 if you’re a veteran).

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I can think of no better way to observe Children & Youth Month , or month of hope as we have been calling it recently, than to make a donation to The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation.

The donations are used to train our outstanding service officers and provide temporary financial assistance to Legion Family members in need with children at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn, which only heightens the financial uncertainty many families face. Last year, our TFA grants provided more than $1 million of assistance to Coast Guard families that were impacted by the government shutdown. Those nonrepayable grants took their toll on the Foundation’s balance, but the donations were delivered to the people who needed them. The current crisis will also test the resources of this outstanding charity.

Administrative costs for this great foundation are paid by national headquarters, so you can be sure that your entire donation will go to the stated cause. In addtion to making a donation, feel free to share my video message on social media.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 crisis is taking its toll on America’s blood supply. While many Americans are wisely staying in their homes, blood donation is considered an essential service. It is perfectly appropriate to leave your home to make a donation. We are aware of many American Legion posts that have held or are planning blood drives. But regardless of where the donation is made, if you are healthy, please do so. If you enter your zip code here , the American Red Cross will direct you to a drive in your vicinity. And you can also help get the word out by sharing this video message on your social media page or post website:

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Shutdowns should not be interpreted as closed for business. Your national staff of The American Legion is working remotely from the safety of their homes. The same could be said for our dedicated American Legion service officers.

While an office visit is not a safe option for the time being, if you would like to file a claim or have questions about your benefits, visit www.legion.org/serviceofficers While there may be some delays, many service officers are still responding to emails and calls.

1 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

April is Children & Youth month and this year it is being observed in a way that nobody could have anticipated even a month ago. While many of our programs have been postponed or cancelled, The American Legion’s devotion to the current generation of young people remains steadfast.

Most schools are closed because of the COVID-19 crisis. If you are sheltered in with your children, it is a perfect time to remind them of our country’s great history. Talk about how after America prevailed in the first World War this country persevered through an influenza epidemic in 1918. Talk about the Greatest Generation that battled through an economic depression before fighting the deadliest war in world history. More than 18 years ago, Americans were stunned to see New York’s tallest skyscrapers levelled by hijacked airplanes. The attacks also struck the headquarters of America’s military might. Yet we rebuilt, recovered and prospered.

This crisis, unique as it is, will ultimately result in a stronger, better and more prepared America when the emergency ends. Yes, there is much sadness. But from the grocer to the surgeon, we are surrounded by heroes.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

31 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Lost in all of the coronavirus coverage are people who we can’t afford to lose. I’m speaking of the twenty-plus veterans per day who commit suicide. Fortunately, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) has not forgotten.

The national emergency has only exacerbated feelings of isolation, economic despair and depression. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line have experienced an increase in call volume.

In addition to increasing our Buddy Checks, there is more that we can do. PREVENTS is trying to increase public awareness and perceptiveness to this problem by offering shareable materials on its Facebook page. You can follow PREVENTS on Twitter at @WeArePREVENTS and through various social media platforms using #MoreThanEverBefore.

Most important, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or expressing the slightest suicidal thoughts, call the Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 if you’re a veteran).

Bill Oxford

National Commander

Coronavirus Update 31 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

There is never a bad time to fly the flag of our country. We saw a huge spike of Old Glory being displayed during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. We also see the flag commonly flown on patriotic holidays. It is wonderful to see Americans rally around the flag during times of national crisis or emergency – though The American Legion has always championed the patriotic display of our flag.

If you don’t have an American flag, you need not leave your home to purchase one. Simply visit www.AmericanLegionFlags.com or call 1-888-453-4466. The flag can be delivered to your home and is competitively priced. Moreover, they are 100 percent made in the United States, with some of the proceeds being used to support American Legion programs which are assisting veterans and military families in your community.

If you are reading this message you clearly love your country. This is an opportunity to let your community know that you are also proud of it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Yesterday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was opening 50 beds in New York City for nonCOVID-19 patients who are nonveterans. The request to do this came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will allow other hospitals to better serve the growing number of coronavirus cases.

Under normal circumstances, The American Legion would not support using VA resources for nonveterans. However, these are not normal circumstances. In fact, delegates at The American Legion National Convention in 2016 wisely anticipated emergencies such as the one we are now facing when they passed Resolution No. 188, which calls on Congress to fund VA’s role as a back-up to FEMA in response to national emergencies. While The American Legion believes in a strong VA health system for veterans, we also recognize its vital “fourth mission” to serve as a back-up for FEMA and the Department of Defense in response to national emergencies.

“VA is proud to assist the City of New York while continuing its primary mission of caring for our nation’s veterans.” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in an official statement.

The American Legion has been saying for years that VA offers the best healthcare anywhere. Now, other Americans will see why.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Buddy Checks have been around long before the coronavirus. In fact, I could argue that Legionnaires have been checking on their fellow veterans since our founding in 1919.

But COVID-19 is a unique emergency requiring a different type of response. Social distancing is needed to protect not only the people we are trying to help but the person conducting the buddy check as well. Moreover, economic uncertainty and health concerns have added to the stress and hardships that many veterans face.

With this in mind, The American Legion is offering a new toolkit for you to download: How to Perform A Buddy Check During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Included are sample scripts, along with tips on how to organize a team. It’s only five pages so it should be easy to print from your home. It’s just another example of how The American Legion is a true brotherhood and sisterhood.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I had a conference call with our department adjutants Wednesday afternoon. Many departments have cancelled Boys State, Oratorical Contests, American Legion Baseball games and department conventions. Others are delaying decisions and hoping that conditions improve to a point where these events can either take place or be rescheduled for a later date.

Please be understanding with those who have to make these difficult decisions. They are made with the safety of the participants and the public in mind. Please refer to your American Legion department websites frequently to learn the latest about these events.

Although American Legion departments are keeping their social distance, there is no doubt that they are very much engaged with what is occurring and anxious to continue to serve you – our American Legion Family.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion was only ten years old when the stock market crashed in 1929. Although today’s volatile stock market is the result of a world health crisis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933 included some inspirational words that still ring true today.

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work,” FDR said. “This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”

And, of course, Roosevelt’s most famous passage from that address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The American Legion has always been an active sponsor of job fairs and career training for transitioning veterans. Once society re-opens, you can count on your American Legion to once again be on the frontlines of this important effort.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I’ve been hearing many great reports about The American Legion’s response to COVID-19 in communities across the country.

Legionnaires in the Blue Grass State have been making people feel, well, less blue. American Legion Post 23 in Bowling Green, Ky., teamed up with our friends in the Good Deeds Club and the Marine Corps League to provide a free hot breakfast by setting up a drive-through in its parking lot earlier this week. According to a report by local station WNKY, the first 200 drivers received sausage, biscuits, coffee donuts and toilet paper. These volunteers did it once again this morning.

Feel free to share these great stories by submitting them to www.legiontown.org or jraughter@legion.org.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion is full of knowledgeable experts but our organization does not offer medical advice. That is best left for your personal physician.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is including much of its response information and services on its va.gov website. Included is this piece of advice:

“If you’re a Veteran seeking medical care, call your VA health facility if you have symptoms of the virus. Or sign in to My HealtheVet and send a secure message. You may be able to get diagnosed and receive care through VA telehealth without having to come in at all.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Many times I have mentioned the importance of conducting Buddy Checks throughout this crisis. It is especially vital that we check on senior citizens. Legion College graduate Jennifer Gedney Havlick (Class of 2018) has brought it to a new level. A member of Post 109 in Twin Harbors, Minn., she has formulated a plan called Enhanced Buddy Checks. (click here)

It includes organizing response teams with captains, daily morale calls, and shopping for those who are self-quarantined. Even tasks such as bringing trash cans to the curb are not overlooked. Performing these tasks for others can save lives to those who may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

In its early stages, Buddy Checks were seen as a way to improve communication. During this national emergency, it is more important than ever before.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Your national headquarters is still operating, albeit quite differently, during this national emergency. The staff is complying with local authorities and working remotely from home. Many are still learning to use recently acquired communication tools such as Vonage and Office-365, so please patient if the service and response isn’t as prompt as it has been in the past.

The Emblem Sales call center is closed but customers can email emblem@legion.org and available staff will respond as quickly as possible. Orders may be placed online at emblem.legion.org but shipping delays can be expected during this time. Our printing and production shop will still process membership cards on time.

Thank you for your understanding.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

A review of our 101-year history offers convincing proof that The American Legion does not decide to cancel national meetings or programs lightly. We understand their importance. The meetings are used as a forum for our membership through their National Executive Committee members to set policy, agendas and vision. Our programs build character.

However, the safety and health of our participants, volunteers and staff must be our top priority. The staff at our national headquarters in Indianapolis has been complying with a directive from the state’s governor to stay home. They have been working remotely so they can continue to serve our members. The same for our Washington, D.C., office.

The decision to cancel the spring meetings of the National Executive Committee is a safety measure intended to limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19. I intend to continue regular communications with the National Executive Committee and the 55 departments through telephone, email and other means.

The cancellation of the National Oratorical Finals, the Junior Shooting Sports championships and Boys Nation should not be interpreted as our assessment of how conditions will be in the coming months. It is intended to remove pressure from the departments and posts who normally conduct earlier local competitions and Boys State programs, which feed into the national programs.

We are still assessing plans for the American Legion Baseball World Series and the national convention. Rest assured that decisions for those events will not be made prematurely but only after thoughtful deliberation based on what occurs in the coming months.

We will get through this because we are The American Legion and we rise to any challenge.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

When a crisis faces a community, The American Legion has an amazing record of response. We’ve seen this in natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other tragedies. The current national emergency offers unique challenges that we have not faced in modern times. Yet, there are American Legion posts still providing support that can make a vital difference.

Post 28 in Spartanburg, S.C., has become a relief center of sorts. By providing coloring books and board games, they are helping families battle cabin fever that is likely to grow as the pandemic continues. Even more importantly, the post has a food pantry directed toward those who may have lost their jobs or incomes due to the economic shutdown.

The post isn’t limiting its assistance to Legionnaires or even veterans. “If you have a need, we’ll feed you,” Mike Fowler, the activities and chef for Post 28 told the Spartanburg Herald Journal.

We live in an amazing country. And I am humbled to lead an amazing organization.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

As you may have heard, The American Legion has cancelled its 2020 National Oratorical Contest. Cancelling such a great and worthy program is difficult but when it comes to the safety of the competitors, volunteers and staff, it is a no-brainer.

Today, the Indiana governor recommended all non-essential personnel “stay home.” Many other states are operating under similar orders.

If you are able, please donate blood. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

President Trump has compared this pandemic to a war. Given the seriousness, it seems appropriate. Giving blood is another way for American Legion Family members to contribute to the war effort.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Late last week Congress passed emergency legislation ensuring the continuation of GI Bill benefits through the current COVID-19 crisis. The temporary shutdown of schools does not mean that the needs of the student veteran are also suspended. These veterans will still need to eat. Rent will still need to be paid along with other essential living expenses. Online learning will still occur at many of the traditional universities and colleges.

It was The American Legion that created the original GI Bill and we have championed all of the later versions that have occurred in the 76 years since the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. While the original was widely credited for helping America prosper following the Great Depression and World War II, the current generation of veterans may also rely heavily on this benefit due to the economic hardships that are already being inflicted as a result of this global pandemic.

Many of our fellow Americans will face financial difficulties in the coming weeks and months. Our programs will be needed but even those funds have limits. Small gestures help. I often hear about posts that have helped pick-up the dues for struggling members. Some do so for World War II veterans. Others award complimentary memberships to active-duty military. Resources may be limited, but the generosity of our American Legion Family is always in abundant supply. It’s just another example of why I am proud to be a Legionnaire.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Your Washington-based staff has been communicating regularly with the Department of Veterans Affairs. During a conference call yesterday, VA reported that screening is happening at its facilities and patients are limited to one visitor. No visitors under age 18 allowed. These rules might be difficult for families to accept but they are necessary for the safety of all concerned.

VA also says it has the capacity to meet demand for increased testing. The estimated period to obtain results is two-to-eight days.

The American Legion repeatedly says VA offers great care. During this crisis, VA will be tested like never before. I believe Americans will have a new appreciation for this System Worth Saving.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I saw an interesting Facebook meme that reminds people that not all heroes wear capes. Many don’t even wear uniforms. They wear scrubs. I couldn’t agree more.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Despite some notable and well-publicized exceptions, The American Legion has long-believed that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers the “best health care anywhere.”

Under normal circumstances, VA is for veterans. However, during this national emergency, VA is a crucial player in our nation’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. Delegates to our 2016 National Convention in Cincinnati wisely passed a resolution urging Congress to provide VA with the necessary funding to enhance its ability to respond to national emergencies.

Media outlets report that VA is preparing to request more than $16 billion in new funding to respond to the threat. Given the stakes, we hope the request is given serious consideration.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

In a Department of Defense COVID-19 Update provided early yesterday, the military reported 49 cases of coronavirus among its uniformed members. By the time you read this, it has undoubtedly gone up. Maybe by a lot.

National Guardsmen were providing support to civil authorities in 22 states. These citizen-soldiers do amazing work on our behalf through every major crisis, disaster and emergency. As do the personnel on Navy hospital ships, which are deploying on both of our coasts. Remember that members of every branch have family at home that they also care deeply about and are as much at risk as the rest of the general public. But yet, our servicemembers still continue on with mission. Just as they always have, throughout our history.

Pray for our military. They are America’s true treasure.

18 March 20, afternoon

The American Legion believes there is strength in numbers. We emphasize growth in membership and participation in our great programs.

However, public safety requires the opposite approach for now. Our numbers must continue to grow, but our gatherings should not. President Trump and his team of health care experts are advising Americans to avoid crowds of more than 10 people. Let’s be smart about this. Video-conferencing and telephones are options for us to continue meeting and bonding as Legion Family members. Our comradeship will continue even if there is some social distancing required. And just like every other crisis that our world has faced, this too shall pass.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Channeling the late Mr. Rogers, actor Tom Hanks recently tweeted about “helpers,” the people who are assisting others as we all face this global crisis.

Our organization is full of helpers. A recent Instagram message from Raymond Bernucho, a Legionnaire from Post 38 in Baton Rouge, La., caught my attention. It stated, “I’m a long haul driver with U.S. Express working (a) dedicated route for Walmart. Since this crisis has begun all of the drivers delivering to all the stores, no matter what type of store…Walmart, Target, etc., have been working to keep up with the demands of the people of this country so that (it) can survive and make it thru this world pandemic.

“I feel as though I’m back in the Army, serving this country once and again and it truly feels good for me to be of service not only to my fellow Legionnaires but to the people of this country. So let’s take some time out to get on our knees and pray for all of this to be taken away by God’s mercy. Let us also take time to go help our elderly brothers and sisters who are not able to get…food, medicine or need a ride to their doctor.”

Raymond, I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you helper.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 March 20, afternoon

Buddy Checks. This outreach program intended to check on the wellbeing of our fellow veterans is more important now than ever before. Health officials tell us that seniors are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of the coronavirus. They also remain some of the toughest Legionnaires that I have known. Some of them survived the Great Depression and World War II. They should be first on our list of buddies to check on.

We have to be creative. Nursing homes have wisely stopped visitation. Talk to administrators about whether they are assisting patients so they have access to Facetime, Skype or other video-calling technology. Even a simple phone call will do. American Legion Post 330 in Hayfield, Minn., for instance, has collected toilet paper for the elderly. There are many other posts that are stepping up during this crisis. That’s what we in The American Legion do.

--Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

You will be receiving many regular updates from me throughout the coronavirus crisis. I previously announced that The American Legion has suspended all official travel of our national officers and staff through the month of April. Though I am home in North Carolina, I am still actively engaged and plan to communicate with you regularly.

National Headquarters has received numerous requests from American Legion departments and posts who are concerned about closures and curfews. My advice: be patient. Mistakes will be made, but your safety is what is motivating national and local authorities to take these measures. The Preamble to The American Legion Constitution includes the pledge, “to maintain law and order.” We are a law-abiding organization.

It will be tough, but we will get through this. If you need motivation, think about our World War II veterans. They were tough as nails and survived the Great Depression. I will have more to say about them later. We will talk soon.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

The future depends on renewals and new memberships

In recent months, The American Legion has generated substantial public awareness from coast to coast. Isolated, disabled veterans have been helped through American Legion Buddy Checks, which continue. Dozens of local posts have conducted emergency blood drives to fill critical needs at hospitals. Legionnaires have made protective masks, distributed supplies, fed families and inspired the nation.

“This does not happen without an incredible membership of dedicated military veterans and their families who know what it takes to succeed in a life-and-death mission,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford says. “New members help us expand our outreach and allow us to serve more people who need our help. Renewals give us the privilege of keeping up our services functioning, no matter how circumstances change.”

Oxford is urging members to renew in The American Legion today, asking former members to rejoin and inviting all honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to become Legionnaires now when communities need the unique skills, compassion and mission readiness of those who have served in uniform.

Secure, convenient online membership renewal can be completed online at www.legion.org/renew. All honorably discharged veterans who have served since Dec. 7, 1941, are now eligible to join The American Legion and can do so safely and easily at www.legion.org/join.

Job searching in the era of COVID-19

Job hunting is daunting in the best of times, and as many companies move to remote work and many workers are being furloughed and laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem nearly impossible. For veterans and those who are coming off active duty during the pandemic, it can be an especially daunting task.

The American Legion spoke with Brian Parker, Navy Federal Credit Union assistant vice president of Corporate Communications, and Joel Kohn, vice president of Sales and Marketing at Fidelis Sustainability Distribution, LLC, to get their input on current trends and tips searching for jobs during a pandemic.

“There’s a lot of hope out there and companies are hiring,” said Parker, noting it does depend on the industry. “Look for jobs in the supply chain, logistics and for essential-worker types of positions. These are industries that are continuing to boom during the pandemic and will continue to boom after. If there’s a second wave, these are going to be the more secure jobs.”

For veterans who are looking for their first post-military job, these positions can be ideal. And while they may not be the perfect position long-term, they offer real-world experience in the workforce.

LinkedIn and other social media platforms are excellent resources when on the job hunt and these sites are seeing increased activity during an era of social distancing. Parker said one of the most important things you can do regarding your social media accounts is simply to keep them up to date.

“(LinkedIn) is often one of the first places a hiring manager is going to go to make sure your resume is matching your LinkedIn profile,” he said. “I would also add anything to your LinkedIn that you can’t fit on your resume. Hiring managers want to see results, demonstration you know the job, and demonstration of qualities you learned in the military. Look at LinkedIn as an open canvas.”

“I think anyone who has served (in the military) has inherently marketable skills,” Kohn said. “I look at it similarly to college grads joining the workforce where there’s almost a catch-22 where folks don’t want to hire you because you lack specific experience. Well how do you get that experience if no one will hire you?

“Ultimately, it comes down to someone willing to take a chance on you and that’s all on you. You have to be able to use creative intellect to translate how you as an individual can be a benefit to any organization. Know enough about the position you’re trying to fill and leverage your specific experience.”

When it comes to reopening, Parker believes businesses will be initially very cautious and very bottom-line focused.

“They want employees that will produce and eventually gain additional business for them because we’re in an environment where even after we get out of this pandemic, we could fall back into this environment at any point. You want to be sure you’re positioning yourself in an organization that’s going to make you extremely valuable.”

Kohn encourages job applicants to remain optimistic and adaptable.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,” he said. “Never give up, because you never really know when that opportunity is going to pop up. Maintain contact with prospective employers and your veteran network.

“Don’t sell yourself short. Have an understanding of whatever job you’re looking for and have the creative intellect to seamlessly translate what you did in the military to make that hiring manager comfortable in taking a chance on you.”

To learn more about these companies and to view open positions, visit NavyFederal.org and FidelisSD.com.

California Legion post helps provide 'safe' lunch out for veterans, their families

The past two weekends Newhall American Legion Post 507’s Legion Family has teamed up with the Santa Clarita Grocery, and the first-responders and military group the Guardians to provide a Veterans Appreciation drive-thru hot dog lunch for area veterans and their families.

But for Sons of The American Legion Squadron 507 Commander Mike Merlo, the two days were much more than free meals and a chance to thank those who served. It was a safe break from stay-at-home for those veterans who may be struggling even more with the new norm of little or no personal contact with the outside world.

“Especially the Legion members that are used to having a place they can call home, which would be their post – they’re comfortable there, they’re used to having some sort of social interaction,” Merlo said. “Some of them, it may have taken them years to get to a point where they even are comfortable going out and having social interaction.

“For that to all be pulled out from under them, just like anybody, there’s a lot of depression going on for I think almost everybody across the United States. That was kind of the magic of this idea that Brad came up with: It’s a possible but also responsible way of having people get out of the house and not put themselves in any type of harm.”

“Brad” is fellow SAL Squadron 82 member Bradley Grose, who founded Santa Clarita Grocery as a “charity grocery store” that provides perishable groceries, dairy products, produce, bread and basic necessities to families in need. “He had this idea about veterans that were caught up with being inside their house, kind of captive, afraid to go out because they may get sick,” Merlo said. “He came up with this idea about barbecuing hot dogs and having them just do a drive-thru where they can get out, take a drive, get a safe meal and be on their way.

“It was just a bunch of like-minded people and organizations coming together and just trying to do something nice for our veterans.”

Grose said pairing up with Post 507 was an easy choice. “What we like to do as a charity is team up with like-minded people,” Grose said. “Being that I’m with the Sons out here in Newhall, I thought it’s just a natural.”

The effort resulted in 160 hot dogs being served on May 16 and another 200 on May 23. And with masks worn, social distancing happening and the drive-thru setup, all the necessary precautions were taken.

“We haven’t had any people come that have been fearful,” Grose said. “They’ve come, and it’s just put a big smile on their heart. That’s what I would say.”

The following are just a few more examples of American Legion Family members stepping up to assist others during the coronavirus. Please remember to share what your post is doing at this time at www.legiontown.org.

Kansas

After the local post office postponed its annual food drive in support of the Derby Food Pantry, American Legion Post 408 stepped in to help. Post 408’s American Legion Family joined up with American Legion Posts 136 (Mulvane), 4 (Wichita) and 90 (Wellington) to stage a food collection ride that generated more than 1,100 pounds of food to donate to the pantry.

Post 408 previously has assisted the pantry by hosting pancake breakfasts. “We felt like this was a good opportunity for us to pitch in and help out again,” Post 408 Public Relations Officer Michael Saindon told the Derby Informer.

Michigan

In Wyandotte, American Legion Post 217 is going to hand out 400 boxes of food provided by Gleaners Community Food Bank to veterans, senior citizens and other families in need on May 29. The distribution effort will be via a drive-thru and encourage safety and social distancing.

Minnesota

• American Legion Post 56 in Albert Lea is teaming up with the United Way of Freeborn County to form the Veterans United program to assist veterans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Post 56 identified potential needs and suggested conducting a food drive. On May 27 the partnership will result in a pop-up food pantry; those unable to attend can have boxes of food delivered via Post 56’s American Legion Riders. The post and the United Way also will assist homebound veterans with grocery ordering and delivery, and are recruiting volunteers to assist with chores such as mowing lawns, cleaning gutters and other home maintenance for those families with deployed servicemembers. “I just hope that the veterans actually use this, and that they’re not afraid of anything,” Post 56 Commander Jeff Olson told the Albert Lea Tribune. “We’re here to help, we’re here to support them. That’s the goal.”

• In Eagan, American Legion Post 594 annually has honored high school seniors who have committing to joining the U.S. Armed Forces after graduation. That tradition continued this year despite the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony was moved from Eagan High School to the Central Park Pavilion, and the seniors and their family members were asked to remain in their vehicles during this ceremony. The students usually get a chance to stand up and speak, but this year Post 594 Commander and ceremony emcee John Flynn shared their stories. Each student also received individual resolutions from the Minnesota State Senate and House of Representatives, as well as an American Legion Certificate of Commendation and a branch-of-service pin from Post 594, and a plaque from Eagan High School.

Pennsylvania

Col. Jacob Morgan American Legion Post 537’s Legion Family in Morgantown donated $500 worth of canned goods to Twin Valley Food Pantry. The pantry reached out to the post for assistance.

"We will give them whatever they need, we are here to help our community and our veterans,” Post 537 Commander Troy Trupe told Berks-Mont. “During this time of the shutdown many people are hurting, and we will do what we can to help."

Wisconsin

In Cross Plains, American Legion Post 245 teamed up with the Boy Scouts to conduct a no-contact donation drive to collect food and cleaning supplies for the Black Earth Food Pantry.

Illinois post makes smooth transition to virtual world

The coronavirus pandemic has forced American Legion posts to change the way they do business. Conducting meetings has become a virtual affair. Food drives and distributions have had to be done while observing social distancing. And as Memorial Day showed, American Legion posts weren’t going to let a pandemic get in the way of observing the sacred holiday.

But for American Legion Post 488 in Riverside, Ill., moving into the virtual world was a discussion that came up months before the pandemic hit. And since stay-at-home orders went into effect in Illinois, the post hasn’t missed a beat.

Monthly meetings and a weekly commander’s call take place via Zoom. A Poppy Day promotion was handled through Facebook, and on Memorial Day the post offered up the reading of President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address by Lincoln interpreter George Buss.

Post 488 Commander Joseph Topinka said that last September he invited Marla Marie Curran, who now volunteers as the post’s community outreach coordinator, to speak to post membership about developing an online presence and looking at the ability to meet virtually.

“Even before the pandemic we were trying to do this,” Curran said. “If the weather’s bad and they don’t feel safe driving (to meetings) … or just can’t make it, they can still sign into their monthly meetings and still have a say, have a vote. They can interact and find out what’s going on.”

Meeting virtually, Curran said, also is more appealing to younger veterans perhaps working more than one job or with young children and who don’t have the time to drive to and attend a meeting in person.

“Being virtual, we can sit here and take 45 minutes, we can put our microphone on mute, we can still hear what’s going on, we can talk when we need to, and that keeps us engaged,” Curran said. “The pandemic just kind of pushed us to do what we were already trying to implement. We already had the stepping stones to do it.”

The weekly commander’s calls offer members the chance to check in with fellow veterans. Post meetings include guest speakers, most recently retired U.S. Army Col. Kelly A. Wolgast, who earlier this month spoke about being a military nurse and leader, and how it relates to the pandemic. Future guest speakers already are scheduled through August.

Topinka said the post has been sending webcams to older members in order to get them to participate. One member hadn’t been to meetings in years but now is attending virtually.

“We normally don’t have meetings in the summer, but because of the pandemic I decided that we should continue doing things in the summer so that people have a place to go,” Topinka said. “It’s actually been an opportunity for young and old alike to come and participate. But what’s important is it’s value-added. We bring a good guest speaker, somebody that attracts people and that people will learn from. And we now have attracted members from other states.”

In advance of Poppy Day and knowing it would be impossible to distribute poppies to the community in a traditional way, Post 488 came up with another way to spread the word about Poppy Day while raising funds. Creating a virtual poppy, the post encouraged Facebook users to use the poppy as a profile picture frame. Those who used the frame were asked, but not required, to donate.

Post 488 was struggling before Topinka became post commander in 2017. Since then the membership has grown to more than 30, despite the post not having a facility.

“I keep telling people it’s not so much where your building is, but where you build your community,” Topinka said. “If our community can be virtual, it’s still a giving community. It’s still people doing good things. I don’t care if you’re from Riverside or not. You can be somewhere else and you can still do something in the name of the post and in the name of The American Legion.”

July 1 deadline to submit Consolidated Post Report for 2019-2020

American Legion posts have an opportunity to share the great work they are doing in their local community through the completion of the Consolidated Post Report (CPR).

The CPR was established for posts to document external activities, such as volunteer and fundraising efforts, funeral honors and youth programs, from the reporting period of June 1-May 31. This data is collected by National Headquarters to help quantify – for Congress, American Legion media, national leadership and more – the good that American Legion posts do in their communities every year.

The 2019-2020 CPR is due to National Headquarters no later than July 1. Download the report online or fill out and submit through www.mylegion.org.

So far, 27 percent of the more than 12,600 American Legion posts have submitted a 2019-2020 CPR.

Plaques are presented to departments with at least 95 percent CPR reporting by July 1.

The American Legion welcomes Trump tweet on National Guard extension

The head of the nation’s largest veterans organization praised a tweet by President Trump today indicating that federal orders for members of the National Guard would be extended through the middle of August.

The tweet comes just eight days after The American Legion called for an extension, which would entitle certain National Guard members to additional home loan, education and retirement benefits since their federal orders would now exceed 90 days.

“We know that the coronavirus emergency will not suddenly end at 89 days,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford said. “Yet thousands of outstanding men and women of the National Guard left their homes and risked their lives in response to this emergency. From cleaning nursing homes to delivering supplies, the National Guard has been a national treasure. The American Legion welcomes the president’s tweet indicating his plans to extend the Title 32 orders, which would enable these heroes to accumulate benefits that they have certainly earned.”

The president’s tweet stated, “The men and women of the National Guard have been doing a great job fighting the Coronavirus. This week, I will extend their Title 32 orders through mid-August, so they can continue to help States succeed in their response and recovery efforts.”

COVID-19 doesn't stop Legion Family from observing Memorial Day

American Legion Post 302 in Oconto Falls, Wis., was instrumental in the creation of the Oconto Falls Veterans Monument, which was dedicated last fall. And on May 25, that same memorial – which bears the names of 450 veterans and their years of service – served as the backdrop for the post’s Memorial Day observation made necessary because of the coronavirus.

Members of Post 302 stood socially distanced in front of the memorial and saluted as vehicle after vehicle, many adorned with U.S. flags and other patriotic decorations, passed by. It was a chance for the community to come together to honor the day.

“It did go exceptionally well,” said Post 302 Legionnaire Bob Maloney, who helped organize the event and chaired the memorial project. “I would say we were pleasantly surprised. But our community … has taken the veterans under its wing, if you will, and they’ve supported us with everything that we’ve done.”

Maloney said between 40 and 50 cars drove past the memorial that also has meant so much to Oconto Falls. “There are some real heroes in our community that are buried in our cemetery and also (listed) on our monument,” he said. “It was all about the memorial. This monument is a community trophy, and we’re really proud of it, as veterans, that we were able to go forward and get this built, with the community support being as strong as it was.”

Click here for a photo gallery from Post 302's event.

Ohio Community Comes Together. The lack of a Memorial Day parade didn’t stop Jenkins-Vaughan Post 97 in Cardington, Ohio, from helping the community observe the holiday. The post teamed up with village officials and the civic group Friends of Cardington to put on a procession and ceremony that were viewable either in-person from a space distance or virtually.

In lieu of the parade – for years coordinated by Post 97 and last year featuring more than 50 units – members of Post 97’s American Legion Family carried the colors from American Legion Park through the village and took part in a POW/MIA ceremony and 21-gun salute at the Civil War Monument in Glendale Cemetery. Members of the community were able to either watch from their yards or porches, or follow along via streaming on Post 97’s Facebook page and other online sources. And social distancing was followed by the 40 so residents who watched to observe the cemetery ceremony in person.

“It went real well,” said American Legion Past National Vice Commander James Morris, a member and past commander of Post 97. “We didn’t know what kind of crowd we’d have out there or how they’d participate. But in our community veterans are very highly thought of. We do a lot within the community, and they support us 100 percent.”

In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, Post 97 used its Facebook page to urge members of the community to get involved with the day of remembrance. Those included placing a wreath or flowers at a local veteran’s gravesite; or displaying signs, banners, or other visual displays for their front porch, yard or window.

“There were signs all over the community,” Morris said. “They put a sign on their front porch or their window honoring a veteran who had passed away. It went great.”

Click here to watch video from Post 97's event.

Click here for photos from Post 97's event. 

Adapting and Overcoming. In Sayville, N.Y., the members of Smith-Wever Post 651 have the goal of working around problems, which has been exhibited during one of the most trying times in the nation’s history. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Post 651’s Legion Family has staged food drives and food pantries, and delivered medical equipment to front-line health-care workers – all while conducting post meetings via Zoom.

So when the town’s Memorial Day parade was cancelled, the post wasn’t going to sit by and do nothing.

David Isaacs, who serves as both Post 651’s adjutant and American Legion Riders Chapter 651 director, said that “thousands” normally attend the Sayville Memorial Day parade. When that was cancelled, members of the post planned of placing hundreds of wreaths on the gravesites of veterans in local cemeteries. But Isaacs and fellow Legion Riders also planned on riding down Main Street in a safe and legal procession. And from there the idea grew to a drive that went past various memorial stops in the area and included dozens of members of the community.

“It just kind of ballooned,” Isaacs said. “We just wanted to do something. We were just trying to work around the virus.”

Isaacs said that around 50 vehicles took off with the 20 or so American Legion Riders at the start of the procession, while another 25 or so vehicles joined in later.

“We work around things,” Isaacs said. “We adapt. We improvise. We overcome.”

Click here for photos from Post 651's event.

The following are a few examples of how American Legion Family members throughout the nation helped their communities observe Memorial Day. Please remember to share your ceremonies and other events at www.legiontown.org.

California

Hollywood Post 43 recorded a socially distanced Memorial Day ceremony in the Hollywood Legion Theater. The program was made available via the post’s Facebook page and can be seen here.

Colorado

Colorado Legionnaires took Memorial Day to residents of the Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora, providing a ceremony that included a color guard, chaplain and buglers who played taps. The public, and members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, also helped with the ceremony.

“These men and women that are inside the facility are not able to get out. They are quarantined, they are not able to get out and visit with our fallen brothers and sisters,” Department of Colorado Commander Dean Noechel told CBS Denver. “This is something I can do to give back to them, so they can participate and remember. As a veteran, who lost seven brothers in Iraq, I wasn’t going to let today be forgotten, because we need to honor them.”

Connecticut

• With the annual Derby-Shelton Memorial Parade cancelled, American Legion Post 16 in Shelton organized a ceremony that featured buglers playing taps on the Derby-Shelton bridge overlooking the Housatonic River. More than 50 people showed up to watch, observing social distancing in the process. Bugler Russell Avery, a member of Sons of the American Legion Squadron 16, told the New Haven Independent “If you don’t celebrate this day, then you don’t have to celebrate any day, because without our veterans, we wouldn’t have what we have now. It’s a day of remembrance of all of those who died serving our country. Keeping the freedom. The greatest country in the world.”

• The Department of Connecticut’s Third District created two Memorial Day videos to share with the community. They can be found here and here.

Florida

• Members of the Department of Florida’s 11th District conducted a ceremony at the South Florida National Cemetery. Watch the ceremony here.

• Richard L. Cromartie American Legion Post 374 normally would conduct a Memorial Day ceremony at the Village Green community but this time recorded the service in advance so it could be shown multiple times daily on the Village Green TV station from Memorial Day through June 8. The ceremony also is available to view on Post 374’s YouTube channel.

• In Atlantic Beach, American Legion Post 129 hosted a socially distanced Memorial Day ceremony that also honored those who lost their lives to COVID-19. “Now during the coronavirus pandemic, the most visible heroes are the health care professionals who are saving others and risking their own lives while doing so,” American Legion Past National Commander Clarence Hill said during the ceremony. “These heroes have much in common with the people we honor today, America’s fallen veterans. They are men and women who have sacrificed their own lives so others could live. They are both elite and ordinary. They are elite in sense of character, giving your life so others could live is the ultimate definition of selfless. They are ordinary in the fact they represent the diverse fabric of our country.”

Indiana

American Legion Post 492 in West Lafayette organized a parade for the World War II veterans living at Five Star Residences. One of the residents was a 105-year-old who was a part of the first wave of the Omaha Beach landing on D-Day.

Around 20 residents came outside to watch the parade, wearing masks in the process.

“It's an honor,” Post 492 Legionnaire Shane Thomas told WLFI. “We went around and did the graves at the (Indiana Veterans’ Home) and this is our final stop today and it's an honor to do it.”

Maine

• In Starks, Anson and Madison, members of the Tardiff-Belanger Post 39 American Legion Family conducted Memorial Day ceremonies at six sites that included speeches, prayers and placing wreaths at veterans memorials. In Anson, American Legion Post 39 Commander Robert Demchak said, “Comrades, this day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us. We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of our country and of those who have dropped their burdens by the wayside of life and are gone to their eternal rest. May the ceremonies of today deepen our reverence for our departed friends and comrades.”

• In Kennebunkport, members of American Legion Post 159 had a brief service at the Veterans Memorial at Dock Square. “We need to do this, to pay honor and to take that chance to come out and bring everybody together and do what we do," Post 159 Legionnaire Alexander Dascanio told WGME.

Massachusetts

• In Westfield, American Legion Post 124 continued its tradition of conducting its Memorial Day ceremony, but this year it did so in advance so it could be recorded and viewed on Westfields Community Access Television throughout Memorial Day.

• With the normal parade cancelled in Mendon, Roger L. Wood American Legion Post 355 teamed up with the Mendon Police Association, the fire department and the Massachusetts State Police to organize a convoy of vehicles made up of police cruisers, fire vehicles and civilian vehicles that rode through nearly every street in town to observe Memorial Day. People could follow along with the convoy’s route online using Glymse, an online service that allowed the convoy to share its location in real time, while photos and videos of the convoy were posted via social media.

Michigan

In Zeeland, Gilbert D. Karsten American Legion Post 33 and Zeeland Festivals, Inc. pre-recorded a private Memorial Day ceremony that was made available through Facebook.

Minnesota

In Proctor, American Legion Post 106’s honor guard conducted socially-distanced ceremonies at Proctor City Hall and at six local cemeteries.

"There's still people that want to recognize and remember what Memorial Day is for," Post 106 Commander James Kmecik told WDIO. “A lot of people memorialize different things, but we with The American Legion focus on our veterans, and most importantly our veterans who died during service in combat and war."

Missouri

• Normally members of American Legion Post 43 in Nixa would perform a 21-gun salute and play taps at three different locations on Memorial Day. The coronavirus got in the way of those plans, so this year Post 43 showed up outside the Fremont Senior Living Community to honor the veterans who live there. Legionnaires wore masks, while those who watched either stayed in the balconies or sat in the parking lot. Legionnaire Glen Smith said the stop at the community gave the Legionnaires an opportunity to take Memorial Day to the veterans living there. “There's veterans here who don't get out," Smith told the News Leader. "We felt it was our obligation to come and be with them.”

• American Legion Riders Chapter 55 observed Memorial Day at different cemeteries in Hannibal and New London while following safety precautions. "Every cemetery that has a veteran is a special location to me,” American Legion Riders Chapter 55 Director Shon Thompson told KHQA. “We do what we do. A lot of things have been cancelled this year due to the COVID virus. We're doing our best to get out and salute our veterans that have fallen.”

Montana

• In Hamilton, American Legion Post 47 had a private ceremony at the World War I doughboy statue on the lawn of the Ravalli County Museum. Members of Post 47 also placed a wreath in the Bitterroot River to commemorate those lost at sea. Another presentation took part in the veterans portion of the Riverview Cemetery.

• In Billings, the American Legion Post 4 Yellowstone Legion Riders had a modified version of its annual drive-by ceremony that started at Riverside Cemetery, went to Mountview Cemetery and ended at the Yellowstone National Cemetery. There were no ceremonies at each cemetery; participants were asked to pause for moments of silence, prayers and a few brief words while observing social distancing. “Last year we would stop at each one of the ceremonies and listen,” ALR Chapter 4 Director Gil Floyd told the Billings Gazette. “One thing we learned in the military is you just fire really quick. It’s what today’s about. (Honoring) the guys who died in combat.”

• In Bozeman, American Legion Post 14 organized a community effort that placed more than 2,500 flags on the gravesites of veterans buried at Sunset Hills Cemetery. “It’s a pretty special time to gather with others in this community and it gives us all, especially those of us who’ve served, a moment to thank the community for the way they support us year after year when we do the events this week," Post 14 Legionnaire Rick Gale told KBZK.

Nebraska

• Millard American Legion Post No. 374’s members and American Legion Riders put out more than 400 U.S. flags on the graves of veterans in Omaha. Normally the post would be assisted by other groups but were not this year because of safety guidelines. “It is an honor for us to come out here and mark the graves of our fallen,” ALR 374 Director Steve Lahrs told Fox 42. “These people are here for you. They served our country and we owe it to them to pay them a little bit of respect.”

• In Gering, American Legion Post 36’s Legion Family organized a socially distanced ceremony at West Lawn Cemetery. The ceremony included an honor guard, the playing of taps; members of the Legion Family who took part wore masks, as did many of those in attendance. “I’m glad we got to do it,” Sons of The American Legion Squadron 36 member Eldon Kaufman told the Star Herald. “We are going to continue our patriotic duty.”

New Jersey

After Hoboken’s 122-year-old Memorial Day parade was cancelled, American Legion Post 107 teamed up with members of the Boy Scouts to stage a memorial walk, complete with masks and U.S. flags.

"Since 1898 the Hoboken residents have been marching up Washington in honor of our fallen brothers and sisters," Post 107 Commander John Carey told Connecting Vets. “This is a tradition that we can't afford to let fade away.”

New York

• In Endicott, American Legion Post 1700 organized a socially distanced parade that traveled through the village. Those attending were asked to practice social distancing measures and remain inside their vehicles.

• In Buffalo, the annual Erie County American Legion Memorial Day ceremony was recorded and aired twice on WBEN radio on Memorial Day and remains available to listen to on-demand.

North Carolina

• The American Legion Family from Post 82 in Shelby conducted a safe ceremony and then encouraged the dozens of locals in attendance to form small groups and maintain social distancing while helping place more than 1,100 flags on the graves of veterans buried in Sunset and Webb Memorial cemeteries.

• In Beaufort, American Legion Post 46 joined other veterans service organizations in a socially distanced Memorial Day ceremony and a wreath-laying on Memorial Day. American Legion Post 46 Judge Advocate Bob Kirk organized the ceremony, which took place at Bayview Cemetery.

Pennsylvania

• In Hellerton, the local Memorial Day service was closed to the public, so Edward H. Ackerman American Legion Post 397 streamed the service live via the organization’s Facebook page. The ceremony observed social distancing rules and took place at Union Cemetery. “I know times are difficult, but let us always remember the troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy, battled the freezing temperatures in Korea, fought in the jungles of Vietnam, ascended the mountains of Afghanistan and cleared the streets of Iraq,” Post 397 Commander Eric Medei said during the ceremony. “Let us never forget their sacrifices and the difficult times they had to endure. It really puts things into perspective. They fought and died, so we can have the freedoms that we have today.”

• In a matter of 10 days, Harveys Lake American Legion Post 967 organized a safe, large community parade that included veterans, motorcyclists, politicians and civilians, and began and ended at Post 967. “We were so pleased with the turnout, especially on short notice,” Post 967 Commander Sam Wolfe told the Times Leader.

South Dakota

Members of American Legion Post 15 would normally spend Memorial Day installing U.S. flags at area cemeteries. But wanting to ensure safety, the post also organized a drive-thru Memorial Day procession that traveled through four local cemeteries and consisted of dozens of vehicles.

Members of the post’s honor guard fired a 21-gun salute at each cemetery when the procession came to a stop.

"Overall, it was very dignified and, I think, appreciated by people that were there," Post 15 Commander Bob Johnson told the Grand Forks Herald.

Texas

Members of American Legion Post 267 in Marshall would normally visit area cemeteries on Memorial Day to place flags on veterans’ graves. But safety precautions because of the coronavirus kept the post from its annual tradition.

So instead, Post 267 teamed up with the the Marshall Independent School District, which allowed the post to place flags in front of the district office. The flags spell out “I Love USA” using a heart in place of the word “love.”

Utah

In Ogden, Baker-Merrill American Legion Post 9 continued its more than 50-year tradition of marking the graves of veterans at Ogden City Cemetery with American flags. The flags were placed on Saturday morning instead of the normal Monday placement and used small groups to observe proper social distancing.

Paul Warren — a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, member of Post 9 and resident of Ogden — helped place flags Saturday.

“This is country. This is honor and duty,” Post 9 Legionnaire Paul Warren told the Standard-Examiner. “I can’t think of a better reason than that.”

Washington

• In Spokane, American Legion Riders Chapter 9 led a drive-thru ceremony in Fairmount Memorial Park, followed by a parade of cars through the park’s 3,800 U.S. flags placed along the route.

• In Snoqualmie, the Renton-Pickering American Legion Post 79 Legion Family provided the community with a virtual Memorial Day service that it streamed via Facebook.

Wisconsin

• In Appleton, American Legion Post 38’s color guard – the Scarlet Guard – organized a procession with other veterans service organizations after the city cancelled its Memorial Day parade. The procession included VSOs, motorcyclists and local law enforcement, and visited multiple area cemeteries. “It's not something we've done here in the past, but I guarantee this will be a new tradition we do here on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend," Sons of The American Legion Squadron 38 member Eric Stadler told NBC 26. “It's heartwarming. It proves that we can come up with new things. We can make the best of a bad situation.”

• In Cross Plains, American Legion Post 245 delivered flags and conducted a ceremony while observing proper social distancing and limiting the number of participants. Those wanting to observe the service were asked to do so from a safe distance.

Wyoming

With Cheyenne’s Memorial Day event at the Beth El cemetery cancelled, American Legion Riders Chapter 6 placed flags on the graves of the veterans buried there.

"This is for the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, and now in the future space force members, that died in action protecting our country," ALR Chapter 6 Director Mark "Gunner" Pfenning told Wyoming News Now. “They made it possible for us to enjoy days like this. To come out and gather with who we want to gather with, and do those barbecues. If you're having a barbecue today, good for you. That's what these men and women sacrificed their lives for, is to keep this country free."

 

 

 

NEF aid available to qualified Michigan flood victims

Just days after dam failures flooded parts of north-central Michigan, American Legion members in the affected area were mobilizing to help their communities.

“We’re pretty much packed to the rafters” with donations of cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products, and more, said Mark Authier, commander of Post 443 in Sanford, Mich.

Post 443 sits far enough east that the building wasn’t impacted by the millions of gallons of water that emptied out of Wixom Lake when the Edenville Dam ruptured after days of heavy rain. But the flooding forced thousands from their homes, and the cleanup has begun.

“People are mostly involved in getting their homes and businesses just cleaned up,” Authier said. “There was a big effort over the weekend and (on) Memorial Day where people were just coming in and out of town in dump trucks, filling them and taking them to the area landfill. What they’re concentrating on right now is cleanup.”

Despite the post being closed since March 16 due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, Post 443 quickly became a distribution center for supplies to the community.

Authier said donations had been so generous, the post had to ask donors to stop bringing clothing — “People don’t have any place to put it,” he said — but donations of other necessities were still coming in.

The community’s generosity was also evident in the reaction to a GoFundMe page set up to help fund the rebuilding of the Sanford Flag Memorial. Post 443’s Legion Riders chapter helped raised funds with the Ryan Burgess Memorial Foundation to build the monument, which was dedicated in 2018. Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Burgess was killed by an IED in Iraq in 2006.

“One flagpole out of the seven was bent down into the ground,” Authier said. “We rescued the American flag and the POW flag; both were tattered. Everything else washed downstream. We rescued the combat cross and some of the brickwork, which we’re storing at the post until we can rebuild.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had raised over $33,000 toward rebuilding the monument.

“We’re a small town, but this community has really pulled together to try to clean up and get ready to move on to the next phase, which we hope will be a new and better, stronger Sanford,” Authier said.

NEF funds available

The National Emergency Fund is available for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members, as well as Legion posts, who have been impacted by natural disasters like the flooding in Michigan. The NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit www.legion.org/emergency.

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