Top 5: save the date, 30th anniversary gear, a four-part war story
1. Gear up for the Legacy Run
If you’re participating in the 2023 American Legion Legacy Run, new gear is available for purchase – a 30th anniversary commemorative short- and long-sleeved T-shirt. The shirts are available through Emblem Sales. Orders must be in by July 15 to have them in time for the Legacy Run.
The five-day, 1,100-mile ride will leave American Legion Post 6 in Kokomo, Ind., on Aug. 20 and travel through Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee before the final stop at the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, N.C., on Aug. 24. Register here.
Ride for the cause: The Legacy Run is in the final year of raising money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, which provides financial assistance with college for children of U.S. military personnel killed while on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as for children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined disability rating of 50 percent or greater by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year’s ride raised a record $1,324,548 – the eighth time the Legacy Run has surpassed $1 million.
2. Save the date: July 1
On the first day of every month, Resolution 13: Be the One Days, urges Legion Family members to wear a Be the One item to show their commitment to reducing the stigma around mental health issues among veterans and servicemembers. And to start a conversation about what Be the One is and how to save the life of a veteran. Legion posts should also promote Be the One on the first day of every month. The resolution was passed by the National Executive Committee during the American Legion’s Spring Meetings in May with June 1 being the kickoff.
Saturday, July 1 is the next Be the One Days so mark your calendar and wear a Be the One item.
Show your support: You can purchase a Be the One shirt or tack through American Legion Emblem Sales. For American Legion posts, there are many resources available to use to promote Be the One at the resources web page. And show your support of Be the One Days at legiontown.org under the Be the One category.
3. Watch a Vietnam War Seabee’s four-part story
At 25, David O. Warnken of Hutchinson, Kan., was informed one day that his draft notice was in the mail, but there was one billet available for him in the Navy. He took it. Sooner than he could have imagined, the farm boy from Kansas was a Seabee in the Vietnam War, an experience that would forever shape his life. What the four-part video series of Hutchinson, a longtime American Legion officer, on the Legion’s YouTube channel: Episode 1: From Farm to Fight; Episode 2: Bootcamp to Combat; Episode 3: Vietnam to Post 68; and Episode 4: A War Finally Over.
Share your memory: The American Legion wants to honor those who you remembered on Memorial Day. Visit Legiontown web page and select the Memorial Day category to share a story or photo about whom you honored on this sacred day.
4. Legionnaire shares his journey across the United States
Marine Corps veteran and Navy Cross recipient Justin “J.D.” LeHew walked 3,365 miles across the United States last year to raise awareness about the nation’s more than 81,000 POWs and MIAs. LeHew, a Legionnaire, is the chief operating officer of History Flight, a private, POW-MIA search and recovery organization. It has spearheaded the recovery of nearly 400 missing U.S. servicemembers, leading to more than 160 positive identifications thus far. He’s also the first post-Vietnam War national commander of The Legion of Valor – the oldest veteran service organization open to recipients of the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross or Distinguished Service Cross.
LeHew is this week’s special guest in a new episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast.
Share your memory: Don’t miss when a new episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast is released. Sign up for the podcast e-newsletter.
5. Legion youth program names finalists to compete in Colorado
Out of the more than 800 youth who entered round one of The American Legion Junior Shooting Sports individual postal match competition last fall, the top 30 competitors are advancing to The American Legion’s 32nd Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo. The championship tournament will be held July 20-22 at the USA Shooting Range at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The top competitor from both the precision and sporter category will win a championship title and a $5,000 scholarship provided by The American Legion and the Sons of The American Legion. See the top 30 competitors.
Be a part of the program: If you’re interested air rifle competition where you shoot in three positions – prone, standing and kneeling – and want to compete for a chance to earn a spot at the national championships, visit the Legion’s Junior Shooting Sports Program page to learn more.
The heart to do what others cannot
Lt. Gen. James Gavin looked through the car window on a misty day at La Fiere Bridge. It was June 7, 1984. He needed to talk to the troops of the 82nd Airborne Division who had parachuted in the day before. It was the first time the division had returned to Normandy since June 6, 1944.
Despite the frailties of age and the onset of Parkinson’s, the sight of the red berets energized him. He grasped his cane, stood up and strode to the front of the men, no introduction needed. For an hour and a half, talking and walking, he was in command once again, transporting troops back in time, to that seemingly insignificant causeway they so desperately needed to cross and defend, into a stronghold of entrenched Germans intent on killing every one of them.
“Only Airborne troops could have done this,” he told them. “It took more heart than head to succeed, which they did, because they could do no less.”
The troops were mesmerized. They followed him, absorbing his energy and an aura of authority that could not be denied. “I would have followed him to hell in gasoline-soaked pants,” one soldier said.
Some of the troopers who served in later wars remembered the spirit and strength they saw from Gavin at La Fiere that day and how it affected them in their own situations. The “jumping general” who led predawn airborne operations on D-Day that opened the Normandy coast for the pivotal Allied invasion that began the end of World War II and Nazi occupation gave them an enhanced will to succeed in their own missions, no matter where.
Every year since, troops from the United States, France and NATO converge on Normandy in celebration of the D-Day anniversary. The Norman French are effusive in their appreciation of the troops, even to this day. They see their grandfathers in their youth. They pat and praise the young soldiers, who are somewhat dumbfounded by the attention. Children here, they soon discover, often know more about the unit regiments and their history than they themselves.
And the highlight of the activities – other than multitudinous ceremonies – are the terrain walks.
Led by two retired colonels who were present when Gavin gave his walk and talk in 1984, and with input from other veterans over the years, they guide the troops through many of the sites, some familiar, some not so. Omaha Beach. Pointe du Hoc. Utah Beach. Brécourt Manor. Chef-du-Pont. Neuville Au Plain. Timmes Orchard. Sainte-Mère-Église. Pegasus Bridge. Merville Battery. Always, the final walk takes place at La Fiere Bridge, tracing Gavin’s steps and points along the way.
The troops look at the land with experienced eyes; they are battle-hardened from their own missions. But here, they envision what Gavin and his men, the “originals,” saw. They understand the friendly and enemy positions and appreciate the decisions that had to be made so long ago to take the position. In a sense, they become their military ancestors for a moment in time, on a seemingly ancient battlefield. They see themselves in their predecessors. More importantly, they see their hearts.
That’s the lesson Gen. Gavin shared for an hour and a half on a rainy day in 1984.
Nothing exemplifies this more than that of a battle-hardened NCO who was part of the later experience, well after Lt. Gen. Gavin passed.
The retired colonel had stood in front of the room as the troops shuffled in, the unmistakable daze of an 18-hour trip on C130s, from Ft. Bragg and Ft. Benning to France, on their faces. The sergeant had the easy efficiency of one who was used to leading under stress. He spoke in a low tone, primarily with gestures. His men immediately responded through their haze and sat down, eyes alert. He checked the men, whose eyes met his. Both satisfied with the result, they returned to the tasks at hand.
This was part of what the Army calls a “good-deal trip.” Yet after the seemingly endless plane ride, MREs and expeditionary-quality bathroom options, he and the troops were not yet ready to call it that.
The sergeant’s alertness and control were noted by the colonel. This was a reliable combat soldier.
The following day, their guide walked a site with the mass of men, briefing them and taking questions. He noted the NCO was off to the side, in a position where he could see him, his men and the land. The sergeant had a combat patch from the Rangers, and his current organizational patch. He had probably served from private to platoon sergeant in the sandboxes and served well, with first-class units, multiple times. He had a Combat Infantry Badge and the sharp eyes of one familiar with kinetic moments.
As the day wore on, he was becoming immersed in the place and the moment, into which he had been transported. He went from controlling his men as a matter of emphasis to absorbing the story of what occurred here during World War II. He analyzed the terrain, calculated enemy numbers, his own resources and the necessary resolution. He became the man on the spot, so many years ago.
Mentally, he maneuvered his men as if he were Owens at La Fiere, Turnbull at Neuville, Lomell at Pointe du Hoc or Hall at Omaha Beach. Here was a man with multiple hard combat tours who was clearly transfixed by his predecessor’s actions. Experienced in the facts of combat, he appreciated the moment. He had bridged the span of time and become part of the place.
Walking back from a site, he moved to the front of his men, an exception from his normal positioning and tugged on the guide’s sleeve.
They slowed their pace and catching his eye, the NCO said with clear reverence, “Sir. Some stuff happened here.”
That sergeant and that statement were the residue of what Lt. Gen. Gavin imparted so long ago. When one of the attendees, in a dark and desperate place, remembers what he saw and felt in Normandy, it would give him the heart to do what others cannot. And that is exactly what Gavin intended.
Commander commences trip to Normandy and Germany
American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola is commencing a trip that will take him to Normandy to honor World War II heroes, engage with NATO leadership in Brussels and visit U.S. military bases in Germany.
“I am honored to visit Normandy and pay tribute to the brave men and women who fought and died in World War II,” said Troiola, who will lay a wreath at the D-Day ceremony. “I am also looking forward to meeting with our allies in NATO to discuss the security situation in Europe and thank our troops stationed in Germany for their service and sacrifice.”
National security will be a top priority for the commander during his visits. “This trip is important for several reasons,” he said, noting that national security was among the four pillars the Legion was founded on. “It will allow me to get a better understanding of the rapidly evolving security challenges in Europe and how The American Legion can support those efforts. After all, national security has been an integral part of the organization since its founding in 1919.”
Another aspect of national security is quality of life for servicemembers and their families. The commander’s visits to military bases in Germany will help give him a first-hand look at how our troops and their families are being supported.
“The importance of military life cannot be overstated,” Troiola said. “It is a unique and honorable journey that offers unparalleled experiences, opportunities and lessons. However, there can be immense sacrifices, not just for the brave individuals who serve in the military, but also for their families. Frequent relocations, long deployments and emotional stress can be challenging to military families. Ensuring the wellbeing of our servicemembers and their families isn't just a moral imperative, but also a strategic necessity for maintaining a mission-ready force. We owe it to them for their selfless service, and to uphold the values we stand for as the nation’s largest veterans service organization.”
Remains of American general who fought during WWI, WWII returned to US
The remains of an American general who fought in World War I and World War II during his 33 years in the Marine Corps were finally returned to the United States, nearly 60 years after he died in India.
Maj. Gen. Harry Kleinbeck Pickett, a recipient of the Legion of Merit award for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, died of a heart attack on vacation in 1965 and his remains were buried there until just recently when a relative, some helpers and government officials of both countries worked to return them to his home country.
“Maj. Gen. Pickett’s family and the U.S. government have been closely coordinating with Indian counterparts to return his remains to the United States,” the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata said in a statement.
Bob Mebane, a retired Army Nurse Corps officer who worked for years to help Pickett’s family get the remains to the United States, said it was a lengthy process due to the uncertainty of the grave’s location, obtaining the necessary permits and getting the time-consuming government approvals in India.
“Because it was not practical to preserve the body and have it shipped back to the U.S., he was buried at the Singtom British Cemetery outside of [Darjeeling],” he said. “At some point, his widow had a headstone placed on the grave, but it was stolen long ago, so he’d lain in an unmarked plot.”
Like Pickett, Mebane was a graduate of The Citadel in South Carolina and began studying him when he learned the general also attended the military college. Eventually, he got into contact with Pickett’s granddaughter while doing research and trying to find out where the general was buried. Several years ago, the two started working toward bringing back Pickett’s remains from India and having them buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. One thing that helped, Mebane said, was the granddaughter had a map of the grave’s location in far northeastern India.
After several years of dead ends, the two contacted another Citadel graduate who had become an attaché at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. With that person’s help, a mortuary service was found to “navigate a lengthy path of permits and bureaucratic approvals to enable the recovery,” Mebane said. U.S. officials also helped locate Pickett’s grave.
Pickett’s remains were finally recovered from his Darjeeling grave in February and sent to the United States last week following a sendoff ceremony at the embassy.
“Gen. Pickett wasn’t just a great man. He was a great Marine,” U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said during the ceremony. “Thanks to the continued friendship, the warm bonds between America and India, his remains will now be reinterred with the greatest at Arlington National Cemetery. May the memories of our men and women in uniform who gave the ultimate sacrifice always be remembered.”
Born in Ridgeway, S.C., in 1888, Pickett joined the Marines when he was 25 and served on Guam, where in 1917, he participated in the capture of the German boat SMS Cormoran just after the U.S. entered World War I. For the next several years, he was part of various deployments in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Years later, Pickett was the commanding officer at the Marine barracks in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, when about 350 Japanese planes launched a surprise attack on the naval base — an act of “infamy,” according to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that would push the U.S. into World War II. During the attack, Pickett and his Marines fired on the Japanese planes with small arms, according to The Citadel.
It was for his heroism during this time that Pickett was awarded the Legion of Merit, a military-wide honor given for “exceptionally meritorious conduct,” according to the Marine Corps awards manual. He was given the honor with a gold star device, which is specific to the Navy and Marine Corps.
For the rest of his military career, Pickett was in the United States preparing Marine forces on the West Coast for the fight in the Pacific Theater. He retired in 1946 with a final rank of major general. Nearly 20 years later, Pickett was on vacation in West Bengal in India when he suffered his fatal heart attack.
Pickett’s remains will be reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery in July.
Memorial Day with the American Legion Family
In the nation’s capital, Memorial Day observances received national coverage. And there for a few of them were representatives of The American Legion.
During a ceremony that included President Joe Biden, American Legion National Vice Commander Glen Wahus’ first visit to Arlington National Cemetery included Wahus laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
And American Legion National Vice Commander Paul M. Kennedy placed a wreath at the Vietnam Wall during the annual Memorial Day observance.
But across the nation, Memorial Day was properly commemorated in the appropriate way in local communities, thanks in part to the American Legion family.
The following are examples of how American Legion Family members commemorated Memorial Day. Please feel free to share how your post, district or department observed the holiday at www.legiontown.org.
American Legion Post 20 hosted two ceremonies Monday in partnership with the City of Kenai. The first was held at the Kenai Cemetery where a few dozen attendees gathered between the graves to honor the fallen. The second, at Leif Hansen Memorial Park, included appearances by government officials and their representatives.
At both ceremonies, Post 20 Chaplain Mike Meredith led a series of prayers and invocations, and also read a poem. In addition, American Legion Post 20 Commander Ron Homan shared stories of fallen soldiers.
“Americans, we do not forget,” Homan said. “Whether it is an hour ago or a century ago, we remember.”
At the second ceremony, a wreath-laying ceremony honored the fallen, and attendees were invited to affix poppies to them to honor loved ones.
· In Siloam Springs, American Legion Post 29 conducted its annual Memorial Day program at the Siloam Springs Community Building. The program featured speeches from Arkansas State Sen. Tyler Dees and Siloam Springs Mayor Judy Nation.
· In Carlisle ahead of Memorial Day, American Legion Post 133 placed flags on the gravesite of all known veterans buried at Carlisle Cemetery, Hamilton Cemetery and Watson Chapel Cemetery. The post invited the community to assist.
· In Alameda, a Memorial Day ceremony at Alameda Veterans Memorial Park was hosted by American Legion Post 647 and Post 9, in collaboration with Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 400 and Alameda Elks Lodge 1015. Representatives from Post 647 and Post 9 took part in a wreath-laying ceremony, while Post 647 Chaplain Kurt Winkowsky delivered the invocation.
· In Cambria, American Legion Post 432 hosted the community Memorial Day program in the Veterans Memorial Hall parking lot.
· In Woodland, American Legion Post Yolo Post 77 sponsored the Memorial Day ceremony at Woodland Cemetery. Post 77 organized volunteers to set up flags along Main Street and at the cemetery. An estimated 150 large flags were set up in the cemetery and about 2,500 smaller ones on the gravesites of the fallen.
In North Port, American Legion Post 254 joined with the city, as well as the North Port Police Department and North Port Fire Rescue, to conduct a Memorial Day observance at the City Center Front Green
In Gainesville, Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7 hosted the 19th annual Memorial Day parade.
In Post Falls, American Legion Post 143 teamed with the city to conduct a Memorial Day program that included remarks from John and Lorie Goldsmith, whose son Wyatt was a U.S. Army Green Beret who died in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2011.
· In Salem, American Legion Post 128 sponsored the Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Memorial in East Lawn Cemetery. The guest speaker was retired U.S. Marine Mike Gasperini, who now works with the Global War on Terrorism Wall of Remembrance for those who lost their lives in the Middle East.
· In Sandwich, Brown Miller American Legion Post 181 conducted a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park, where the new Middle East Conflict Memorial was dedicated. The monument was sponsored by American Legion Riders Chapter 181. Post 181 also teamed with VFW Post 1486 to perform ceremonies at multiple locations.
· In Normal, American Legion Post 635 rendered military funeral honors for Harry Sidney Scott and Roger J. Vogel on Memorial Day at Evergreen Cemetery. The two soldiers hadn’t previously received the honors. The Memorial Day ceremony also included a flag folding, flyover, musical salute, guest speaker, 21-gun salute and taps.
· In Merrillville, the Department of Indiana First District conducted a Memorial Day ceremony in Calumet Park Cemetery’s veterans section.
· In Westville, American Legion Post 21 conducted Memorial Day services at four different locations and then provided food afterward for those coming to the post.
In Washington, American Legion Post 29 staged multiple public events on Memorial Day. At one of those, Post 29 Commander Mike York delivered a speech, saying, “It is our responsibility to pass down, to the next generation, the true purpose of Memorial Day. To honor the memory of those who gave their lives … not forgetting the cost of these freedoms.”
In Hutchinson, Lysle Rishel Post 68’s American Legion Riders chapter attended programs at Reno County Memorial and Fairlawn Burial Park, while also doing ride-throughs at Memorial Park and East Side Cemetery.
· In Murray, the community gathered at Billy Lane Lauffer American Legion Post 73 for the annual Memorial Day ceremony. Post 73’s honor guard also delivered a rifle salute at four local cemeteries.
· In Versailles, members of Woodford Post 67 placed flags on veterans’ graves in the city’s cemeteries prior to Memorial Day and then conducted a ceremony on Memorial Day in the veteran section of Versailles Cemetery. The post hosts a lunch following the ceremony.
In Annapolis, Lt. Governor Miller participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at Maryland World War II Memorial, joined by members of American Legion Cook-Pinkey Post 141.
In Tisbury, American Legion Post 257’s annual Memorial Day parade included veterans, emergency response personnel and Scouts. Following the parade, spectators and participants proceeded to Oak Grove Cemetery’s Avenue of Flags for a ceremony.
Post 257 Commander Jo Ann Murphy read a list of veterans who died over the past year, and the ceremony concluded with wreaths being placed on the various monuments before participants returned to Post 257.
“People forget that’s why we have a three-day weekend, for all of the men and women who lost their lives,” Murphy told MVTimes.com.
· In Ada, McDonald-Osmer American Legion Post 451 hosted the Cascade Township Memorial Day ceremony in front of the Cascade Township Library. Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Trisha Torres was the guest speaker.
· In Petoskey, members of American Legion Post 194 took park in the annual parade and remembrance ceremony; Post 194 Commander Steve Sutton and Adjutant Brian Morrison led the ceremony, which included reading the names and branches of soldiers from Emmet County who died while in active duty.
· In Harbor Springs, thousands turned out for the Memorial Day parade down Main Street, which was followed by a memorial service hosted by Smith-Hoover American Legion Post 281 in Zorn Park. The names of local veterans who died in the line of service were read and taps was played.
· In Hancock, Alfred Erickson American Legion Post 186 conducted Memorial Day observances at several locations, including the Catholic and Protestant cemeteries, the Houghton County Marina, Houghton Veterans Park, Forest Hill Cemetery, Liminga Cemetery, Lakeside Cemetery and Post 186.
· In Holt, American Legion Post 238 Legionnaire Bill Jordan was featured on a WILX 10 Mid-Michigan Matters segment to discuss the importance of Memorial Day and promote Post 238’s Memorial Day parade.
· In Clawson, David E. Cleary Post 167 conducted a Memorial Day ceremony at Memorial Park.
American Legion Post 212’s Legion Family conducted Memorial Day ceremonies at the Park Rapids-Area High School, Red Bridge Park and the All Veterans Memorial in Park Rapids.
In Lewistown, American Legion Post 16 conducted a ceremony at Veteran’s Memorial Park that included a fly-over of eight aircraft by members of the Central Montana chapter of the Montana Pilots Association.
“Over time, wars changed,” Post 16 Honor Guard Commander Dean Martin said. “However, the duties of the men and women serving in our military never changed. This call to duty and bravery, to sacrifice everything, to give the ultimate measure is what we honor today.”
Post 16 Vice Commander John Koch served as emcee and spoke of the diminishing numbers of U.S. citizens serving in the military. “When Decoration Day was first celebrated, one in 50 of the U.S. population had perished while serving in the Civil War,” he said. “That ratio changed to one in 3,000 when the Vietnam War ended. In the most protracted armed conflict of our history, the Iraq-Afghanistan war, it was 1 in 44,000. We are asking for a nearly impossible task — honoring those you do not know for something you cannot fully understand.”
· In Libby, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 97 hosted a Memorial Day event at the Libby Cemetery. Prior to the ceremony members of Unit 97 joined with Austin Reedy Post 97 Legionnaires in placing U.S. flags and flowers on veterans' graves.
In Laughlin, the annual Memorial Day program took place at the Avenue of Flags, which was erected by American Legion Post 60 in 1992.
The program featured a variety of speakers, including American Legion Auxiliary Unit 60 President Kathleen Hoss. "You tell them you love them and watch them head out into the unknown,” Hoss said. “You will face the possibility that a uniformed military officer and chaplain will show up at your doorstop and deliver that devastating news.”
Post 60 Commander Pam Walker shared of the stories of fallen stories, spanning from World War I to last March. "Whether it's an hour ago or a century ago, we remember," Walker said.
In Hackettstown. American Legion Post 164 hosted the 155th Annual Hackettstown Memorial Day Parade, which finished up with a community Memorial Day ceremony at Union Cemetery. A variety of antique vehicles were available for veterans to ride the parade route.
· In North Fork, Mattituck American Legion Post 861 hosted a Memorial Day parade and ceremony in Southold. Post 861 Commander Rob DeVito led the ceremony, discussing the meaning of Memorial Day. “We must always be grateful for true Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice," DeVito said.
· In Cassadaga, American Legion Post 1280’s honor guard paid tribute to fallen veterans in 12 cemeteries on Memorial Day. The final stop was at Cassadaga Cemetery, where a special service was held by members of Post 1280’s American Legion Family.
· In Watertown, American Legion Post 61 conducted its annual Memorial Day program and received strong media coverage from 7 News.
· In Bowling, forecasts of weather moved the Memorial Day event to American Legion Post 256. The program’s guest speaker was Ret. Navy Vice Admiral Sean Pybus.
· In Franklin, American Legion Post 108 hosted a community Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans’ Memorial Park. Ceremonial wreaths to honor those who gave their lives for the country were presented by American Legion Auxiliary 108 President Jan Stough and VFW Auxiliary 1339 President Shirley Fouts, Daughters of the American Revolution Regent Victoria Baker and Service to Veterans Chairman Dee Shendel.
· In Morehead City, around 70 Carteret County area veterans and residents gathered for a Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by American Legion Post 46 at the Veterans Memorial in Bayview Cemetery. “Today, observances just like this are happening in communities across America. Yet too few people pause to remember the sacrifices of veterans who gave their tomorrows for our todays. Thank you all for being here to take part in this ceremony,” Post 46 Adjutant John Sotirkys said. “As we pause to place the memorial wreath today, let us remember that more than 1 million American servicemembers have died in wars that our nation has been involved in since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775. Many of these solders died protecting one another, but they served to preserve that thing most sacred — freedom. By remaining true to the principles of honor, courage and sacrifice, we honor these men and women.”
· In Van Wert, American Legion Post 178 conducted a Memorial Day ceremony at Woodland Cemetery, where more than 2,100 flags were placed prior to the ceremony. “Today should be a solemn day but also a day of joy,” Post 178 Commander Ken Myers said during the ceremony. “Today is not about every servicemember or veteran, it’s about the ones that died defending the flag, this country and the people they loved. We, as veterans, proudly and respectfully placed the colors that paved the way for all of us to gather and remember the ultimate sacrifice they paid for our forefathers and for us.” Post 178 hosted a free lunch after the ceremony.
· In Mariette, American Legion Post 64 conducted the Memorial Day parade, which finished at Oak Grove Cemetery for a ceremony. American Legion Post 5108 co-hosted a lunch afterward.
· In Bluffton, American Legion Post 382 decorated 501 graves in Maple Grove Cemetery head of Memorial Day.
In Byng, American Legion Post 72 marked Memorial Day with ceremony in Ron Parks Memorial Park that was attended by Byng Mayor Jeff Sibble, Boy Scout Troop 13 and members of the community.
In Sisters Country, American Legion Post 86 teamed with VFW Post 8138 and Sisters Band of Brothers hosted a Memorial Day tribute in Village Green that honored the fallen of America's conflicts, from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terror.
· In Clearfield County, the community gathered for a graveside service at Morningside Cemetery in Dubois hosted by American Legion Post 17. Post 17 Legionnaire Joseph Glazer was the main speaker, saying, “Once again, we gather here as free Americans to remember our honored dead of all wars. The United States has existed for 247 years, and many a young man has marched off to war to defend our freedom. Most of them returned; some did not. The ones that didn’t, we honor on this Memorial Day.”
· In Punxsutawney, American Legion Post 62 hosted a Memorial Day parade and ceremony. Parade units marched down Union Street to Barclay Square where the public gathered for a ceremony following the parade.
· In Towanda, American Legion Post 42 hosted its annual Memorial Day service that included a special guest speaker, poetry recitals and musical performances. “It’s an honor to pay respect to our fallen comrades that didn’t make it home,” said Post 42 Chaplain Reg Douglas.
· In Beech Creek, the annual Bitner-Bechdel American Legion Post 623 parade traversed multiple communities and included a short memorial ceremony and wreath laying service at the Baptist Cemetery, a 21-gun salute at the Church of Christ Cemetery in Blanchard and at the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Beech Creek, before finishing at Post 623. At the post, a ceremony was held and a wreath placed at the granite Community Service Monument, which features the names of community leaders, veterans and first responders who have served their country and the community.
· In Kutztown, American Legion Hoch-Balthaser Post 480 sponsored the Kutztown Memorial Day parade and ceremonies. The parade stopped at Fairview Cemetery for a ceremony to honor fallen veterans. The route then backtracked to Hope Cemetery for a ceremony. Kutztown Mayor Jim Schlegel, vice commander at Post 480, led the ceremony.
In Meade County, Rock Creek American Legion Post 324 hosted the Native American Veterans Memorial Service at Black Hills National Cemetery. The post’s honor guard presented the colors, while Department of South Dakota Alternate National Executive Committeeman Fred Nelson was a guest speaker.
· In The Colony, Holley-Riddle Post 21 hosted at ceremony at Grandscape that focused on paying tribute to deceased veterans. The public also was given the opportunity to their loved ones who served were honored individually one by one.
· In San Antonio, representatives of the 20th district of the Department of Texas read the names of all those interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery over the past year on the Saturday before Memorial Day.
In Barre, American Legion Post 10 teamed with the City of Barre and other members of the Barre Area Veterans Council to conduct a Memorial Day parade.
In Newport News, American Legion Braxton-Perkins Post 25 hosted a Memorial Day Ceremony and picnic that was attended by U. S. Rep. Bobby Scott, City of Newport News Councilwoman Dr. Patricia Woodbury, and Menchville High School Air Force JROTC members.
In Wapato, Wapato American Legion 133 conducted a Memorial Day observance on the Wapato Reservation Cemetery on Monday as visitors walked the rows of graves. The post put on the ceremony in conjunction with the Yakama Warriors Association. Before the ceremony, volunteers placed small white crosses on the graves of fallen soldiers, made by students at Wapato High School.
Post 133 Legionnaire James Alexander, a U.S. Army and Army Reserves retiree and Yakama Nation police officer, read a Memorial Day speech provided by American Legion National Headquarters, saying, “The men and women who died for our freedom represent the diverse patchwork that is the United States of America. They were rich and poor; Black and white; male and female. They were from cities, farms and suburbs. They came from every ethnicity, background and political spectrum. In short, they looked like anyone of us. Their one common characteristic is that they all took an oath to die for America if called upon.
“So let us take this time to remember and honor the men and women who have given their lives for this great country. Let us reflect on their courage, their sacrifice and their dedication to a cause greater than themselves.”
· In Elkins, American Legion H.W. Daniels Post 29 hosted its annual Memorial Day observance, moving the event from the All-Veterans Memorial to Post 29 due to inclement weather. The program featured keynote speaker Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Johnnie Ross, who served with the 561st Corps Support Group during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Post 29 Commander John Miller was the emcee for the program, while Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco also spoke.
· In Williamstown, American Legion Post 159 headed the Williamstown Memorial Day parade, which stopped at Riverview Cemetery for a wreath laying for deceased veterans by Auxiliary Unit 159. A flag disposal ceremony and lunch followed.
· In Parkersburg, American Legion Post 15 and VFW Post 1212 held a Memorial Day observance at the veterans plaza at City Park. Wreaths were laid for deceased veterans and an honor guard fired three rifle volleys in their honor. “We don’t know them all, but we owe them all,” American Legion Post 15 Chaplain Joe Thorpe said during the ceremony. Post 15 Commander Lee Starcher and VFW State Inspector David George also read the names of 36 local veterans who have died in the past year.
· In Follansbee, Emrys Watkins American Legion Post 45’s Memorial Day service included remarks from Mayor David Velegol Jr. and American Legion Department of West Virginia Vice Commander Keith Brown, the chaplain at Post 45. Brown spoke of Post 45’s namesake and also of Salvatore Stillitano, who were both killed in action while serving in France during World War I. “It’s because of heroes like them, that we’re here today,” said Brown, who read the names of local veterans who lost their lives while serving their country.
· In Whitewater, American Legion William Henry Graham Post 173 conducted a Memorial Day parade, which was followed by an observance at the Armory gym.
· In Sparta, American Legion Post 100 took part in a mass at Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, provided honors at two additional cemeteries, took part in the Memorial Day parade and then hosted a lunch.
· In Rice Lake, American Legion Post 87 conducted graveside services before hosting an observance at Veterans Memorial City Park.
Veterans in INDYCAR: Tim White
Throughout the 2023 INDYCAR season, we’ll be highlighting veterans who work within the racing series, whether for Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR), INDYCAR or other racing teams.
This week we’re highlighting Legionnaire Tim White, who serves as a special projects shop-based mechanic primarily for CGR’s INDYCAR program. White served in the U.S. Marines from 1988 to 1992, got into auto racing two years later and has been with Ganassi for eight years.
White spoke with American Legion Social Media Manager Steven B. Brooks about working for Ganassi and seeing The American Legion’s “Be the One” initiative getting the exposure it does through INDYCAR.
Steven B. Brooks: How did you end up working for Chip Ganassi Racing?
Tim White: The team that I worked for before, the writing was on the wall that they weren’t going to be around much longer. I’ve got a family, so I wanted to get somewhere that was secure, established. If you’re going to work in INDYCAR, I think this is the place to be. I pretty much grew up across the river from where Chip is from (the Pittsburgh area). That’s where I’m from.
Question: What is it like working for a team that year in and year out puts a driver, or multiple drivers, in contention for an INDYCAR SERIES championship and has drivers in contention in every race?
White: It feels good, especially when you’ve worked for a couple of the small teams. And you don’t want to think that way, but you know you just want to bring the car in in one piece. I’ve been there. I’ve seen both sides of racing.
Question: What’s it like for you working for a racing team that’s partnered with an organization whose primary mission is support the military and then veterans when they get out of the military? And seeing how Chip has really embraced this relationship with the Legion and allowed us to provide exposure to our programs and our advocacy, how does it feel knowing Chip Ganassi Racing also has that interest as well?
White: Right now, after the last 20 years of what our young guys and girls have gone through, several deployments, and my wife’s second cousins were in Fallujah (Iraq), and neither came out in very good shape. They were both Marines, and one of them committed suicide and the other is messed up for life. So, I think (the Legion-Ganassi collaboration) is great.
Question: Your family obviously has been touched by a veteran taking his own life. How do you feel when you see the Legion’s “Be the One” message on the CGR cars and knowing the mission behind it: igniting a grass-roots effort to destigmatizing asking for mental health help and reducing veteran suicides one at a time? And how does it feel knowing that this is something that Chip Ganassi Racing cares about?
White: I feel proud to be a part of it and honored to work under Chip promoting this. If you don’t really put your feet in people’s boots, you can try to sit there and assist them and tell them there are places they can go. But until you’ve gone through it … it’s something that sticks with you.
In Yvonne’s memory
SAL National Vice Commander Michael Kirschner affectionately refers to his late wife, Yvonne, as a “Navy brat.”
“Growing up in a patriotic family, she always cared about the men and women that serve this great country of ours and the children of America,” Kirschner said.
Yvonne (Barela) Kirschner, a member of Ovie Vernon Auxiliary Unit 2 in Pueblo, Colo., died Jan. 8.
“When she passed away, the kids and I sat down and tried to think of the best way to honor her memory,” Kirschner said. “Being that she lived her life via the Auxiliary motto of ‘service over self,’ we felt it was appropriate to have folks give money in her honor to a great cause.”
After some discussion, the Kirschner family settled on the Veterans & Children Foundation (VCF) because of its emphasis on helping veterans and their children, as well as it being the top fundraising project of American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola and SAL National Commander Christopher Carlton.
Family and friends raised $3,000 in Yvonne’s honor for VCF, which Kirschner announced at the SAL National Executive Committee’s Spring Meetings.
But that wasn’t all.
“The vice commanders this year had challenge coins made, and we’ve been collecting donations from the challenge coins for the VCF,” NVC Ernie Laberge announced at the meetings. “And on behalf of the national vice commanders, and in memory of Yvonne Kirschner, the national vice commanders have collected so far $11,140.”
“I was totally shocked, honored and humbled when my fellow NVCs chose to make the donation from funds raised for our challenge coin in her name,” Kirschner said. “It truly made me tear up and feel the pride of serving with these great men.
“This is what the American Legion Family is truly about. Taking care of one another, our communities, our veterans, and the children of this nation. … If each one of the 2 million-plus American Legion Family members do something similar, what a huge impact we as an organization could make to our veterans, community and youth.”
Kirschner said his wife of 23 years would be “embarrassed” by the attention. But he hopes the example set by those contributing to honor her echoes throughout the Legion Family.
“(We) have always held on to the belief that we do what we do because we want to and it’s the right thing, not because we want recognition,” Kirschner said. “There is a great quote from Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Francis S. Currey: ‘There are two kinds of people in this world — those who get things done and those who take credit for getting things done. Belong to the first group, there is much less competition.’
“(Yvonne) lived life by that motto and should be an inspiration to us all.”
Armstrong to drive American Legion livery this weekend in Detroit
Fresh off a month that saw Chip Ganassi Racing’s (CGR) Alex Palou drive the No. 10 American Legion Honda to a GMR Grand Prix win, and the pole and a fourth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 – and saw teammate Marcus Ericsson narrowly miss out on repeating as 500 champ – the NTT INDYCAR SERIES now shifts to Michigan, with The American Legion “Be the One” livery moving over to CGR rookie Marcus Armstrong.
Armstrong will drive the No. 11 American Legion Honda in this weekend’s unveiling of the new Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix street course, while both Palou and Ericsson also will display American Legion branding.
Despite starting in only the four road- and street-course races this season, Armstrong remains in first place in the INDYCAR SERIES rookie standings, leading second-place Agustin Canapino 77-61. He’s 19th in the overall series standings and has three top-11 finishes so far. He’s had a net gain of +17 positions during that span, fourth-best in the four races.
"It’s going to be a hot weekend, which I actually like because I feel I deal with the heat inside the car quite well,” Armstrong said via CGR media. “Obviously with the track, it’s a bit of an unknown. I’ve seen the track just a bit walking around, and it looks to be challenging and quite bumpy in some areas. It’s going to provide some challenges and a lot of options on race lines.
“In general, I like the layout of the circuit and think the racing will be quite good with a big, long straight into a tight left hand. It’s going to be fun.”
Coming off his impressive month, Palou enters this weekend in first place in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points standings, leading the second-place Ericsson 219-199. He’s been the most consistent performer this season, with at least a top-10 finish in every race and three top-fives.
“I’m very excited for Detroit after a really positive month for the whole team, but especially the 10 car,” Palou said. “We just had really good results, and we’ve been really competitive. I can’t wait to try and get the best result of the season on a street course. Looking forward to the new track and it will be challenging for all the drivers and teams. Nobody has any information other than what we’ve learned from the simulator. It’s looking challenging, but we love challenges, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Ericsson took the lead on the 196th lap of the 500, but after a three-car accident produced a red flag on lap 199, Ericsson was passed on the back straightaway by Josef Newgarden, who held on for the win. Ericsson also has finished in the top ten in every race, including three top-fives.
“I’m very excited to get to Detroit with the new track, which will be super cool. Street courses have been good to us so far this year, winning in St. Petersburg and then the podium in Long Beach,” Ericsson said. “I know we’re going to have a good package for this street course. I think INDYCAR has done a great job building up the hype around Detroit. Obviously, we’re coming off a strong month of May, so we have a lot of motivation to go and try to win this race. It’s going to be a good weekend.”
The 100-lap, 170-mile Detroit Grand Prix returns to its original home on the streets of downtown Detroit, with a new 1.7-mile, 10-turn street circuit.
In the INDY NXT SERIES, CGR developmental driver Kyffin Simpson also will carry American Legion branding in both of the INDY NXT by Firestone Detroit Grand Prix races. Simpson currently sits in 10th place in the INDY NXT point standings and is coming off his first podium finish of the season, when he took third in the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix in Indianapolis.
The INDY NXT races this weekend are 76.5 miles over 45 laps on a 1.7-mile, 9-turn course.
The complete weekend broadcast schedule:
· Friday – 3-4:30 p.m,, NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 1, Peacock.
· Saturday – 9:05-10:05 a.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2, Peacock; 11:55 a.m.-1:05 p.m., INDY NXT Race 1, Peacock; 1:20-2:50 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifications, Peacock.
· Sunday – 10-10:30 a.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock; 12:40-1:55 p.m., INDY NXT Race 2, Peacock; 3-6 p.m., NTT INDYCAR SERIES Detroit Grand Prix, NBC.
Detroit Grand Prix notes (via INDYCAR)
· There have been five different winners in six NTT INDYCAR SERIES races to start the 2023 season. Marcus Ericsson (Streets of St. Petersburg), Josef Newgarden (Texas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis 500), Kyle Kirkwood (Streets of Long Beach), Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park), and Alex Palou (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1) have all won in 2023. The record for the most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
· The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear will be the first INDYCAR SERIES race held on the new nine-turn, 1.7-mile downtown Detroit street circuit and the 33rd INDYCAR SERIES race held in the Motor City. A 2.5-mile street circuit in downtown Detroit hosted CART events from 1989-1991 before the event moved to Belle Isle Park in 1992.
· Will Power, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves each won three times at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park and are tied for most wins by an INDYCAR SERIES driver in the Detroit Grand Prix. In addition to Power, Castroneves and Dixon, other previous Detroit Grand Prix race winners entered include Pato O’Ward (2021 Race #2), Marcus Ericsson (2021 Race #1) Josef Newgarden (2019 Race #1), Simon Pagenaud (2013 Race #2) and Graham Rahal (2017 Race #1 and Race #2).
Legion Baseball flashback: One for the ages
It’s been almost 40 years since one of the most improbable endings in American Legion World Series history.
And those who were a part of Edina, Minn.’s 1983 American Legion World Series championship game victory over Boyertown, Pa., will never forget it.
Truth be told, some consider Edina’s 5-4 victory the most dramatic ending of any ALWS in history.
It certainly had a “you have to see it to believe it” ending as what appeared to be a certain second straight Boyertown ALWS victory turned into an extraordinary comeback rally by Edina.
It was the final game of a rare two-year cross-country American Legion Baseball rivalry as Edina and Boyertown met once in the 1982 ALWS and twice in 1983.
In 1982, Boyertown defeated Edina 4-1 in the second round of its title run in which it went 4-1 overall while Edina finished fifth with a 1-2 record.
In 1983, Edina won 4-0 over Boyertown in the opening round before both teams met in a “winner take all” finale on the last day of the five-day, double-elimination event.
Boyertown led 4-0 after seven innings before Edina scored three times in the eighth inning, twice in the ninth, then left Boyertown’s potential tying run stranded on third as it finished off the 5-4 victory.
Ten years ago, newspapers from Minnesota and Pennsylvania wrote 30-year remembrance stories to capture the memories of those involved in the contest.
Predictably, the tenor of the stories was that of celebration for Edina and disappointment for Boyertown.
“It was magical, it was mystical, and, to this day, it seems as if the details belong in a storybook,” was how Minnesota’s hometownsource.com wrote about the title game.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s The Mercury wrote it this way: “On a late summer night 30 years ago, the Boyertown Bears seemingly had a date with destiny ... then all hell broke loose, and everything suddenly unraveled in one of the most bizarre finishes the ALWS has ever seen.”
What happened was this:
Down to its final two outs and trailing 4-3, Edina scored twice on an infield hit, a fielder’s choice that was very nearly a game-ending double play, a pop-up that brought in the tying run when two Boyertown fielders collided and a two-out RBI single by Pat Donohue that gave Edina a 5-4 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth.
In that final half-inning, Boyertown put runners on first and third base with one out before a fly ball to right field wasn’t deep enough to advance the runner from third base. Edina ace Robert Wassenaar then recorded his 12th strikeout of the game to complete a seven-hitter for the victory.
Boyertown manager Dick Ludy in 2013 recalled that he and his team thought the pop up would be the game’s final out.
“Everyone on our team, when that ball was in the air, thought we were national champions,” he told The Mercury.
Instead, Edina would manage to complete its amazing comeback.
“It was crazy ... shocking, really,” Donohue told hometownsource.com.
So exhilarating was the win that after the final out was recorded, American Legion George W. Rulon Player of the Year Mike Halloran fired a baseball 400 feet and over the left field fence and into the Red River behind the stadium in Fargo.
The title was the first for a Minnesota American Legion team since 1943 with Halloran later an Eden Prairie assistant coach in 2011 for the fifth, and so far, last title won by a team from that state.
Wassenaar, who finished with a 13-0 record in the summer of 1983, would go on to win an NCAA title at Stanford before a seven-year professional career. Halloran played at the University of Minnesota before one season in the minor leagues. And Donohue would play baseball at Northwestern University.
Perhaps just getting out of the 1983 Minnesota state tournament should’ve been an indicator of Edina’s resolve.
In that tournament, Edina lost to host New Ulm before beating New Ulm twice on the final day by 2-1 and 1-0 scores.
“Winning the Legion World Series was the biggest highlight of our baseball careers,” Halloran told hometownsoure.com. “But winning the state title in New Ulm was a close second. Wassenaar pitched 12 innings that day. Brian Martinson pitched the last two innings of the second game. When you allow one run in 14 innings, you’re going to be hard to beat.”
Boyertown would remain one of the top programs in the country as it would make five more ALWS appearances, including winning its second title in 1987 and finishing third in 2004.
“That’s baseball for you,” said Dick Ludy, who had a 630-112 American Legion Baseball head coaching record from 1971 to 1985. “I think about that (game) more than any other win. It’s the one that got away.”
How to create Legion post, community engagement
The American Legion Training Tuesday session on May 30 welcomed Brian Mohlman, Department of Michigan membership director and a member of SSG Michael A. Dickinson II Post 257 in Battle Creek, Mich. Mohlman presented on how American Legion posts can get involved in their community and in return, get the community involved in their post.
“That's very, very important because once the community becomes involved in your post, what you're doing means something to that community,” he said. “Then it's all about visibility. It's all about letting the community know what you're doing and letting them see the valuable contributions that you're making.”
In 2017, Post 257 had 55 members. Since then, the post has grown each year thanks to its community outreach and engagement efforts. For 2023, Post 257 has about 268 members.
“As far as your own local post, look at the needs of your community,” Mohlman said. “Also importantly, do anything that gets the family involved in your post because once you've got the family involved, everything else is easy.”
Mohlman shared a few events that has helped the post grow during the Training Tuesday. Listen to the training here. These events include:
· Adopting a highway to clean up. “This is a great opportunity for our younger veterans and older veterans to become a part of the community and and to be visible out there.”
· Building ramps for disabled veterans. “We’ve built a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, and we have built several ramps for disabled veterans in in the community.”
· Hosting a family day for a local Army Reserve unit. “Once you start interacting with the local military, you know they talk to each other and we've been successful in recruiting younger, currently serving members.”
· Raising the flag at high school football games on Friday nights. “Our post namesake graduated from that same school back in 1998. So we built a very, very close relationship with the school, and they appreciate that we're continually running into people who either had an influence on Staff Sergeant Dickinson's life or vice versa.”
· Hosting a farmers market at the post. “In 2021, we started what we call a farmers market and it created so much activity at the post that it drew the nickname ‘the member market.’ We had everything from fruits, vegetables to small plants, birdhouses.”
· Having a trunk-or-treat for kids on Halloween. About 400 kids come to the post for this event. “It’s just a steady line of kids coming through and just having a lot of safe fun for Halloween.”
· Hosting drivers training for high school students during the pandemic. “The opportunity that we had to have these students at the post every day gave us the opportunity to educate them about programs, about scholarship opportunities, about Boys State, Girls State. This was a great opportunity. Not only for the students but for the community to let them know that, you know, we're just pitching in, we're helping out where we can.”
“You have to go out into the community and let them know what you're doing or else you're not going to attract new members,” Mohlman said. “If you don't go out in the community, your community doesn't see you.”