American Legion News
Army veteran Adam Marr has been on the front lines of helping to organize, operationalize and advocate for innovative solutions to the veteran mental health and suicide crisis since 2015. He co-founded Warrior Angels Foundation, a 501(c)3, with his brother in 2015 to help veterans who had sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Marr is this month's guest on The American Legion's Be the One podcast. Through this series, The American Legion aims to continue to raise awareness about its mission to reduce the rate of veteran suicide through Be the One.
As an Apache helicopter pilot, Marr deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he flew more than 400 combat hours and was awarded the combat action badge. In 2017, Marr co-authored the best-selling book, "Tales from the Blast Factory." The book shared perspective on the intimate challenges his brother, a Green Beret, faced transitioning out of the Army because of his TBI and PTSD injuries sustained in combat. This book was the inspiration for the Academy Award-qualified documentary film Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain (2020).
"We're talking about an elite Special Forces performer who could run through walls, learn foreign languages, a charismatic person who loved his family that ultimately is getting lost on the way home from post to his house, who is forgetting the names of his children," Marr said of his brother.
His brother was prescribed medications to deal with his TBI, PTSD and related issues. Marr's observation led him to the conclusion that his brother's experience was "the recipe for the suicide crisis we're facing now."
The family was able to get Marr's brother into an alternative therapy that helped him avoid being a statistic. In 2018, Marr confronted his own trauma, describing it as a "constant state of fight or flight." He knew how to reach out and was able to link up with other nonprofits and try psychedelics that helped him overcome his trauma.
That was the solution for him and sent him on his path.
"What just happened to me and how do I move forward in life? How do I serve people better?"
Now, Marr — a member of American Legion Post 12 in Dothan, Ala., — is director of operations for the Veteran Mental Health Leadership Coalition (VMHLC). The 501(c)19 coalition is led by retired Marine Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele, along with more than 45 organizations that advocate for increased research and safe, affordable access to psychedelic medicine and assisted therapies for veterans and their family members. In 2023, the VMHLC helped unlock $12 million in state funding across four states for these programs.
This episode is the fourth in the Be the One series. The others:
Part one: Marine Corps veteran Waco Hoover, who oversees the Be the One strategy, talks about its next phase. "We're doing an extensive amount of research and also looking for suggestions from our community about who we should be aligned with," he said. "We have to have a conversation about this issue, this topic."
Part two: Air Force veteran Dr. Regan Stiegmann discusses how lifestyle medicine can play a role in the reduction of veterans who die by suicide.
Part three: Dr. Ruth Moore is a survivor of suicide, which she attempted after leaving the Navy in 1987 following Military Sexual Trauma assaults. After earning her Ph.D. in Mind-Body Medicine, she now helps veterans and others dealing with trauma and related issues.
There are more than 210 Tango Alpha Lima episodes for veterans, servicemembers and others.
The next Be the One episode will drop Jan. 1. All episodes are available in both audio and video formats here as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.
Julie Flynn from the Department of Maine is a 2023 National American Legion College (NALC) graduate. She attended the 2023 NALC session Nov. 12-14 in Indianapolis at American Legion National Headquarters.
I first learned about NALC at a state conference, the latest graduate was asked to stand up and give us a brief of his experience. I did some research on the college, and I was impressed by the syllabus. They called it a syllabus and not just an agenda, so it was a good start.
The courses sounded interesting, and to be honest it made me yearn for the days I was in uniform. I miss the challenge of being a leader and being part of a team with a similar mission. It has been a while, but not so long that I did not have the memories flood back. I was interested enough now that I was determined to go some day. When an instructor from our state Legion College approached me to attend, I was thrilled. I was looking forward to helping with the state in training and education.
I was excited to receive the email stating I had in fact been accepted to attend the 2023 National American Legion College. Then I started to panic! I thought back on all I had read and the research I had done and thought "what have I gotten myself into!" The work started soon after, I received a welcome letter then an assignment. Actually, it was three assignments. I had committed to this experience, so I went for it. I worked on the assignments and made sure to get my work in on time. My first indication of what to expect came via email. It was a note from the dean of the NALC (Past National Commander Dave Rehbein). A few people had not submitted their assignments on time and without going into details I can just say my eyes were opened. He made it known this was a premier opportunity for Legion members, and he expected his students to abide by the rules. Recurring theme I thought to myself "what have I gotten into!"
I excitedly packed remembering my cover, packing for both business casual and business, and I headed off to Indianapolis. I have been to Indianapolis before, but I had forgotten how pretty it was. The hotel check-in was easy, and we had a meet and greet that night. Looking back on that night I did not realize how quickly those other Legionnaires sitting around me would become my dear friends. We started right off developing our team. What seems like an innocent game to break the ice turns into a great foundation for building your team. We built a strong bond through shared experiences but also by being completely different. We were from different states, we all had various positions in our Legion departments, our ages varied, our political affiliations differed but we were a team!
The speakers we had were amazing, I mean seriously we got to hear from National Adjutant Daniel Wheeler, National Treasurer Shawn Long and especially National Commander Daniel Seehafer. It was all about what we are experiencing and how we can do things better. We learned tools of leadership we could bring back home and use to improve our posts, districts and departments. We said the Pledge of Allegiance each day and conducted classes in a room of great historical meaning to The American Legion, the National Executive Committee Room. We were surrounded by the history of the Legion as we walked through the halls with pictures of past commanders and other dignitaries, to the documents which all played a part of forming The American Legion. The American Legion Headquarters was exceptional, but so was the outside known as the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Each night after class was dismissed, we would walk through the plaza with its grand memorials to all the wars and conflicts. It was a true dedication to those who came before us.
We had a "tater," a fun nickname given to our facilitator assigned to our team for the week. He was quite an unassuming man who of course we later learned had been a police officer, a deputy district attorney, a Legion post commander and a California American Legion department commander. He did not stop there, and he still hasn't. He is a member of several national committees and continues to work veteran issues. He was an inspiration to those of us in class who were looking for the way forward. He nudged us when we needed it and let us flounder when necessary. We spent many hours either sitting in class or working in our breakout room or studying after class back at the hotel, and we became a team. On our last night of studying, we all shared our story of what we thought of the NALC before we arrived and now after we had been here.
My fellow teammates' stories were fascinating. The way the states conduct Legion College varies tremendously from state to state. Some had been waiting years to attend this college and others were simply in the right place at the right time. One thing we all agreed on was what a wonderful experience it had been. The caliber of fellow classmates was the highest I have ever experienced. One of my classmates said it best when he said, "This is the first training and team experience where there wasn't one slacker." I thought this was funny at first until I realized how right he was. Every single one of us worked hard, did not complain, and we did the work together. We were eager to learn and proud to be there.
I thought back on our Welcome Letter and the knowledge I was part of a premiere opportunity, and I would not have missed it for the world! I was glad I didn't know what I had gotten into and glad I got in it! I know The American Legion is going to be better because of the men and women I had the privilege to meet. They are going to do remarkable things, and it can be attributed to the NALC. For myself, I have been given a wider perspective of The American Legion and my devotion to The American Legion has been solidified.
Can you recommend medical transportation services that help patients get home after a medical procedure?
Finding "door-through-door" medical transportation services for outpatient screenings and procedures involving anesthesia can be challenging, especially for patients without nearby family or friends to rely on.
Most clinics require door-through-door transportation as a safety measure. With a colonoscopy, for example, patients often receive an anesthetic or narcotic, combined with anti-anxiety medication. Often this combination of medication can cause mild amnesia and can also remain in the system anywhere between four to six hours. Thus, it is essential to have someone accompany you as you leave the premises, ensure you safely return home and escort you inside.
While there is no simple solution to this medical transportation problem, there are a wide variety of local service providers, nonprofits and home-care companies that may be able to assist you. However, what is available will depend on where you live.
Finding Help A good first step is to talk to the health-care provider performing the procedure. Their clinic may offer transportation services or can refer you to a local medical transportation service. If there are no viable transportation arrangements available, another option is to remain in the clinic for an extended period of time until the medications wear off and you can safely drive yourself home or hail a rideshare or taxi.
If these options are not available, here are some other resources you should check into.
Area Agency on Aging (AAA): Your local AAA is a great resource for locating transportation services and should be able to refer you to medical transportation services available in your community. To find your AAA, call the Eldercare Locater at 800-677-1116 or visit Eldercare.acl.gov.
Local nonprofit groups: The National Volunteer Caregiving Network (NVCNetwork.org) connects about 700 community organizations nationwide, most of which provide door-through-door transportation without charge.
Home-care companies: You may also want to consider hiring a medical transportation service through a home-care agency. Although Medicare does not cover medical transportation, in some states Medicaid will. If you choose this option, be sure to verify the requirements, and give plenty of notice before your appointment to ensure there is availability.
"Savvy Living" is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to NBC's "Today Show." The column, and others like it, is available to read via The American Legion's Planned Giving program, a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.
A Colorado Legionnaire got the opportunity to rekindle a lifelong interest in hunting in October, thanks to his post, an area ranch and a nonprofit organization.
Matthew Dominguez, a member of Stanley Hardman Post 11 in Trinidad, Colo., is a Marine Corps veteran who served in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the latter, in early February 2007, he lost most of his right leg to an IED and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He is active in post events, as well as helping oversee a youth wrestling club that runs from September to May.
For these reasons and more, Post 11 Commander John Mochel recommended Dominguez to God's Country For Our Heroes, a nonprofit that according to its website "provides outdoor experiences to outstanding individuals." Dominguez was surprised with the news at a dinner in his honor in July, attended by more than 120 people. He was selected because he "is a worthy individual who gave so much for his country, as many young Americans have during the OIF and OEF campaigns," Mochel said. The hunt itself took place on the Alce Toro Ranch near Trinidad.
Mochel continued that the veteran community tends to be attracted to hunting, and not just for the hunt itself: "Most fellow veterans I know have a mutual interest in firearms and the outdoors. It is a natural commonality based upon our experiences, and possibly how we were raised … from my experience, many of my veteran friends love the adventure of the outdoors, the adrenaline rush of seeing a large game animal in the wild, the commitment to waking up every morning to hike mile after mile glassing for deer or elk, and enjoying the serenity and solitude to reflect upon life while being in the woods."
This was not entirely new territory for Dominguez: "I grew up hunting with my father and brothers, but [the trophy hunt] was truly a first for me," he said. "The whole experience was very enjoyable, and the outfitters and staff were beyond amazing." Echoing Mochel's thoughts on the pull of veterans toward hunting, he concluded, "I find peace in the outdoors."
American Legion partner ShipThrifty is passionate about supporting those who serve and supporting your shipping this holiday season. Your free ShipThrifty account will save you money and time this holiday season with shipping care packages to loved ones and active-duty servicemembers.
Here are a few tips for merry shipping:
· Create your free ShipThrifty account at shipthrifty.com/rf/Legion or type "Legion" in the affiliate code at signup.
· Get ideas for care package items to servicemembers.
· Be aware of holiday shipping deadlines to ensure your packages arrive on time.
As an American Legion partner, when you create your shipping labels with ShipThrifty, a percentage of the dollars you spend is donated back to the organization to support its mission. And American Legion members get expert support, processes and technology to make their care package packing parties fun and simple with a trusted partner that supports thousands of care packing events each year.
Whether you are shipping one package or 1,000, Legion members and posts can:
· Save up to 60% on shipping with major carriers
· Cut shipping time by 90% (no waiting in line or handwritten customs forms)
· Protect servicemembers and collect addresses safely
· Earn funds to offset future shipping costs
· Reduce nonrefundable returned packages
ShipThrifty was founded in 2017 by American Legion Family members Rob and Michelle Williamson, who simplified the process of shipping for individuals and businesses by allowing shippers a cost-saving and hassle-free way to create, purchase and print their own shipping labels online with major carriers. A year later, they provided those same ShipThrifty benefits with military families to make shipping care packages to servicemembers overseas and stateside easy. Since then, hundreds of thousands of care packages have been delivered to America's military men and women to boost morale and bring those away from home a piece of home.
The American Legion and ShipThrifty have formed a partnership to continue caring for servicemembers through the shipping of care packages and the Legion's Be the One suicide prevention initiative.
American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei today, where the two leaders discussed national security, veterans issues and the importance of the alliance between the United States and the Republic of China.
Prior to their meeting, Seehafer was given Taiwan's prestigious Medal of Honor award by its Veterans Affairs Council.
"There are a few signature moments from a national commander's term in office that really stand out," Seehafer said after receiving the honor. "I know that this is one that I will always remember."
Alluding to the threat to the island posed by the People's Republic of China, Seehafer referenced President Lincoln's quote, "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
Seehafer pointed out that the Communist regime in the mainland has "might" when it comes to weapons, but that alone is not enough.
"Taiwan, on the other hand, has ‘right' on its side," he said. "Free speech, free elections and the freedom to worship are just a few of our common values. You also have a well-trained and dedicated military, along with powerful friends and allies.".
Seehafer's Taiwan visit follows a three-day tour of Vietnam, where Seehafer and American Legion National Security Division staff met with U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency personnel.
The American Legion remains committed to achieving a full accounting of all U.S. servicemembers from all war eras who are either imprisoned or listed as missing in action. As part of this commitment, it encourages a return of living POWs, repatriation of the remains of the fallen from war zones abroad, or a determination through convincing evidence that neither is possible, as per Resolution 22 from the 99th National Convention.
Seehafer's delegation heads to South Korea Saturday, where they will visit U.S. troops before going to Hawaii for memorial observances of the Pearl Harbor attack.
The sister of North Korea's leader has rejected a United States request for negotiations and likened the idea to a ploy by Washington to infringe on her country's power to govern itself.
Kim Yo Jong, a senior official for the Workers' Party of Korea, said the North's sovereignty "can never be an agenda item for negotiations, and therefore, [Pyongyang] will never sit face to face with the U.S. for that purpose."
Her statement came three days after the U.N. Security Council met Monday to discuss North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its repeated violations of the council's resolutions.
A rocket fired Nov. 21 to place a spy satellite in orbit violated resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from using ballistic-missile technology, deputy spokesman for the secretary-general Farhan Haq said in a news release after the launch.
Monday's meeting included U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who reiterated Washington's offer to North Korea to negotiate "on any topic" without any preconditions.
"[North Korea] can choose the time and the topic, but [it] needs to make that choice," she said.
North Korean Ambassador Kim Song defended the launch, calling it his nation's sovereign right. He said the satellite aims to provide a "clear picture of the dire military moves of the United States."
The ambassador said the North is exercising its right to (to/of?) self-defense and mentioned how the U.S. military has sent strategic assets, including aircraft carriers and B-52 bombers, to the peninsula several times this year. On Sunday, South Korean and Japanese warships trained with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group south of Jeju Island.
Those U.S. "strategic assets are not for defense," Kim Song said.
Thomas-Greenfield replied that such military exercises "are routine and are defensive in nature; and we intentionally reduce risks and pursue transparency by announcing the exercises in advance, including the dates and the activities.
"Unlike [North Korea's] launches using ballistic missile technology, these actions are not prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions," she said. "So, we reject strongly the disingenuous [North Korean] claim that its missile launches are merely defensive in nature, in response to our bilateral and trilateral military exercises.
North Korea has fired 22 ballistic missiles in 15 days of testing so far this year. The communist regime has also launched three rockets carrying satellites this year; the first two were unsuccessful.
Each year during the holiday season, members of the American Legion Family step up to assist families in need, whether it be through toy and food drives, direct donations or staging events and celebrations that provide gifts and a chance to celebrate the season. They also bring holiday celebrations to active-duty servicemembers, as well to their communities.
In December, we'd like to highlight some of the ways you in the American Legion Family are delivering on these efforts. Whether it's fundraising, purchasing and delivering meals and gifts, or taking part in efforts such as Wreaths Across America or our Holiday Blood Donor Program, we'd love to hear how you're impacting your community this holiday season.
Share your efforts on legiontown.org or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd like to highlight one daily through Dec. 25, whether it be on the national website or through our social media channels.
After returning to Kentucky from the 2023 American Legion National Convention, Sons of The American Legion National Executive Committeeman Brandon Curry approached Hardin Post 113 Legionnaire Tom Folsom about getting more involved in the Legion's Be the One suicide-prevention program.
"The post really hadn't done anything with it, so Tom and I took it upon ourselves to get this mission and the awareness out there," said Curry, commander of Squadron 113 in Elizabethtown. "And then Tom reached out to someone from (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)."
The result is Post 113 will host VA S.A.V.E. Training at 6 p.m. on Dec. 5 that is open to the community. The training will focus on reducing the stigma about asking for mental health help, how to talk to the person and ask tough questions, and provide information on where to get help.
"(S.A.V.E. Training) and Be the One are very, very close," said Folsom, the safety director for the Department of Kentucky American Legion Riders. "This was an opportunity to get a professional to come down and teach this. And then he'll stay around and answer questions if people have them, which is huge. Brandon and I, we're not professionals, but we'll have someone on hand who is."
In October during the Legion's Fall Meetings in Indianapolis, the organization' National Executive Committee passed Resolution No. 9, which 9 strongly encourages American Legion posts to host VA S.A.V.E. training classes and to invite local community, government agencies, not-for-profits and businesses to participate in the training.
S.A.V.E. Training focus on four key facets:
· S - Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized.
· A - Ask the most important question of all, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?"
· V - Validate the veteran's experience.
· E - Encourage treatment and expedite getting help.
"Hardin County and Elizabethtown, we're right there in Fort Knox's backyard, so we're a very veteran-friendly community," Curry said. "A lot of people who were stationed at Fort Knox … will come back after they retire and stay in Hardin County. We want to be able to get our folks – our post members and our veterans in the community – and let them know, ‘Hey, there is something out there. There is assistance. There are programs if you know of somebody who needs assistance."
American Legion posts interested in hosting a VA S.A.V.E. training class can facilitate it through their local VA Medical Center's suicide-prevention team. A post can locate contact information for their local suicide prevention team through the Veterans Crisis Line Resource using this link. Once on the website, enter a ZIP code and press search. Then select the box next to Suicide Prevention Coordinators and press search again. Once completed, you will be provided with the closest suicide prevention coordinator and their contact information.
Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has permanently housed 38,847 homeless veterans through October of 2023 — surpassing the calendar year goal to house 38,000 Veterans two months early.
Through October, VA has also engaged with 34,498 unsheltered veterans to connect them with the housing and resources they need, exceeding the Department's calendar year goal by 123%; ensured that 96.2% of veterans housed have remained in housing, exceeding the department's calendar year goal by 1.2%; and ensured that 93.1% of the veterans who returned to homelessness have been rehoused or are on a pathway to rehousing, exceeding the Department's calendar year goal by 3.1%.
Ending veteran homelessness is a top priority of VA. In 2022 alone, VA housed more than 40,000 formerly homeless veterans, prevented more than 17,700 veterans and their families from falling into homelessness, and helped nearly 191,700 additional veteran families who were experiencing financial difficulties to retain their homes or avoid foreclosure. Thanks in part to these efforts, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has fallen by 11% since early 2020 and by more than 55% since 2010.
VA's efforts to combat veteran homelessness are grounded in reaching out to homeless veterans, understanding their unique needs, and addressing them. These efforts are built on the evidence-based "Housing First" approach, which prioritizes getting a veteran into housing, then providing them with the wraparound support they need to stay housed, including health care, job training, legal and education assistance, and more. This initiative is part of the Biden-Harris Administration's broader efforts to reduce homelessness.
VA has also made progress in combating veteran homelessness in the Greater Los Angeles area, providing 1,464 homeless Veterans with permanent housing thus far this year — which is the most of any city in America and on pace to exceed VA's calendar year goal for 2023. Last year, VA provided 1,301 permanent housing placements to formerly homeless Veterans in LA, the most of any city in America.
VA staff and its community partners nationwide help veterans find permanent housing such as apartments or houses to rent or own, often with subsidies to help make the housing affordable. In some cases, VA staff and partners help Veterans end their homelessness by reuniting them with family and friends.
For more information about VA's comprehensive efforts to end Veteran homelessness, visit VA.gov/homeless.
If you are a veteran who is experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838). Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for veterans exiting homelessness.