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Legion News

Veteran brains committed, more needed

In less than four weeks following distribution of the January 2020 American Legion Magazine, no fewer than 333 veteran and military brains have been pledged for research through the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The online portal to pledge one’s brain can be found at www.concussionfoundation.org/programs/project-enlist.

The January magazine cover story, “Wanted: Your Brain,” explored the need for donated brains to advance research to help veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The research, led by Dr. Ann McKee of VA and Boston University, depends on commitments from veterans, former athletes and others to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, which has studied and influenced changes in football and other sports to reduce concussions and is advancing science regarding brains of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, as well.

McKee explains her work and the importance of donated brains in the above video, recorded during October interviews for the magazine article at the brain bank attached to the Jamaica Plain campus of the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“Since The American Legion Magazine article was published, the number of weekly brain pledges from members of the military has increased by 16 fold. We have had more military pledges in the last month than we had in the previous year,” said Chris Nowinski, co-founder of Concussion Legacy Foundation and author of “Head Games.”

The former pro wrestler and college football player said the key to prevention and treatment is research, which means brains. “We can never have enough brain pledges, so we hope they continue,” said Nowinski, who battled with the effects of repeated concussions after his wrestling career ended in 2003. “Brain donations are a critical driver of new discoveries about TBI, PTSD and CTE. The more pledges we have, the faster brains are donated, the faster we’ll have better treatments for those suffering.”

The original article is now online, the first in a series titles “Mysteries of the Mind.”

Legion commander: ‘Learn from the Minneapolis death’

The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization has called on health care administrators to study the findings of a recent VA inspector general’s report to ensure that circumstances that contributed to a veteran’s 2018 suicide do not re-occur.

“One veteran suicide is one too many,” said American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “But what happened in Minneapolis should have been prevented. A patient committed suicide in a VA parking lot just hours after a nurse overheard the veteran giving away property and mentioning impending death in a telephone conversation. We do not know the name and the gender of the patient profiled in the report but that isn’t what’s important. What is important is for people to learn from it. The IG found deficiencies in care coordination, internal review effectiveness and sufficiency and Patient Safety Committee and Quality Management Council.”

Oxford pointed out that the Minneapolis patient had a history of substance abuse and tried to decrease their use of opioids.

“Medications alone will not solve this crisis among veterans. In many cases, they contribute to the problem,” Oxford said. “The American Legion has been on the record for many years supporting the use of alternative and nontraditional therapies to help veterans recover from depression, PTSD and other issues with which they may be struggling.

"An estimated 20 veterans a day take their own lives. Every one of these instances are tragic. More veterans die from their own hands than are killed by our nation’s enemies. We must do a better job of embracing and listening to these men and women.”

Veterans who are in crisis or have had thoughts of suicide should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. They can also chat online at veteranscrisisline.net/chat or text 838255.

Guidelines for honoring the Four Chaplains

Sunday, Feb. 2, will mark the 77th anniversary of the sinking of the United States Army Transport Dorchester and the selfless acts of four Army chaplains aboard. The Dorchester tragically sunk on Feb. 3, 1943, while crossing the North Atlantic, transporting troops to an American base in Greenland. A German U-boat fired a torpedo that struck the Dorchester, killing 672 of the 902 officers and enlisted men, merchant seamen and civilian workers aboard. Many of those survivors owe their lives to the courage and leadership exhibited by four chaplains of different faiths, who, in sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of brotherhood.

As soldiers rushed to lifeboats, Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic) comforted the wounded and directed others to safety. One survivor watched the chaplains distribute life jackets, and when they ran out, they removed theirs and gave them to four young men.

As the Dorchester sank, the chaplains were seen linked arm in arm, praying.

American Legion posts nationwide remember Four Chaplains Day with memorial services that pay tribute to the courageous chaplains and the brave young men who lost their lives on that fateful night. The following is an example of how to conduct a Four Chaplain’s service. Additional info also is available via our Four Chaplains Sunday guide.

Location: The service can be held at a post, fraternal hall, auditorium, church, synagogue or chapel.  

Media: Spread the word about your Four Chaplains service through local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and social media. Encourage reporters to write about the upcoming service or to do a follow-up story.  

Program: Printed programs add to the dignity and importance of the occasion.

Suggested format:
Posting of the colors
Pledge of Allegiance
“America the Beautiful” (assembly or solo)
Welcome
Invocation
Introduction of guests
Message (focused on the Four Chaplains and sacrificial service)
Tributes to the Four Chaplains (wreath laying or candle lighting by four clergy, one of each faith)
“Let There Be Peace on Earth” (assembly)
Benediction
Retirement of colors

To symbolize the tragic sinking of the Dorchester, there can be any number of focal points for the service such as four lifejackets or four empty seats.  
For a story about and biographies of the Four Chaplains, suggested introductory remarks, formats and music, and remarks for the candle lighting ceremony, download The American Legion’s Chaplain’s Handbook here.

USAA Tips: Steps to a great job interview

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

Interview preparation is demanding work. Working at your current job, searching out additional opportunities, networking, and following up with contacts is time-consuming and can leave little time for interview preparation. Follow these steps to help you have a great interview.

Dress for The Job You Want. Professional dress for a job interview is necessary and it helps present yourself as a dedicated and serious candidate. For both men and women, dress in a comfortable, conservative, modern, and professional manner. Comfort is vital in business wear. If you aren’t comfortable, if you are hot or cold, then you will not be your best answering the interview questions. The first part of a great interview answer is looking the part.

Research Your Interview Panel. If possible, use LinkedIn, Google, and other online search tools to learn about your interviewers ahead of time, so you understand if they have a military background, their prior work experience, any recent publications or speaking, and their professional interests. The second part of a great interview answer is knowing your audience and their interests.

Bring Your Materials. Have extra copies of your resume, a portfolio with 2 pens, business cards, and any preparation notes for last minute study. Also bring a bottle of water to the interview just in case of a cough or thirst. The use of a portfolio to sketch an answer to a question or to write down follow-up questions is professional and invaluable.

Format Your Interview Question Answers. The use of a standard response format for interview questions is to make yourself memorable as a candidate while in the interview. A standard response format makes it easier for the interview panel to understand your skills, how your previous experiences will make you successful, and other attributes that you bring to the company.

The STARS (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Skills) format to answer interview questions is one of the most common.

  • Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work.

  • Task: Describe your responsibility in that situation.

  • Action: Describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or coworker did.

  • Result: Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken.

  • Skills: Skills you used to be successful – includes both hard (technical) skills and soft skills (leadership, teaching, etc.).

  • A final summary line to reinforce your success and results for the question.

Legion Birthday ham event set for March 14

Event name: The American Legion's 101st Birthday Celebration

Event start date/Time: 2020-03-14 17:00:00

Event end date/Time: 2020-03-14 23:00:00

Event city: Indianapolis

Club/Organization Sponsor: The American Legion ARC

Call sign: K9TAL

URL/Email: legion.org/hamradio; k9tal@legion.org

Event state: IN

Event ZIP: 46204

Event country: USA

Frequency 1: 7.225 MHz

Frequency 2: 14.275 MHz

Frequency 3: *CrossRds* EchoLink Conference

Frequency 4: IRLP Reflector 9735

Stations contacted may request Certificate & QSL

QSL name: The American Legion Amateur Radio Club

QSL address: 700 N. Pennsylvania St.

QSL city: Indianapolis

QSL state: IN

QSL ZIP: 46204

QSL country: USA

Public contact name: Josh Marshall

Public contact call sign: KD9DHX

Public contact phone: (317) 630-1304

Public contact email: jmarshall@legion.org

Bronze Star awarded to family of World War II POW and Legionnaire

Last spring, Edward Ucinski III conducted a military records check on his late grandfather, Edward Uciski Sr. who was a prisoner of war in World War II and a longstanding member of The American Legion. It was Edward’s way of passing on his grandfather’s legacy of service to his own son, Edward Ucinski IV, so it wouldn’t be forgotten.

“When I received the (military records) letter in August 2019, I was in disbelief,” said Edward III, Department of Missouri’s 10th District commander and a member of Post 400 in Fenton. Edward Sr. was eligible for an award that neither he, nor his family, knew about.

The letter referenced that besides the Prisoner of War Medal, his grandfather was awarded the Bronze Star following the end of World War II, thanks to the efforts of Gen. George C. Marshall. Edward explained that Marshall made it possible, retroactively, for any soldier who earned a Combat Infantry Badge or a Combat Medic Badge to be awarded the Bronze Star without citation. “It was something truly incredible that many do not know about,” he said.

However, the Bronze Star was never presented to Edward Sr. following the end of the war. It wasn’t until Veterans Day 2019, 22 years after his passing, that the long overdue recognition was presented. And the great-grandson of Edward Sr. accepted it on his behalf.

During the Rockwood Summit High School Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, 2019, Army Sgt. 1st Class Lagermann presented the Bronze Star to Edward IV. He is a Sons of The American Legion Squadron 400 member and the Department of Missouri’s Eagle Scout of the Year for 2019.

“As for my family, we thought that receiving this Bronze Star was something noble and honorable,” Edward III said. “It is something that honors my grandfather and his sacrifices. I always said that my grandfather deserved something for what he endured.”

Edward Sr. shared his war story in 1990 with Edward III for a high school project.

Born in St. Louis in 1914 to parents who emigrated from Europe, Edward Sr. was a first-generation American. After being drafted in 1943, he served with the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division, Company K, 39th Infantry Regiment as a BAR gunner and deployed for war, leaving behind a pregnant wife and a 1-year-old son, Edward Jr., who would go on to serve in the Army 6th Infantry during the Vietnam War.

After landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy following the historic invasion, Edward Sr. fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was captured. He was transported by train to the POW camp Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany, where he was used as a laborer in areas damaged by airstrikes.

Edward Sr. was liberated on Easter Sunday in 1945, and joined The American Legion a few years later, eventually resulting in three generations of Legionnaires.

“It’s a tradition and an honor that started back in 1949 at Missouri Post 472,” Edward III said.

Edward Sr. became commander of Post 472 in 1951, and then transferred to Post 302 where served as the post commander in 1968.

“My grandfather believed in the mission of The American Legion and was a firm believer that everyone who served, even if it was stateside, contributes to the overall success of the mission,” Edward III said.

American Legion Post 302 closed sometime after the passing of Edward Sr. in 1998. But Edward III is in the process of chartering a new Post 302, to be named after his grandfather. The post will serve as a place for all to remember Edward Sr.’s sacrifice and service through the keepsakes that Edward III holds, such as the Bronze Star medal, his World War II uniform and American Legion membership cards.

“My grandfather was truly deserving of this Bronze Star,” Edward III said. “However, I do not believe that he would have cared that he earned it. But we as his family do appreciate it and will pass it on, just as we will his memory and his sacrifices for this great nation of ours.”

Legion-hosted veterans expo 'shows somebody cares'

U.S. Air Force veteran Chris Jordan is using The American Legion as his representative for his benefits claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs. When he found out that Clarence Fields American Legion Post 76 in Ashland, Ky., was hosting a veterans expo Jan. 11, Jordan thought it was a good opportunity to check on the status of his claim.

But Jordan, 49, found much more available at the expo. More than 20 veterans agencies and organizations had manned tables, ranging from various offices within VA to local organizations and services, assisting with everything from health care to employment and transition assistance for newly discharged veterans.

“I think in this area it’s important and serves a good function,” said Jordan of the expo. “You have events like this a lot more frequently in areas where there’s a military presence: a base or a large local retirement community. I’ve lived in some of those areas.

“Here you’re away from any of the larger installations, so sometimes people forget that there are veterans that live in these areas. It’s good that they have a place where they can see various organizations that they may be able to reach out to in a crisis or just to get information.”

The expo, which had close to 50 veterans attend during the afternoon, was sponsored by the American Legion Department of Kentucky’s District 9 and was manned by Legion Family volunteers from Post 76, as well as members of the Legion Family from American Legion Post 342 in Willard, Post 43 in Raceland and Post 138 in Olive Hill.

Kentucky District 9 Commander Raymond Barney, a member of Post 76, said he originally wanted to put together “some kind of health fair for the veterans” to raise awareness about what health care and benefits options were available to area veterans through VA and other agencies. He put together a team at the post to help develop the plan, and the idea was expanded to a veterans expo, moving beyond just health care and including organizations beyond The American Legion.

“Everybody brings something to the table,” Barney said. “Some people are able to provide grants to help people fix their houses. Other organizations deal with (home) health care. Even though I’m representing The American Legion … my whole goal was to let veterans know what their benefits are.”

Other posts in the district became involved, including the husband-and-wife team of Richard and Whittney Dallaire from Post 342’s Legion Family. The pair had participated in a Volunteers of America stand down in 2019, where Whittney got contact information for other service organizations in the area. She started by reaching out to those contacts and in doing so received info on other organizations and individuals. The two also went to the Huntington, W.Va., VA Medical Center, extending invitations to the expo to various departments and officers there.

Getting the word out about the expo included flyers, phone calls, emails and social media, as well as contacting local media outlets to increase advance coverage. Offering a wide range of services and organizations served “to bring more (veterans) in, knowing they can get anything they need when they come,” said Richard, Post 342’s commander and District 9’s sergeant-at-arms. “To me, that even helped with the (public relations part). (Media outlets) wouldn’t have covered it if it was just one organization. But you get a lot of them together and it helps you get the word out there to get the veterans here.”

All ages of veterans attended the expo, including Korean War to post-9/11 veterans. Whittney said the intent was to make it easier for any demographic to get the information they need. “This way, any veteran can hopefully get linked up with a resource provider for any circumstance that they are finding themselves in,” she said.

Others members of Post 342’s Legion Family volunteered at the expo, including the Dallaire’s 9-year-old daughter, Carmelita, a member of Unit 342’s Junior Auxiliary who served in the valuable role of checking people into the expo.

Also from Post 342 was its 26-year-old First Vice Commander Cory Rice, who also serves as District 9’s adjutant and Kentucky’s Area C membership chairman. Rice said when he left the U.S. Marines in 2015, he was given a very quick transition assistance briefing before leaving Camp Pendleton.

“When you get out you have no idea what’s going on. You have no idea who you can even talk to,” he said. “Something like this (expo), it gives a chance to put everything out on the table a veteran could possibly need. That’s a big ordeal. We’re getting all these resources to veterans who might not have the time or the patience to look for them on their own.”

The Department of Veterans was well represented during the expo, bringing mobile health screening and Vet Center units, as well as representatives from the Veterans Benefits Administration and other offices.

Veterans Outreach Program Specialist Jeffrey Weems, who manned a table with Vet Center resources, said working with organizations like The American Legion is “absolutely” critical to VA’s mission, getting the department’s resources to some veterans that may not otherwise know what is out there.

While valuable services and information were providing during the event, District 9 also tried to make it an enjoyable experience for those veterans and their families who attended. During the course of the expo a chili cook-off took place, providing a free meal to expo attendees, volunteers and vendors. Multiple gift bags were provided to attendees from various posts in the area that includes socks, toiletries and other items.

Also available were small toys, coloring books, and Crayons and colored pencils for the veterans’ children to use while their parents were seeking help. “It’s a Saturday and sometimes people bring their children,” Auxiliary Unit 342 Secretary Isabelle Sherer said. “We certainly didn’t want them to go home without something in their hands.”

Barney said he’d like to see the expo happen again but perhaps at a different within District 9. “Instead of having it all the time here in Ashland, let’s take (to other posts) and let the other veterans in that area have a chance to come to this,” Barney said.

Joseph “Ray” Copeland, a Vietnam veteran and member of Post 342, needed to fill out a form to authorize The American Legion to represent his VA claim and was able to do so at the expo. He was proud that his organization was in charge of organizing the event. “It shows somebody cares,” he said.

Legion aims to help ease transition for servicemembers

The scope of all that servicemembers must contend with when transitioning from the military to civilian life — be it finding a job, getting finances in order, or ensuring they receive all their earned VA benefits — can be overwhelming.

National and department staff of The American Legion and the Department of Texas provided help in addressing those transitional obstacles at a workshop Jan. 13 at Fort Hood.

“We were created to take care of our veterans, and make sure they get what they deserve for serving their country. That’s why we’re here,” Department of Texas Commander Jeff Perkins said.

Several dozen servicemembers, most of whom are planning to transition out of the service within the next year, attended the event the day before the Mega Career Fair at Fort Hood, where the Legion also had an informational booth.

Bret Watson, the department Membership and Post Activities chairman, was among the Legion Family members staffing the booth at the Jan. 14 job fair.

“We need to reach out to the veterans that are transitioning out or retiring from the service, let them know about The American Legion (and) the benefits and the organization,” Watson said.

Monday’s transition workshop included sessions on what civilian employers are looking for in a resume, how to create a resume and apply to federal jobs, learning how to be financially responsible and how to use LinkedIn for networking opportunities.

Department Adjutant Bill West told servicemembers attending the workshop that it “could be some of the most crucial hours” of their day.

“There’s a big transition from military to civilian life,” West said.

Veterans service officers Allen Sharp and Ron Peterson were also on hand Monday to discuss VA benefit claims with servicemembers.

Representatives of several employers and government agencies, among them the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Workforce Commission, mingled with servicemembers over lunch to talk about what employers are looking for.

Margret Watson of the Texas Veterans Commission discussed the federal employment process, noting that applying for a federal job requires time, preparation and attention to detail.

She also encouraged servicemembers looking for employment through USAJobs.gov to look once or twice a day, every day, as those job posting are always changing.

Watson also touted GCFLearnFree.org, a website where anyone can learn basic computer programs like Excel or Access, for example, for free.

Legion national staff also encouraged the servicemembers to utilize LinkedIn, especially for networking.

“(Veterans) tend to not ask for help, and that is our No. 1 downfall,” said Ariel de Jesus, assistant director of the Veterans Education and Employment Division. Use those connections from the service, including your spouse’s, de Jesus said.

He also touted the resources of the Legion and other veterans service organizations. “Your VSO’s are great resources; reach out to us,” he told the servicemembers.

“We want to be able to network with them. They need to feel like they can contact us and ask us for help or assistance on anything that they need to be doing,” Perkins said.

Assistance to be offered to New Jersey veterans

Department of New Jersey Legionnaires are conducting a district revitalization and veterans outreach effort Jan. 24-26 in and around Ocean County. Legionnaires will be on hand to discuss veterans benefits, the Legion’s legislative efforts, membership opportunities and service to the community.

The effort will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. all three days at George P. Vanderveer American Legion Post 129, 2025 Church Road, Toms River.

A veterans service officer will be available all three days to discuss claims and other Department of Veterans Affairs benefits-related questions.

Friendly wager results in donation to Child Welfare Foundation

The offer of a friendly Twitter wager on the NFL playoffs will result in a nice donation to The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation (CWF).

In the day’s leading up to the Seattle-Green Bay game in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, the American Legion Department of Washington’s Twitter account (@WALegionMembers) proposed a bet to the Department of Wisconsin’s account (@WIlegion). The losing team’s department would make a donation to the CWF, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations for projects that contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of children.

Green Bay won 28-23, and the Department of Washington was good to its word, tweeting out “Our word is our bond. Even though the #Seahawks lost and @WIlegion didn't take our bet, @WALegionMembers will make a $230 ($10 per each @Seahawks points) donation to @americanlegion Child Welfare Foundation on behalf of @walegionCDR for Natl CDR Oxford.”

The department later tweeted out a picture of a check for $230 that was sent to National Headquarters. And the morning after the game, Twitter user K. Rudolph (@scientwest) responded to Washington’s account, stating that Wisconsin Legionnaires “will match your donation with $280 for the #GoPackGo win.”

 

 

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