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Big memories on campus

The Veterans History Project (VHP) oral history program of the Library of Congress has had support from The American Legion since its establishment in 2000; the Legion is a founding partner. And the Legion – whether by national resolution or local post involvement – also supports veterans groups on campuses across the country. All three converged when the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tenn., set up interviews April 18-19 for area veterans to give filmed accounts of their service that will end up in the Library.

SVO president/founder David Donnelly, a fairly new Legionnaire, worked at senior homes when he was younger and paid close attention to the residents. “It was amazing to hear these stories,” he commented. Donnelly considers talking a good source of camaraderie and even healing, including for those who have served in the military; service is “a part of your life that never really leaves.” At the latest Student Veterans of America national convention, he heard Library of Congress Liaison Specialist Andrew Huber give a VHP presentation and was inspired.

SVO is in its third semester of existence, and is active in liaising between student veterans and Columbia State administration. Non-veteran students can join as affiliate members; Donnelly said it “gives students the opportunity” to help their veteran counterparts. He reached out to other campus groups for volunteers to give interviews and take notes. He also approached his Legion post, Herbert Griffin Post 19 in Columbia, to talk up the event. (Of his membership, he commented, “The connections I’ve made there have been invaluable.”)

More than 25 subjects – veterans and Gold Star family members – signed up for half-hour-plus interview slots in soundproof practice rooms in Columbia State’s performing arts building, where they answered questions from interviewers while a video camera ran and another volunteer took notes that will provide metadata researchers can look for among all the archived VHP histories. After their interview, each subject received a copy of the video on a thumb drive. The American Legion was represented by Centennial-themed history displays brought from National Headquarters in Indianapolis.

Columbia State president Dr. Janet Smith, visiting the green room between meetings, lauded the student-driven nature of the event – “That’s one of the best whys I can think of” – and how its educational and historical focus dovetailed with the mission of the college.

One interview slot was filled by Post 19 Commander Darrell Van Dusen, who discussed his reaction to seeing Korea and Japan for the first time, as well as the use of Agent Orange in Korea. He has a historically minded daughter and grandchild, so he commented that “I feel good” about his interview entering the Library of Congress archive.

Kim Smith, who serves as Post 19’s hall manager, also attended based on Donnelly’s appearance; he decided “it’d be good to do.” Sitting in the green room after his interview, Smith was already thinking of more stories he could have told. He commented that sharing memories will help the next generation.

Lexine Davis came to the event to tell the story of her late husband, John Allan Davis. He was injured three times during his military career, the last during the Tet Offensive; she believes he was a Legionnaire. Although the two did not marry until after his service, she said, “I watched how he suffered” from the aftereffects of his injuries – particularly PTSD. Davis gave her husband’s history in order to encourage future searchers of the VHP archives to take the issues of mental health and PTSD “more seriously.” She would especially like to see more guidance and warning signs given to caregivers, so they can help their loved ones.

Dr. Ginny Massey-Holt is an associate professor of nursing and SVO’s adviser – a veteran herself. She admitted that before the event started, “I didn’t know what to expect.” But she stressed that using the Library’s outlines, a VHP event is not as complicated as potential organizers and interviewees might think.

Andrew Huber of the Library of Congress – who Donnelly heard at the SVA convention – was on hand at the event, and praised the prep work the SVO/Columbia State team did. He also had praise for The American Legion, commenting that Legion elements are often the first to sign up or show up for a VHP event: “We really appreciate all the Legion does for us.” When the VHP was founded, the emphasis was solely on the oral history, but since then it has expanded to take sets of physical material within certain parameters; a few interview subjects brought in photographs, newspaper articles and more.

Volunteer interviewer Angel Cervera is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, one of the groups SVO reached out to, and helped both days. She was “really honored to hear the experiences … what they endured.” She was struck by the different lives and experiences different people had.

That was the kind of reaction Donnelly was hoping for – to “awaken” something in the interviewers. Of course, the event tended to awaken something in the subjects as well. And to that end, Donnelly was planning to sit for an interview himself.

For more information about the Veterans History Project, visit


USAA Tips: Tips for older workers

Content provided courtesy of USAA

As an older worker in today’s labor and employment world, you have to be ready for anything that comes your way. What worked yesterday probably won’t work today. As a matter of fact, what might not work tomorrow is YOU.

As successful as you’ve been over the years, things change rapidly and you need to be able to pivot in an instant. You need to be able to anticipate changes and/or quickly adjust once change comes. This is no easy feat.

What follows is a laundry list of Tips For Older Workers.

  • Stay up on the latest technology. It seems like a new version of an old smartphone hits the market faster than a politician’s name uttered on the news these days. Spend some time reading owner’s manuals, viewing YouTube videos, or asking your younger family members about those technological advances that continually stump you.

  • Read what the young folks read. While this might cause a headache and chronic eye-rolling, keeping up with what’s hip, trending, and popular won’t hurt you. That said, it might be best to just listen and understand rather than try to come across as too cool. The choice is yours.

  • Learn how to use Social Media - Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you do this, you’ll also be able to do what’s suggested in the bullet point above.

  • Hang out with the people you work with. That social hour after work might be a great opportunity for you to connect with the people on your team. Be conscious of the amount of time you spend there and be cognizant of your conduct at all time. Be wise.

  • Connect with your peers at the workplace and away from work. If you as an older worker feel something as it relates to your age at your workplace, chances are your same-aged co-workers feel it too. But, some things can be tough to discuss at work. So, having a group of same-aged friends that work elsewhere provides a safe-zone to discuss anything that concerns you.

  • Become a historian. If you have a long history within a company or can be described as “wise to ways” within a specific industry, why not put together a quick history lesson about it and share it with your work group. Once you do, expect people to seek you out for advice and watch your level of leadership grow as a result.

  • Plan for the possibility of getting cut. When we were young, trying out for a youth sports team and getting cut meant we could come back next year and try again. But as an older worker, you just never know how many more tryouts are coming. That said, it might be a good idea to review those original goals you had regarding early or forced retirement and make plans to flip the switch as needed. Preparation is the key.

  • Feed your hobby. Maintaining the work/life balance is important. Do activities that keep you feeling good about life.

  • Find your side gig. If you’ve ever started a sentence with the words, “Someday I’ll start a business.” maybe it is high time you did something about it. Commit to five minutes per day to work on your “side-hustle” and see what happens once you get fully engaged in it or when you get laid off.

  • Keep the family and friends informed. While some people tend to internalize everything that’s going on inside of them, you may wish to consider how and how often you communicate with family and friends. When’s the last time you communicated with someone using that good, old-fashioned method of the spoken word?

Older workers bring exceptional value to any workplace and this can benefit organizations that recognize their worth.

Six departments earn reimbursement on computer purchases

The American Legion’s Big Twelve Competition recognizes departments that meet or exceed their pledged membership goal percentage by the March target date. The percentage does not include members gained through DMS.

The winner in each category will be reimbursed for computer equipment purchases of up to $2,000. Runners-up in each category will be reimbursed for computer equipment purchases of up to $1,000.

For missing categories, a department winner was not named.

Big Twelve category winners:

Category I – departments of 100,000 or more members: Ohio

Category III – 40,0000 - 64,999 members: Michigan

Category V – 10,000 - 24,999 members: South Dakota

Category VI – 9,999 - or fewer members: Delaware


Category V – 10,000 - 24,999 members: Connecticut

Category VI – 9,999 - or fewer members: Utah

For more information about the Big Twelve award and others, download The American Legion's National Membership Awards Points Manual.

Three district commanders win trip to 101st National Convention

Three American Legion district commanders will be honored on stage during the 2019 National Convention in Indianapolis 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 Indianapolis, Aug. 23-29, as a distinguished guest of National Commander Brett Reistad.

For categories missing, a winner was not named.

The 2019 Race to the Top winners are:

Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 1 Commander Richard F. Devlin III of Colorado

Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 24 Commander Benjamin D. Gibson of California

Category V (districts with 7,500 or more members) – District 12 Commander Stephen C. Hamrick of Ohio

Second place winners will receive a $500 check. They are:

Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 4A Commander George M. Wooden of Oklahoma

Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 12 Commander Curtis R. Humphrey Jr. of Georgia

Category V (districts with 7,500 or more members) – District 10 Commander Bradley A. Teis of Ohio

Third place winners will receive a $375 check. They are:

Category I (districts with 15-1,499 members) – District 1 Commander Andrew E. Lowen of Texas

Category II (districts with 1,500-2,999 members) – District 11 Commander Melvin O. Weaver of Georgia

For more information about the Race to the Top award and others, download The American Legion's National Membership Awards Points Manual.

Legion, VA team up on approach to suicide prevention

Dear American Legion Family and Friends,

Suicide is a national public health issue. Veterans are among higher risk groups, but suicide affects all Americans, which is why VA and The American Legion are working together to adopt a public health approach to suicide prevention. The public health approach looks beyond the individual to involve peers, family members and the community in preventing suicide. Preventing veteran suicide is a top priority for VA, but they need help from dedicated partners like the American Legion Family to reach veterans outside the VA health-care system.

Last year, VA released the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, a long-term plan that provides a framework for focusing national attention and community resources on veteran suicide prevention. The strategy brings together different sectors to reach veterans in the communities where they live, work and thrive. This strategy is more than a plan; it is a call to action. And it requires your help to succeed.

The National Strategy is a guide to online suicide prevention resources. We strongly encourage you to review the National Strategy and determine how you can advance its four strategic directions: (1) Healthy and Empowered Veterans, Families and Communities; (2) Clinical and Community Preventive Services; (3) Treatment and Support Services; and (4) Surveillance, Research and Evaluation. In addition to applying the strategy’s principles to your organization, we invite you to take advantage of VA’s resources to educate your members and supporters, including your social media networks, about veteran suicide prevention best practices.

Legionnaires play a crucial role in VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. We urge you to become a leader in our mission by adopting the principles of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and by contacting your local VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC) to collaborate and explore potential partnership, education and training opportunities. The Veterans Crisis Line resource locator will help you find a SPC in your area.

When we all work together, we can deliver on this comprehensive plan and save veterans’ lives.

VA wants your GI Bill success stories

As the nation draws closer to the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill of 1944 – the original version drafted by American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery – the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is asking for GI Bill success stories from both veterans and other beneficiaries.

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill, was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944; Colmery spent five months in Washington's Mayflower Hotel writing page after page of what served as the foundation for the legislation granting war veterans an array of rights and later served as a pattern for programs to aid future veterans and their families.

VA will celebrate the anniversary of the GI Bill this summer and wants GI Bill success stories to be a part of that celebration. Whether it was getting an education, purchasing a house or using other VA benefits, veterans are invited to share their stories by uploading a video between now and June 22. The video may appear on VA’s YouTube playlist or in other VA materials.

Submitting videos to VA’s GI Bill 75th Anniversary website is simple and can be done here. For more information, click here.

Nonprofits that support youth can apply for a CWF grant

American Legion Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) grant applications are being accepted starting May 1. CWF accepts funding proposals from nonprofits for projects that contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of children. Grants are only given to entities that help U.S. children in a large geographic area; they are not awarded for day-to-day operating expenses or special operating expenses.

The CWF application is online at Applications must be postmarked to American Legion National Headquarters no later than July 15.

Applicants will be notified when their grant proposal is received by the Child Welfare Foundation. And all applicants will be informed of the status of their application following The American Legion's annual Fall Meetings in October.

Since 1955, more than $13 million in CWF grants have been awarded to nonprofits that support America's youth. Donations to CWF can be made at The Sons of The American Legion is the single largest contributor to the CWF – contributing $8 million in donations since 1988.

American Legion Child Welfare Foundation awards grant for autism research

The American Legion’s Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) awarded the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) a grant April 16 that will aid in the printing and distribution of a revised resource “A Parent's Guide to Research: 2019 Outreach.” The revised guide will provide parents with information about autism, explain the differences in information resources, and give them the tools to interpret and apply findings to their individual situation and needs.

OAR is a national nonprofit organization in Arlington, Va., that was founded and led by parents and grandparents of children with autism. They work to provide new and useful information to members of the autism community, and promote initiatives that enhance the quality of life for individuals with autism.

The $14,250 grant was presented to OAR Executive Director Michael Maloney and Director of Research and Programs Kimberly Ha by American Legion Finance Commission member George Lussier and Department of Virginia's National Executive Alternative Committeeman Linden Dixon Jr.

The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation was founded to contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of children and youth. CWF accomplishes this mission by promoting child welfare through dissemination of knowledge about research, studies, surveys, projects, or by supporting programs and activities benefiting the welfare of children and youth.

Festival air

On April 11, the American Legion Post 519 Amateur Radio Club put up a booth at the Palm Springs (Calif.) Village Fest. We had a radio set up with UHF/VHF/HF and encouraged the public to stop by. We had over 100 veterans, family members and curious tourists stop by to thank us for our service and inquire about The American Legion. All children passing by received an American flag – we had 1,000 flags to begin with and ran out halfway through. We even got several youngsters and adults on the air. It was a great night.

Mid-April brings the Coachella music festival, with over 100,000 concertgoers in town for a two-weekend extravaganza. Pop Up Palm Springs is a brand-new event taking place on April 16 between the festival weekends. Main Street Palm Springs, the association of Uptown and Downtown Palm Springs businesses, invites local businesses to host an on-site special event, and Post 519 is a participant. We are still finalizing details, but currently our plans include a tour of our historic post including the restored Amateur Radio Room (K6TAL), a lecture on the history of the post, and maybe a lecture on our Palm Springs fallen heroes. For more information, visit or call (760) 325-6229.

5 things veterans should not do at job interviews

From | By Sean Mclain Brown

Job interviews can be a daunting experience but with the proper preparation, you can learn strategies that can help you ace an interview.

There’s no such thing as a second chance to make a first impression so it’s critical that you take the time to do your research and create a battle plan that will help you overcome some of your interview weaknesses.

So you’ve landed an interview? Great! Now the real work begins. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

1. Don’t Be Late!

“If you’re on time, you’re late.” You’ve heard that countless times in your military career. It holds true today. In fact, if your interview is within reasonable driving distance, it’s a good idea to actually drive the route. As reliable as Google Maps is, it’s still a good idea to be prepared. Getting there early gives you time to relax, go over your interview notes one last time and use the bathroom to make sure you look squared away (be sure your shoes are clean and polished and you don’t have any food in your teeth!).

2. Don’t Criticize Past Employers

It’s an interview standard to be questioned about your previous employers. Even if you have legitimate grievances against a former boss or colleague, this is not the time to air them. Negativity, even when in tandem with your interviewer, is still negativity. Formulate how you can stay positive and try to turn the conversation to skills you learned and contributions you made.

3. Don’t Um and Ah

Let’s face it. Unless you were a PAO (Public Affairs Officer), you likely don’t have a great deal of experience public speaking. The good news is that you don’t need a college degree to become an excellent public speaker during interviews. Avoid ‘ums’, ‘ahs’, and other filler words as much as possible. If you are not quite sure of your next word, simply take a pause to think. If you need to, clarify the question with the interviewer to give yourself time to think.

In fact, a thoughtful pause might make the interviewer have the impression that you are really taking a moment to consider the question they are asking instead of just immediately rambling on with the first thing that pops into your head.

The key to mastering speaking for an interview is to practice. It’s highly recommended you practice in front of someone, or at the least, record yourself while answering some common interview questions. Keep practicing until you’re confident you can eliminate filler words from your conversation.

4. Don’t Give Generic Answers

Always, always, always be specific. If you say “I’m an excellent communicator” make sure you follow with specific examples on how you’ve demonstrated excellent communication skills. Anyone can rattle off a list of positive sounding traits, but you need to show them how you will be good for the role with evidence and examples.

For example, the question, “What makes you a good team player?,” shouldn’t just be answered with, “Well, I work good with others, I have a positive attitude, and I am a hard worker.” You should answer with a story about a project that you worked on with a team and the way you contributed to that team to successfully complete it.

5. Don’t Say You Have No Questions

Anytime you are asked if you have any questions, ask a question! During your interview preparation compile a list of questions you have about the company and the role. A couple of good fallback questions are “Why did you choose to work here?” or “What excites you most about the company’s future?” Your questions will indicate that you’ve thought more about what this job might be like or what you’re looking for in a job than just getting one for the paycheck. You can indicate more of what you’ll bring to the table. You also should avoid saying the following:

  • “Honestly” -- Any version of “honestly” including, “to tell you the truth” or “truthfully,” signals to the interviewer that what you said previously might have been misleading or untruthful. Deception experts listen for cues such as the word “honestly” to indicate a change of heart in the respondent’s message as if what they just said before wasn’t honest. While it is a subtlety, don’t take the chance that the interviewer would question what you said, casting a doubt on your confidence, information, or ability to relate to others.

  • “No… absolutely…” -- I have a friend who does this one constantly! You ask her, “Do you have time to help me with this?” and she replies, “No, absolutely I do!” Huh? It’s as if the “no” is a stall and the “absolutely I do” is the real response. To the listener, this prefacing statement is confusing and can disrupt the flow of the conversation. Your goal in an interview is to give thoughtful and focused responses to questions asked. If you need to take a few seconds to form a response, do that. Look off to the side (or upwards) and then respond clearly and with confidence.

  • “Between you and me…” -- In an interview, nothing should be considered private or confidential. If you aren’t comfortable sharing the information with your former employer, colleagues, or former C.O., don’t mention it. Prefacing with a statement like “between us” implies a level of trust and intimacy misplaced in a job interview.

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