American Legion CDA Post 14


American Legion News

What's next for the PACT Act?

Source: July 12, 2024

American Legion news feed image

As the two-year anniversary of the PACT Act approaches, The American Legion held a panel discussion July 11 in the House Veterans' Affairs Committee Room on Capitol Hill evaluating the impact of the far-reaching legislation while looking ahead to ensuring that it continues to serve veterans.

President Joe Biden's signature of the bipartisan law — the Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act — ushered in the largest expansion of veterans benefits in a generation. The bill established a presumption of service connection for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxins.

More than 1 million PACT Act related claims have now been granted, and over 888,000 veterans and survivors are now receiving new service-connected disability benefits.

"That's an impressive accomplishment, and everyone involved with the Veterans Affairs committees deserves credit," Chanin Nuntavong, American Legion executive director for Government Affairs, said as he opened the special event. "But there is always more we can and must do to reach those still in need. Efforts are underway to efficiently triage veterans exposed to burn pits and experiencing symptoms. New and emerging FDA-approved technology can evaluate lung function more quickly and more cost effectively than traditional methods, and help streamline the process for those in need of medical care." 

A recurring topic during the panel discussion was encouraging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Congress to establish standardized screening programs and triaging workflow. American Legion Legislative Director Julia Mathis led the discussion, kicking it off with an update on the implementation by VA.

Retired Army Col. Steve Miska, executive director of the PACT Act for VA, explained that the department's role is to work in collaboration with partners like The American Legion and screen as many veterans as possible. "We are very focused on the toxic exposure space," he said. "We're not going to stop until we get it right."

Danielle Robinson, the widow of the PACT Act's namesake, was among the panelists that offered their perspectives. Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson began fighting for his life 10 years after his deployment to Iraq in 2006. Originally, VA denied medical coverage to Heath, stating, "there was no connection between Heath's burn pit exposure and his lung cancer."

The stage 4 lung cancer "obliterated" Heath's lungs, Danielle recalled, referring to a term one of his doctor's used.

"I don't know how Heath was doing it — breathing — his last days with those lungs in his body," she said, adding that when he was first diagnosed, he was running half marathons.

The initial advice from doctors missed the mark — your body's changing since you are 30, your testosterone levels are off and others. Danielle stressed that their experience is precisely why the VA needs to incorporate such screening for all veterans who may be at risk.

"Imaging like this could have been very important to him because he went nine months without a cancer diagnosis," she said. "So if this imaging would have been there for Heath to do — who knows? — he could have been here today. It's the least we can do for our veterans today."

Army veteran Cynthia Daniels, a Burn Pits 360 advocate, discussed having to leave her career as a Wilmington (Del.) police officer due to constrictive bronchiolitis, and autonomic nervous system illnesses, which developed from her exposure to burn pits and toxic exposure during her deployment during the Iraq War.

"All of a sudden, I would get short of breath just walking upstairs," she explained. "During traffic stops, walking from one car to the other, I would have to stop and put my hand on one car, which wasn't like me at all as an avid runner. I could not figure out what was wrong."

Thankfully, a doctor diagnosed the condition but that underscores the need for all veterans to receive proper screening.

"I am very grateful for the PACT Act but more work needs to be done," she said. "I am glad that we are talking about that here today."

An issue that remains is how Congress and VA can increase the screening and ensure that care is accessible for even more veterans, especially those who live in rural areas.

Miska said options like virtual visits, mobile units and other means that bridge the distance are critical for those living long distances from VA medical centers. "Those are things that Congress can help us reach not just rural veterans but so that we can reach a lot of them."

His top priority for Congress: help us get the word out.

"PACT has really helped us make some substantial changes not just how VA delivers care but how we function as an organization," he said. "We're doing things more jointly more than ever before." 

Robinson closed by saying the PACT Act "is very personnel" and reiterated the call for additional action. 

"Heath gave 110% into everything he did," she said. "The PACT Act right now is just a start. We have a long way to go to know that they are being diagnosed properly, they're being treated properly and Heath's dying wish on his death bed was that we were going to get that done. He knew it was too late for him but he knew his brothers and sisters needed to be taken care of. So, I ask you all to give 110% into this PACT Act."

Next article: 30 youth marksmen to compete in Legion air rifle championship

30 youth marksmen to compete in Legion air rifle championship

Source: July 12, 2024

American Legion news feed image

The American Legion's 33rd Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship will be held July 18-20 in Hillsdale, Mich., on the campus of Hillsdale College. This is the first year the competition will be held on the historic campus of Hillsdale. The college also recently hosted the Legion's 2024 National Oratorical Contest for the first time thanks to a new relationship between The American Legion and Hillsdale College. 

During competition July 18-19, participants in both the precision and sporter categories will shoot a .177 caliber air rifle in three positions – prone, standing and kneeling – twice. The top eight competitors in both categories will advance to the finals on Saturday, July 20, where each shooter will fire 10 shots standing. The winner from each respective category will receive a $5,000 scholarship provided by The American Legion and the Sons of The American Legion. A $1,000 scholarship, provided by the American Legion Auxiliary, will be awarded to the second-place finishers in each category. 

The precision and sporter champions will also receive a trip to The American Legion's 105th National Convention in New Orleans, in August to be honored alongside the other American Legion youth program champions. 

The top 15 precision shooters are:

1. Viola Allen of Texas, Granbury High School

2. Kamdyn McFarland of Montana, Yellowstone Rifle Club

3. Emme Walrath of Wisconsin, American Legion Post 295

4. Hunter Jenkins of West Virginia, Mason Dixon Junior Rifle

5. Marcus Klemp of Montana, 10 Ring Junior Shooting Team

6. Gabriella Sprague of Pennsylvania, DuBois Rifle & Pistol Club

7. Ziva Swick of Pennsylvania, Palmyra Junior Rifle Team

8. Alison Sutherlin of Montana, Gallatin Valley Sharpshooters

9. Rhiannon Moore of New Mexico, Eldorado MCJROTC

10. Haley Wheeles of Alabama, Robertsdale HS NJROTC

11. Logan Michael of California,  Lincoln Rifle Club

12. Logan Sanchez of Colorado, American Legion Post 109

13. Samuel Adkins of Pennsylvania, Palmyra Junior Rifle Team

14. Makenzie Larson of Colorado, American Legion Post 109

15. Josephine Eichmann of South Dakota, Dakota Sharpshooters


The top 15 sporter shooters are:

1. Zoe Dissing of South Dakota, Humboldt Sharpshooters

2. Alexandra Orr of Virginia, Lafayette Gun Club

3. Elyssa Vazquez of Florida, Mariner HS AJROTC

4. Eryka Vazquez of Florida, Mariner HS AJROTC

5. Faith Clevenger of Virginia, American Legion Post 290

6. Samantha Erick of Virginia, Trigger Time

7. Sydney Beringer of Tennessee, Clarkrange HS

8. Kaitlynn Burrell of South Carolina, Walhalla HS Rifle Team

9. Zachary Higgins of Tennessee, Daniel Boone MCJROTC

10. Brooklyn Zeigler of Tennessee, Daniel Boone MCJROTC

11. Mackenzie Cole of Tennessee, Daniel Boone MCJROTC

12. Liam Conklin of Maryland, Annapolis HS NJROTC

13. Clay Crawford of South Dakota, Marshall County Sharpshooters

14. Elaine Saint of South Carolina, Walhalla HS Rifle Team

15. Tyler Dennard of Florida, Mariner HS AJROTC


Next article: Wisconsin Legion Family take strides to Be the One

Wisconsin Legion Family take strides to Be the One

Source: July 11, 2024

American Legion news feed image

Michelle Leick Leurquin found herself in a dark place many years ago following her deployment to Iraq. She called the suicide hotline, long before it was 988, only to be hung up on and then put on hold. As she drove to a remote area where her husband had a hunting cabin, her then 2-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever crawled across the seat to put his paws in her lap and rub his head against her.

"My dog saved my life. He was an amazing, amazing dog," said Leurquin of her late dog Blue who lived 15 years. "The next day my provider at the VA actually called me, on a Saturday, and we sat on the phone for a half hour or so and talked (about what was causing the darkness). Ever since then I've struggled and had some rough times, but I always think back to Blue. I remember the feeling and the comfort that he gave me."

Leurquin, a member of Post 436 in Wrightstown, Wis., is letting other veterans know that they are not alone in their darkness by walking for Be the One – The American Legion's suicide prevention mission to save a veteran's life. Leurquin was part of the Department of Wisconsin's 2.2-mile Be the One Walk held July 10 during the department convention in Appleton, Wis., at the Hilton Paper Valley Hotel. It's the fourth suicide prevention walk that Department of Wisconsin Vice Commander Jim Johnson has organized during a department conference over the past few years.

"I'm trying to bring in exercise to increase our overall wellness, both physically and mentally," said Johnson, a member of Post 82 in Port Washington, Wis. "It breaks the stigma of all of us just sitting in a bar. It gets us out in the community, they see what we're doing, and it brings everybody together for Be the One to bring awareness to suicide."

Department of Wisconsin American Legion Family members gathered in the hotel lobby prior to the 3 p.m. walk start to sign a large Be the One banner and carry the name of a veteran. On a table sat 22 one-pound stones that represented the lives of veterans lost daily to suicide. Some of the stones were personalized with the names of veterans who died by suicide, while others featured words of remembrance.

Leurquin, who medically retired from the Army after 22 years, carried a stone that said, "I remember."

"It's important for me to carry this rock because I want everyone to remember that suicide is all around us, and as veterans every day we struggle, no matter if we look like we're struggling or not."

First Vice Commander Jarrod Coulter of Post 38 in Appleton carried a stone with a few names written on it. While he didn't know the veterans, he walked the 2.2 miles with the stone as a reminder that suicide touches the lives of so many.

"I had a family member that succumbed to suicide as a result of (military) deployments so that's why I showed up. I figured it would be good to carry the rock for someone else," said Coulter, an Army veteran who at 46 years old joined the Legion three years ago after learning about the organization's mission and advocacy efforts for veterans. "Anything that we can do to prevent soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen from taking their lives is critical. The Be the One initiative, making sure that we are doing Buddy Checks helps, shows results and hopefully makes a difference. If there is anything I can do … show up for a walk, do Buddy Checks, to help someone recognize that they are not alone, that there are other folks feeling the same and going through the same things, I'm all for it."

The Be the One walk was an out and back from the Appleton downtown hotel along sidewalks. Legion Family walk participants, that included Past National Commander Denise Rohan, were led for 2.2 miles by Department of Wisconsin Commander Karl Stuvengen, who carried an American flag, and Department of Wisconsin Historian Michelle Adams, who carried a Be the One flag.

"You are encouraged to talk to one other, maybe even find a new friend. Try to Be the One for each other," Johnson said before walkers departed the hotel. "There are conversations that we have on the walks that sometimes are deep … when you look at the stones that people put names on them, they mean something that you want to talk about. I want us to be together and try to prevent suicide. That's the piece."

Johnson served 15 years in the military between the Marines and National Guard, was an MP in Baghdad, and retired from law enforcement in Port Washington.

The first female to die in combat in Iraq was in his squad. "She was 20. I turned 42 in Iraq. The troops were like my kids," he said. "I struggled with stuff; I have PTSD. If I can help others feel better, that's what I'll do. Because The American Legion encourages us to Be the One, to talk with others about how we're feeling, ask for help when we know we need it, to know there are millions of people out there ready to help us, to know that we are not alone in our struggles."

When Legion Family members returned from the Be the One walk, the 22 stones were returned to the table followed by 22 seconds of silence and prayer. The stones will stay on the table under a Be the One pop-up banner throughout the Department of Wisconsin's conference as a reminder of the No. 1 issue facing the veteran community – suicide.

"Thank you for being the one as we raise awareness and remember those who are not with us," Johnson said in his closing remarks after the walk. "We helped our own wellness while bringing awareness to the internal struggles of our brothers and sisters. During our 2.2 for the 22 walk, each of you were being the one for each other.

"You are the one."



Next article: INDYCAR SERIES hitting oval portion of schedule

INDYCAR SERIES hitting oval portion of schedule

Source: July 11, 2024

American Legion news feed image

After seven of the first eight races of the season taking place on either street or road courses, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads into its oval-heavy schedule, kicking off with a doubleheader this weekend at the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

The Hy-Vee Homefront 250 and Hy-Vee One Stop 250, taking place on "The World's Fastest Short Track", start a stretch of six races on oval tracks over the final eight events of the season. After this weekend, ovals will be featured at World Wide Technology Raceway, the Milwaukee Mile (two races) and the season finale at the Nashville Superspeedway.

Defending INDYCAR SERIES champ Alex Palou, driving primarily the No. 10 DHL Honda with American Legion branding for Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR), continues to lead the points race again this year. He's coming off a second-place finish in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio and leads second-place Will Power by 48 points.

And driving the No. 8 American Legion Honda promoting the Be the One mission, CGR rookie Linus Lundqvist still has the lead in the Rookie of the Year race, holding a 24-point lead over Christian Rasmussen after last week's 15th-place finish. Lundqvist qualified for Mid-Ohio's Fast 12 and started the race 10th.

On Wednesday, Iowa's American Legion Riders provided an escort for Lundqvist's trailer into Newton ahead of this weekend's race schedule. Click here to see photos from the escort, and photos and video from the escort here.

Both of this weekend's races will be 250 laps and 233.5 miles on the Iowa Speedway's .875-mile tri-oval with variable banking that drives like a much bigger superspeedway and features laps under 18 seconds.

In addition to two races, the weekend also will include concert performances by Post Malone, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs and Eric Church This weekend's broadcast schedule (all times ET):

·         Friday, July 12 – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, 3:35-6 p.m. (Peacock).

·         Saturday, July 13 – NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifications, 3:45-4:45 p.m. (Peacock); Hy-Vee Homefront 250, 8-10 p.m. (NBC and Peacock).

·         Sunday, July 14 – Hy-Vee One Stop 250, noon-3:30 p.m. (NBC and Peacock)


·         The Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart and Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade will be the 10th and 11th races of the 2024 season. There have been six winners in nine NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Pato O'Ward (Streets of St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Scott Dixon (Streets of Long Beach and Streets of Detroit), Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park), Alex Palou (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca), Josef Newgarden (Indianapolis 500) and Will Power (Road America) have all won in 2024. The modern record (1946-present) for the most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.

·         Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend, featuring the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart and Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade, will be the second and third oval races of the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule. The first oval race of the season was won by Josef Newgarden (Indianapolis 500). The remaining oval races will occur Aug. 17 at World Wide Technology Raceway and Milwaukee Mile on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

·         With the introduction of the INDYCAR hybrid power unit, The Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend will mark the use of horsepower assist on an oval for the first time. Hybrid energy deployment will include unlimited activation with a maximum deployment of 105 kilojoules (kJ) per lap.

·         The Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart and Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade will be the 20th and 21st NTT INDYCAR SERIES events at Iowa Speedway. Josef Newgarden is the only entered driver to win at Iowa Speedway more than once. Newgarden has six wins (2016, 2019, 2020 Race #2, 2022 Race #1, 2023 Race #1 and 2023 Race #2). Past winner Pato O'Ward (2022 Race #2) is also entered in the event.

·         Andretti Autosport has won seven of the 19 previous races at Iowa Speedway (Dario Franchitti 2007, Tony Kanaan 2010, Marco Andretti 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2012, 2014 and 2015 and James Hinchcliffe 2013). Team Penske also has seven wins (Helio Castroneves 2017, Josef Newgarden 2019, 2020 Race #2, 2022 Race #1, 2024 Race #1 and 2024 Race #2 and Simon Pagenaud 2020 Race #1). Chip Ganassi Racing has two wins (Dan Wheldon 2008 and Franchitti 2009).

·         Josef Newgarden has won nine of the last 12 oval races on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule – including three of the four races held at Iowa Speedway during Hy-Vee INDYCAR Weekend in 2022 and 2023.

·         Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti and Josef Newgarden are the only drivers to win at Iowa Speedway and win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in the same season. Newgarden accomplished the feat in 2019, Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Franchitti in 2007 and 2009.

·         Scott Dixon is the only driver to have competed in every NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Iowa, and although he has 11 top-five finishes in his previous 19 starts on the oval, he's never won at "The World's Fastest Short Track." Twelve drivers entered have led laps at the track (Josef Newgarden 1,847, Will Power 383, Dixon 131, Pato O'Ward 97, Graham Rahal 32, Ed Carpenter 18, Felix Rosenqvist 9, Alexander Rossi 4, Marcus Ericsson 3, Scott McLaughlin 2, David Malukas 1 and Alex Palou 1).

·         Milestones: Scott Dixon will attempt to make his 332nd and 333rd consecutive starts, extending his record streak … Saturday's race will mark Dixon's 395th INDYCAR SERIES start, which will break a tie with Helio Castroneves for second on the all-time list.

To learn more about The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, click here.

Next article: American Legion staffer presents at NATO summit

American Legion staffer presents at NATO summit

Source: July 11, 2024

American Legion news feed image

American Legion National Security Director Mario Marquez, a retired Marine Corps sergeant major, presented at the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Public Forum on July 10 in Washington, D.C.

The discussion, featuring Marquez and Canadian Lt. Col Melanie Lake, focused on their experiences while serving under NATO. Marquez, who served for 31 years, was in Kosovo under NATO forces, did four tours in Iraq and two earthquake areas in Japan. Lake, a combat engineer, served three tours in Afghanistan and commanded Canada's training mission in Ukraine.

Marquez expressed appreciation for NATO's support of the U.S. in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. "That was the only time that Article 5 has ever been invoked by NATO," he said. "We are grateful for that and we will never forget it." 

Lake noted a similar feeling in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine, where she had been four months earlier. "I had the feeling that we had to do everything we can do to help our Ukrainian partners as they defend their democracy — and ours." 

This year marks the 75th anniversary of NATO's formation when 12 countries signed the historic agreement in Washington, ensuring their collective defense in a volatile world.

Since then, NATO has expanded to 32 allies. They are meeting this week in Washington to make key decisions on steps to protect their one billion citizens as the world faces its most dangerous security environment since the Cold War. 

Marquez discussed his first exposure to NATO, while he was serving in Kosovo. He recalled the support from German and Austrian troops who were already there. "We seamlessly began operations like we had been operating together for years," he said. "I will never forget that. It allowed us to serve the people of Kosovo much better." 

Lake recalled when Kabul fell back into the hands of the Taliban. Like most Afghanistan veterans she questioned whether all the efforts were worth it but then found hope. 

"It was the Afghanistan women who said, ‘this gave us 20 years to pursue our education, get jobs and be a part of public life here.' And we've seen what our country can be and we're not willing to give up on that.' Right now, they are the fiercest resistance the Taliban is facing, both at home and at exile around the world."

Next article: US hypersonic weapons, Tomahawk units to be based in Germany, White House announces during NATO summit

US hypersonic weapons, Tomahawk units to be based in Germany, White House announces during NATO summit

Source: July 11, 2024

American Legion news feed image

The United States will step up the deployment of long-range artillery units to Germany in the next two years, a precursor to the permanent basing of those forces and hypersonic weapon systems under development, the White House said Wednesday.

The announcement was made during NATO's summit in Washington and is a step forward for the U.S. Army in Europe, which has made such weapon systems a top priority in its military buildup efforts.

President Joe Biden, who kicked off high-level security talks with other NATO heads of state Wednesday, said allies are making moves to fortify defenses against Russia, including efforts to enhance an industrial base that has been stretched by the effort to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.

"Today, we have to ask ourselves, what is next? How can we keep making the shield stronger?" Biden told other world leaders gathered in Washington.

Biden's statement coincided with an announcement by Germany and the United States that more forces are deploying to Europe.

The White House in a statement said the United States will begin episodic deployments of the long-range fire capabilities for its Multi-Domain Task Force in Germany in 2026. That is part of a plan to establish an "enduring stationing of these capabilities in the future," the statement said.

The plan calls for a mix of firepower.

"When fully developed, these conventional long-range fires units will include SM-6 and Tomahawk [missiles], and developmental hypersonic weapons, which have significantly longer range than current land-based fires in Europe," the statement said.

In 2021, the Army launched the 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force at U.S. Army Europe and Africa headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. The unit is designed to give the command capabilities beyond conventional ground-war tactics. During the same year, the Army also relaunched 56th Artillery Command, a mainstay in Europe during the Cold War. The command's return was part of a broader effort to reestablish long-range firepower in Europe in response to concerns about Russian aggression.

Biden said Russia is now on a "wartime footing" with respect to defense production. Moscow is ramping up its industrial base with support from China, North Korea and Iran, he said.

"We cannot in my view, we cannot allow the alliance to fall behind," Biden said.

Next article: Registration open for 2024 Combined Americanism Conference

Registration open for 2024 Combined Americanism Conference

Source: July 10, 2024

American Legion news feed image

The Combined Americanism Conference (CAC) will be held in person Sept. 27-29 in Indianapolis at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel. Registration is now open at legion.org/cacregistration

Conference attendees will be responsible for lodging, meals and transportation costs associated with attending the conference.

After you register for the Combined Americanism Conference, hotel reservation information for the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel will be provided. 

The following programs will meet for CAC:

  • American Legion Children & Youth 
  • American Legion Chaplains 
  • American Legion Auxiliary Chaplains
  • American Legion Oratorical
  • American Legion Junior Shooting Sports 
  • American Legion Boys State 
  • American Legion Auxiliary Girls State 

Next article: Riders from six different states provide final escort to fellow veteran

Riders from six different states provide final escort to fellow veteran

Source: July 10, 2024

American Legion news feed image

On June 5, Pennsylvania American Legion Rider Karl Beckett messaged the National American Legion Riders Facebook page asking for assistance. Not for himself, but to help honor and return home the cremains of a fellow Legion Rider.

His request was in turn shared on the page for all who follow it to see. And the results were overwhelming.

The post was shared more than 200 times and reached more than 23,000 Facebook users in less than 24 hours. And it caused an outpouring of support that paved the way for former American Legion Rider James Seese's cremains to be escorted by Riders from six states 810 miles from Alabama to Ephrata, Pa., and his final resting place at his family plot.

"I was awestruck and humbled by the response," said Beckett, the road captain for ALR Chapter 56 in Lititz, Pa. "As soon as it hit the national (Facebook) page, my phone just went off. It got to the point where at 1 a.m. my wife said, ‘You need to shut that off now.'

"It makes you proud to be a part of this organization. It tells me that these are the type of people you want to be associated with."

Seese was one of the founders of American Legion Riders Chapter 155 in Bynum, Ala. Beckett had been friends with both Seese and his son, Tommy, also a Legion Rider. When James died, Beckett said his wife (Maria Elzada Jones Seese) had held onto the ashes because they were team truck drivers "and she couldn't bring herself to give up the ashes just yet. And then she finally decided it was time to send him home."

That's when Beckett began thinking of providing Seese a Riders escort the entire trip home.

"I just kind of thought, ‘What would be the greatest tribute we could do for this man?' He was a Vietnam veteran, and he was one of the founding members of the Legion Riders in Alabama. To me, it was a tribute to him and his efforts with the American Legion Riders and him serving as a veteran."

Beckett began reaching out to Legion Rider chapters before he reached out to national staff via Facebook. A call to action was posted on the page, with details provided by Beckett.

After he saw the post, Randy Gunn – a member of the Department of Virginia's American Legion Riders Sub-Committee and American Legion Post 284 in Colonial Heights – saw he had multiple people reach out to him to get involved.

And he did. "When I looked it, I said, ‘OK, Alabama to Pennsylvania.' When you know people up and down the coast, it's a lot easier," said Gunn, the organizer of the Virginia Legacy Run. "The Virginia part for me, I can do that with my eyes closed. And then I sort of guided Carl along the way."

Gunn call his area chapter directors to ask for assistance. "All seven of them on the west coast of Virginia were on it," he said. "The outpouring from everybody was amazing. We had 200 Virginia American Legion Riders participate. And it was nice to have 40-50 bikes waiting for us (at each transfer).

"It took me 20 minutes to plan all this, and it turned out to be 20 years of memories. That's what was really good."

By the end of the journey, American Legion Riders from Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania had taken part in the escort. At many of the transfers, ceremonies took place to honor Seese.

"(Randy) knocked it out of the ballpark," Beckett said. "Him and his guys did an outstanding job. I actually went on a 400-mile round-trip ride to meet up with them and went to two of the (transfer) ceremonies just to be there.

Along the way in Virginia, Gunn said posts offered to feed the escort participants, no matter how many there were. "I asked them, ‘What if there are 100 people', and they said, ‘We'll just go to the Food Lion and get more burgers'" he said. "The camaraderie of everyone coming together … I wasn't really surprised. The cooperation is always out there, when you do something that people can be a part of.

"It's just what we do. I know it's a cliché and everybody says that all the time. But really, when the occasion arose, we jumped in there and took care of it."

Upon finishing the escort, the cremains – which were carried by ALR Chapter 56 Secretary Michael Wert, with Beckett and fellow Rider Jeff Landis alongside him – were presented to Seese's family members in Ephrata. Both Seese's wife and granddaughter went to Facebook to thank the Riders for their efforts. "I am so blessed to see so many amazing people to help take my loving husband to his final resting," said his wife, who remains a member of Auxiliary Unit 155 in Bynum. "I am humbled beyond words to say thank you is not enough. I'm so appreciative for your help."

And Seese's granddaughter, Amanda Sarver, posted "I am beyond grateful for each and everyone who is helping bring my grandfather up here to his resting place."

Beckett said the escort will stay with for the rest of his life, "Just knowing that I was a part of something bigger than myself. It grew beyond bigger than anything I ever thought it would be. I originally thought I'd have 15-20 Riders with me. When we rolled through Harrisburg (Pa.), we had 120-some bikes."    

To watch video of the final delivery of James Seese's cremains, click here.

To see photos Randy Gunn took along the route through Virginia, click here.

Next article: New Mexico post renamed for female Air Force pilot killed in Afghanistan

New Mexico post renamed for female Air Force pilot killed in Afghanistan

Source: July 10, 2024

American Legion news feed image

After closing its doors around the time of the pandemic, American Legion Post 85 in Los Lunas, N.M., began a revitalization process that included regaining its charter in 2022 and then leasing a new building.

Named at the time the John P. Elliott American Legion Post 85 to honor the local citizen who had donated the land upon which the post's previous facility was built, post members wanted to make a change because Elliott had not been a veteran.

When post members began looking to someone to honor, they didn't have to look very long or hard.

On July 6, Post 85 was officially renamed Tamara L. Long-Archuleta American Legion Post 85 to honor a local native who died during a helicopter crash in 2003 while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Between 80 to 100 American Legion Family and community members were in attendance, as were military personnel and others connected to Long-Archuleta.

Post 85 is the first in New Mexico named for a female veteran.

"We wanted to rename it after a veteran, and we specifically wanted to name it after someone in the community that the community could get behind," American Legion Post 85 First Vice Commander Andrew Sanchez. "We all knew Tamara's story. We knew she was known in the community, and we wanted that sense of community back again."

Long-Archuleta started college at age 16 at the University of New Mexico, graduating at age 20. During her time there, she completed the university's ROTC program and was the first woman in the program's history to receive her wings.

She started her helicopter training in Alabama before finishing at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque in September of 2002. Assigned to the 41st Helicopter Rescue Squadron out of Fort Moody, Ga., she was serving in Afghanistan in March 2003 when she piloted a late-night mission to transport two Afghan children with critical head injuries to Kandahar.

But the helicopter crashed into a mountain, killing Long-Archuleta and the other five crew members. The crash came one day before Long-Archuleta was set to rotate back to the United States.

Post 85 reached out to Long-Archuleta's family to get their permission to rename the post after her. Sanchez said family members were honored by the request, something Long-Archuleta's father, Richard Long, restated during the renaming ceremony.

"We're just so honored," Long said. "It's been 21 years and she's had several honors, and for them to still be thinking of ways to recognize her and her sacrifice makes us feel very good."

"He was very humble and gracious," Sanchez said. "The whole family was. They're awesome."

In addition to Long-Archuleta's family and Legion Family members – including the honor guard from Carlisle Bennett Post 13 in Albuquerque – representatives from the University of New Mexico ROTC program, and military personal from both Kirtland and Moody Air Force Bases were in attendance.

The ceremony was a culmination of more than a year's worth of work by Post 85 to regain its charter and rename the post. "It was a great feeling," said Sanchez, who retired from the Air Force after previously serving in the U.S. Navy. "Honestly, it was a huge weight off the shoulders seeing everybody there because we had been putting so much effort into it. We're trying to see this thing through, and to see the community support, and seeing them honoring (Long-Archuleta) and what that means to the community was just an awesome feeling."



Next article: ‘They'll remember the Marines'

‘They'll remember the Marines'

Source: July 10, 2024

American Legion news feed image

Before this summer, Capt. Eric Humer admitted, his knowledge of The American Legion's Boys State program was limited.

Once he found out what he could be doing at New York Boys State, however, he was all in.

"If I'm going to be honest with you, it was down to me and another captain that were going to be available to do it. And I've just taken over a new role, and I thought, ‘Man, I think I'm purpose built for this.' Because I did drilling ceremonies for the Marine Corps for years at the highest level; political science degree; and a Marine, I was like, ‘I got to go do this. I have to go do this.' So I was like, ‘Don't worry about it, it's down to one. I'm doing it,'" Humer said.

Humer led a contingent of a dozen Marines who served alongside the Legion Family staff at New York Boys State on the campus of SUNY Morrisville June 28-July 3.

Both the location and the Marine presence are long-standing traditions, said program director Tom Schreck.

"The state university of New York campus can be a tough place to get around if you're not used to it," Schreck said.

"The Marines are here, one, because of the size of New York Boys State, their main mission is to get them from Point A to Point B," said Department Commander Tim Collmer. "It's not meant to be a military academy or a military indoctrination or anything like that. But (it has to do) with discipline, taking care of each other, looking out for each other. … The boys will remember the Marines; they won't remember the counselors, but they'll remember the Marines."

The Marines' responsibilities including leading the Boys State "counties" in formations, leading physical activities and exercise, and getting the 500-plus Boys Staters where they need to be.

"Then they're going to be their command representative on the (graduation) parade," Humer said. "It's somewhat of a mentor role because they're going to spend some time with them and talk to them, but that's really reserved for the counselors."

Schreck acknowledged there have been some who see the Marines' presence as lending the program too much of a military aspect. But he said the Marines' focus on teambuilding is a critical part of Boys State.

For Humer, who like the rest of his Marines was serving on the Boys State staff for the first time this year, teamwork and accountability are vital lessons they can pass along.

"When we're doing our formation, it's not just left-right-left, it's ‘Hey, do we have everyone before we step off? Are we missing anybody? Do we know where people are at? Is someone at sick call? Is someone hurt? Is someone at band?' So just general awareness of who you're responsible for and who's within your unit, and what to say," Humer said.

The Marines also conduct room inspections, but Humer said those aren't "necessarily about how tight are your sheets and stuff."

"All these boys come from different homes from all over the state, different experiences — some good, some not so good — and the Marines are going to give them a standard, if they don't know it already, of how to live, how to keep your restroom clean, how to organize your shoes so that you have accountability; things to take pride in what you do. And General (William) McRaven, he has a very famous speech about making your bed first thing in the morning. You've already accomplished the first thing of the day, so I think it's going to give them a sense of pride in what they're doing, on top of just being here. It will foster good habits for them."

The room inspections also give the Marines a chance to talk to the Boys Staters one-on-one.

"Just realizing that they are boys, and they could use a good role model; whether they have 10 or they have none, an extra one isn't going to hurt," Humer said.

Next article: What's next for the PACT Act?