Levittown Memorial American Legion Post 960

American Legion News

Always ready to pay their respects

Source: May 21, 2024

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As Memorial Day weekend once again comes around, American Legion post honor guards across the country are preparing to conduct ceremonies and pay respects – as they do all year. Being a member of one of these guards takes training, practice and commitment.

One active honor guard is that of Samuel Woodfill American Legion Post 9 in Madison, Ind. The post was founded in 1919 and, according to post adjutant Charles Mihalko – who has built an oral history from speaking to its oldest members – has had an active guard for nearly 55 years.

It was stood up around 1970, "with just three or four veterans from the post going to every veteran's service in the area," Mihalko shared. Mid-decade, the group grew into the double digits and acquired matching jackets. By the end of the decade, the post commander had made it a mission to get the guard uniforms, rifles and blanks for proper honors. By the early 1980s they got a bus.

Today, Mihalko said, the Post 9 honor guard has 20-25 members at any given time, and gives the ideal number for a full event complement as 15. But not all members can attend all events – "we have completed a service with just nine members." Over the last decade, the guard has averaged 150-170 services, and about 500 volunteer hours, a year.

New members of the honor guard are obtained "mostly through word of mouth," Mihalko continued. Post events include a standard call for new members; the average of a Post 9 guard member is 65. A new member is immediately given a uniform, and spends their first few events observing from behind the firing line. During this time, instruction is given on firing procedures.

Post 9's membership comes from both Indiana and across the Ohio Valley in Kentucky; Mihalko announced that for this Memorial Day, the honor guard will participate in a morning ceremony in Bedford, Ky.

Next article: National Poppy Day is Friday

National Poppy Day is Friday

Source: May 21, 2024

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The Friday before Memorial Day is National Poppy Day. The red poppy is a nationally recognized symbol of sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who served and died for our country in all wars. It reminds Americans of the sacrifices made by our veterans while protecting our freedoms.

On Sept. 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of the American Legion Family, led largely by the American Legion Auxiliary, to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion. 

American Legion Family members will be distributing the symbolic flower on National Poppy Day, which falls on May 24 this year, and everyone is encouraged to wear a red poppy to honor military sacrifices. Watch a message from American Legion National Commander Daniel Seehafer and Auxiliary President Lisa Williamson about the importance of wearing a red poppy to remember the fallen.

Resources are available for local use and education about National Poppy Day. Visit legion-aux.org/National-Poppy-Day for:

-       A history of Poppy Day

-       A Poppy Shop to purchase pins and supplies for posts, units, squadrons and chapters

-       Videos, including stirring recitations of "In Flanders Fields" and "We Shall Keep the Faith"

-       Poppy Day banners, posters, media templates and sample press releases to raise awareness and increase participation in your community.    

-       Link to make online poppy donations to the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families.

Next article: 2022 Legion Baseball player of year named semifinalist for Golden Spikes Award

2022 Legion Baseball player of year named semifinalist for Golden Spikes Award

Source: May 21, 2024

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The 2022 American Legion Baseball George W. Rulon Player of the Year is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

Brooks Bryan, a catcher for Troy University, is among 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, presented annually to the top college baseball player in the nation.

Fan voting is available at GoldenSpikesAward.com through June 3. Finalists will be announced June 5, with fan voting open again June 5-21. The Golden Spikes Award will be presented June 22 on ESPN before Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

Bryan, who in 2022 helped lead Troy (Ala.) Post 70 to the state's first American Legion World Series championship since 1967, leads the Trojans with 17 home runs and a .599 slugging percentage entering this week's Sun Belt Conference tournament. He has a school record 82 RBIs this season, which is third nationally. Bryan had a 14-game RBI streak from April 13 through May 4, with 30 RBIs during that streak. Primarily a catcher, he was named first-team All-Sun Belt on Monday.


The complete list of Golden Spikes Award semifinalists, with position, school and conference:

Jamie Arnold; LHP; Florida State; ACC

Travis Bazzana; INF; Oregon State; Pac-12

Brooks Bryan; C; Troy; Sun Belt

Blake Burke; 1B; Tennessee; SEC

Chase Burns; RHP; Wake Forest; ACC

Drew Burress; OF; Georgia Tech; ACC

Jac Caglianone; LHP/1B; Florida; SEC

Charlie Condon; 1B/OF; Georgia; SEC

Lawson Harrill; OF; Campbell; CAA

Luke Holman; RHP; LSU; SEC

Vance Honeycutt; OF; UNC; ACC

Walker Janek; C; Sam Houston; C-USA

Ryan Johnson; RHP; Dallas Baptist; C-USA

Dakota Jordan; OF; Mississippi State; SEC

Josh Kuroda-Grauer; INF; Rutgers; Big Ten

Nick Kurtz; 1B; Wake Forest; ACC

Jace LaViolette; OF; Texas A&M; SEC

Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman; RHP; ECU; AAC

Braden Montgomery; OF/RHP; Texas A&M; SEC

Christian Moore; INF; Tennessee; SEC

Hagen Smith; LHP; Arkansas; SEC

James Tibbs III; OF/1B; Florida State; ACC

Payton Tolle; LHP/INF; TCU; Big 12

Blake Wright; INF; Clemson; ACC

Trey Yesavage; RHP; ECU; AAC

Previous winners

Previous Golden Spikes Award winners:

1978: Bob Horner; 3B; Arizona State

1979: Tim Wallach; 3B; Cal State Fullerton

1980: Terry Francona; 1B; Arizona (played American Legion Baseball in Pennsylvania)

1981: Mike Fuentes; OF; Florida State

1982: Augie Schmidt; SS; New Orleans

1983: Dave Magadan; 3B; Alabama (played American Legion Baseball for Tampa (Fla.) Post 248; won ALWS and Player of the Year in 1981)

1984: Oddibe McDowell; OF; Arizona State

1985: Will Clark; 1B; Mississippi State (played American Legion Baseball for New Orleans Post 125)

1986: Mike Loynd; P; Florida State

1987: Jim Abbott; P; Michigan

1988: Robin Ventura; 3B; Oklahoma State

1989: Ben McDonald: P; LSU

1990: Alex Fernández; P; Miami-Dade Community College

1991: Mike Kelly; OF; Arizona State

1992: Phil Nevin; 3B; Cal State Fullerton

1993: Darren Dreifort; P; Wichita State

1994: Jason Varitek; C; Georgia Tech

1995: Mark Kotsay; OF; Cal State Fullerton

1996: Travis Lee; 1B; San Diego State

1997: J.D. Drew; OF; Florida State

1998: Pat Burrell; 3B; Miami (FL)

1999: Jason Jennings; P; Baylor

2000: Kip Bouknight; P; South Carolina

2001: Mark Prior; P; USC

2002: Khalil Greene; SS; Clemson

2003: Rickie Weeks; 2B; Southern

2004: Jered Weaver; P; Long Beach State

2005: Alex Gordon; 3B; Nebraska (played American Legion Baseball for Lincoln (Neb.) Post 3)

2006: Tim Lincecum; P; Washington

2007: David Price; P; Vanderbilt

2008: Buster Posey; C; Florida State

2009: Stephen Strasburg; P; San Diego State

2010: Bryce Harper; C/OF; College of Southern Nevada (played American Legion Baseball for Las Vegas)

2011: Trevor Bauer; P; UCLA

2012: Mike Zunino; C; Florida

2013: Kris Bryant; 3B; San Diego (played American Legion Baseball for Las Vegas)

2014: A.J. Reed; 1B/P; Kentucky (played American Legion Baseball for Terre Haute (Ind.) Post 346)

2015: Andrew Benintendi; OF; Arkansas

2016: Kyle Lewis; OF; Mercer

2017: Brendan McKay; 1B/P; Louisville (played American Legion Baseball for Blackhawk (Pa.))

2018: Andrew Vaughn; 1B; California

2019: Adley Rutschman; C; Oregon State

2020: no award

2021: Kevin Kopps; P; Arkansas

2022: Ivan Melendez; 1B; Texas

2023: Dylan Crews; OF; LSU


Next article: VA to grant 1 millionth benefit claim for veterans and their survivors under the PACT Act

VA to grant 1 millionth benefit claim for veterans and their survivors under the PACT Act

Source: May 21, 2024

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Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs expects to grant its 1 millionth PACT Act-related disability compensation claims to veterans and survivors since President Biden signed the bill into law on Aug. 10, 2022. The grant rate for these claims is 75% – a sharp increase from pre-PACT levels – and VA has delivered more than $5.7 billion in earned benefits to those veterans and survivors. 

The PACT Act expanded VA health care and benefits to millions of veterans, including adding "presumptive" service connection for hundreds of conditions linked to burn pits, agent orange, and other hazards while serving our country. Presumptions such as these lower the burden of proof required to receive disability benefits, helping veterans get the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible. The average service connection rate for veterans with these granted claims is 70%, meaning that they receive more than $20,000 in earned benefits payments from VA each year.

"Thanks to the PACT Act, VA is delivering more benefits to more veterans than ever before," said Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs. "We encourage all toxic-exposed veterans and their survivors to apply today for care and benefits at VA.gov/PACT. When you apply, we will stop at nothing to get you the benefits you've earned."

Through the PACT Act, VA has been able to help millions of veterans get the health care and benefits they deserve. Key impacts include:  

·        More veterans are enrolling in health care: More than 400,000 veterans have enrolled in VA health care over the past year, a 30% increase year-over-year. This is critical because veterans who come to VA are proven to have better or equal health outcomeshigher satisfaction scores, and trust VA outpatient care at 91.8%.

·        More than 5.4 million veterans have been screened by VA for toxic exposures: These screenings are a critical step to detecting, understanding, and treating potentially life-threatening health conditions. Of the 5.4 million veterans who have received the screening, 44% reported at least one potential exposure.

·        Veterans are applying for benefits at all-time record rates: Thanks to the largest outreach campaign in VA history, veterans and survivors submitted 2,433,729 claims applications in 2023 – an all-time record and 39% more than in 2022. Veterans and survivors are on pace to break this record again in 2024.

·        Veterans exposed to toxins and other environmental hazards are now eligible for VA health care: In March, as directed by President Biden, VA announced that all veterans who meet eligibility requirements and were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military — at home or abroad — had become eligible to enroll directly in VA health care. This expansion eliminated the phased-in approach called for by the PACT Act — meaning that millions of veterans are becoming eligible for VA health care up to eight years earlier than written into law.

The 1 million granted PACT Act-related claims are claims from more than 888,000 veterans and survivors that included a PACT Act condition where at least one condition from the claim was granted, regardless of whether the granted condition is one of the PACT-specific conditions noted above. In total, VA has received 1.65 million PACT Act-related claims and completed more than 1.32 million since August 2022. More information and data on the impact of the PACT Act can be found in VA's biweekly PACT Act Dashboard.

VA is currently processing veteran benefits claims at the fastest rate in history, delivering more benefits, more quickly, to more veterans than ever before. As a result of this record pace, veteran claims pending over 125 days – known as the backlog – has decreased by more than 100,000 claims since December. Moving forward, VA will continue to aggressively reach out to veterans to encourage them to come to VA. VA encourages all veterans, family members, caregivers, and survivors to learn more about VA and apply for their world-class health care and earned benefits today.

Next article: 2025 Child Welfare Foundation grant application online

2025 Child Welfare Foundation grant application online

Source: May 21, 2024

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The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) grant application for 2025 is online at cwf-inc.org. To be considered for a CWF grant, applications must be received at American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis no later than July 15, 2024.

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 or special operating expenses.

Learn more about the grant-awarding process and eligibility requirements in this brochure.

Thanks to the generosity of Legion Family and community members, the foundation has awarded millions in grants since 1954 — giving youth-serving nonprofit organizations across this nation the means to promote and operate their programs, plus educate families and communities about the needs of children.

Next article: CWF end of year donations due May 31

CWF end of year donations due May 31

Source: May 21, 2024

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The 2023-2024 American Legion Child Welfare Foundation program year began June 1, 2023, and runs through May 31, 2024. Departments, posts, detachments, and squadrons that donate and want to receive credit for the 2023-2024 program year should ensure all donations are received at American Legion National Headquarters no later than Friday, May 31. Donations also can be made online at legion.org/donate. Donations support grants to youth-serving nonprofits that contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of children.

Send your donations today to:

The American Legion

P.O. Box 361626

Indianapolis, IN 46236.

Earmark check: Child Welfare Foundation.

The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation presents special awards annually for outstanding support. See the Child Welfare Foundation Annual Awards brochure for a list of the awards and their donation requirements.  

CWF 100% per capita banner

American Legion posts, Legion Riders chapters, Auxiliary units, Sons of The American Legion squadrons and Eight & Forty salons are eligible for the CWF 100% per capita banner for the 2023-2024 membership year. To qualify for the banner, a post, unit, squadron or salon must donate at least $1 per member based upon respective official membership total for the 2023-2024 year.

Download the fillable CWF 100% per capita banner form. Participants have until May 31 to submit the form.

Next article: DPAA's mission to identify 81,000 MIA/POWs

DPAA's mission to identify 81,000 MIA/POWs

Source: May 21, 2024

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As director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), retired Air Force Major Gen. Kelly McKeague is driven to recover the tens of thousands of American servicemembers listed as missing. 

McKeague, the special guest on this week's American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, discusses his passion for DPAA's mission, the process from search to proper burial and how advancements in DNA technology are helping the process and more. 

He assumed the director position Sept. 5, 2017, and is responsible for policy, control and oversight of all aspects of DPAA's program to account for America's missing service personnel. He leads DoD's worldwide enterprise of research, investigation, recovery and identification operations, and supporting functions, in order to provide the fullest possible accounting of our missing personnel to their families and to the nation.

"This is generational grieving," he said. "I've been associated with this mission for 10 years, three in uniform, seven as a civilian. Naively, I thought families surely would have moved on. They have not. In addition to families, veterans have a void in heart and mind from the loss."

DPAA is currently working on identifying veterans from the Global War on Terrorism all the way back to World War II. "Within that, the numbers are staggering — 81,000 Americans missing from past conflicts," he emphasizes, adding that they estimate 38,000 to be recoverable.

In December 2015, McKeague culminated a 34-year career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a major general. In his last two assignments, he served as the first deputy director of the newly established DPAA, and before that as the commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

McKeague is motivated by the families of the missing.

"They know the stories, they know the laughters, it's all been passed down through generations," he says. "It's as if when you are speaking to them, you are speaking to the servicemember or his mother. It's extraordinary."

The complicated work takes months, years and sometimes even decades to produce a resolution.

"These are hard cases," McKeague says. "If they were easy, they would have been found shortly after the conflicts ended."

He also praised The American Legion and Legion Riders for their role in honoring the sacrifice of recovered servicemembers.

"The Legion — at the grassroots community level — does extraordinary work," he says. "I have not been to many funerals of an MIA coming home where I haven't seen the Legion Riders come up en masse, where the Legion comes forward and offers assistance to the family."

Also, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Joe Worley and Adam Marr talk about:

• College students who are assisting the U.S. in repatriation efforts.

• POW-MIA servicemembers from the Cold War.

• The only Coast Guard member to receive the Medal of Honor.

• The story behind the creation of taps.

Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 240 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.

Next article: VA, DoD expand partnership to increase primary health-care access for Virginia veterans

VA, DoD expand partnership to increase primary health-care access for Virginia veterans

Source: May 20, 2024

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Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced the expansion of a partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD) to increase VA health care access for veterans in Virginia. The forthcoming agreement provides the opportunity for veterans to receive care at the Langley VA Clinic inside the Langley Air Force Base Hospital located on Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

This clinic is designed to serve up to 10,000 veteran patients and will provide veterans with outpatient primary care services, including annual check-ups and screenings, chronic and acute illness management, mental health assistance, nutrition counseling, women's health care, and lab tests. The expanded partnership will also offer dental services from VA providers to veterans within the Langley Dental Services Building.

The partnership is the first of its kind in Virginia, and a key part of VA's comprehensive strategy to expand access to care for veterans nationwide — including through partnerships with DoD. This collaboration is just one of the 177 VA-DoD partnerships that are currently active across the country, including 14 near- and long-term projects to expand access to care for veterans.

"Virginia is one of the fastest growing veteran populations in the United States," said VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D. "At a time when veterans are signing up for VA care and using VA care at record rates, collaborations like this are critical. By partnering with DoD, we can ensure that health care is accessible and convenient for the veterans we serve."

For over 150 years, the Hampton VA Health Care System has been dedicated to serving veterans of Hampton Roads. Situated within one of the largest active duty and military retiree populations nationwide, the Hampton Roads region encompasses all branches of the military, including significant installations like the Norfolk Naval Base, the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

With its main Hampton VA Medical Center and three community-based outpatient clinics in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Elizabeth City, the Hampton VA Health Care System serves more than 108,000 veterans across southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Notably, a new Chesapeake Outpatient Clinic is on track to open in late 2024, further expanding access to essential health-care services to Virginia veterans.

For more information on VA health care for veterans in Virginia, visit Hampton VA Health Care System.

Next article: Five Things to Know, May 20, 2024

Five Things to Know, May 20, 2024

Source: May 20, 2024

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1.   Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister and others have been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country's northwest, state media reported. Raisi was 63. State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. With Raisi were Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

2.   New recruits and incoming officers into the military would not have to undergo mandatory cannabis testing under the House's version of an annual must-pass defense policy bill. The draft of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act bars the services from requiring an individual to submit to marijuana testing as a condition of enlisting or commissioning. Supporters of the measure believe it will help the military attract recruits at a time when few young people want to or are eligible to serve.

3.   U.S. troops ordered out of Niger by the West African country's ruling junta will complete their withdrawal by the middle of September, the Pentagon and Nigerien defense officials said Sunday. The timeline was the product of four days of talks between the countries' defense officials in the capital city of Niamey, according to a joint statement. Niger's decision to kick out American forces dealt a blow to U.S. military operations in the Sahel, a vast region south of the Sahara desert where groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group operate.

4.   Taiwan's new president, Lai Ching-te, said in his inauguration speech Monday that he wants peace with China and urged it to stop its military threats and intimidation of the self-governed island that Beijing claims as its own territory. "I hope that China will face the reality of (Taiwan)'s existence, respect the choices of the people of Taiwan, and in good faith, choose dialogue over confrontation," Lai said after being sworn into office.

5.   Hundreds of Air Force members in dress blues joined Roger Fortson's family, friends and others at a suburban Atlanta megachurch on Friday to pay their final respects to the Black senior airman, who was shot and killed in his Florida home earlier this month by a sheriff's deputy. People lined up well before the start of the service at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest to file past the open coffin and say their goodbyes to Fortson, who was shot six times by a deputy responding to a May 3 call about a possible domestic violence situation at Fortson's apartment complex in the Florida Panhandle. He was 23.

Next article: Can you sound taps?

Can you sound taps?

Source: May 20, 2024

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Registration is open for the 5th annual Taps Across America event, to be held nationwide on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time, including at the National World War I Memorial.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Taps for Veterans, Taps Across America is open to any instrumentation and musicians of any age or ability who can sound Taps. It originally began in 2015 by retired Air Force bugler and American Legion member Jari Villanueva – a member of Dewey Lowman Post 109 in Halethorpe, Md. – but took off nationally in 2020 when picnics, parades and other celebrations were canceled due to the pandemic. It provides volunteers who sound Taps for military funerals and ceremonies.

The response was overwhelming in 2020, with more than 10,000 musicians joining together for one unifying event in a nationwide salute to remember fallen servicemembers.

"Taps Across America is an all-inclusive patriotic event that unites the country together for a memorable and honorable day. It offers anyone who plays an instrument an opportunity to honor, reflect and remember our fallen servicemembers in the true spirit of Memorial Day," said Taps for Veterans executive director Mark Paradis. "Past participants appreciate the chance to pay their respects and preserve the legacy of this important event for years to come."

Fleet Farm has graciously partnered for the fourth year with Taps for Veterans to hold a special Memorial Day ceremony at each of their 49 local stores throughout the Midwest.

To register or for more information, visit www.tapsacrossamerica.org.

Next article: Always ready to pay their respects