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Legion News

Legion Riders gearing up for Legacy Run

With the 13th annual American Legion Legacy Run less than two months away, American Legion Riders from across the country are in full swing conducting state Legacy Runs to bring in money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

The fund provides college assistance for the children of U.S. military personnel killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined VA disability rating of 50 percent or higher. The reason for the fund, says South Carolina Legion Riders Director L.Z. Harrison, is why his department had nearly 100 motorcycles take part in its 2018 state Legacy Run,

“It’s absolutely because of the cause,” Harrison said. “With the increase in the (scholarship eligibility) to 50 percent or more disabled veterans … and the amount of the scholarships that are now being given out, we’ve used that to our advantage in our communications to promote the ride.”

South Carolina has conducted seven state Legacy Runs, raising more than $375,000 in the process. This year’s ride brought in $65,000, which the department will present on the floor of the 2018 National Convention in Minneapolis.

Harrison said being able to donate that amount of money is a source of pride – and the venue in which it is presented brings out the best in Legion Riders from across the country. South Carolina has been in the top six in department donations every year since 2013.

“I think it’s a healthy competition,” Harrison said. “Each department then strives to do more and tries to compete. All of it ends up for the great cause of the Legacy Fund. We pride ourselves in that we’re one of the smaller departments and that we’re always in the top 10 (in donations), and most of the time we’re in the top five.”

Harrison said this year’s state ride also tried to follow National Commander Denise Rohan’s “Family First” slogan. “This year we made it a point to visit American Legion posts, and it really was a smashing success,” he said. “In past events we may have went to restaurants to eat (and) we may have stopped at places that weren’t American Legion posts. In this case we started, we stopped and we ate lunch at American Legion posts. Not every post had a Riders chapter, but they really threw out the welcome mat for us and we had the opportunity to make it about The American Legion Family this year.”

In Maryland, the Gold Star Legacy Run traveled about 750 miles through northern Maryland to bring in Legacy Fund contributions. In three days, the ride was able to bring in $45,000. That’s up from the $13,500 raised during the department’s first state Legacy Run two years ago. Participation has gone from 40 Riders registered the first year to 97 this year.

Deciding to start an in-state Legacy Run, Past Sons of The American Legion National Commander and ride chairman Joe Gladden said, was “the combination of a couple of things. When I was national commander, the Legacy Scholarship Fund was my national commander’s project. And when I came out of my year as national commander, that was the year the Legacy Run came into Baltimore.

“It was my thought process, ‘Let’s continue to do something.’ We came up with the concept of the Maryland Gold Star Legacy Run. It’s supporting a cause near and dear to heart, and also it’s bringing attention to the Riders and showing the Department of Maryland that the Legion Riders can be an important part of Legion Family … and bring awareness to The American Legion as well.”

Gladden said that the national Legacy Run has created “an association with the Legacy Scholarship Fund and riding motorcycles. Not that it’s the only charity out there that the Riders support, but this was done on a national basis and reached out across the nation.”

The Department of Kansas Legion Riders had their fourth annual Legacy Run earlier this month, raising more than $21,000 with donations continuing to be made to the ride.

“(We) had a great ride, with an average of 45 motorcycles plus support vehicles,” said Kansas Sons of The American Legion Detachment Commander Terry “Hoss” Harris, the lead ride captain for the state Legacy Run. “As we continue to hold this event, the support we are getting from American Legion posts and communities across the state is remarkable.

“We are making great strides in educating the communities about the American Legion Legacy Fund. The ride itself just keeps getting bigger and better each year. Many of our riders call this event a ‘can’t miss.’”

And Alabama Legion Riders State Adjutant Tony Berenotto said his department recently wrapped up a four-day state Legacy Run that brought in more than $10,000. Florida Legion Riders even participated in the event, just as Legion Riders from all over the nation took part in Florida’s Unity Ride, which raises money for the Legacy Fund and this year traveled through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Online registration for the 2018 American Legion Legacy Ride is available now through Aug. 11. All riders and passengers who register online before Aug. 1 will be mailed the registration packet with patches and map book materials before national staff departs. Those who register on or after Aug. 1 will be mailed their registration packets on or after Sept. 1 (while supplies last) as staff returns from convention duties.

The Legacy Run will leave Hutchinson, Kan. – where Post 68 will host kickoff events – on Aug. 19 and arrive in Minneapolis for the 2018 National Convention. The ride will make stops in Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin before finishing Aug. 23 at Anoka Post 102 in Minnesota.

The 2017 Legacy Run raised a record $1,224,653 – the fourth straight year the ride raised more than $1 million.

American Legion, members of Congress recognize National GI Bill Week

The American Legion hosted a reception at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., June 20 to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill of Rights. The legislation enabled nearly 8 million World War II veterans to attend college or vocational school.

National Commander Denise H. Rohan was in attendance to commemorate the 1944 landmark legislation, as well as several members of Congress who recognized the week of June 18-22 as National GI Bill Commemoration Week. Attending the reception were Sens. Tom Carper, Jim Inhofe and Jon Tester, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; and Reps. Jody Hice, Clay Higgins and Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Rohan shared about The American Legion's investment in the GI Bill since its inception, and the benefits it has provided to America's veterans.

“Since the original GI Bill was introduced in 1944, millions of veterans have used these benefits to improve their lives and build their futures. The American Legion helped draft the original 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act that fueled the Eisenhower-era post-war boom and the expansion of higher education and the middle class within American society,” Rohan said. “This is why The American Legion, many congressional leaders, and those who have benefitted from the GI Bill often refer to it as America’s ‘greatest legislation.’ The American Legion continues to work diligently to ensure the GI Bill remains relevant to today’s generation of veterans. We thank Sen. Carper for his leadership in introducing (bipartisan) legislation creating a National GI Bill Week.”

Carper, a Legionnaire and Navy veteran who used the GI Bill to attend the University of Delaware following the Vietnam War, said, “The GI Bill changed the course of history. Millions of returning World War II veterans enrolled in higher education and job training programs and helped usher in an era of broad economic growth in the United States. The GI Bill changed my life, too."

“Investing in a quality education for servicemembers today will pay dividends well into the future,” Tester said. “During GI Bill Week, we honor our veterans and recommit ourselves to ensure they can put their unique skillset and experience to use long after they hang up their uniforms.”

World War I quilts coming to Minneapolis

An exhibit by Quilts of Valor – a nonprofit group that organizes the making and presentation of quilts to military veterans and others – will showcase a set of World War I-era quilts during the 100th American Legion National Convention this August in Minneapolis. The American Legion has conducted quilt-making events with the group at Spring Meetings in Indianapolis for the past few years. This presentation coincides with the emphasis The American Legion is putting on bringing history to life for its centennial convention.

According to Quilts of Valor president Sue Reich, "The 'Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month' officially ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. During the previous 18 months, over 4.7 million men and women served in the war. America’s women also served on the homefront, especially through their quiltmaking. After President Woodrow Wilson’s call went out in November 1917 to raise money for the Red Cross, one of the greatest benevolent fundraising efforts began. Nationwide, women used their quiltmaking skills to raise monies to benefit our soldiers and for the Red Cross.

"This quilt exhibit tells a story of quiltmaking between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918. Here you will find quilts made to honor those who served, to express patriotism in our country in a time of war, and to honor the veterans of post-World War l with a floral profusion of poppy quilts."

Reich owns and has curated the exhibit. It will be displayed in the exhibit hall, which will be located in Hall C, Level 1 of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Reich will have a booth, at which those interested can purchase the book “World War I Quilts” and find out about bringing the exhibit to their area.

Artist offers 'greatest work of art created' to NY post

A prominent artist specializing in the U.S. flag has reached out to a New York American Legion post with an offer to paint an American flag on the outside of its building.

Scott LoBaido, a Staten Island-based artist who has painted Old Glory on the outside of dozens of Legion posts across the country, has extended an offer to Sixth Memorial Post 1833 in Brooklyn to paint a mural on the outside of the post’s brick building.

The offer came after the post was involved in a dispute over an American flag painted on a bench outside of the post facility built by a Legion Family member from the post. The post originally was ordered to remove the bench after a complaint made to the New York City Department of Transportation, but the order quickly was rescinded.

“The flag, to me, is the greatest work of art created,” LoBaido said. “My job is to reproduce it, celebrate it and promote through the gift that I have, which is art. When this story broke, this was kind of my Bat Signal … especially when you’re talking about a building that houses the real celebrities in this country that we forget about: the men and women … who have fought so I can be a crazy artist who can paint whatever I want. So I reached out.”

LoBaido has spent the past 25 years painting the image of the flag on schools, homes, fire and police stations, cars and as pictures. For six months in 2015 he traveled across the country painting flag murals on the outside of Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in order to thank veterans.

“My grandmother had the flag in her front yard where we played every day,” LoBaido said. “Grandpa was a World War II (veteran). Our uncles were in Vietnam. It was embedded in us. I have this unbelievable freedom, and who do I owe this to? I owe it to that flag, and I owe this to the men and women who sacrificed under it for me.

“I get emails and texts and messages and letters every day. Just getting a letter from a Vietnam veteran thanking me, that’s like a $1 million check to me. This is my passion. I’m living the life, and it’s all because of that flag and the men and women under it.”

The post’s Sons of The American Legion squadron commander, who asked to be identified only by his first name Joe, said he was stunned by LoBaido’s offer. “For him to offer us to come and paint our building, I’m blown away,” he said. “I think he’s an amazing person. I’m honored by what Scott has done.”

Keep up with Legion centennial news

Toward the end of each month, The American Legion sends out the Centennial Celebration e-newsletter to an audience of over 610,000 subscribers. Each edition includes stories on events, initiatives and individual stories of how posts, departments and the national organization are preparing for the kickoff of the 15-month observance of the Legion’s 100th anniversary, each in their own way.

The e-newsletter also includes links to resources like the 100th Anniversary Media Toolkit, available to download from the Legion’s dedicated centennial site at www.legion.org/centennial.

Dave Rehbein, past national commander and chairman of the national 100th Anniversary Observance Committee, comments, "The Centennial Celebration e-newsletter is an excellent resource for staying up-to-date on the latest news and events as The American Legion - at every level - heads into its second century of service." The celebration kicks off in August at the 100th National Convention in Minneapolis – make sure you’re on top of it. Go to www.legion.org/newsletters to subscribe.

Survey: Share your TAP experience

The American Legion's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) survey is an opportunity for veterans to share the effectiveness of the program and its relevance in helping active-duty military personnel transition to civilian life.

The survey asks questions on the multiple TAP sessions and their usefulness, as well as the benefits of the program. Other questions focus on how well TAP prepares active duty military personnel for civilian life and the challenges one may experience, or are experiencing, such as finding a job, accessing educational benefits, facing financial difficulties, understanding the process to receive VA health care benefits, accessing disability benefits and more.

Take the 31-question survey here.

Former major leaguer teams with Legion Baseball to strike out cancer

The sixth-annual Baseball BATtles Cancer American Legion Baseball tournament raised $14,500 last week, bringing the total funds raised by the organization since 2013 to nearly $50,000.

The eight-team tournament, hosted by Ballwin (Mo.) American Legion Post 611 at the Ballwin Athletic Association, features teams from Missouri and Illinois.

Funds generated by Baseball BATtles Cancer go to the Jason Motte Foundation, which boasts the aims “to provide comfort and care where there is a need for those affected, either directly or indirectly, by cancers of all kinds.”

Motte, who played three years of American Legion Baseball for Judson P. Galloway Post 152 in Newburgh, N.Y., had a lengthy Major League Baseball career. He led the National League in saves in 2012, and recorded the last out of both the 2011 National League Championship Series and 2011 World Series for the Cardinals.

“It’s all about helping people, helping others," Jason Motte told local television station KSKD.

Baseball BATtles Cancer was founded by Elizabeth Arway and her husband, PJ, who played and coached Legion Baseball for two decades. The organization partnered with the Jason Motte Foundation in 2015 to increase awareness of a similar mission.

“We are truly honored that Baseball BATtles Cancer chose to partner with us,” Caitlin Motte said. “We think everything that they are doing from creating awareness, providing support to those battling cancer, and educating the young (American) Legion players is remarkable and we are honored to be a part of it.”

For more information, visit www.baseballbattlescancer.com.

National Veterans Museum hires first CEO

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter has been named president and chief executive officer of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) scheduled to open this fall in Columbus, Ohio, according to a news release.

Ferriter, who assumes his role immediately, is tasked with creating awareness about the new museum, building a team to run the institution and coordinating the museum’s grand opening.

The 53,000 square-foot museum and 2.5-acre memorial grove sit on the riverfront, in a premier location in downtown Columbus. Interior and exterior construction is nearing completion.

More than $82 million has been raised, through private philanthropy and public partnerships, to fully fund the construction costs and provide the beginnings of an endowment.

Ferriter was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1979, and participated in numerous overseas operations such as Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, and Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn in Iraq. He completed three tours of duty in Iraq in addition to combat service in Somalia, parachuted with paratroopers and Rangers more than 200 times and served as the lead conduit with the Iraqi government from 2008-2010.

After a successful career with the U.S. Army, Ferriter continued his commitment to serve by establishing The Ferriter Group, LLC, a consulting firm that focuses on improving organizations, leaders and teams, many of which were veterans, through a customized approach to refine organizational effectiveness.

“I have worked alongside the exceptional men and women of the military for my entire life,” Ferriter said. “To lead a one-of-a-kind organization like NVMM that seeks to tell the stories and honor the service of members of the military is a tremendous honor and responsibility. I am humbled.”

After the museum opens, plans call for an educational online curriculum and an interactive, virtual tour experience. More information is available at the museum website at www.nationalvmm.org.

USAA Tips: Forget the Joneses

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By J.J. Montanaro

Fighting the urge to keep up with the Joneses is a never-ending battle. My thought and theme for 2018…forget the Joneses. I know it can be hard to do. Heck, we recently moved into a new home and I – even though I know better – find myself walking through other peoples’ houses and houses under construction thinking about what we woulda, coulda, shoulda – and still could do, if we get caught up in the Jones race.

However, if you look around, you’ll quickly recognize that the Joneses are setting a financial example extraordinaire; an example of what not to do. Let’s examine some of their fantastic – dripping sarcasm – work on the financial front:

They are powering economic growth. With roughly 2/3 of our economy powered by the American consumer, the economy is in good hands. Earlier this year personal savings hit a 10-year low of 2.4%. That’s plain pitiful. If you’re in your early 20’s and just getting started, you can probably get away with saving 10% for retirement, but most people have a variety of goals that will require even more saving. So, the Joneses and their 2.4% savings rate is a joke.

They’re playing the “how much payment can you afford” game with the car dealer. Ever wonder how the Jones family affords that never-ending carousel of slick new vehicles? Maybe they can’t. Instead, much to the appreciation of their car salesman, they are stretching out car loans to the point where the payment is “affordable.” Every quarter, Experian produces a “State of the Automotive Finance Market” report. The latest indicated the average new car loan was over 69 months. You know how averages work and that means there are a whole bunch of loans out there with terms longer than 69 months. Shoot for an un-Jones like approach, something that’s affordable with a loan of no longer than 5 years.

They can’t be bothered with life insurance. The Jones family apparently doesn’t need any stinking life insurance. Three kids, a big mortgage, a couple car loans and a lot of underfunded financial goals wouldn’t even phase the survivor if the unthinkable happens. That probably sounds ridiculous, but according to LIMRA, there is nearly $2 trillion in unfunded life insurance needs out there. The Joneses are clearly skimping, you shouldn’t.

They’ve got plastic in hand for the next emergency. In January, the Bankrate Financial Security Index reported that 61% of Americans surveyed would be unable to draw from savings to respond to a $1,000 unexpected expense. They’d be forced to borrow from family, sell stuff or break out the good old credit card. Another not-so-enviable trait of the Jones crew, but a boon for credit card companies.

So, in a nutshell, here’s a short, sweet (bitter) and I hope compelling case against trying to keep up with the Joneses: They are going backwards.

The biggest Boys State program strives to be the best

Blaise Tayese came to American Legion Buckeye Boys State with big ambitions, and he wasn’t deterred by the program’s sheer size.

“I’m very ambitious, so I wanted to go for the top,” said Tayese, of Washington Court House, Ohio, who was elected governor of Ohio’s Boys State earlier this month. “I also wanted to (run for governor) because I wanted to be in a position to help me be a better leader, learn how to galvanize men around me to follow me, and learn how to delegate, be a moderator, help everyone get at least a part of what they wanted.”

Tayese’s election made him governor of some 1,150 of his peers during the program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Buckeye Boys State is annually the largest or one of the largest Boys State programs in terms of number of delegates.

“It’s due to the hard work of the Legionnaires, the counselors, they promote this program year-round,” Program Director Mike Kennedy said of the ability to continually draw such large participation. “When we walk out of here on Sunday, they’re already thinking about next year, they’re already talking about next year. You’ve got a lot of Legionnaires that go to the high schools, that promote the program. …

“It’s the fact that we have such a solid tradition of all these years of being able to do the program, do it right, and improve on it every year. There’s no suggestion that comes up that we don’t at least entertain and feel it out.”

Jerry White, the past program director, said the Legionnaires and other staff work hard all year to sell the program’s benefits.

But, he said, the best salesmen for Buckeye Boys State are the delegates themselves.

“We promote that during the week, that when you guys go back to your schools, now you’re part of the sales force of the program. Because your underclassmen are going to listen to you a lot differently than they listen to some Legionnaire walking through the door,” White said.

Tayese echoed that, noting the perception of the program he received from his peers.

“They were super thrilled to be here, and the positive compliments that came out, I’m like, man, this is something that I really have to do and I really have to be here,” Tayese said. “That was a huge thing, but also big was, a couple Legionnaires go to my church, and they really, really, wanted me to come here, and that was a big drive because I really love veterans, I love what they have done for this country, and in any way, shape or form, I would like to show my appreciation.”

The numbers don’t come without challenges, of course. The program needs to use two of Miami University’s dining halls to get all the students and some 125 staff members fed — “It’s working out, but it would be better if we had a big dining hall, filter them all through and get a little more camaraderie (in one place),” Kennedy said.

All told, the Buckeye Boys State program uses at least part of 15 buildings on campus, for residence halls, classrooms, mock government and other events. Tayese’s office as governor was set up in an unused dorm room on the second floor of a residence hall bustling with other delegates operating in their own legislative capacities.

And the sheer number of students and staff meant several events had to be held in the university’s basketball arena, Millett Hall.

Still, many of the logistical challenges that come with drawing 1100-1200 rising seniors have been fine-tuned. White noted that the registration procedure on the program’s first day can be completed in about an hour and a half.

“The kids get here, they’re immersed in the program within 20 minutes of being here,” White said.

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