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Hams with a plan

A post ham radio club in Montana is setting itself up for the future through forging relationships.

Post 91 in Corvallis, Mont., was chartered in 1937, and started a ham radio club (call sign KG7SPL) in the spring of 2015. That club was the dual brainchild of Post Adjutant Doug Mason, then a novice ham – “I’ve wanted to be a ham radio operator since I was a kid,” he says – and member and longtime ham Roy Meyer, who recently passed away. Mason credits Meyer with encouraging him to pursue his interest.

Around 10 Legionnaires and Sons of The American Legion members were already hams, so membership was not a problem. Once the club was organized, Mason started making plans. And he has a lot of them. Continuing the post’s longstanding involvement with local schools, Mason is talking to a science teacher about possibilities like instituting ham radio as a class, or getting the club involved in the school’s drone-racing project. (Using different frequencies, with more power sent to them, can make the drones go faster, according to Mason.)

Another plan of Mason’s is to make use of two grain silos recently donated to the post, by placing each on either side of the valley Corvallis sits in and placing a ham shack in each. This is part of the post’s disaster preparedness activities; he is also working with the valley’s emergency ham club.

And the club is laying the groundwork for its future growth by getting the word out about ham radio and helping people get their license. Of all the club’s activities, Mason says, “There’s this hole … we’d like to fill it. It’s all about relationships.”

Boys Nation Day 4: Some gave all

Every year, The American Legion Boys Nation program pays respects to the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery, a vivid reminder to the program delegates of the sacrifices made to ensure our country’s freedom.

7:45 a.m. — The buses depart Marymount University, carrying the senators and staffers first to the Marine Corps War Memorial, then to Arlington National Cemetery. They’re again joined by National Commander Charles Schmidt and National Chaplain Harvey Klee.

The two national officers and Boys Nation senators Ryan Harra of Kansas and Ethan Lowder of Iowa will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, an annual tradition at Boys Nation.

“I think this is part of patriotism — paying respects, and giving back, showing our gratitude to those who have served,” Schmidt says.

Harra heard about the opportunity while at Kansas Boys State. “I was really excited to witness it, if not be a part of it myself. This was an awesome experience,” he says.

After watching the changing of the guard, the quartet receives final instructions from members of the Old Guard, who serve at the Tomb, and brings the wreath out for the ceremony. It’s a reverent moment for the senators.

“To be a part of that process, even for a little bit, and to be able to work with men as determined and diligent as the (Old) Guard was an amazing experience in and of itself; adding that on top of being able to give something, even though it’s a sort of small gesture in the grand scheme of things, to men that gave not only their lives but their entire identity for our freedom and our way of life is a really humbling and reverent experience. I was very honored to be a part of that,” Harra says.

The time spent at Arlington makes quite an impact on the senators.

“The last two days I’ve been so inspired to meet so many veterans and come to a place like Arlington, where there’s so many people who have given so much to uphold democracy,” says Oregon’s Cooper Brooks.

1:15 p.m. — The senators reconvene to hear from guest speaker Jeff Kendrick, executive director of the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training. The program aims to help homeless veterans and other veterans in need to return to their communities as productive citizens.

Much of the rest of the day is spent in party conventions as the Federalists and Nationalists vote on their platforms. They also select their presidential and vice presidential candidates for Tuesday's election: the Federalist ticket is Blake Barclay of Florida for president and James Blackburn of Tennessee for vice president while the Nationalists nominate Alabama's Darius Thomas for president and South Carolina's Decker Paulmeier for vice president.

Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation 2017 here on and on social media using the hashtag #2017BoysNation.

Legion, stakeholder groups aim to address military-to-healthcare credentialing

The American Legion National Veterans Employment and Education (VE&E) Division hosted a Military to Healthcare Credentialing Roundtable on June 28 to address employment challenges facing America’s servicemembers and veterans, as well as discuss strategies to meet their needs well into the 21st century.

The objective of the roundtable, held at the Legion’s Washington, D.C., office, was to support veterans’ employment initiatives by bringing together key stakeholders, senior leaders and policymakers, along with experts from the credentialing field in health and emergency medical services.

“This was the first roundtable where we really put a laser focus on a specific issue: emergency medical care,” American Legion Veterans Employment and Education Assistant Director John Kamin said. “Doing so allowed us to explore unique solutions, as well as track the life cycle, from advanced individual training to civilian job placement. There were several opportunities discovered as well as challenges, so it paid off to have a discussion.”

Lisa Lutz, president and co-founder of Solutions for Information Design, LLC, a company that specializes in research and analysis for social science policy, has worked with the Legion on credentialing since the 1990s. Some of the first research on how to alleviate barriers to servicemembers and veterans on credentialing has highlighted many complexities.

According to Lutz, credentialing is a relatively new form of establishing workplace competency. There are still some issues that have not been fully addressed, as very little research has been done on tracking the outcomes of credentialing both in the civilian and military sectors.

“For each of the military services, we have something called the COOL Program, which is Credentialing Opportunities On-Line Program,” said Lutz. “The idea is to encourage them to get that credential while they’re in the military so that when they ultimately transition out of the service, they’ll have that in hand. The credential serves as a way of documenting the fact that their military skills are on par with their civilian counterparts.”

For Lutz, the bottom line is that society really can’t afford to not recognize that training when individuals leave the military and want to join the civilian work force. She said The American Legion is uniquely positioned to bring together the right stakeholders as it continues to address the credentialing.

“Employers like to hire veterans, but they have a difficult time translating their military education and training and experience,” she said. “Most of all, what the services have hung their hat on in terms of promoting credentialing, is professionalization of the force.”

From radiology to dentistry and everything in between, Kamin said health care is one of the largest employment fields. In order to address the specific challenges that America’s servicemembers are currently facing, holistic strategies have to be identified to best suit their needs well into the 21st century.

“What was discovered in our roundtable is that there are intrinsic and technical skillsets that servicemembers have learned from the battlefield. This allows for more specialized positions in emergency medical care than what was previously the status quo,” Kamin said. “We’re also pleased to see the (Department of Veterans Affairs) invest in that idea by allowing it to be a springboard for other positions within the VA. The military is doing an extraordinary job consolidating its medical training. I think the challenge is getting the industry to catch up with them.”

Lutz said her hope is that each stakeholder group better understands what its role can be, and increase its awareness of how to implement best practices.

“This is really a wonderful venue to focus on the health care occupational areas,” said Lutz. “Having all of these stakeholders from (the credentialing field) is a great opportunity to discuss how we can reduce the barriers. The main thing is to learn from what’s been done. We’re highlighting some of the key best practices that have been put in place. I think that’s really the hope – if you find that one certification agency has done something to promote a military servicemember being able to get credentialed, then maybe another agency, state or academic institution can model their program after that.”

Boys Nation Day 3: ‘You all represent the cream of the crop’

The first trip off campus for the senators of American Legion Boys Nation 2017 includes dinner with The American Legion family and a stirring visit to the National Mall.

Paying their respects

6 a.m. — Catholic senators and Boys Nation staff begin the day with Mass at Marymount University’s chapel. After breakfast, the entire senate attends a memorial service featuring National Chaplain Harvey Klee.

In his message, “On Behalf of a Grateful Nation,” Klee says, “I am both honored and blessed to be here this morning, standing before such outstanding young men as yourselves.” He praises the senators’ intelligence and drive and encourages them to take advantage of their opportunity.

“It is not the words that we say, but the words that we live by that count. By our own actions may we bring forth the fruit of justice and freedom for all,” Klee says.

The senators have a major role in the service. Indiana’s Dalton Thompson delivers the opening prayer and Georgia’s Joshua Garland reads the scripture, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The POW/MIA remembrance is read by Mississippi’s Garrett Smith and Oregon’s Cooper Brooks. Participating in the dedication of the wreath which the program will place Monday at the Tomb of the Unknowns are Leon Jones of Arkansas, Jackson Peck of Maine, Austin Bannerman of Oregon, Dillon Swanson of North Dakota, Justin Paik of Rhode Island and John Fencl of West Virginia. Washington’s Benjamin Hull delivers the benediction.

9 a.m. — President Pro Tempore Corey Eisert-Wlodarczyk opens the senate session. The senators vote to suspend reading the previous day’s journal — “That would take all day,” Eisert-Wlodarczyk notes — and introduce more bills. Twenty minutes later, the senate breaks up into committees.

‘You are serving your country’

Noon — Singing is a tradition at Boys Nation, with Director of Activities Bob Turner often leading the senators in several patriotic songs. They’ll do so later today when they’re guests at Post 136 in Greenbelt, Md., but the senators take it upon themselves to get ready with an impromptu sing-along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” as they reconvene after lunch.

Once things settle down, John Espinoza, a 2011 California Boys State alum who works as deputy associate director in the office of public liaison in the White House, shares some of his experience with the senators.

1 p.m. — The second party conventions take place with nominations made for president and vice president and discussion of platforms. Fourteen Nationalists and 19 Federalists seek their party’s nomination for president.

3:45 p.m. — The senators and staff members board the buses for Greenbelt just in time, as a downpour hits as the buses leave Marymount. At Post 136, the senators are greeted by National Commander Charles Schmidt, Department of Maryland officers and other members of the Legion family.

“Senators, you all represent the cream of the crop,” Schmidt tells the senators. “… If your schools and American Legion departments did not believe in you, you would not be here. Most of you are already active in your communities. If you are serving your community, you are serving your country.”

Oregon’s senators, Bannerman and Brooks, and Maryland senators Chann Cortes and Jarred Walker present Schmidt and Maryland Department Commander James Marchinke respectively with a Boys Nation shirt and pin.

7:30 p.m. — It’s back to the buses for the drive to the National Mall. Fortunately, the rain has passed, but it’s left D.C. humid in its wake.

No matter. The senators take in the sights, posing for pictures under the pillars representing their state at the World War II Memorial, paying their respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, climbing the steps to the top of the Lincoln Memorial.

Darkness has fallen by 9:30, when the buses return for the drive back to Marymount. There are section meetings when they get back, and as “lights out” signals the end of the day, the rain falls once again, and thunder rumbles in the distance.

Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation 2017 here on and on social media, #2017BoysNation.

Boys Nation Day 2: A place of opportunity

American Legion Boys Nation 2017 began in earnest on Saturday, as the delegates became senators, discussed legislation and elected a president pro tempore and secretary.

A busy morning

8 a.m. — After breakfast and the flag-raising ceremony, the delegates convene in Marymount University’s rec gym where they’ll meet as the senate for the week.

Program Director Mike Buss congratulates the 98 delegates on their selection to Boys Nation and reminds them of The American Legion’s history, as well as the program’s reflection of the Americanism pillar of the Legion’s foundation.

“The key word here is opportunity,” Buss says. “The American Legion is providing you with that opportunity. What you do with it is up to you.”

9 a.m. — C-SPAN marketing specialists Vanessa Torres and Christina Whirl talk to the delegates about the network and how it can be a resource to them this week and in the future.

Torres notes that some past Boys Nation events are available to watch in C-SPAN’s video library. They include several speeches to the program by President and former Boys Nation senator Bill Clinton.

Whirl also encourages the delegates to look into C-SPAN’s StudentCam competition, which encourages students in grades 6-12 to create a 5 to 7-minute video documentary related to that year’s theme. The upcoming 2018 competition’s theme is “The Constitution & You,” with the students choosing a provision of the Constitution and creating a video illustrating its importance to them.

10 a.m. — Federalist Party Counselor and Georgia Superior Court Judge Joe Bishop administers the oath of office, officially inducting the delegates into the Boys Nation Senate. Nationalist Party Counselor Joe McCraith discusses the senate rules, Legislative Administrative Assistant Tim Aboudara Sr., points the senators to where their legislation is online, and Senate Counselor Jerry Kinder discusses the voting procedures, which for the second year in a row will be done via electronic clickers.

One thing, though: two senators don’t have working clickers.

At Texas Boys State in June, the House approved a resolution to secede from the United States. But junior counselor Ben Schafer introduces a resolution to reject that secession.

“Senators, as we are gathered here today, it is important to recognize that we are one great United States of America and one great Boys Nation. Therefore, I would encourage all of you to vote yes on this resolution such that the gentlemen from Texas will be seated and recognized as full members and full senators of this Boys Nation senate,” Schafer said.

The resolution passes 52-44. Texas is back in. The state’s two senators, James Mills and Garrett Smith, receive their identification cards and their state flags, held back pending the resolution, are placed in front of them.

“Most importantly, I have some batteries for your clickers,” Schafer tells them. “Welcome to Boys Nation.”

Senate Assistant Counselor Wells Ellenberg reminds the senators, “Gentlemen, it was important that we have a full and functioning Boys Nation senate and we did like to have some fun to get started with. I will say that the more seriously you take this process, the more quickly we will be able to get our bills and resolutions to committee and ultimately to the full senate for debate and vote.”

Just before breaking for lunch, the senators begin to introduce the bills and resolutions they prepared before coming to D.C.

A busier afternoon and evening

1:15 p.m. — The party conventions begin, with the party chairs being selected. Bishop and McCraith remind the senators that the finite amount of time available means decisions have to be made quickly.

The senators also elect convention secretaries, and each party’s convention chair — Nationalist Ryan Long of California and Federalist Kaden Stenger of West Virginia — appoints a convention clerk, parliamentarian, sergeant-at-arms and timers. They also appoint five members each to the rules committee and the platform committee.

From there, the senators are assigned to committees. With only one week to conduct their business, it’s impossible to have a committee reflecting each committee in the U.S. Senate. So at Boys Nation, there are just four committees, each assigned bills which would normally be assigned to specific committees.

6 p.m. — Rain cancels the evening’s flag-lowering ceremony, sending the senate straight from dinner into the nominations for president pro tempore and secretary. The president pro tempore race begins with 12 candidates and ends with the election of Federalist Corey Eisert-Wlodarczyk from Pennsylvania.

In between the elections, Past National Commander Dale Barnett talks about the power of The American Legion. “You don’t know the opportunities that will be open to you because of the power of The American Legion,” he tells the senators. He shares the story of Alan Landers of Florida, who as a first-grader founded a Superheroes Fun Run in Pinellas Park which has raised over $40,000 in four years for the Honor Flight of West Central Florida. With that as inspiration, Legislative Director Mike Bredeck asks the senators to write down something they want to achieve, because they’re not done when the week comes to an end.

Six nominees vie to be the secretary of the senate; the election is won by Daniel Meaney of Connecticut, also a member of the Federalist Party.

The senators wrap up the day with appointments made by Eisert-Wlodarczyk and Meaney and some more committee work.


Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation 2017 here on and on social media, #2017BoysNation.

Colorado, Illinois youth hold lead to capture Legion air rifle titles

Precision shooter Emily Stith and sporter shooter Hailey Smith held on to their No. 1 position heading into The American Legion’s Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Championship round to capture the win in their respective categories. The top eight air rifle competitors in both categories fired 10 shots in the standing position at the Olympic Training Center’s USA Shooting Range in Colorado Springs, Colo., on July 22.

The sporter shooters fired first and though Smith had an eight-point lead over Levi Carlson heading into the finals, he nearly caught up to her but she held on and claimed the Legion’s sporter championship title within .7 of a shot. The finals ended for Smith with an overall score of 2330.6 and second-place finisher Carlson of 2329.9.

Smith said air rifle finals have always been her weakness when it comes to shooting, but what kept her hanging on to first place was “that these were the last shots I’ll ever make. So it was awesome that The American Legion gave me this opportunity,” said 18-year-old Smith of Winthrop Harbor, Ill. She will be attending Marquette University in Milwaukee on a Navy ROTC full ride scholarship.

A 10.9 shot is a perfect score during the Legion’s air rifle final round. When Stith approached the firing line alongside the other seven precision finalists, she shot nothing below a 10.1. For her, that was below what she normally shoots which is in the 10.4 range, but she said she it was still a good final for it being her last competition. Stith will be leaving late August to join the U.S. Army marksmanship unit in Fort Benning, Ga.

“With this competition I just went in with the mindset to have fun and come in here knowing that this was my last (air rifle) competition before I head out. So I went out with a bang,” said 18-year-old Stith of Colorado Springs. “The American Legion has provided me with such an amazing opportunity to connect with some awesome shooters so I’m really thankful.”

Down one point and in third place heading into the precision’s final round, Rebecca Lamb of Virginia came back to claim second place. She attributes the comeback to not paying attention to the scores of her competitor’s shots being read and instead keeping her rifle on her shoulder to stay calm and focused.

“These matches really test your endurance, but it’s been an exciting competition,” said Lamb, who shot on the firing line Saturday alongside two of her teammates from the Arlington Optimist-Acorns Combined Junior Rifle Club. The three girls – Lamb, Amity Ermarth (fourth-place) and Niya Burney (eighth-place) – claim that they made it to the Legion’s tournament because of their positive attitude.

“We all support each other,” Burney said. “Before every match (this week) we went up to each other and said, you can do this. We have this positivity that has helped place us here.”

The competitors had an audience of family and American Legion leadership, including National Commander Charles E. Schmidt, Americanism Chairman Richard Anderson of Connecticut, Department of Colorado Commander Terri Clinton and immediate past Department Commander Jay Bowen.

“This is exciting,” Schmidt said. “All these young people here, Legionnaires made it happen. That’s our responsibility; it’s part of that fourth cardinal principle of education for our youth – teaching them about marksmanship and gun safety, but also help their confidence.

“These (air rifle) youth are the best of the best and The American Legion made it happen. We just made another good thing happen by supporting these youth in our communities.”

As the championship winners of their respective category, Stith and Smith both earned a $5,000 scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to the Legion’s national convention in Reno, Nev., Aug. 18-22, where they will be honored alongside other Legion youth program champions. Precision shooter Carlson and sporter shooter Lamb earned a $1,000 scholarship for their second-place finish.

The following are the top eight competitor’s championship round scores and overall scores:


Emily Stith of Colorado, NTCS Altius – 104.7/2,477

Rebecca Lamb of Virginia, Acorns JRC – 101.2/2,461

Annabelle Stanec of Ohio, Ashland Eagles – 98.1/2,459

Amity Ermarth of Virginia, Acorns JRC – 98.8/2,451

Calista Smoyer of Pennsylvania, Ontelaunee Jr Rifle Team 3 – 98.3/2,447

Noelle Christensen of Texas, Texas Hill Country Shooting Club – 100.7/2,449

Grace Taschuk of Minnesota, American Legion Post 334 Junior Rifle Club – 102.2/2,445

Niya Burney of Virginia, Acorns JRC – 99.6/2,442


Hailey Smith of Illnois, Zion Benton NJROTC – 87.6/2,330

Levi Carlson of South Carolina, Nation Ford High School MCJROTC – 94.9/2,329

Jesseca Montcrieff of Florida, Oviedo #1 – 92.8/2,311

Mackayla Bourgeois of Mississippi, Gulfport MCJROTC – 87.4/2,301

Nathan Fahrenbrook of Nebraska, Western Nebraska Shooting Sports – 92.5/2,294

Lindsay Strohacker of Illinois, Freeport NJROTC – 85.4/2,278

Brooke Gilliard of Georgia, Coffee County 4H – 88.8/2,271

Linsey Kleckner of Illinois, Freeport NJROTC – 76.9/2,268

Boys Nation Day 1: ‘Welcome to Washington, Senators’

It’s a delicate timeline each year at American Legion Boys Nation, a balancing act affected by air travel, weather, the vagaries of D.C. politics — and traffic — and more. Over the next week, we’ll follow the moments of the 71st annual edition of Boys Nation, which began Friday with 98 delegates from 49 states headed to Marymount University in Arlington, Va., for “a week that shapes a lifetime.”

Welcome to Washington, Senator

8:57 a.m. — The first two delegates to arrive at American Legion Boys Nation check in at Marymount University. Maine’s Jackson Peck and Vermont’s Riley Fenoff are on the first flight to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The last to arrive will be Deven Mukkamala from Michigan, some 12 hours later after one of his flights was cancelled, forcing him to miss his connection.

Just part of the territory when bringing 98 young men from across the U.S. to the nation’s capital. Not everyone flew — eight delegates were driven to Marymount by parents or other family members.

Upon arrival at Marymount, the Boys Nation delegates are checked in, given their room keys (and gently warned to not lose them because of the cost to replace them) and presented with the yellow polos they’ll wear for the week. They get their pictures taken and are shown to their rooms by the junior counselors who will serve as their primary resources for the next week.

The 98 delegates are split into two parties, Federalist and Nationalist, and four sections, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Washington — their section determined by which state they’re from. They’ll meet in sections each night, and the parties will convene to decide on their platforms and candidates for president and vice president.

“Are you ready?”

6:10 p.m. — After dinner, the delegates and Boys Nation staff head outside for the flag-lowering ceremony. Soon enough, a group of delegates will be performing the ceremony, but on this first night, it’s a quintet of junior counselors — Rory Calabria, Ben Essex, Anthony Joseph, Spencer Pipkin and Matt Rosenthal — who lower the Boys Nation and American flags.

From there, it’s off to section meetings, where Program Director Mike Buss and Director of Activities Bob Turner each speak briefly about the program.

Buss advises the young men to thank the Legion posts who sponsored them for Boys State when they get back home. “After all, you wouldn’t be here without them,” he says.

Turner encourages the delegates to “be ready.” It’s the attitude they’ll need to carry all week as they become senators in the program, trying to pass bills and make their mark.

But first, there’s a cool end to a long hot day in D.C. — an ice cream social followed by party meetings in which Federalist counselor Joe Bishop and Nationalist counselor Joe McCraith fire up their respective parties for the week ahead.


Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation 2017 here on and on social media using #2017BoysNation.

Commander Schmidt sends get well wishes to Sen. McCain

American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt sent the following message to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer:

Dear Sen. McCain,

From your service as a Naval officer to your career in the Senate, you have always been a fighter. You fought a brutal enemy to keep faith with your fellow POWs, you fought for veterans and you fought for a strong national defense. On behalf of 2 million American Legionnaires, we pray for your recovery and well-being. Keep on fighting, Sen. McCain. America needs you

God Bless,

Charles E. Schmidt

National Commander


Legion names top 16 youth advancing to air rifle finals

Thirty of the top high school marksmen from across the country stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the firing line at the USA Shooting Range to compete in The American Legion’s 27th annual Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Championships, which was held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., on July 21. The top eight in both the precision and sporter category walked away from the line with a secured spot in Saturday’s championship round, where they will vie for a chance to win first place in their respective category and a $5,000 scholarship.

Precision shooter Emily Stith currently has a 12-point lead heading into the final round as she makes her second American Legion air rifle championship appearance. This competition was the first final Stith of Colorado Springs ever competed in, and she always knew she wanted to come back.

“This is such a great competition; everybody here get so close,” said Stith, who is currently training at the USA Shooting Range three to four days a week. Since she competed two years ago, she said her mentality and confidence has improved. “You made it, you are the top 15 in each category in the country. That was one of the things that was hard for me to grasp. (For confidence) you have to remember that you’re here and people are here to watch a good shooter. So tomorrow is going to be a confidence boost.”

The 15 competitors in both the precision and sporter category have been competing in two matches a day since Thursday, taking 20 shots in the prone, standing and kneeling position. The competitors qualified for the Legion’s national competition after advancing through the individual postal match tournament that involved more than 1,500 other air rifle marksmen.

Hailey Smith initially thought she wanted to join her high school’s drill team to spin rifles. But once she learned she could fire them, her position changed and she joined Zion (Ill.) Benton High School’s Navy JROTC program. Now, Smith holds the No. 1 position in the sporter category with an eight-point lead. The Illinois Auxiliary Girls State alum said the Legion’s competition has made her realize how much stamina she has built over her four years of shooting.

“To shoot four matches in two days is a lot; it’s nothing I’ve ever done before. To prepare I was shooting a lot of three by 20 matches just to get used to the feel of things,” Smith said. “I also would add on another layer of clothing just to simulate how hot it might be when we got down in the range.”

No matter her placement in tomorrow’s final round, Smith said that the Legion’s tournament has also “taught me to have fun, make new friends. And it’s really cool to shoot here.”

A common sentiment amongst the current and former Legion air rifle competitors is how the tournament leaves you with lasting friendships. The 2013 American Legion precision champion Rachel Martin has found this to be true.

“A lot of people that I met at this match I’m still friends with today,” said Martin, who recently graduated from the University of Nebraska and is now a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center. She also said the Legion’s air rifle tournament was one of her favorite matches. “It taught me a lot about hard work and how to have that competitive edge but also to have a really good time and learn to be nice to your competitors and help them out.”

Martin competed three times in the Legion’s air rifle championships, placing ninth and fifth before earning first place. She said practicing twice a day for the tournament helped her capture the win. Now, she is practicing daily on her position to earn a spot on the Olympic shooting team.

“I want to get to where shooting is my sport; it’s almost like a dance and you have to figure out your partner, which is your gun,” Martin said. “Sometimes you don’t make good partners and that makes your match really hard. So I’m working on getting that to be a little more cohesive.”

Since arriving in Colorado Springs earlier in the week, the 30 Legion air rifle participants enjoyed a dinner at American Legion Post 209 and tonight they are having a pizza social to help ease any nerves going into tomorrow’s final match.

This is Annabelle Stanec’s first American Legion air rifle competition and what the precision shooter has found that’s “unique and special” about this tournament compared to others is that it’s run by veterans. And Saturday’s tournament for Stanec of Ohio is “about trying my hardest,” she said. “Do the best I can and trust myself with each shot that I take.”

Follow scoring for the competition’s final round Saturday at 9 a.m. Mountain Time here.

The following are the top eight finalists in each category, along with their team and score:


Emily Stith of Colorado, NTCS Altius – 2,373

Annabelle Stanec of Ohio, Ashland Eagles 1 – 2,361

Rebecca Lamb of Virginia, Acorns JRC 1 – 2,360

Amity Ermarth of Virginia, Acorns JRC 1 – 2,353

Calista Smoyer of Pennsylvania, Ontelaunee Jr Rifle Team 3 – 2,349

Noelle Christensen of Texas, Texas Hill Country Shooting Club – 2,349

Niya Burney of Virginia, Acorns JRC 1 – 2,343

Grace Taschuk of Minnesota, American Legion Post 334 Junior Rifle Club – 2,343


Hailey Smith of Illinois, Zion Benton NJROTC – 2,243

Levi Carlson of South Carolina, Nation Ford High School MCJROTC – 2,235

Jesseca Montcrieff of Florida, Oviedo #1 – 2,219

Mackayla Bourgeois of Mississippi, Gulfport MCJROTC – 2,214

Nathan Fahrenbrook of Nebraska, Western Nebraska Shooting Sports – 2,202

Lindsay Strohacker of Illinois, Freeport NJROTC – 2,193

Linsey Kleckner of Illinois, Freeport NJROTC – 2,192

Brooke Gilliard of Georgia, Coffee County 4H – 2,183


Join the Million Veteran Program in Reno

Attendees of the 99th National Convention in Reno in August can support cutting-edge genomics research into precision medicine for veterans by enrolling in the Million Veteran Program (MVP) and donating a blood sample for genomic research.

The VA initiative is building the world’s most robust database of genetic, military exposure, lifestyle and health information, and is seeking DNA samples from Legionnaires. It is more than halfway to its goal of 1 million samples, and needs attendees’ help to get it over the top.

MVP will have a booth in the exhibit hall (Hall 2, 1st Floor) at Reno-Sparks Convention Center where informed consent and blood samples will be taken – it only takes about 15 minutes! The process entails verification of enrollment in the VA system; a short medical brief; and the taking of a small blood sample. The exhibit hall’s hours are:

Friday, Aug. 18, 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 19, 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 20, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 21, 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Click here to read more about the Million Veteran Program.

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