In just over a month, more than 200 particpants already have registered online for the 2017 American Legion Legacy Run.
This year’s ride will leave Fort Dodge, Kan., Aug. 12 and travel west to Reno, Nev. – site of the 2017 American Legion National Convention. The route will take Riders along U.S. Route 50 through Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Once a major cross-country conduit, Route 50 now is known as the "The Loneliest Road in America" during a stretch through Nevada.
"It's beautiful country, and it's going to be a very interesting ride," Legacy Run Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan said. "But unfortunately, there are not many big Legion posts along U.S. 50. So we've had to be a bit creative."
Because of the route and the distance needed to be covered, there won't be lunch stops at Legion posts. Ride participants are encouraged to purchase lunches during registration; those who do not pre-purchase the lunches will be expected to bring their own food each day and safely transport it.
Meals must be ordered in advance of departure. There will be no food available for purchase on stops, and there will be neither time nor available food outlets for riders to leave the group to find and eat lunch on their own each day. Those who do not sign up for lunches during registration but later decide to add them can do so via email.
And in order to speed up organized fuel stops, pre-payment for fuel is mandatory on this year’s ride. Pre-payment is based on a formula assuming riders will fill up their motorcyles on their own each night and come to the morning rally with a full tank of gas.
There will be a dinner stop at Legion Post 2 in Pueblo, Colo., as well as a wreath laying at the city's Medal of Honor Memorial. And in Green River, Utah, a town with 30-40 veterans among its population of around 900, the Riders will help dedicate a new veterans memorial.
Sussan said that officers from the Garden City, Kan., Police Department will provide safety training at Fort Dodge the day before the ride departs. Those taking the training will receive a certificate that will provide an insurance discount. And the Kansas Soldiers Home, located at Fort Dodge, also will provide an evening meal and morning breakfast for the kickoff of the Run.
The USAA-sponsored Legacy Run raises money for The American Legion Legacy Fund, which provides college money for the children of U.S. military personnel killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined VA disability rating of 50-percent or higher.
Last year's Legacy Run raised more than $1 million for the second straight year; in 11 years, the ride has raised more than $7 million.
Those registering online will be provided with a copy of their registration and release form, as well as a confirmation email. Those preferring to print out and mail a registration form with a check or money can send so via email. A downloadable registration form will be available soon.
Registration packets and commemorative patches are expected to be mailed out in early August. To pre-order Legacy Run T-shirts, click here. These orders will be shipped directly from Emblem Sales.
Registration is open to passengers and riders, as well as to non-riding supporters. Non-riding supporters who register for $25 or more will receive the full registration package with map books and patches.
Check back at www.legion.org/riders for updated route information and hotel suggestions within the next few weeks.
The American Legion Family has called upon Congress to designate May 26, 2017, as National Poppy Day to expand awareness and provide support everywhere for all who have served and sacrificed in the U.S. armed forces.
“The American Legion is pleased to bring Poppy Day to the United States, joining countries around the world who use the symbolic flower to remember our fallen and support the living,” American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said.
This year, the Boeing Company is premier sponsor to help The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Riders increase public understanding of the poppy, its meaning and the ways in which it can be used to help veterans today and remember those who have served in the past.
The American Legion Auxiliary has been conducting a Poppy Program for many years and their members’ raise over $6 million annually to provide support for veterans, military servicemembers and their families.
“By wearing poppies on May 26, we honor every U.S. servicemember who has given his or her life in the name of liberty, freedom and democracy,” Schmidt wrote in the May issue of The American Legion Magazine. “At the same time, by wearing this simple red flower, we show our support for veterans of generations to come.”
A new website at www.legion.org/poppyday offers multiple ways The American Legion Family can expand awareness locally and regionally. Included on the site are media tools, message points, sample proclamations for elected officials and easy access to the American Legion Emblem Sales “Poppy Shop,” which offers an assortment of affordable items including the new National Poppy Day pin, kits for making lapel poppies for distribution, fundraising containers, charms, scarves and more.
Also through the website, National Poppy Day donors can make safe, secure contributions with their credit cards and dedicate their gifts to personally honor veterans now living or in memory of those who have passed. All donations directly support military veterans and families through American Legion programs.
The site also provides, under the heading “Get Involved,” a new set of media tools and promotions that can be modified for local use, including press releases, sample social media posts and downloadable high-resolution graphics. The “History” section of the site has a full-color, downloadable poster featuring the poem “In Flanders Fields,” which led to the red poppy’s emergence as an international symbol of military sacrifice.
American Legion Family members who plan poppy distributions and similar commemorations around May 26 and the week leading into Memorial Day are urged to use the hashtags #PoppyDay and #LegionFamily so activities can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.
American Legion Riders participating in their annual Run to Thunder event in Washington, D.C., as well as chapters conducting local rides heading into Memorial Day weekend, are also planning to make the red poppy a visible symbol of sacrifice and encouraging the public to wear or otherwise display poppies to honor those who have served.
The American Legion designated the red poppy as its official flower at the organization’s second national convention, Sept. 27, 1920. Since then, members of The American Legion Family have raised awareness in communities, inspired by the 1915 poem of Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., who saw firsthand from the front lines of World War I the emergence of red poppies around the graves and in the battle zones where blood was shed to protect freedom and democracy. He put that image into words:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
A video from the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball in January 2017 features Korean War veteran, California Legionnaire and actor James McEachin onstage reciting the complete poem, which was written in May 1915 and published on Dec. 8 of that year.
American Legion Past National Commander Jake Comer, Department of Massachusetts Commander Ken Starks, and members of the Legion's Washington, D.C., office visited the Million Veteran Program (MVP) at the Jamaica Plain VA Hospital on April 27 to learn about cutting-edge genomic research and the promise of developing advanced therapies for the treatment of diseases.
The MVP is a national research program funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs in partnership with veterans receiving care in the VA health care system.
The purpose of the MVP is to learn more about how a person's genetics affects their health so that doctors can better understand diseases and design future treatments specific to an individual's molecular body composition.
The research is led by Dr. Mike Gaziano and Dr. John Concato who co-lead the MVP as principal investigators.
“We are doing this for veterans, and we are leading in building the best and largest genetic cohort in the world,” Gaziano said. "We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of this research. It is an exciting paradigm shift that will have as large an impact on medical science as the Apollo space missions, the Hubble Telescope, and the supercollider at CERN had on the world of physics."
This database is already providing medical researchers opportunities to study the ways a person’s genes contribute to Gulf War Illness and post-traumatic stress disorder risk factors, functional disability in schizophrenia and bipolar illness, substance abuse, obesity, diabetes, heart, kidney and cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration.
Gaziano and his team of medical researchers are actively recruiting veterans to participate in this project with the goal of obtaining one million DNA samples.
Launched in 2011, the program reached its half-way goal in August of 2016 when they collected their 500,000th DNA sample - establishing the MVP as the largest genomic database in the world.
The success of the program relies on three factors:
Access to veterans' electronic health records, and
Completion of a lifestyle questionnaire and DNA blood sample.
The American Legion leadership is excited about the potential of this project to improve health care for veterans and all Americans.
Legionnaires interested in participating in this landmark study can apply at www.research.va.gov/mvp.
Data collected from the MVP will be stored anonymously.
On April 22, President Donald Trump awarded the first Purple Heart medal of his presidency – to a member of American Legion China Post 1.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos was wounded in action in Afghanistan in March, ultimately losing his right leg below the knee.
The ceremony was held at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where Barrientos is receiving treatment. Trump also met with a dozen other patients. Trump’s wife, Melania, and Barrientos’ wife, Tammy, were present as well.
China Post 1 is unique in The American Legion for its “exiled” status. Chartered in 1920, the post had to evacuate its home in Shanghai in the midst of the communist revolution in 1948, and has not had a permanent one since. Meetings are considered to occur “wherever two or more members meet,” according to the post.
Editor’s note: This is a weekly series of Department Spotlight stories featuring unique programs and initiatives of departments throughout The American Legion. Department adjutants are invited to recommend subjects for their departments by emailing email@example.com.
Applications for the 2017 Edward O. Nesheim Memorial Scholarship are currently being reviewed by leadership in The American Legion Department of North Dakota. The winner of the $1,500 scholarship will be notified during the department’s convention in June.
The Edward O. Nesheim Scholarship was created by his daughter, Sonja Adahl, in 2008 to honor the memory of her late father.
“Our family established this scholarship because my dad wanted to be remembered. He was one of many, many Americans who served our country and deserve to be honored,” Adahl said.
Nesheim was a dedicated Legionnaire who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He traveled the United States with the Army War Show to raise money for the Army Emergency Relief Fund, attended officer candidate school, helped load bombs onto B-24’s while stationed in Italy during the war, and served on the front lines.
Nesheim was honorably discharged from the Army on March 6, 1946.
He graduated from Creighton University School of Dentistry in 1951 on the GI Bill, and was also involved in farming, massage therapy and holistic health.
The scholarship pays tribute to Nesheim’s line of work in that a requirement of the scholarship is that applicants must be pursuing a degree in some phase of agriculture, human nutrition or medicine (medical doctor, physician assistant, dentistry, dental hygiene, pharmacy or chiropractic). Other requirements of the scholarship include being a legal resident of North Dakota and a direct descendent of a U.S. veteran; a high school GPA of 2.75 or higher; and a high school senior or a previous recipient of the scholarship now attending an institution of higher learning.
The Department of North Dakota first awarded the scholarship in 2008, for $500. The money awarded is from the interest and thanks to an increase in the fund over the years, the scholarship amount awarded has increased to $1,500.
“From my dad I learned generosity, compassion, loyalty and hard work,” Adahl said. “He provided a safe and secure home for his family.”
Due to a recent change, veterans can now find out in advance if they and their family members are eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery. To share this information, as well as answer other questions regarding VA memorial benefits, The American Legion and VA staff recently teamed up for a live chat on Facebook.
Previously, eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery could only be determined after the death of the veteran or family member. With the change, veterans can find out if they are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery before the time of need. This “pre-need” eligibility determination helps families plan in advance and streamline access to burial benefits that veterans have earned through military service for themselves and their eligible family members.
Many of the chat questions were related to eligibility, including whether or not it was necessary to have served in a war zone. VA staff responded that veterans with other than a dishonorable discharge and their spouses generally are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Those inquiring were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
Other veterans inquired as to how long it normally takes to hear back from VA after applying for pre-need eligibility. The average wait time is 90 days. And the question of whether spouses could also be buried in a national cemetery was presented. Those spouses also were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
The chat also provided 10 frequently asked questions about memorial benefits. Included in those were:
• I plan to be buried in a private cemetery and all I want is a government headstone. Can I use the pre-need burial form to determine if I’m eligible for a government headstone or marker? Yes. We encourage you to submit a completed VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery even if you are only interested in receiving a government-furnished headstone or marker. VA will maintain your pre-need application, supporting documentation and decision letter in an electronic information system. At your time of need, your family member or individual responsible for the disposition of your remains must submit a VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker. They should write in box 27 entitled “REMARKS” on VA Form 40-1330 “decedent has a VA pre-need decision letter”.
• Who can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination? Veterans and spouses can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination. Family members, authorized representatives and agents can apply on behalf of eligible claimants. Learn more here.
• What happens after you determine that you are eligible for VA burials? VA will save the pre-need claim form, supporting documentation and decision letter in a recallable system to expedite your burial arrangements at your time of need. At time of death, should your family or personal representative request burial in a VA national cemetery, VA will confirm eligibility based on the laws in effect at that time.
To view the chat in its entirety, click here.
Three American Legion district commanders will be honored on stage during the 2017 national convention for winning their respective categories in the Race to the Top competition. The contest honors district commanders in five categories who attain at least 100 percent of the district's assigned membership objective, and have the highest percentage of membership over the previous year.
The winners, along with a guest, have won an all-expense paid trip to Reno, Nev., during this year's national convention, Aug. 18-24, as a distinguished guest of National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. The trip includes round-trip airfare, tickets to the National Commander's Banquet, and hotel accommodations for six days and five nights. The winning district commanders also will receive a Legion cap that signifies they are a Race to the Top winner.
For the 2016-2017 membership year, there was not a category III or IV winner.
The 2017 Race to the Top winners are:
Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 4 Commander Roger L. Archibald of Utah
Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 6 Commander John W. Griffin of Georgia
Category V (districts with 7,500 or more members) – District 10 Commander Edwin B. Long Jr. of Ohio
Second place winners will receive a $500 check. They are:
Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 20 Commander Robin D. Rucker of South Carolina
Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 19 Commander Grady D. Richardson Jr. of South Carolina
Third place winners will receive a $375 check. They are:
Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 9 Commander Demorise E. Allen Jr. of Montana
Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 7 Commander Kurt S. Lepinski of Illinois
The American Legion played a prominent role in Samantha Goerger’s life in 2014. It was the year she represented the Department of North Dakota in the Legion’s National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis; attended Auxiliary Girls State; and won a $20,000 Samsung American Legion Scholarship. The 20-year-old from Wyndmere, N.D., credits her participation in the Legion programs and scholarships earned for being able to attend Princeton University.
“(The Samsung scholarship) has allowed me to focus my studies toward law … something previously unreachable. And the Oratorical Contest has given me a background in law and politics that facilitates my decisions and my studies,” Goerger said. “Truth is, my experience (at Princeton) would be completely different if it wasn’t for The American Legion.”
Goerger’s knowledge of The American Legion’s program and scholarship opportunities began in 2011 when her sister, Marie, won the Samsung American Legion Scholarship. That following year, Goerger participated in the Oratorical Contest as a freshman in high school and made an appearance at the national level in 2014 as well as 2015.
“The Oratorical Contest gave me historical background (on the U.S. Constitution) and speaking skills that I never would have gotten anywhere else. This is very important at Princeton as the environment calls for experts in their fields,” Goerger said. “I would hardly call myself an expert (on the Constitution), but it allows me to engage in the conversation with the confidence that I built from the (Oratorical) contest.”
While both Goerger and her sister attended Girls State, a requirement of the Samsung scholarship, their grandfather’s military service also made them eligible to apply.
“Throughout my life he has inspired me to form an appreciation for all veterans and has caused me to be active in The American Legion community,” said Goerger of her grandfather, Stanley Whicker, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War and a member of American Legion Post 6 in Grand Forks, N.D. “My experiences with veterans has taught me the abstract history that cannot possibly be taught in a school setting.”
When Whicker learned of Goerger receiving the Samsung scholarship, she said he “chuckled and said, ‘Well, I guess my time out there was worth it.’ From then on he began taking more interest in American Legion activities in his area.”
Thousands of American Legion Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State attendees apply to the Samsung American Legion Scholarship every year, and one area on the application that helps applicants stand out is community service. While growing up in rural Wyndmere – a population of less than 450 — Goerger became a certified emergency medical responder and volunteered with the ambulance service; revitalized and helped reopen the town’s teen center; and organized a yearly 5k run that raises funds for the Richland-Wilkin Kinship organization, a mentorship program for youth ages 5 to 16.
“It is important to find what you are passionate about, do it, and find a way to convey that passion in your (scholarship) essays,” Goerger said. “Helping others is a true passion of mine.”
As a Samsung scholarship recipient, Goerger received an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., along with the other 2014 scholarship recipients, and she is a member of the Samsung American Legion Alumni Association.
“I really enjoyed the Washington, D.C., trip and think back on it often,” she said. “We received tours of the war memorials and monuments … seeing the memorials through the eyes of servicemembers was very formative and I won’t forget it.”
There have been 1,971 recipients of the Samsung American Legion Scholarships since its inception in 1996. The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship awards up to $10,000 for undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need. Apply online here.
In light of recent reports about dangerous conditions and concerns over patient safety at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, The American Legion invites all D.C. area veterans and their family members to a town hall meeting to discuss their VA care.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, inside of the auditorium at the VA hospital, 50 Irving Street NW, Washington, D.C.
The town hall event is one of about a dozen that the Legion will conduct around the United States this year. The Legion hosts these events to hear feedback from veterans about the quality of health care they receive at their local VA facility.
Representatives from The American Legion's Washington office, American Legion D.C. department, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the district’s congressional delegation will be in attendance.