American Legion Emblem

Legion News

Five Things to Know, Sept. 26, 2022

1.   An overnight drone strike near the Ukrainian port of Odesa sparked a massive fire and explosion, the military said Monday, as Russia’s leadership faced growing resistance to its efforts to call up hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine. It came hours after the United States vowed to take decisive action and promised “catastrophic consequences” if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine. 

2.   The U.S. Army dispatched long-range artillerymen to Latvia on Monday for national combat readiness drills alongside local and allied forces, service officials said. U.S. Army Europe and Africa said it deployed two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems with a dozen personnel to the Baltic nation, where security concerns have grown following Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine in February.

3.   Two U.S. military veterans who disappeared three months ago while fighting with Ukrainian forces against Russia arrived home to Alabama on Saturday, greeted by hugs, cheers and tears of joy at the state's main airport.

4.   North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile near its northwestern border Sunday morning, its 18th round of missile tests so far this year, according to South Korea’s military. The missile was launched around 6:53 a.m. from North Pyongan Province, north of the capital city of Pyongyang, the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters.

5.   Wearing a camo baseball cap and holding a fishing rod, while seated in a pink chair at the edge of Great Hollow Lake Saturday morning, a smile crept across three-year-old Daniella Aleman’s face when she felt a wiggle at the end of her fishing line. The 3rd District of the American Legion’s second annual Children’s Fishing Derby was in full swing.

Eight tips to injury prevention

Whether you’re a fitness beginner or a gym rat, injuries are a bummer. Often, though, they are preventable. Here are my tips for avoiding injuries during exercise:

Warm up. Jumping right into an activity is the fastest and most common way to injure yourself. Cold muscles are less elastic and more susceptible to pulling and tearing, which can end a workout. Take five to 15 minutes before exercising to do a dynamic warmup, meaning you keep the body moving by walking and performing active (not static) stretches. Static stretching is meant for post-workout, after muscles are warm.

Pace yourself. Train with the body you have, not the body you want. Aim for improvement, but don’t attempt something that is clearly beyond your level. Easing yourself into higher-intensity workouts will be far more beneficial than starting with something too challenging, injuring yourself and then having to take time off to recover.

Mix things up. Doing a variety of exercises can boost your training. Over time, our bodies adapt to repetitive movements, which can lead to injury when we attempt something our muscles aren’t prepared for. Taking a balanced approach to fitness leads to overall improved strength.

Use proper technique. Take the time to learn how to properly perform an exercise, especially in weightlifting. If you’re new to something, learn good form and seek a fitness professional for help. Improper form can cause serious injuries that can halt your progress, even causing long-term injuries.

Hydrate. Dehydration hinders your workout and risks creating a more serious issue. Your body loses lots of fluids and electrolytes through sweating, so be sure to replenish them. Sip from a water bottle before, during and after exercise.

Wear the right shoes. A leading cause of sports injuries is wearing ill-fitted attire for your sport. Research the right type of shoes for your activity. For example, don’t wear running shoes for weightlifting or basketball shoes for long-distance running or walking.

Rest. Rest days allow your body to recover and regenerate, allowing muscles to rebuild. A rest day for every three to five workout days is generally advised. Pushing through on days when you’re worn down may do more harm than good. You’re better off taking an extra rest day to prevent overtraining injuries. A rest day does not necessarily mean no activity. A walk, yoga routine or easy bike ride are good ways to keep the body moving and burning calories.

Listen to your body. It’s great to get out of your comfort zone, but if something hurts, stop. Pain might indicate you are doing the workout wrong or that you’re not ready for that type of activity yet. Learn to recognize the difference between workout “pain” from a challenge versus pain from a genuine injury.

Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.

PACT Act’s path to victory, more in October magazine 

Check out the October American Legion Magazine for an in-depth look at how the PACT Act promises relief to generations of U.S. veterans exposed to toxicants, as well as features on newly elected American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, mustang therapy for PTSD, the origin of the Legion’s “Be the One” initiative and more. The clickable digi-mag is available through MyLegion.org.

• In “Act of Justice,” Ken Olsen outlines the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, the most far-reaching hazardous exposure legislation for veterans in U.S. history. Millions are expected to receive VA health care and disability benefits for illnesses linked to burn pits, atomic radiation, Agent Orange and other toxicants. Plus, read how the Legion Family’s digital advocacy campaign helped lead to Senate passage.

• Meet American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, elected at the organization’s 103rd National Convention in Milwaukee. A native New Yorker and Navy veteran, Troiola believes service is the key to growing and strengthening the Legion. Showing new members around the post, making Buddy Check calls to ask how the post can help them, identifying at-risk veterans and connecting them to resources through the Be the One campaign – “the more people know what we do, the more will join the ranks,” he says.

• In “Saving George,” Henry Howard shares the story of George Kanaly, a Vietnam War veteran who found peace and healing through Operation Wild Horse, a nonprofit that pairs wild mustangs and burros with those struggling with PTSD. “There have been times I came in with a real bad attitude, and the horse mellow me out,” he says. “It’s given me new ways to address negative stuff.”

• Having lost a brother and fellow Navy SEAL to suicide, Dave Berkenfield says everyone has the opportunity to “Be the One” in The American Legion’s campaign to reduce veteran suicide – veteran, spouse, friend, civilian, caregiver. “Be the one person to recognize that a family member needs some help, or be the one friend who actually makes a phone call and asks someone how they’re doing,” he says. “You just have to be a true connection with someone who needs it. That’s what Be the One is about.”

Members can click here to access the digital magazine.

To join The American Legion and enjoy monthly digital issues of The American Legion Magazine, visit legion.org/join.

Legion Baseball alum Pujols joins 700 HR club

One of Gary Stone’s favorite stories about Albert Pujols stems from an event when Pujols was 17 years old and playing American Legion Baseball for Stone in Independence, Mo.

“We were in a tournament about 80 miles from here; he always rode to the tournaments with me. And I had a cousin of his who was playing for me, too, and they were having a heated conversation (in Spanish) on the way back home,” said Stone, the American Legion Baseball Committee Chairman. “Finally, Albert just threw his hands up. I said, ‘You want to translate that for me?’ And what had happened during the game was, Albert played shortstop for me and he knew where everybody on the field should be. My left fielder had done something, and coming off the field they were arguing and almost got into a fight, and I benched both of them.”

The gist of the argument between Pujols and his cousin was that Stone was “stupid” for benching Pujols, the best player on the team.

“I said, ‘What do you say to that?’ (Albert) said, ‘I should not fight with my teammates, you should bench me.’ And he was 17 years old when he said that, so that’s a great insight into his character,” Stone recalled.

Pujols became the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to hit 700 career home runs when he hit two Friday night in St. Louis’ 11-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pujols, who played Legion Baseball for Hi-Boy Drive/Post 340 in Independence, Mo., joined Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in the 700-home run club. Bonds also played Legion Baseball, in San Mateo, Calif.

Pujols homered off Dodgers lefthander Andrew Heaney in the third inning for his 699th career home run, then notched No. 700 off righthander Phil Bickford in the fourth inning. Pujols also now has 2,208 career RBIs, trailing Aaron (2,297) and Ruth (2,214).

The victory helped the Cardinals improve to 89-63 overall, with a 7 ½ game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division with 10 games to play. Milwaukee closed the gap tp 6½ games when the Cardinals lost to the Dodgers Saturday night. 

Pujols told MLB.com that he was overcome with emotion after No. 700.

“What a special night. To have my family in town and to do it at Dodger Stadium,” Pujols said, noting that his joy of the game returned when he played for the Dodgers last season. “It’s pretty special with the Dodgers fans here, and I get both sides of this. (The Dodgers) get to enjoy this and I get to do it with a Cardinals uniform, which makes it even more special. I’m just thanking God.”

Pujols plans to retire at the end of the season, wrapping up a 22-season MLB career with the Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers. He reflected on his American Legion Baseball experience in 2015.

Stone said Pujols was “a class act.”

“He always knew that he wanted to be a major league player. We all thought he’d get there, we just had no idea he would get there as quick as he did, nor could any of us know he’d do what he’s done. He was mature beyond his years, but he was always focused on working hard at it and knowing what he had to do,” Stone said.

Military Women’s Memorial planning 25th anniversary celebration

The Military Women’s Memorial will celebrate its 25th anniversary with three days of events and services in Washington, D.C.   

From Oct. 14-16, servicewomen, past and present and supporters of the memorial from across the country will gather to celebrate the milestone for military women. The memorial, located at the gates of Arlington National Cemetery, was dedicated on Oct. 18, 1997, with approximately 40,000 people present.  

The anniversary weekend will feature celebratory events, including branch luncheons, a happy hour-style reunion event, a candlelight remembrance ceremony and the official 25th anniversary program. The official program will include formal military honors, remarks by former and current military women representing each of the services, senior Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs officials and more.   

A highlight from the event will be the debut of a new anthem honoring military women. Guests at the events are invited to attend the dedication of the Vaught Center, named after the memorial’s founding president, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught.   

Those who are unable to attend the in-person events will have the opportunity to watch a livestreamed wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on behalf of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation and the servicewomen it represents. Click here to register for the wreath-laying, which will take place on Oct. 16, at 9:15 a.m. EST.  

In addition to the formal events, the memorial is hosting a 25th Anniversary 25-Day Challenge virtual race as a way for community members, friends, partners and supporters to celebrate the Military Women’s Memorial’s 25th anniversary in a fun way from anywhere in the world.   

The Military Women’s Memorial honors the service and legacy of the 3 million women who have served in the Armed Forces beginning with the Revolutionary War. It is the only historical repository documenting the service of military women and features an education center, interactive exhibitions, a collection of military women’s stories, and hosts programs and events for all generations.  

Military Women’s Memorial President Phyllis J. Wilson spoke at The American Legion’s National Convention on Sept 1.   

“I was a soldier and I didn’t feel like I needed a place for women only,” said Wilson. “I was wrong. America still does not quite get that there are three million women who have defended this nation. We get to tell their stories individually and collectively.”  

To learn more about the weekend’s events and to secure your tickets, visit https://womensmemorial.org/25th-anniversary/.   

VA’s new, multibillion-dollar health records system needs major improvements, agency says

A multibillion-dollar electronic health records system launched less than two years ago by the Department of Veterans Affairs needs major improvements, agency officials told senators on Wednesday.

"This is an extremely important effort to solve a decades-long problem and is essential that VA get it right for the health and safety of veterans," said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subpanel on military construction, veterans affairs, and related agencies. "In addition, this is a major investment, and VA has a responsibility to taxpayers to ensure the system works, and its success can be measured."

The VA originally signed a $10 billion contract with the company Cerner in May 2018 to overhaul the agency's health records system and make it compatible with the Defense Department’s system. However, the cost of the project later increased to about $16 billion.

So far, the new records system has been launched at five of the VA’s 166 health care facilities. In some cases, additional launches at some facilities have been postponed because of ongoing problems with records system, along with delays caused by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am concerned," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. "We're into this damn near five years and we haven't done a damn thing. I mean, we've implemented, and it's been a train wreck in my opinion."

At the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., where the system was first launched in October 2020, issues included unauthorized and inaccurate medication orders, patients' name and gender errors, issues in scheduling primary care appointments, misdirected links to video medical appointments and lost referrals.

The VA had originally scheduled to launch the new records system in July at the Boise VA Medical Center but moved it to 2023 after the VA inspector general released a report that revealed the system caused harm to 149 VA patients.

"Just one vet harmed is one vet too many and, right now, the bottom line is that the Cerner system is not delivering for veterans in the ways that it should," VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy said the hearing. "It needs major improvements.”

Shereef Elnahal, VA's undersecretary for health, said he visited the Columbus VA Medical Center in Ohio and saw firsthand the issues clinicians and providers faced using the records system. Among the most concerning problems that he said he saw included putting in orders for lab work or tests.

"They were not confident in many cases, and in many clinical settings, that those orders were actually getting where they needed to go on behalf of their veterans," Elnahal said. "So, there was a lot of manual rework, recheck, that had to be done to meet those veterans' needs."

He also said employees told him the system was stressful to use. Leaders at the Columbus VA facility told Elnahal that some employees quit partly because of problems working within system, Elnahal said.

In October, Paul Brubaker, acting principal deputy assistant secretary and deputy chief information officer at VA's Office of Information Technology, told House lawmakers that the agency contracted with the nonprofit Institute for Defense Analysis to calculate an estimate of costs of the Cerner electronic health record system.

A review issued in July by the institute estimated the implementation of the electronic health record system would cost nearly $39 billion in 13 years. The estimate also included more than $17 billion to sustain the system.

"VA has an opportunity to manage cost drivers such as productivity loss associated with deployments [of the new system]," Rieksts said during the hearing. "As the system is rolled out to more facilities, emerging information will provide additional insights regarding risk and uncertainty in the cost estimate.”

Mike Sicilia, executive vice president for industries at Oracle, which purchased Cerner in June, told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee in July that he reviewed the system's issues. Oracle took over Cerner's electronic health record contract with the VA, Defense Department and the Coast Guard and established a command center led by Oracle's senior engineers.

Sicilia said Wednesday that Oracle hosted a summit with the VA, Defense Department, Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Office, and Leidos Holdings Inc. to discuss the federal electronic health record system's performance and its issues. Sicilia said the meeting led to plans for the system and that Oracle sent a letter to the VA detailing the plans and a roadmap.

Sicilia also said Oracle is working with the VA to revamp training for employees to learn to use the electronic health records system.

"We are working on more than 40 different technical operational improvement projects for the federal enclave that we expect to lead to improved performance and greater stability," Sicilia said in his written testimony. "We have made progress already, completing four projects and expecting seven, potentially eight, more to be complete by the end of the year. As we work on these projects, we will continue to analyze the system and make other fixes as needed."

Finish Line Festival recognizes 100 Miles for Hope and Be the One

American Legion Post 420 in Steelton, Pa., hosted its first Finish Line Festival in 2020 to celebrate member participation in the Legion’s 100 Miles for Hope fitness and wellness challenge. When one of their members died by suicide in 2021, the festival became an honor to him while still recognizing the accomplishments of 100 Miles for Hope participants.

Post 420 and Legion Riders Chapter 998 in Lawnton, Pa., hosted its second annual Spc. David “Mikey” Crawford Jr. 100 Miles for Hope Finish Line Festival on Sept. 17 at the post. The event raised donations for The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation, charity of 100 Miles for Hope, and brought awareness to the Legion’s “Be the One” campaign.  

“The ‘Be the One’ campaign for us just really hits home because one of our own took his own life,” said Unit 420 President Lisa Iskric, who led Post 420’s efforts to raise funds for and awareness of the 100 Miles for Hope challenge. “When The American Legion came out with the ‘Be the One’ campaign, we were like, ‘This is perfect. Let’s get on board.’”

The campaign aims to raise awareness about veteran suicide and empower everyone to “Be the One” to save the life of a veteran who is at risk. Learn more at betheone.org.

The celebration and remembrance event featured door prizes, raffles, food, entertainment and in-kind donations. A table featured a photo of Mikey, along with one of his uncles who also served and died by suicide in 2020. It also had 100 Miles for Hope incentives that Iskric won for raising $5,546 for V&CF – an autographed Jimmie Johnson 100 Miles for Hope shirt and a racing helmet autographed by Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jimmie Johnson, Alex Palou and Tony Kanaan.

Iskric said the V&CF donations were made possible by her just asking, promoting on the post, unit and Sons of The American Legion Squadron 420 Facebook pages, and by her friend Bob Richards of nearby Squadron 730 sharing at district meetings what Post 420 was doing for 100 Miles for Hope.

“I just made sure that everyone knew exactly what the Veterans and Children Foundation is and what it does,” he said of the fund that supports disabled veterans and military families with children in the home who are in financial need. “People are excited to be a part of something that they believe in. I think the main thing is just getting the message out there, getting the focus out there of what this money goes to.”

Iskric said she was blown away by the amount of support from Legion Family statewide, including a $1,000 donation from her former Auxiliary Unit 272. “It really is the Legion Family at its finest around here.”

The support from the Pennsylvania Legion Family and community members was visible at the Finish Line Festival. More than $2,000 was raised for V&CF and to support veteran suicide prevention efforts.

“People were just really moved by what we are doing (with ‘Be the One’ and veteran suicide awareness),” Iskric said. “Mikey was a personal friend of mine. I really wish that he wasn’t the reason that we are doing this event. But his parents conveyed that we are turning a tragedy into a triumph. His dad has said to me that even if this event helps one person, that’s a win. That is our focus now with ‘Be the One’.”

Mikey’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and more were in attendance at Saturday’s festival. His father, David Crawford Sr., is a Post 420 member, and his mother is a headquarters post member. “It’s not easy to lose a child in this way and also his brother-in-law in the same way. I was really glad that we could have the event, he could let out all of his thoughts,” Iskric said of David Sr. who spoke about his son at the event. “It made me personally realize why we do what we do. If there is one person that might be having a bad day, I want them to know that we’re here, that they can come to us.”

Iskric said Post 420 has been raising awareness about mental health issues for a long time, adding that there’s an area inside the post where buttons and flyers with the VA Crisis Line 988 number on it are available for veterans to take. Now, the “Be the One” logo is there to start the conversation to save a life.

“The uncomfortable conversations, we want to make them more comfortable,” she said. “We are focused on being a safe place for veterans as well as their families to come. If they are having a mental issue or a mental break that they have us to speak to. Or if they want to come into the canteen and play tunes on the jukebox rather than contemplate suicide or take their own life, that’s really the goal.”

A few years ago, Post 420 received a phone call from an out-of-state veteran in crisis. Iskric spoke to him for a while and gave him the VA Crisis Line number to call. “These are real issues and real problems that we want to make sure we recognize,” she said. “And know what to do, know what to say and know how to Be the One. That’s what we’re doing … we’re being the one.”

Iskric reflected on a photo taken during the Finish Line Festival of Mikey’s family, all smiling. “That really meant a lot to me because I’m sure there are many other days that they are not smiling. It’s really nice to be able to do this event for not only them but anyone who might need some help or support as well.

“The event as a whole is a true testament to the Legion Family and what we do. We do what we have to do for our veterans and their families.”  

 

  

OUR KOREAN WAR STORY: South Korean Legion post participates in memorial ceremony for two American soldiers slain by North Korean soldiers

Steve Tharp, commander of Lewis L. Millett American Legion Post 38 in Seoul, attended the Barrett-Bonifas Memorial Ceremony held by the United Nations Command Security Battalion-Joint Security Area (JSA) in Camp Bonifas on Aug. 18. The memorial ceremony at JSA honored two American soldiers, Maj. Arthur Bonifas, of Newburgh, N.Y., the Joint Security Force company commander, and 1st Lt. Mark Barrett, of Columbia, S.C., the 1st Platoon leader. Both soldiers were brutally axed to death on Aug. 18, 1976, during a routine tree-trimming operation near the Bridge of No Return by North Korean soldiers. The memorial ceremony marked the 46th anniversary of the killing of the two soldiers. Three days later, the United Nations Command launched Operation Paul Bunyan in an overwhelming show of force against North Korea. Backed up by two eight-man teams from the 2nd Infantry Division, a 64-man South Korean Special Forces company and two 30-man security platoons from the Joint Security Force, the tree was successfully cut down without any resistance. During the memorial ceremony, Tharp, South Korean and U.S military members laid flowers at the site where the poplar tree once stood and paid their respects to the victims. The commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. David Lesperance, who was also at the event, said North Korea continues to develop capabilities that threaten not only South Korea, but regional allies and partners of the United States. "Like them (Bonifas and Barrett), we must strengthen our iron-clad commitment to security on the Korean peninsula, which has endured for 72 years, and never take it for granted."

Legion Family again brings awareness to POW/MIA issue

Last year in September, more than 160 American Legion Riders and over 40 passengers took part in the Riders’ first POW/MIA Remembrance, traveling across the Seven Bridges of Jacksonville that cross the St. John’s River. The ride ended at the National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum for a ceremony and was the Riders’ way of bringing awareness to the public about those U.S. servicemembers still listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.

But to organizers of the ride, one year wasn’t enough. So earlier this month, on Sept. 17 – one day after National POW/MIA Recognition Day – more than 200 motorcycles took part in the second annual Florida POW/MIA Remembrance Ride, departing Adamec Harley-Davidson in Jacksonville, riding across the seven bridges and again finishing up at the National POW/MIA Memorial for a ceremony.

“It’s important for people to not lose the message of the POWs and the MIAs and that they’re still missing,” said Department of Florida American Legion Riders Chairman Jim Wineland, a member of American Legion Post 129 in Jacksonville Beach. “It’s more of a message of remembrance to make sure we’ll never lose touch with it.”

Atlantic Beach, Fla., Post 316 Commander Denny Luke again served as the primary organizer for the ride. “The credit for this event goes 100 percent toward Denny,” Wineland said. “He’s the one who brought it to the ALR general membership. He’s the one that brought the attention to it. Denny’s the man. Denny gets the gold star for the whole thing.”

At the ceremony following the ride, the University of Jacksonville ROTC students provided the parade of colors and retirement of colors, and also did a Missing Man ceremony. Luke also noted that several members of Department of Florida leadership were in attendance for the ride, including Past Department Commander and current Alternate National Executive Committeeman Jerry Brandt, First Vice Commander Michael Raymond, Second Vice Commander Chris Hamrick, Northern Area Commander Jim Bowers and multiple district commanders. Hamrick served as guest speaker for the ceremony following the conclusion of the ride.

“Our goal is to make this an annual event, and not just a Riders event, but a complete Legion event,” Luke said. “So we have leadership from the Department of Florida come up and participate in not only the ride, but the ceremony as well.”

Wineland said that type of buy-in at the department level is important. “The leadership is definitely involved, and there’s a commitment from the leadership,” he said. “That is nice to see … that everybody understands the importance of this.

“It’s just important in my eyes, being a veteran … that we still have lost soldiers that will never be found. And that doesn’t give the families closure, and that’s important for the families to move on.”

For photos of the ride, click here.

National Commander Troiola honors POWs, MIAs During Montana Visit. During his official visit to Montana, American Legion National Commander Vincent J. Troiola was a guest speaker at the 43rd annual Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day event at Memorial Park in Helena.  

“Honoring the men and women who have been held captive, and pressing for a full accounting for those who remain missing, is a sacred mission of our organization,” Troiola said during the ceremony, adding that purpose of such an event “is to keep this issue at the top of all our agendas and reminding the media, our leaders and the public to never forget these heroic men and women.”

The following are a few of the ways American Legion Family members across the nation commemorated National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Please remember to share how your post, unit, squadron or chapter observed the day at Legiontown.org.

Alabama

·       In Priceville, around 100 people attended a POW/MIA remembrance ceremony at Veteran’s Park hosted by American Legion Post 15 in Decatur. Post Commander and retired U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Woodbury delivered the opening remarks. "The Department of Defense estimates there's about 81,600 servicemen and women that left home to defend democracy on foreign shores and never made it back home to their loved ones," Woodbury said. "There's no closure for their families, and these servicemen and women don't get the recognition they deserve."

·       In Phenix City, Fletcher-McCollister Post 135, in partnership with the CSM Association of Fort Benning, conducted a ceremony at the Phenix City Amphitheater. The welcome was provided by Post Commander Nancy Jones, while the Russell County High School JROTC team provided the color guard. During the ceremony, Post 135 member Earl Hutchinson said that a movement to recognize prisoners of war and those missing in action began around the early 1970s when he was stationed at NAS Oceana. “And my unit was responsible for training the pilots and navigators for the missions over in Vietnam,” he said. “We did not get on a first name basis with a lot of the officers, but we recognize them. We recognize their name. So whenever we heard of somebody being shot down, or they became a POW or were listed missing in action, they started a campaign for wearing a rubber bracelet.”

Colorado

In Colorado Springs, American Legion Centennial Post 209’s Legion Family conducted a POW/MIA recognition ceremony by Post Commander Rob Barry and Chaplain Brad Henderson. All veterans present were given certificates of appreciation for their honorable service to the nation.

Connecticut

·       In Bristol, members of American Legion Post 2 gathered for their POW/MIA ceremony that included remarks from Post 2 member Bob Barnett about his experience as the relative of a POW/MIA soldier. Barnett’s brother, George Joseph Barnett Jr., was a prisoner of war during the Korean War. In 1954, Barnett learned that his brother had been executed at a prisoner of war camp. “We do this because we can’t forget, not any of them, not George, not World War II veterans or WWI,” Barnett said. “In my case, I know what happened to my brother. There are many who will never know.”

·       In Braintree, American Legion Post 86’s observation of the day that included Post Adjutant John Pelose reading an explanation of why the empty POW/MIA table is set up the way it is.

Florida

American Legion Haisley Lynch Post 16 hosted the Alachua County observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The guest of honor was Hank "Sarge" McQuinn, who was wounded in action during the Korean War and later captured after a combat jump behind enemy lines. Post 16 provided lunch following the ceremony.

Kentucky

In Bowling Green, American Legion Post 23 and members of the Greenwood High School Navy JROTC hosted a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony that included the setting of POW/MIA table, a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps and more.

Nebraska

In Papillion, American Legion Post 32 hosted its annual POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony.

New Hampshire

In Jaffey, members of American Legion Post 11’s Legion Family and other community members conducted a 24-hour vigil over a POW/MIA table to honor Americans who are missing in action or prisoners of war. Those who participated stood guard over the table in 15-minute shifts over the 24 hours.  

“The whole purpose of it is to make people aware there are still POWs and MIAs that are not accounted for. We just want to keep that in the public’s mind,” American Legion Department of New Hampshire Commander Charlie Arkwell told the Monadock Ledger-Transcript.  “Not just for the veterans, but for everybody in this country – they should be very grateful for the people that have stepped up and served, but should keep in mind also, the POWs and MIAs and their families, and what they’re going through not knowing where their loved ones are.”

New Jersey

The Sons of The American Legion Detachment of New Jersey conducted its 32nd annual POWMIA remembrance watchfire in Seaside. The 12-hour vigil took place from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. Sept. 17. View photos from the event here.

New York

·       In Binghamton, American Legion Post 1645 hosted its annual POW/MIA ceremony, reading the stories of notable prisoners of war and missing servicemembers from past U.S. conflicts and wars. The ceremony also included prayers, speeches and patriotic music.

·       In West Endicott, Post 1700 also hosted a POW/MIA event. Post 1700 Commander Dave Williams said it’s important to remember and honor their contributions. “These men and women have given sacrifices for this country so that we can do and have things that we do on an everyday basis without even thinking about it. If it wasn’t for the sacrifice that they made to this country, we wouldn’t be able to do these things that we take for granted.”

North Carolina

In Vass, American Legion Post 296 presented a POW/MIA flag to the Town of Vass to fly in the town’s Cameron Irby Memorial Park. Post 296 Commander Matt Litzinger presented the flag to Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Callahan at the Town Board of Commissioners meeting.

Ohio

American Legion 211 in Avon Lake combined its POW/MIA remembrance ceremony with a celebration of the U.S. Air Force’s 75th birthday. During the ceremony, the post placed its fourth memorial stone, this one honoring the Air Force. The newest, along with the three previous in place (Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corps) will be joined by a U.S. Navy stone during the post’s Navy birthday event.  

South Dakota

American Legion Post 15 in Sioux Falls hosted its annual POW/MIA remembrance service at Veterans Memorial Park.

Tennessee

In Hawkins County, American Legion Post 21 hosted POW/MIA ceremony that was open to the public.

Texas

In The Colony, American Legion Holley-Riddle Post 21 conducted a POW/MIA Recognition Sunset Vigil at Stewart Creek Park.

Utah

In Salt Lake City, American Legion Post 112’s Legion Family hosted an event that also included live music.

American Legion Riders gather to honor one of their own

On eight different occasions, Denise Kroeger went with her uncle – longtime Illinois American Legion Rider Jim Cowley – to the Rolling Thunder Run motorcycle weekend in Washington, D.C. There was something she noticed then that she saw again on full display last weekend in Galva, Ill., as Legion Riders from across the nation came to honor her uncle and support his family.

Cowley passed away at age 75 on July 23 of this year, a little less than a month before the start of the 2022 American Legion Legacy Run, of which he served as assistant chief road captain from 2008 to 2021. Legion Riders from states that included Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky traveled to Galva to attend a family and friends breakfast, the visitation and funeral service, as well as a lunch at Habgerg-Hamlin Post 45, where Cowley was a member for 54 years.  

Kroeger said meeting other American Legion Riders during Rolling Thunder was “like instant family. It’s like you saw each other yesterday (and) we have never met each other. For me, traveling with Jim and doing Rolling Thunder, that’s what I felt every time I would be at a Legion post. It did not matter where we were. You were family.

“One of the takeaways (from last weekend) that I had is they have all ridden together in some fashion so many times that it is the extension of family. It’s not just Legion Family, but this is what you do.”

That includes showing up at fellow Riders’ funeral services, which Kroeger – who lives in Iowa – said was something her uncle engaged in often. “He had done the same so many times, and we might not have known about it until he was home,” she said. “He would be gone to this service or gone to that service.”

Denise and her aunt, Janene Felter, are Cowley’s sole survivors. Both were in Galva, where Felter said she was overwhelmed by the show of support from the other Legion Riders.

“My feeling of having them come is one of complete honor for them to join us at this time,” Felter said. “Their respect for my brother, I can only so thank you. There are no words. The miles that they rode. They stayed in the hotel right with us. They’d come up and shake my hand … and the tears in their eyes, it was just a heartfelt tribute to the man that they rode with.”

Felter, who lives in Montana, said Cowley obviously shared information about his own family while among his fellow Legion Riders. “He would come and visit us, or we would see each other at a family thing, and he would talk about his ride family and his Legion family,” she said. “And what we discovered this weekend is, (We’d be asked) ‘Oh, you’re the sister out West. You’re the family out West. Is it your boy that went to the Naval Academy?’ What we know is he was always talking to someone about some part of his family in some way, shape or form.”

A U.S. Air Force veteran Cowley helped charter Post 45’s American Legion Riders chapter, and after taking part in a few legs of the first two Legacy Runs, he was installed as assistant chief road captain. During last weekend’s events, Legacy Run Chief Road Captain Mark Clark presented Denise and Janene with a flag that rode with the Legion Riders on this year’s Legacy Run

Felter said Cowley’s passion, along with the navigational skills he’d developed form over 30 years in the trucking industry, were a perfect combination for helping lead the annual ride.

“I will say that the Legacy Run culminates the finest work of his life,” Felter said. “The synergy between his logistics brain – the virtual road map that was always present in his mind – to have the opportunity to bring that together with his passion for the Legion. Then add the purpose of helping the children get to college to be able to honor their parents’ sacrifice in this way, and to bring it all together in a way he could truly help – that’s his wheelhouse.

“To know the roads and the way the road system in the U.S. goes together, to know the little side roads, the U.S. roads and routes that in many ways may be better than an interstate ever could be – to bring all those things together … just seems to me to be the culmination of all the things he did outside of farming that was paying it forward and doing good and being the very humble veteran and Legionnaire that he’s always been.”

Cowley was also active with the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) and was a big supporter of the Honor Flight Network annual fundraiser in nearby Bishop Hill. This year’s Bishop Hill Honor Flight Network Benefit took place Sept. 18; Felter and Denise were in attendance. During the event, a memorial program took place to honor Cowley for his years of dedication and support for the benefit and for veterans in general.

“His ALR ride world overlaps with his (Patriot Guard Riders) family,” Felter said. “And his PGR family overlaps with his family, and his Legion brothers in the post, and his Legion brothers and sisters in Illinois and the region, and at the national level, it’s an extension of him and his character and his personality.”

Felter won’t be surprised if she and Denise find out that Cowley was involved in even more activities and organizations to benefit and honor others. “It will take us a while to unravel all the things that Jim Cowley was wrapped up in,” she said. “He truly found himself in all of these nonprofit endeavors, and I just simply could not be prouder.”

© 2022 Department of New Hampshire | All Rights Reserved

Headquarters Administration