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Legion News

Legion class teaches entry into federal contracting

More than 20 service-disabled veteran small business owners and veteran business owners attended a free two-day class on drafting General Service Administration Schedule proposals (GSA Schedules), sponsored by the Legion and Vets GSA, LLC, at The American Legion's Washington, D.C., office, Oct. 28-29.

GSA Schedules, also known as Federal Supply Schedules, are long-term contracts that schedule indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity of items or services from private contractors to the federal government. GSA establishes long-term government-wide contracts with commercial companies to provide access to millions of commercial products and services at volume discount pricing.

The class provided veteran business owners instruction on preparing and submitting GSA Schedule proposals. Vets GSA provided templates, completed proposal examples and instructions that were tailored for each business.

The GSA Schedule is one of the most popular contract vehicles the government uses to purchase over $40,000,000 worth of goods and services from government contractors, said Scott Davidson, president of Vets GSA and member of the Legion’s Small Business Task Force. Davidson shared much of his knowledge and expertise in the subject while teaching the course.

“During this class I walked the owners through the entire process and provided them all of the required documentation to submit the proposal,” he said.

Attendees came from all corners of the country to participate and brought a sense of nostalgia to some, said Paula Gibb, who made the trip from California.

“As usual, when you go to a place where there are a lot of vets, people are really friendly,” she said. “I saw some old friends and some new friends. It was nice to see people I haven’t seen in years.”

Although the course was geared more toward businesses that are not already on the schedule, businesses that are currently on the schedule also found value in the course and benefitted from participating.

“We are already on the GSA schedule 70, but there is some new information we wanted to learn about,” Gibb said. “There is enough information out there that would allow you to go and do this on your own, but all of the ‘gotchas’ were distilled into the class. Over the course of the past two days, Scott was able to go through the entire process of getting on the schedule, and he told us the issues to really pay attention to in order to alleviate the problems of getting on the schedule.”

Davidson said he feels that entrepreneurial spirit is alive in most veterans. He says he believes they will continue to have a positive impact on the U.S. economy, and it is the duty of other businesses and organizations in the spirit of “we take care of our own” to ensure that veteran business owners have all of the tools and resources to succeed in business after they have sacrificed so much for this country.

"This kind of stuff helps the bottom line businesswise,” Gibb said. “People will always remember what the Legion has done to stay ahead of the curve and differentiate themselves.”

Students deliver resolutions, mottos

Thursday afternoon during National Legion College in Indianapolis, the class of 57 Legionnaires participated in a mock Nebraska department convention. During the convention, American Legion Library and Museum Director Trace Howard delivered the resolutions created by the five groups that the students were divided into. The students voted on whether they were in favor of passing the resolution.

Out of the five proposed resolutions, three passed and two were amended. The resolutions that were amended include:

  • Establish a student veteran outreach program. The resolution was amended due to the need for funding. The resolution stated for posts and districts to establish a Legion point of contact at all colleges and universities in Nebraska to build relationships with student veterans and to assist with their needs. With the amendment, the resolution now states $5,000 will be used for funding of a Legion point of contact.
  • Provide training and equipment to protect U.S. armed forces personnel from Ebola. With the amendment, the resolution now states for Congress to approve funding for protective equipment and training for situations involving infectious diseases, inlucuding Ebola.

The other resolutions that passed include:

  • Department of Nebraska should form a Transition Assistance Program committee.
  • Department of Nebraska should establish a veterans education and employment committee.
  • The Legion should urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer women-only transportation for women veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or military sexual trauma.

Following resolutions, several students delivered their group's homework assignment from Wednesday – creating a motto for next year's Legion College class. The mottos were: Leadership inspires trust; Sharing the knowledge for tomorrow; Leading through knowledge; and Each one, teach one. National Internal Affairs Commission Chairman Larry Besson will review the mottos tonight to select a winner.

Before the students left for the evening, a few Legion College mentors left them with lasting advice.

"When you leave here, don't go back to your departments and make demands to change things. Speak with your adjutant and don't just deliver problems – deliver solutions," said Mike Rohan of Wisconsin, a 2006 Legion College graduate.

Department of Texas Adjutant Bill West echoed Rohan's remarks.

"Ask your department leaders what you can do and how you can help," said West, a 2001 Legion College graduate. "Then the key is pass on that knowledge you gain; mentor others."

Both Rohan and West encouraged the students to not be afraid to serve on a department committee; to get involved with their department Legion College if there was one; and to start a mentoring class that meets at midwinter conference and department convention.

Tomorrow, The American Legion National College program will graduate its 2014 class of 57 Legionnaires representing 31 departments. The students will receive their Legion College diploma, lapel pin and coin, and have their photo taken with National Commander Mike Helm in the National Executive Committee room on the fourth floor of National Headquarters in Indianapolis.

NYC parade beckons Legionnaires to march

American Legion members and their families are encouraged to march in the nation’s largest Veterans Day parade, held in New York City.

“It’s been an extremely positive experience,” said 9-11 Memorial Post 2001 Commander Sean Powers, who has marched in the parade previously. “It’s a day for us to honor our active-duty servicemembers. We’re going to have a lot of active-duty servicemen and women there. And it’s our day to honor them. We are the largest veterans organization and this is our chance to demonstrate our strength in numbers.”

America’s Parade will start at 11:11 a.m. Nov. 11, and conclude around 3:30 p.m. The 1.3-mile route goes up Fifth Avenue from 26th Street to 52nd Street. “The ceremony starts late enough in the day and ends early enough so people will be able to make a day trip out of it, using the city’s mass transit system,” Powers said.

Immediately following the parade, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is hosting a Veterans Day ceremony.

Hundreds of veterans — including former crew members of the Intrepid — are expected to attend the event at the museum, located at Pier 86 (46th Street and 12th Avenue) in Manhattan. The tribute will include the presentation of the national colors and the annual commemorative wreath-laying in the Hudson River.

Museum entrance is free to all veterans on Veterans Day.

Last year, about 80 Legionnaires from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and even Ireland marched in the parade.

“We talk a lot about veterans serving veterans. This event is all about veterans honoring veterans,” Powers said. “That is one of the things I got the biggest kick out of last year. There were guys from World War II marching side by side with guys and gals still serving. It’s neat to see the age difference and different generations marching as brothers and sisters.”

For more information about participating in the parade, email: parade@americanlegion.com

Exercise your right to vote in midterm elections

In 1920, during The American Legion's National Convention in Cleveland, the organization went on record urging all Legionnaires to become qualified voters. Since then, the organization has passed countless similar resolutions advocating Legionnaires to not only exercise their constitutional responsibility to vote, but to also encourage others to do the same.

Elections are important to our republic. As citizens of this great nation, it is our duty and responsibility to exercise this right of franchise by casting our ballots on Election Day and to encourage others to do so as well.  American Legion members are encouraged to renew their commitment for continued service to this country by being politically active as individuals and by encouraging all Americans to register and vote in all elections.  And with 2014 midterm elections less than a week away, Legion posts and members should become involved in numerous activities to "Get Out The Vote."

The American Legion's "Get Out the Vote" brochure helps Legionnaires, departments, districts and posts to fully involve themselves in the electoral process by serving as poll volunteers and workers, and by encouraging and assisting others to register and vote.

Download The American Legion’s "Get Out the Vote" brochure for free online here and begin promoting the importance of voting, especially as midterm elections draw near. Legionnaires can make a difference in voter turnout. And share your department, district or post involvement in the Get Out the Vote program here.

 

Hollywood post recruits 'honorary' celebrity member

When Hollywood Post 43 members attended a recent taping of The Price is Right, they managed to recruit a celebrity as an honorary member.

Donning Legion caps, Post 43 members were in the audience for a special Veterans Day episode of the iconic game show which is set to air Nov. 11. During a commercial break, host Drew Carey, a comedian and Marine veteran, noticed the group's headwear and his curiosity got the better of him.

"Drew Carey comes out and talks to the audience during breaks usually, and when he did, he asked us, 'Hey, what's with the hats?'" Post 43 Commander Don Schilling said. "That was the perfect opportunity to tell the audience all about the Legion."

Carey was among those listening when the Post 43 members delivered their message about what the Legion is and what the Legion represents.

"He said, 'Oh yeah, I drive by your (post) building all the time. I know exactly what you are talking about,'" Schilling said.

They seized the opportunity to toss a spare Legion cap to Carey, who served in the Marines for six years prior to his career as a stand-up comedian and actor.

"We gave him a hat and said. 'Here, you're an honorary member,'" Schillilng said. "He said he'd love to come by the post some time."

Legion's outreach spreads throughout Los Angeles

George Young barely slept Monday evening knowing he would have the opportunity to meet with American Legion claims experts at its Los Angeles area Veterans Benefits Center Tuesday morning.

“I wanted the American Legion to represent me in my appeal,” said Young, who came to the Legion outreach event at the urging of a friend. “I didn’t get a fair shake from the VA for my depression, military sexual trauma and PTSD. I need someone to look deep into my personnel file and see some of the events that happened to me in the Navy have affected me today.”

VA has recognized Young’s hepatitis and an eye injury as service-related injuries since his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1991. But he has a zero percent disability rating. Young filed a claim for his depression and other issues in January 2013. It was denied in June. Young says he’s mystified given that VA prescribed him antidepressants and sent him to an inpatient PTSD treatment program at a VA hospital in Maryland.

Young moved to Los Angeles after his claim was denied, hoping for a fresh start. He found it Tuesday as he met with Legion service officers and VA staff at the three-day benefits outreach event. “I haven’t received as much help anywhere as I have today,” Young said. “American Legion makes me realize some people do care about us and want to help.”

Michael Harvey of San Pedro also came to the Veterans Benefits Center for help filing an appeal.

Harvey is contesting the 10 percent disability rating he received for an eye injury and hearing loss from his service as an avionics technician on the Air Force flight line in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He shares a similar appreciation for the Legion’s outreach. “The American Legion is going to help me on this appeal – and I have a contact in Washington, D.C., now. This kind of effort is like somebody throwing me a lifesaver because I was lost in the bureaucratic maze of the VA.”

Other veterans came to the benefits center for assistance obtaining a VA identification card and exploring their benefits. Navy veteran Robert Boyd wanted to find out if he could get help for the ringing in his ears and back problems that stem from his days catching cannon shells and loading 40 mm guns. But he also wants to make sure he’s connected to the VA for the sake of his family.

“I want to make arrangements so if I ever have to have care, my boys don’t get caught having to be my caregiver,” Boyd said as he headed into the benefits center. “I did it for 14 years with my wife and it’s such a draining event.”

Boyd was aware of the Veterans Benefits Center here because he’s the 19th District commander for the American Legion Department of California. But Army widow Eva Flores just happened upon the event. “I was walking by and I saw The American Legion sign,” said Flores, who needed help filing a claim for her late husband’s burial expenses. “I thought, let me go in and ask them because my husband was a member of the Legion a long time ago.”

Flores first filed a claim three years ago but nothing happened. She later learned that a volunteer at the Long Beach VA Medical Center had helped her apply for the wrong benefits. This week, a Legion representative got her claim back on track. “I am so glad I came,” Flores said. “The guy who helped me out gave me all the answers I need. It means a lot.”

These outreach centers also are important to VA, said Emmett O’Meara, Veterans Service Center manager for the agency’s Los Angeles regional office. “This is invaluable – the opportunity to meet with veterans and discuss their issues and their claims. It’s a great opportunity for us to provide the best service we can.”

Initially planned for American Legion Post 496 in Long Beach, the Veterans Benefits Center was moved to Cloud Break Communities in Inglewood on Wednesday and Thursday to make it more accessible to veterans most in need. That gave Aaron Cooper, Jr. the opportunity to learn he might be eligible for VA benefits for the first time since he left the service in 1991. Cooper injured his right knee in the Army and his left ankle while he was a hand-to-hand combat trainer in the Marines, he said. He met with Legion and VA representatives at the Veterans Benefits Center on Wednesday and emerged grateful but cautious.

“I’m hoping The American Legion guys can fight on my behalf to make sure the claim goes through,” Cooper said. “I know it’s a lengthy process.”

Diane Aguilar was able to get VA’s help figuring out what steps she needs to take to complete her PTSD claim. “I’m encouraged,” Aguilar, an Air Force veteran said, after her consultation.

Meanwhile, Christopher Li, came to the benefits center two days in a row for detailed assistance with his complicated claim for injuries to his lungs, his eyes and other issues. “It’s important for the Legion to do events like these because there are a lot of veterans out there who don’t know their rights,” Li said. “The people in The American Legion picked me up when I was broken. Without them, I would probably be homeless.”

The Veterans Benefits Center continues until 7 p.m. Thursday at Cloud Break Communities at 725 S. Hindry Ave. in Inglewood, Calif. The Legion has been conducting these outreach events, earlier called Veterans Crisis Command Centers, since June. Legion service officers, members of the Legion’s national staff, VA representatives and volunteers are on hand to help veterans enroll in VA health care, file claims, schedule appointments and deal with other needs.

Legion club to host on-air tribute to veterans

Federally licensed radio operators who are Legionnaires will honor military service and their fellow veterans in a special on-air tribute on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Members of The American Legion Amateur Radio Club (TALARC) will operate on short-wave radio from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., using the Federal Communications Commission specially-issued radio call sign – W9L – from National Headquarters in Indianapolis. Any ham radio operators (and shortwave listeners) who contact the station are eligible to receive an attractive commemorative certificate.

“Veterans Day is more than just a holiday,” said Marty Justis (call sign W9WMJ), president of TALARC. “It’s a time for all Americans to recognize the honorable nature of military service and the men and women who have sacrificed so much in defending our nation through the years.

“This special event operation serves to underscore the importance of Veterans Day via the amateur radio community, to salute the men and women who have served our country honorably in uniform, and to recognize the contributions of so many military personnel who served as radio technicians, engineers and members of MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System), who passed messages from war zones, at sea and other overseas locations, to loved ones back home.”

During the Korean and Vietnam wars, MARS members and radio amateurs back home set up radio conversations between military personnel serving overseas, and their family and friends back in the United States in those pre-Internet and pre-email days. Without MARS and amateur radio operators here at home, hearing the voice of a loved one would have been impossible.

“It truly meant a lot to us,” Justis said.

Many Americans who received calls from a family member back then may remember having to constantly say “over” when they stopped talking on the phone with the relaying ham radio station. That was necessary to let the relay operator know to switch his transmitter off and his receiver on in order to hear the overseas serviceperson’s voice.

“While the Internet has changed much of that, amateur radio today still assists communities in many ways, primarily serving as the quickest and most effective means of communications ‘when all else fails,’” Justis said. “Many of The American Legion Amateur Radio Club's 2,000 members are committed to emergency preparedness, as well as promoting the hobby, art and science of amateur radio to young and old alike.”

Today, there are nearly 725,000 federally licensed amateur radio operators in the United States, adding to the worldwide total of 2.6 million. Any ham radio operator from around the world may contact the TALARC headquarters station and receive the special certificate.

Free membership in The American Legion Amateur Radio Club is available to all FCC-licensed amateur radio operators who are Legionnaires, members of the Auxiliary or the Sons of The American Legion. Individuals can find out more about TALARC at www.legion.org/hamradio. Click on the “Join TALARC" button to become a member, or click on the many resource tabs to find out how to obtain an amateur radio license.

Ham radio operators wishing to contact Special Event Station W9L on Veterans Day should tune to 20 meters – 14.275 MHz USB, +/- 5 KHz, IRLP Node 4816, or in Central Indiana on 146.46 MHz simplex or the 145.17 MHz repeater in Hamilton County. After working W9L, send a 9X12-inch self-addressed stamped envelope to The American Legion Amateur Radio Club, 700 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.

“You don’t need to be a licensed radio operator with a transmitter to participate,” Justis said. “Anyone who has a short-wave radio is welcome to listen in, send us a short signal report with the call signs of at least two contacts you heard, and send in your certificate request. It’s a great way to find out more about amateur radio and The American Legion Amateur Radio Club, and to recognize our service men and women on Veterans Day.”

Mentorship increases Legion volunteerism, retention

Since Monday, the 57 Legionnaires attending National Legion College in Indianapolis at American Legion National Headquarters have been learning about the value of mentorship in the Legion. They have watched videos on mentorship, received handouts and listened to presenters talk about mentors in their life.

After showing a video clip of former NFL and NBA stars, such as Ahmad Rashad, Charles Barkley and George Gervin discussing their mentors, Wisconsin Legionnaire Mike Rohan gave a presentation to the students, stressing that mentorship should not be confused with coaching. Rohan said that the group of former athletes often confused these two concepts, and that Barkley is the only one who understands that difference because he was taught by his mentor – his grandmother – to work hard and treat people with respect. The other athletes discussed mentoring in terms of athletic achievement, whereas Barkley’s mentor taught him to excel as a person.

When he was on active duty and a member of the Legion with little involvement, Rohan's mentor was a “crusty old World War II veteran,” he said. One day, the World War II veteran (Jim) told Rohan that he had personally written a resolution that he wanted Rohan to present as his own. Rohan presented it and received a contentious response from the older Legionnaires at the post, who told him to sit down and return when he was older. Rohan told the World War II veteran that he could not present the resolution because the Legionnaires said he was too young. The veteran told Rohan that this was a test, which he failed.

“Jim told me, ‘I gave you that piece of paper because I wanted to see if you were cut out for The American Legion. It looks like you are a quitter and we don’t need that here,'" Rohan said. "Normally that isn’t a good way of mentoring someone, to call them a quitter, but it worked for me because that is my personality, and he recognized that.”

Rohan suggested that a good starting point for mentorship in The American Legion would be to identify a Legionnaire, at any level, who needs a mentor and begin sharing the many resources which the Legion has with that individual. "All of you share a common bond of service, which is a natural starting point for mentorship," he said. “In The American Legion, we have something unique because we have all served. From the very start we all have something in common. That allows you to become a mentor so much easier than these basketball or football stars.”

During his presentation on mentorship, Department of Texas Adjutant Bill West said his mentors taught him to never judge a book by its cover, never quit, never give up and never let anyone stand in your way. "To accelerate the transfer of knowledge is what mentorship is," West said to the students. "With mentoring you have to have trust, you have to give encouragement, and you have to give words of advice."West asked the students to be the first Legionnaire that welcomes a new member into their posts, then gradually give them a task and an assignment, making them feel a part of the organization. "Mentoring does increase volunteerism and retention," he said.

Oftentimes, Legionnaires mentor others without even realizing it, West said, which happened to Donna Stacey of Post 44 in Alabama.

"I met a woman veteran and asked her to get involved with the Legion. She later came back to me and told me she was the post commander because of the encouragement I gave her," Stacey said. "Now, I continue to encourage her and make sure she has all the resources she needs to do her job as post commander."

In addition to learning about mentorship, the Legion College students heard presentations on how to write a resolution, access and utilize mylegion.org, and run a district meeting. The students have been working on writing a resolution within their assigned groups, but they were tasked with another assignment Wednesday morning – to create a motto for next year's Legion College class about who the Legion is.

Tomorrow, the students will present their resolutions, discuss the roles of a post commander and adjutant, and take a 50-question test on The American Legion.

U.S. Veterans Initiative opens transitional housing

After more than 10 years of preparation and planning, the United States Veterans Initiative opened the doors of its brand new transitional housing facility to the public for the first time on Oct. 24. Preceding the long-anticipated ribbon cutting ceremony, community members toured the new building.

The property, which is nestled in the heart of a quaint southeast Washington, D.C., neighborhood, is the 11th U.S. Vets facility in the nation.

The success of the project was the result of tireless effort, said Stephen Peck, U.S. Vets' chief executive officer and president. The project was delayed due to the deterioration of the building, causing funding problems centered around the properties structural issues. Peck said the whole U.S. Vets team is dedicated to the organization's mission of helping veterans and will do all that is necessary to help end veteran homelessness.

“We will never leave a veteran behind,” he said. “No veteran should have to sleep in the streets – the same streets they fought to defend.”

After the ceremony, those in attendance toured the facility and met the new executive director, Clifton Lewis.

“I’m elated to assume my new position,” Lewis said. “I had to put in a lot of hard work to get here. I know there is a lot of work ahead of me and I look forward to the challenge.”

As the new director, Lewis will oversee five resident programs. The programs vary from assisting veterans transitioning to successful self-sufficient lifestyles in permanent housing to providing assistance such as moving expenses to veteran families. But it doesn’t stop there. The veterans that walk through their doors will be offered a variety of services that they can use to better themselves and reintegrate back into the local communities.

“Oftentimes, communities shy away from having homeless veterans there because of stigmas related to homelessness,” Lewis said. “U.S. Vets partnered with the Department of Labor and the Veterans Administration who provided funding for programs to create job placement and career development programs to get our veterans where they want to be.”

Lewis also noted that the success of the new facility relies heavily upon the relationships U.S. Vets fostered with other organizations including the American Legion.

To date, U.S. Vets lends a helping hand to more than 2,000 veterans a day. Over 3,000 veterans receive housing assistance a year and approximately 1,000 veterans gain full-time employment through employment assistance programs.

“The goal is to eliminate veteran homelessness,” Lewis said. “We want to ensure that veterans will always have a place to come back to. Our vet centers are a place veterans can always come to if they need help or assistance.”

Legion shifts gears in southern California outreach

In an effort to reach more veterans in critical need of assistance, The American Legion is moving its Veterans Benefits Center from Long Beach to Cloudbreak Communities at 725 S. Hindry Ave. in Inglewood, Calif.

The new location is closer to downtown Los Angeles, which has one of America’s largest concentrations of homeless veterans. Gary Blasi, a UCLA law professor emeritus, estimates that one out of every eight homeless veterans in the country lives in Los Angeles County.

“While the American Legion post in Long Beach offered us an excellent facility to use, we decided that our Veterans Benefits Center could serve more veterans if we moved it closer to Los Angeles,” said Verna Jones, the Legion’s executive director in Washington.

The American Legion’s benefits center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and tomorrow, Oct. 30.

Jones is leading a group of Legionnaires, VA workers and other service providers who are helping veterans this week with delayed benefits claims and other VA-related problems. “We appreciate Cloudbreak Communities’ help in putting us closer to a large veterans population – many of them homeless with serious mental issues.”

Since June, The American Legion has reached out to several thousand veterans and family members, securing more than $1 million for them in retroactive benefits.

“Most of these homeless veterans living under tarps, blankets or cardboard don’t even know they may qualify for monthly benefits payments because of their military service,” Jones said. “The American Legion is here to help them and we are asking greater Los Angeles to help us get the word out to its veterans.”

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