American Legion Emblem

THE AMERICAN LEGION

DEPARTMENT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

Legion News

Toolkit can help posts conduct Buddy Checks during the pandemic

A new toolkit to help American Legion posts touch base with veterans in their communities during the coronavirus pandemic is now available. “How to Perform a Buddy Check During the Coronavirus Pandemic” offers tips about how to reach veterans who may be sheltering and social distancing to find out if they need assistance.

The toolkit explains how to assemble a Buddy Check team and how to acquire the names of Legionnaires, past and present, so they can be contacted. The kit also has sample scripts for Buddy Check callers.

Click here to download the toolkit.

VA fights to flatten the curve against COVID-19

The Department of Veterans Affairs is working directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and federal partners to monitor the outbreak of the virus and implement an aggressive public health response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic. To date, VA has administered over 7,425 COVID-19 tests nationwide while taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

Measures include outreach to veteran patients and staff, screening at VA health care facilities, and protective procedures for VA’s most vulnerable patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units.

“The American people can be proud that we have the most comprehensive veterans assistance of any nation in the world. And all of us can be assured that the VA is ready to help stop the spread of the coronavirus,” wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a Military Times op-ed. “The VA has proudly served as a frontline responder after natural disasters such as the hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and our southern states, and VA is preparing to play that role again during this national emergency,” said Wilkie. “In fact, we have already deployed some of our staff to assist the Department of Health and Human Services, and we are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal partners to monitor the outbreak.”

In efforts to bolster medical staffs, VA requested a waiver from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to make it easier for the department to rehire retired VA health care workers and which will help VA health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. VA is inviting interested retired physicians, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals to register online.

“This action helps give the department surge capacity as needed,” said Wilkie. “On behalf of all the veterans we serve, I thank OPM for its quick action and invite our retired health care workers to consider coming back to VA during this crucial time.”

To do your part in flattening the curve in the COVID-19 pandemic, VA and the CDC released these advised precautions:

  • Practice social distancing

  • Get a flu shot

  • Keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

  • Avoid people who are sick

  • Stay home and away from others when sick

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues or your arm/sleeve. Dispose of tissues in the trash.

  • Keep surfaces clean using disinfecting wipes

  • Check the CDC advisories prior to planning travel.

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and common-sense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

Stay informed on message from American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford and other news stories regarding the coronavirus at www.legion.org/coronavirus.

National Commander Coronavirus Updates

27 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I had a conference call with our department adjutants Wednesday afternoon. Many departments have cancelled Boys State, Oratorical Contests, American Legion Baseball games and department conventions. Others are delaying decisions and hoping that conditions improve to a point where these events can either take place or be rescheduled for a later date.

Please be understanding with those who have to make these difficult decisions. They are made with the safety of the participants and the public in mind. Please refer to your American Legion department websites frequently to learn the latest about these events.

Although American Legion departments are keeping their social distance, there is no doubt that they are very much engaged with what is occurring and anxious to continue to serve you – our American Legion Family.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion was only ten years old when the stock market crashed in 1929. Although today’s volatile stock market is the result of a world health crisis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933 included some inspirational words that still ring true today.

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work,” FDR said. “This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”

And, of course, Roosevelt’s most famous passage from that address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The American Legion has always been an active sponsor of job fairs and career training for transitioning veterans. Once society re-opens, you can count on your American Legion to once again be on the frontlines of this important effort.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I’ve been hearing many great reports about The American Legion’s response to COVID-19 in communities across the country.

Legionnaires in the Blue Grass State have been making people feel, well, less blue. American Legion Post 23 in Bowling Green, Ky., teamed up with our friends in the Good Deeds Club and the Marine Corps League to provide a free hot breakfast by setting up a drive-through in its parking lot earlier this week. According to a report by local station WNKY, the first 200 drivers received sausage, biscuits, coffee donuts and toilet paper. These volunteers did it once again this morning.

Feel free to share these great stories by submitting them to www.legiontown.org or jraughter@legion.org.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion is full of knowledgeable experts but our organization does not offer medical advice. That is best left for your personal physician.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is including much of its response information and services on its va.gov website. Included is this piece of advice:

“If you’re a Veteran seeking medical care, call your VA health facility if you have symptoms of the virus. Or sign in to My HealtheVet and send a secure message. You may be able to get diagnosed and receive care through VA telehealth without having to come in at all.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Many times I have mentioned the importance of conducting Buddy Checks throughout this crisis. It is especially vital that we check on senior citizens. Legion College graduate Jennifer Gedney Havlick (Class of 2018) has brought it to a new level. A member of Post 109 in Twin Harbors, Minn., she has formulated a plan called Enhanced Buddy Checks. (click here)

It includes organizing response teams with captains, daily morale calls, and shopping for those who are self-quarantined. Even tasks such as bringing trash cans to the curb are not overlooked. Performing these tasks for others can save lives to those who may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

In its early stages, Buddy Checks were seen as a way to improve communication. During this national emergency, it is more important than ever before.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Your national headquarters is still operating, albeit quite differently, during this national emergency. The staff is complying with local authorities and working remotely from home. Many are still learning to use recently acquired communication tools such as Vonage and Office-365, so please patient if the service and response isn’t as prompt as it has been in the past.

The Emblem Sales call center is closed but customers can email emblem@legion.org and available staff will respond as quickly as possible. Orders may be placed online at emblem.legion.org but shipping delays can be expected during this time. Our printing and production shop will still process membership cards on time.

Thank you for your understanding.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

A review of our 101-year history offers convincing proof that The American Legion does not decide to cancel national meetings or programs lightly. We understand their importance. The meetings are used as a forum for our membership through their National Executive Committee members to set policy, agendas and vision. Our programs build character.

However, the safety and health of our participants, volunteers and staff must be our top priority. The staff at our national headquarters in Indianapolis has been complying with a directive from the state’s governor to stay home. They have been working remotely so they can continue to serve our members. The same for our Washington, D.C., office.

The decision to cancel the spring meetings of the National Executive Committee is a safety measure intended to limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19. I intend to continue regular communications with the National Executive Committee and the 55 departments through telephone, email and other means.

The cancellation of the National Oratorical Finals, the Junior Shooting Sports championships and Boys Nation should not be interpreted as our assessment of how conditions will be in the coming months. It is intended to remove pressure from the departments and posts who normally conduct earlier local competitions and Boys State programs, which feed into the national programs.

We are still assessing plans for the American Legion Baseball World Series and the national convention. Rest assured that decisions for those events will not be made prematurely but only after thoughtful deliberation based on what occurs in the coming months.

We will get through this because we are The American Legion and we rise to any challenge.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

When a crisis faces a community, The American Legion has an amazing record of response. We’ve seen this in natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other tragedies. The current national emergency offers unique challenges that we have not faced in modern times. Yet, there are American Legion posts still providing support that can make a vital difference.

Post 28 in Spartanburg, S.C., has become a relief center of sorts. By providing coloring books and board games, they are helping families battle cabin fever that is likely to grow as the pandemic continues. Even more importantly, the post has a food pantry directed toward those who may have lost their jobs or incomes due to the economic shutdown.

The post isn’t limiting its assistance to Legionnaires or even veterans. “If you have a need, we’ll feed you,” Mike Fowler, the activities and chef for Post 28 told the Spartanburg Herald Journal.

We live in an amazing country. And I am humbled to lead an amazing organization.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

As you may have heard, The American Legion has cancelled its 2020 National Oratorical Contest. Cancelling such a great and worthy program is difficult but when it comes to the safety of the competitors, volunteers and staff, it is a no-brainer.

Today, the Indiana governor recommended all non-essential personnel “stay home.” Many other states are operating under similar orders.

If you are able, please donate blood. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

President Trump has compared this pandemic to a war. Given the seriousness, it seems appropriate. Giving blood is another way for American Legion Family members to contribute to the war effort.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Late last week Congress passed emergency legislation ensuring the continuation of GI Bill benefits through the current COVID-19 crisis. The temporary shutdown of schools does not mean that the needs of the student veteran are also suspended. These veterans will still need to eat. Rent will still need to be paid along with other essential living expenses. Online learning will still occur at many of the traditional universities and colleges.

It was The American Legion that created the original GI Bill and we have championed all of the later versions that have occurred in the 76 years since the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. While the original was widely credited for helping America prosper following the Great Depression and World War II, the current generation of veterans may also rely heavily on this benefit due to the economic hardships that are already being inflicted as a result of this global pandemic.

Many of our fellow Americans will face financial difficulties in the coming weeks and months. Our programs will be needed but even those funds have limits. Small gestures help. I often hear about posts that have helped pick-up the dues for struggling members. Some do so for World War II veterans. Others award complimentary memberships to active-duty military. Resources may be limited, but the generosity of our American Legion Family is always in abundant supply. It’s just another example of why I am proud to be a Legionnaire.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Your Washington-based staff has been communicating regularly with the Department of Veterans Affairs. During a conference call yesterday, VA reported that screening is happening at its facilities and patients are limited to one visitor. No visitors under age 18 allowed. These rules might be difficult for families to accept but they are necessary for the safety of all concerned.

VA also says it has the capacity to meet demand for increased testing. The estimated period to obtain results is two-to-eight days.

The American Legion repeatedly says VA offers great care. During this crisis, VA will be tested like never before. I believe Americans will have a new appreciation for this System Worth Saving.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I saw an interesting Facebook meme that reminds people that not all heroes wear capes. Many don’t even wear uniforms. They wear scrubs. I couldn’t agree more.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Despite some notable and well-publicized exceptions, The American Legion has long-believed that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers the “best health care anywhere.”

Under normal circumstances, VA is for veterans. However, during this national emergency, VA is a crucial player in our nation’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. Delegates to our 2016 National Convention in Cincinnati wisely passed a resolution urging Congress to provide VA with the necessary funding to enhance its ability to respond to national emergencies.

Media outlets report that VA is preparing to request more than $16 billion in new funding to respond to the threat. Given the stakes, we hope the request is given serious consideration.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

In a Department of Defense COVID-19 Update provided early yesterday, the military reported 49 cases of coronavirus among its uniformed members. By the time you read this, it has undoubtedly gone up. Maybe by a lot.

National Guardsmen were providing support to civil authorities in 22 states. These citizen-soldiers do amazing work on our behalf through every major crisis, disaster and emergency. As do the personnel on Navy hospital ships, which are deploying on both of our coasts. Remember that members of every branch have family at home that they also care deeply about and are as much at risk as the rest of the general public. But yet, our servicemembers still continue on with mission. Just as they always have, throughout our history.

Pray for our military. They are America’s true treasure.

18 March 20, afternoon

The American Legion believes there is strength in numbers. We emphasize growth in membership and participation in our great programs.

However, public safety requires the opposite approach for now. Our numbers must continue to grow, but our gatherings should not. President Trump and his team of health care experts are advising Americans to avoid crowds of more than 10 people. Let’s be smart about this. Video-conferencing and telephones are options for us to continue meeting and bonding as Legion Family members. Our comradeship will continue even if there is some social distancing required. And just like every other crisis that our world has faced, this too shall pass.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Channeling the late Mr. Rogers, actor Tom Hanks recently tweeted about “helpers,” the people who are assisting others as we all face this global crisis.

Our organization is full of helpers. A recent Instagram message from Raymond Bernucho, a Legionnaire from Post 38 in Baton Rouge, La., caught my attention. It stated, “I’m a long haul driver with U.S. Express working (a) dedicated route for Walmart. Since this crisis has begun all of the drivers delivering to all the stores, no matter what type of store…Walmart, Target, etc., have been working to keep up with the demands of the people of this country so that (it) can survive and make it thru this world pandemic.

“I feel as though I’m back in the Army, serving this country once and again and it truly feels good for me to be of service not only to my fellow Legionnaires but to the people of this country. So let’s take some time out to get on our knees and pray for all of this to be taken away by God’s mercy. Let us also take time to go help our elderly brothers and sisters who are not able to get…food, medicine or need a ride to their doctor.”

Raymond, I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you helper.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 March 20, afternoon

Buddy Checks. This outreach program intended to check on the wellbeing of our fellow veterans is more important now than ever before. Health officials tell us that seniors are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of the coronavirus. They also remain some of the toughest Legionnaires that I have known. Some of them survived the Great Depression and World War II. They should be first on our list of buddies to check on.

We have to be creative. Nursing homes have wisely stopped visitation. Talk to administrators about whether they are assisting patients so they have access to Facetime, Skype or other video-calling technology. Even a simple phone call will do. American Legion Post 330 in Hayfield, Minn., for instance, has collected toilet paper for the elderly. There are many other posts that are stepping up during this crisis. That’s what we in The American Legion do.

--Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

You will be receiving many regular updates from me throughout the coronavirus crisis. I previously announced that The American Legion has suspended all official travel of our national officers and staff through the month of April. Though I am home in North Carolina, I am still actively engaged and plan to communicate with you regularly.

National Headquarters has received numerous requests from American Legion departments and posts who are concerned about closures and curfews. My advice: be patient. Mistakes will be made, but your safety is what is motivating national and local authorities to take these measures. The Preamble to The American Legion Constitution includes the pledge, “to maintain law and order.” We are a law-abiding organization.

It will be tough, but we will get through this. If you need motivation, think about our World War II veterans. They were tough as nails and survived the Great Depression. I will have more to say about them later. We will talk soon.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

Introduced legislation will protect student veterans during COVID-19 crisis

Many schools and universities have taken proactive measures to mitigate the spread of the spread of COVID-19, leaving veterans with questions surrounding their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits. Bipartisan legislation introduced by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs would minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students.

“As we respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot forget about our student veterans,” said committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif. “This bill package will make key fixes so veterans can continue their studies without interruption, loss of income, or unexpected bills.”

The American Legion lauded the bipartisan efforts of the committee to protect student veterans during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have been honored to work with Chairman Takano and Ranking Member Phil Roe as we continue to learn about second and third-order effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on student veterans,” said American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford. “The American Legion applauds the leadership of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs in these challenging times and urges prompt passage of the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act.”

The bipartisan legislation would protect work-study allowances, vocational rehabilitation and GI Bill housing allowance payments in the event of sudden school closures for student veterans. Critically, the bill ensures that students whose schools close but cannot transition to an online curriculum are able to maintain their eligibility next semester.

“We worked hard to assure student veterans that the support they count on from the GI Bill to cover tuition and housing costs won’t be taken away during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ranking Member Phil Roe, R-Tenn. “I am proud to introduce this bill with Chairman Takano today to give them further confidence that the benefits they earned will be waiting for them on the other side of this crisis.”

The Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 builds on S. 3503, which authorized VA temporary authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies. This allows for continued payment of benefits even if the program has changed from resident training to online training. The president signed S. 3503 into law on March 21.

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

Stay informed on message from American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford and other news stories regarding the coronavirus at www.legion.org/coronavirus.

VA COVID-19 news: hiring retired staff, GI Bill benefits continue

Each day brings an increase to the number of coronavirus cases and deaths nationwide. And VA medical staff and patients are among these numbers.

COVID-19 positive cases at VA hospitals stand at 484 with seven patient deaths. And 75 VA employees have tested positive for the virus.

The Department of Veteran Affairs is doing everything it can to put safety measures in place to handle the ever-increasing demand that the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on VA facilities. VA has released information regarding access to VA facilities and what to do if you are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus. They also are in need of more medical staff and are offering re-employment for retired VA health-care staff.

VA is looking for health-care providers with interest and expertise in:

- Telehealth/virtual care

- Travel nurse corps

- Direct patient care/support (at a VA medical center and/or outpatient clinic)

For former VA clinicians interested in re-employment, apply online. VA officials are promising expedited hiring practices and dual compensation waivers for potential recruits, so that they don’t have to give up federal retirement benefits in order to start assisting at department medical centers.

Additional VA updates related to COVID-19

GI Bill benefits. Online learning has become the new norm for student veterans as campuses have shut down to the coronavirus outbreak. Student veterans will continue to receive their GI Bill benefits under bill S.3503, which President Trump signed into law March 21. According to VA, this law enables VA to continue providing the same level of education benefits to students having to take courses online due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It also continues to provide GI Bill student veterans with the same monthly housing allowance until Dec. 21, or until in-person classes are resumed.

While students receiving GI Bill benefits are not required to take any action. GI Bill benefits will continue automatically without student veterans taking any action. However, if a student veteran has questions, they may contact the Education Call Center at (888) 442-4551.

Funeral services. Effective as of March 23, VA announced that “committal services and the rendering of military funeral honors will discontinue until further notice” for the safety of veterans, their families and VA staff in response to the coronavirus. Immediate family members of no more than 10 of the deceased may witness the interment if requested.

Families of deceased veterans who still wish to continue with interment may schedule a committal service for a later date by calling the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117 or schedule a burial arrangement online here.

Stay informed on message from American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford and other news stories regarding the coronavirus at www.legion.org/coronavirus.

USAA Tips to help take charge of debt

Content provided courtesy of USAA

Just because you can borrow money doesn't mean you should.

"That's not what our consumption-oriented society wants to hear," says JJ Montanaro, a certified financial planner at USAA. To make matters worse, a growing number of households are getting deeper into debt.

However, with the right plan, it's possible to become financially fit and ready to meet life's challenges. These five tips may help you lower your reliance on credit and put you on a path toward financial freedom.

Make a plan — and stick to it.

Make a budget, and don't spend money unless it's in the budget. Get a plan together to assess, avoid, and attack any debt you have.

Know what you owe.

Review all your statements and highlight current balances, interest rates and minimum payments due. Decide on a plan of attack by focusing on the highest interest rate debts first. Communicate with creditors if you are past due or are close to being past due on any bills.

Establish an emergency fund.

If you're working hard to get out of debt, you don't want to let something beyond your control mess it up. Start by setting a goal to save $1,000 before starting to pay off debt. Your ultimate goal should be to have three to six months' worth of living expenses available in savings in case of an emergency.

Find extra cash.

Until your debt is paid down, consider what services you can cancel or items you can sell. A penny earned can be a penny that fights debt. Put any extra cash toward your shrinking credit card bills or loans.

Get support.

Digging out of debt can be a major undertaking and that may mean you need to enlist the help of others. Financial counselors at your military installation or organizations affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling may be able to help you get out of debt and stay on track. You might also consider sharing your plans with a friend or family member and ask them to hold you accountable.

COVID-19 not stopping Legion posts from checking up, helping out

Lester Blackwell American Legion Post 138 in Roxboro, N.C., has made Buddy Checks a regular part of the post’s activities. Friday’s are typically reserved for visiting area veterans at their homes and assisted-living facilities. But the need for those checks has grown since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s really important to find out if they have any needs, how they’re doing,” Post 138 Chaplain Chris Talley said. “They’ve always been important, but it feels a bit more important now.”

Last Friday Talley joined Post 138 Commander Tim Carter, Sergeant-at-Arms Ronnie Jeffreys and Legionnaire Bruce Diggs in a Buddy Check on Stephen Morrow, a widower and Vietnam-era veteran. Morrow lost his wife five years ago and “has been pretty discouraged since his wife passed,” Talley said. “When we started visiting him, he started becoming more encouraged and really appreciated the time that we spent with him.”

The Buddy Check also included replacing Morrow’s worn American flag with a new one. The old flag will be retired by Post 138 at a future ceremony.

Though Talley said performing in-person Buddy Checks are more challenging because of social distancing, “we’ve all been trying to make calls to check on a lot of our veterans and keep up with them.” Talley said the post also is planning a Facebook Live event to offer words of encouragement to its members.

In Maryland, Joseph L Davis Post 47 American Legion in Havre de Grace has been taking advantage of social media as a way to reach out to its members. One recent graphic, “Because We Care About YOU,” urges any members needing assistance to call the post, including providing transportation to medical appointments or doing grocery shopping.

Post 47 also has set up a food pantry that is open to everyone in its community. The pantry features non-perishable items and is set up as a self-service drive-thru. Donations have helped keep the pantry fully stocked.

Other American Legion posts are stepping up around the nation to ensure their fellow veterans are not forgotten during this difficult time. And some posts are making community support a priority, assisting with meals and collecting important supplies for local families.

The following are just a few examples of what members of the American Legion Family are doing to help others. Those Legion Family members providing assistance to others during this time are urged to share their stories by emailing sbrooks@legion.org or posting on www.legiontown.org.

California

• In addition to hosting a much-needed blood drive, around a dozen members of Hollywood Post 43 have volunteered to reach out to elderly members via phone to ensure they have access to groceries, meals, essential needs and are being cared for. The post is making safe deliveries of groceries and toiletries to its at-risk members.

• American Legion Post 397 in Monterey Park has been helping the elderly, disabled and veterans in the community for more than 10 years through collecting essential donations. The post is continuing to do so during the coronavirus pandemic, collecting items for older veterans unable to leave their homes. All precautions are being made for those veterans not wanting to be exposed to the virus. “It's important to realize that it's not just us, it's not just our community, not just our post,” Post 397 Commander Gabriel Suarez told ABC7. “It's happening all over the world. If you poke us, we all bleed the same.”

Germany

Darren Dahlke, membership chairman for Post 6 in Stuttgart, reached out on Facebook to his fellow Legionnaires, posting a message that said “Our most sacred responsibility is to look out for each other and our fellow veterans. As a way to reach out to members and former members I am sending out this message asking if we can check up on our fellow comrades. Please take the time to reach out to our fellow comrade. Let it be just one email or a phone call. Reaching out, just to say 'Hello' can make the difference.”

Kentucky

In Bowling Green, American Legion Post 23 teamed up with the Good Deeds Club to set up a drive-thru restaurant at the post. They provided free sausage biscuits, coffee, doughnuts and toilet paper to the first 200 drivers on Tuesday and planned a similar effort for March 26.

Maine

American Legion Post 202 in Topsham has been conducting Buddy Checks and also put out a message on Facebook urging any members in need of support to contact the post via phone call. Post officers are at the post daily to answer calls and check messages.

Maryland

Rosedale Post 180 has begun contacting all of its members, and those who don’t have a phone number or email listed will receive a postcard. “The Buddy Check is a very important part of who we are and why we are here,” said Past Post Commander Eric Warthen Sr., a member of Maryland’s Department Executive Committee. “Simply because someone pays their dues but doesn't come to the lounge or to an event does not mean that they are not worth our time, so reach out and let them know you care.”

Minnesota

National American Legion College graduate Jennifer Gedney Havlick took to Facebook with a plan to conduct enhanced Buddy Checks. Havlick’s suggestions include organizing response teams with captains, daily morale calls and shopping for those who are self-quarantined.

Nebraska

American Legion Post 331 has been sending out postcards to its members to let them know they are not alone. “If you or a family member needs groceries, medications picked up, or transportation to a doctor’s appointment, please call your Post 331,” the postcard reads. Dave Sherwood, an 84-year-old member of Post 331, has even volunteered to assist other members.

New Jersey

Weehawken American Legion Post 18 is accepting canned goods and other non-perishables in order to support its elderly and needy veterans. Post 18 also has been calling its members regularly and bringing them their medications and canned goods.

New York

American Legion Continental Post 1424 in Forest Hills is serving as both a collection site and a meeting point for volunteers who want to pick up supplies to deliver to community members who can't leave home.

Oregon

In Albany, American Legion Post 10 teamed up with Southpaw’s Pizza to provided meals for staff and veterans at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans' Home in Lebanon, where one veteran had died and 15 others diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition to Southpaw’s Pizza helping feed volunteers and staff at the home for two days, American Legion Post 10’s Legion Family prepared a full turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. Post 10 Commander David Solomon told the Lebanon Express that the post will continue to support the veterans’ home as long as is necessary. “The veterans and the staff, they deserve only the best,” Solomon said. “As long as they need us, we’re going to be there.”

South Carolina

At the suggestion of the post’s chef and activities director, Mike Fowler, American Legion Post 28 in Spartanburg set up a food pantry to assist those who have lost their jobs because their businesses were shut down. The post is stocked with canned and dry goods for every meal of the day, as well as board games, coloring books and other items for children. “You don’t have to be associated with The American Legion. You don’t have to be a veteran. You don’t need any documentation, you don’t need ID. You just have the need. If you have a need, we’ll feed you,” Fowler told GoUpstate.com.

Texas

American Legion Business & Professional Post 10 in San Antonio put out a call on Twitter, challenging American Legion Family members to “reach out to 5 others today. Let them know you’re thinking about them. Ask them if they need anything. Be there for them.”

Virginia

Post 177 in Fairfax was contacted by the Fairfax County Health Department, whose offices are about a block away from the post, to ask if the department’s workers could use 25 parking spaces at the post since the department had invoked the Emergency Response Protocol and was adding employees. Post 177 isn’t charging the department to park at the post and also has contacted city, county and state officials to let them know the post and its facility are available to assist during the pandemic.

Washington

Department of Washington leadership has called on its members to activate Buddy Checks. On behalf of Department Commander Robert Clark, Department Membership Committee Chairman Rafael A. Munoz-Cintron asked department Legionnaires to “not reach out only those that you may think their health might be at a concern at this time, but all of our members. There are others that may be in economic hardship and might be afraid to ask for help! A simple bag of groceries or snacks might make a difference in a family's life!”

Disabled veteran finds 'brotherhood' during COVID-19 outbreak

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Las Vegas, Army veteran Ricky Poe knew life was going to get even more difficult. Poe uses a power wheelchair and public transportation to get around, but he also is highly susceptible to getting both the flu and pneumonia.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Poe’s primary care physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs urged Poe to self-quarantine to avoid catching COVID-19. But that left Poe without the ability to get to the grocery store, something the veteran recently needed.

So Poe reached out to fellow Legionnaire Victor “Doc” Moss, the adjutant at Paradise Post 149. Within minutes, Moss had another Legionnaire ready to not just pick up groceries, but provide Poe a care package of well more than what Poe was requesting.

It was a blessing for Poe and an extension of a relationship that started in 2019 and has led to Poe becoming a Paid-Up-For-Life member of Post 149.

The help he got from Post 149 “says a lot,” Poe said. “I don’t have friends here. I lost my wife unexpectedly in January of 2019. I’m all alone here.”

Moss said Post 149’s relationship with Poe began in 2019 when Poe was the recipient of furniture through the post’s “Help for Heroes” program with Walker Furniture. The program provides wounded U.S. military personnel and veterans in Clark County with specialized and home furniture. After receiving the furniture, Poe joined Post 149 and soon became a PUFL member.

Moss said Post 149 staged a fundraising drive around two years ago to provide household items, food and money for struggling veterans in the community. Among the items collected during the drive was what Moss said at the time was around three years’ worth of toilet paper. When the coronavirus hit Las Vegas, leading to a toilet paper shortage, the post began donating the coveted item to the Greater Las Vegas Fisher House and other veterans programs.

The post also sent out an email to its membership, letting it know the toilet paper was available. It was shortly after that when Poe reached out to Moss requesting assistance, saying he was trapped in his house in need of frozen and canned vegetables.

Moss contacted fellow Post 149 member Greg Whalen, himself a previous “Help for Heroes” recipient, to see if Whalen could put together a care package from Share Village, a Post 149-supported facility that provides affordable veteran housing and has a community food pantry.

Whalen told Moss “no problem” and was able to bring to Poe a larger care package. Poe was overwhelmed when Whalen showed up at his residence with the food.

“All I asked for was to be put in contact for the help from a Brother Member and I would pay my Brother back for whatever he brought me from the store,” Poe emailed to The American Legion. “It took all of 15 minutes via email for (Moss) to get back to me with a response of a Brother Legionnaire who was going to take time out of his day to bring me more than I asked for. Even more to my surprise it was at no cost to me which was a larger help to me as I live like most of us that are disabled veterans on a very tight fixed income.”

Moss said the ability to help Poe is a result of a larger effort by Post 149 to be involved with its community, including Walker Furniture and Share Village. It also led to both Poe and Whalen joining the post. And being able to help Poe “reinforces for us the reason we exist, the reason we created this post, which is community service,” Moss said. “We take a lot of pride of being in the community, donating a lot of money to people and helping them out.”

For Poe, who was a member of The American Legion in Mississippi but eventually let his membership lapse for 10 years, finding Post 149 in Las Vegas has been like finding a new family. Another fellow Legionnaire, Scott Wells, just this week went grocery shopping for Poe.

“I have never been a member of such a united Brother Hood like this in my life, not the Boy Scouts, not even the Army was such a caring Brotherhood like this would take their time from there day to help each other to help another brother in need like this,” Poe said in his email to the Legion. “I am so glad and thankful that I am a member of such a great organization of people. There is no other BROTHERHOOD like The American Legion and why I became a life member as soon as I could and recommend (every) member to do so.”

Congressionally mandated commission: Women should be eligible for the draft

A congressionally mandated commission recommended Wednesday that women should be eligible for the draft and required to sign up at 18.

Congress created the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service in 2017 to develop recommendations about the need for a military draft and how to foster an interest in all types of national service among young Americans. In their final report, which was shared with the Pentagon, White House and Congress this week, commissioners recommend extending selective service registration to women.

“Women are as likely as men to be qualified for military service,” said Debra Wada, vice chair of the commission and the former assistant secretary of the Army. “Ensuring they are part of the registration pool will only make sure we’re more prepared. It signals that all Americans may be expected to serve in a national emergency.”

Conscription into the military hasn’t been used in more than 45 years, but adult men are still required by law to sign up for selective service at 18. The commission proposed that Congress introduce legislation to amend the Military Selective Service Act to eliminate male-only registration. The policy change would expand draft eligibility to all Americans ages 18 to 26.

Over a period of nearly three years, commissioners held public meetings and hearings, spoke to people in 42 cities, consulted more than 530 organizations and collected 4,300 public comments. The topic of extending the draft to women “evoked a range of passionate and heartfelt views,” the commissioners wrote.

In the end, they decided the male-only military draft excludes women from a fundamental civic obligation, reinforces gender stereotypes about women’s roles and omits a skilled population from being called into military service during emergencies.

The commission found that 29% of men and slightly more women, at 29.3%, are qualified to meet the initial physical and educational standards to serve in the U.S. military, Wada said.

“Ultimately it comes down to making sure that at a time of critical need, we have access to highly qualified individuals,” she said.

More than 224,000 women serve in the U.S. military. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the opening of all combat roles to women five years ago, and at least 30 women have successfully completed Army Ranger School, according to the report.

The policy change is long overdue, commissioners said.

The report, titled “Inspired to Serve,” listed dozens of recommendations to increase Americans’ participation in military, national and public service. It aims to make a “service year” a rite of passage for young Americans and boost standards for civic education from kindergarten through high school.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Wednesday the report came at a “pivotal moment,” as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our national service infrastructure, from the military, to public and community service, has been called into action to fight the COVID-19 virus,” Reed said. “This is not a report that should sit on the shelf, this is a call to action. These recommendations can serve as a guidepost for what the future of national service looks like.”

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., a combat veteran, said he would work with other lawmakers to turn language in the report into legislation.

“Whether it be in the National Defense Authorization Act or stand alone, we are going to make this happen,” he said.

Members of The American Legion can receive 50 percent discounts on annual subscriptions to the Stars and Stripes digital platform of exclusive military news, topics of interest to veterans, special features, photos and other content, including the daily e-newspaper, job listings and history. American Legion members can subscribe for $19.99 a year by visiting legion.stripes.com and using the coupon code LEGIONSTRONG when filling out the online form.

Delivering medical supplies part of 'what we're here for'

Dave Butkus had heard enough. The service officer at American Legion Post 146 in Bethlehem, Conn., had listened to government updates, and viewed social media posts, of health-care workers running out of supplies – masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes – that impacted their day-to-day efforts and personal health in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

So during his post’s weekly Friday afternoon get-together on March 20, Butkus floated the idea of staging a callout for those very supplies from the community. With the post concurring, calls for donations were placed on various Facebook pages in the Bethlehem area and neighboring towns.

What followed was an outpouring from the community, leading to dozens of nurses, EMTs and other health-care workers from various facilities throughout the southern half of the state getting critical supplies.

At the Friday meeting, Butkus said “This is what we’re here for. It looks like things are pretty serious here. We should be the first to act.”

After posting on social media, the post already had donations by 8:30 a.m. the following morning. "We are connected to a blue collar mentality in America," Butkus said. "We are the ones that have the outreach to the carpenters and the painters and the woodworkers who may have these (supplies) in their homes and wouldn't be thinking about them."

Post 146 wanted to cut through red tape and make the supplies available right away, which is why it set up a distribution center at the post and began assembling kits with the donations. Fifteen minutes later a local LPN came in to get supplies, telling the Legionnaires “I could really use this.”

Donations continued to come in, including one person anonymously providing 100 masks. The kits included three to five masks, gloves, gauze, wipes and cleaning supplies; by 11 a.m., Butkus said the word had gotten out about their effort.

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. the post handed out 50 kits, distributing in those kits 250 masks and 1,200 pairs of gloves – all very much needed by the local health-care professionals.

“We were completely out (of supplies), so we realized what a big deal it was,” Butkus said. “The stories that came out from the people picking up (the supplies), they were nervous. They were out or getting ready to be out with no way to find the gear.”

Sue Ambadjes, a nurse in nearby Watertown, came to Post 146 after her workplace – the Glendale Center nursing home in Naugatuck – had run out of items such as masks. She left with a bag of supplies.

“I’m just on my way to work now and this will be a bigf help,” Ambadjes told the Republican American. “I will share these with the two girls I work with.”

Butkus said the reaction of those receiving the supplies were “thankful. When we should be the ones thanking them.”

Post 146 has continued to accept donations and is delivering more supplies, but is now suggesting that those wishing to provide help do so directly to the health-care providers. “We were just the middle man,” Butkus said. “But people have food and people need food, but they still go through a food bank. We just want to make sure we offer an outlet.”

What started as an idea quickly turned into a community groundswell. But for Butkus and Post 146’s 55-strong membership, it just made sense to get involved.

“That’s kind of what we’re here for, right?” Butkus said. “We have that duty and obligation to continue to serve as veterans."

© 2020 Department of New Hampshire | All Rights Reserved

Headquarters Administration