Inside every American Legion post, legacies are shared and passed from generation to generation. Stories about courageous veterans, bravery in battle, patriotism at home, community services and humorous anecdotes that only get better with time.
The Legion has a proud history. It is a history written in the annals of local posts.
Did you know, for example, that George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were visitors of Gadsby’s Tavern, now the home of Post 24 in Alexandria, Va?
Posts across America have withstood natural disasters and rebuilt in order to keep serving their communities. Post 138 in Port Tampa City, Fla., is one such survivor. It was a two-story building until 1960 when Hurricane Donna tore the upper level away. No matter. Now, the post’s large back deck offers beautiful views of the sunset.
Every generation of Legionnaires has a knack for getting things done. Members of Post 11 (Wagner, S.D.) worked together to finance and construct their building in 1929. In fact, they dug the basement themselves by hand.
These are just three of dozens of entertaining stories on the Legion’s Centennial web page. Nearly every department is represented. Even though the centennial anniversary period is still four years away, now is a good time to show your pride and make sure your post is represented.
I understand that the Internet may be intimidating to some of our members. So to help you get started, Bob Ferrebee of Lloyd Williams Post 41 in Berryville, Va., has developed a step-by-step guide. Download the handy resource full of tips about how to get started, what to publish on the page and more.
The American Legion has a rich history that needs to be told so future generations will understand the rich legacy they are asked to continue. Visit the Centennial web page – http://centennial.legion.org/ – to learn about our history and to contribute stories and photos.
For God and Country,
This is a great story, with a neat ending Please take the time to watch it. These guys are getting fewer and their stories will eventually disappear forever. This Is the story of 101st Airborne Beer with an interesting account of WWII and the Battle of the Bulge.
Click here to see the story]]>
The Committee discussed the 2014 Oratorical Committee Report’s recommendations from Bob John, Chairman of last year’s Committee.
One recommendation was to open date that applications could be accepted to allow the initial contest date to be movable if the local students had college testing or other scheduling dilemmas prohibiting participation. This should increase the number of participants.
The report also suggested that the Department not set firm dates of the subsequent District, Inter-District, County, and Sectional contests, but leave the dates as deadlines to have the winners passed to the next level.
We decided to change the wording in the state brochure to reflect both of the suggested recommendations.
In addition to the traditional method of personal Legionnaire contact with school officials to educate and inform them about the program, the Committee also will spend an extra effort to inform the District Commanders and District Oratorical Chairmen. The need to instruct the post employees that answer the phone to refer the callers to the right Committee person is a critical part of the process that is often overlooked. It is imperative that we all create greater awareness of the program through local media and letters-to-the-editor. All of these issues discussed are crucial to the success of the Oratorical program.
Lastly, I wish to thank the Commander for the appointment to the Oratorical Committee.]]>
Today we gather around the dinner table with family and friends to share good food, warm laughter, and the happy memories of Thanksgivings past. But for many families, whose loved ones serve in the Armed Forces, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration will not be complete.
A familiar voice will not be heard and a chair at the table will remain empty because, they have someone far from home serving our country.
Today also, members of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coastguard (men and women, Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard alike) will gather in mess halls or tents across the globe as friends and comrades to enjoy the tradition of this special day. Pray for those on the front lines, for safety and protection.
So, as those of us who are blessed to be with our families celebrate and give thanks, let us remember in our prayers the homes that have an empty chair at the table and also offer a special prayer of thanksgiving and ask God’s Blessings for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, whose service and sacrifice will, we further pray, make the world a better and safer place. And a very special prayer dear God, for those homes that have an empty chair that will forever remain vacant and for those servicemen and women who have come back to us, may their sacrifice not have been in vain.
THE AMERICAN LEGION & AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY
DEPARTMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA
DEPARTMENT COMMANDER & PRESIDENT
HOLIDAY HOSPITAL TOUR
DECEMBER 5 – 11, 2014
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2014
Depart Department HQ 8:00 AM
Southwest State Veterans Home 12:00 PM
Oakland VAMC 3:00 PM
Overnight Comfort Inn
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2014
H.J. Heinz III Progressive Care Center 9:00 AM
Butler VAMC 12:30 PM
Overnight Erie Comfort Inn
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2014
Pennsylvania Soldiers & Sailors Home 10:30 AM
Erie VAMC 1:00 PM
Overnight Altoona Grand Hotel
MONDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2014
*Altoona VAMC 10:00 AM
* Hollidaysburg State Veterans Home 2:00 PM
Overnight Quality Inn Wilkes-Barre
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2014
Wilkes-Barre VAMC 8:00 AM
Gino J. Merli State Veterans Home 10:00 AM
Lebanon VAMC 2:30 PM
Overnight Quality Inn Wormleysburg
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2014
Philadelphia VAMC 10:30 AM
Delaware Valley Veterans Home 2:00 PM
Overnight Radisson North Philadelphia
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2014
Southeast State Veterans Home 10:00 AM
Coatesville VAMC 1:30 PM
Return to Department HQ
As of 11/07/14 – subject to change
* Please note the time change from last copy distributed – these are updated times
Click Here for a printable version]]>
Raymond Guntrum Jr. received “It’s A Good Thing You Do Award” from District #27 Commander Ted Minich. Ray has placed flags on the streets of New Bethlehem for over twenty years. Assisting is Clarion County Commander Paul Lieberum.
The award in normally given at the Pennsylvania American Legion Department Convention but Guntrum was unable to attend. Congratulations Ray!]]>
Featured in The American Legion Magazine
Connor Stotts describes his first swimming experience as “frightening.” He was a 10-year-old taking beginner swim lessons with a group of 5- and 6-year-olds.
In time, his skills and confidence in the water increased, and he became a junior lifeguard. Though he never expected to save someone’s life, he knew he could.
That day came July 30, 2011, when the 17-year-old Stotts and his friends were enjoying a typical summer day in Oceanside, Calif. The teens relaxed at a mall then headed to a church barbecue for free food. That evening, on another whim, he decided to get baptized in the ocean.
Afterward, Stotts and five friends went for a swim, and their carefree day turned deadly serious when a riptide pulled them out to sea.
Instinct took over for Stotts, an Eagle Scout. He quickly assessed the situation, recognizing their immediate danger. He urged his friends to wave their arms and yell to parishioners on the beach. Their frantic pleas for help were returned with smiles and waves. (The group thought the teens were just having fun, they later learned.)
Realizing that help was not coming, Stotts swiftly swam to Belle Ainu’u, grabbing her by the hand and pulling her to safety. Then he went after the others.
Stotts swam to Christian Osuna, his best friend and former high school wrestling teammate, who was “the hardest one to save.” He grabbed Osuna’s hand and tried to get a toehold in the sand. But the current was too strong, dragging away his foot once, twice and then again. Finally, on the fifth try, Stotts secured himself in the sand and used his leverage to pull Osuna from the riptide.
“(Christian’s) a proud dude,” he says. “When he asked for my help, it was a scary moment. The seriousness of it hit me. He wouldn’t ask for help otherwise. Trying to pull him back in, I swallowed a lot of seawater and experienced that sensation like I was drowning.”
By this time, two other teens had made it back to safety on their own. But there was no time for Stotts to rest. Bella’s sister, Karen, was caught in the riptide and losing consciousness.
Stotts swam to Karen, put her on his back and held her arms around his neck so she wouldn’t slip off. This maneuver kept her afloat but forced him to swim several hundred yards to safety using only one arm. Once he could stand, he carried her back to the beach.
Back on dry land, recovering, the teens reflected on Stotts’ heroism. “That’s when it kind of hit me what happened,” he says. “I was thanking God. It was a powerful night, being baptized and going through the ordeal. I didn’t want a big deal to be made out of it. But I knew in the back of my mind something might happen.”
When Stotts returned home that night, he didn’t tell his parents what had happened. Instead, Brian Stotts – a member of American Legion Post 49 in Albuquerque – and his wife, Gizele, received a flurry of text messages thanking them and their son for his actions. The couple was proud of Connor but couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t talked about what happened at the beach.
“I’m kind of shy,” admits the young man, who’s now a sophomore in the Navy ROTC program at the University of Southern California.
American Legion Post 146 in Oceanside, Calif., was the first organization to honor Stotts, giving him its Citizenship Award. That was followed by recognition from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which chose Stotts and two others to receive its 2014 Citizen Honors awards.
Every year, hundreds of Americans are nominated for the Citizen Honors program (aka the Service Before Self Honors). A committee of Medal of Honor recipients narrows the list down to 20, and a separate group selects three nominees to receive medals. The guidelines are simple: nominees must have made a difference in the life of another through an act of extraordinary heroism or through continued commitment toward putting others first.
“What’s so powerful about it is that all of the nominees did it just out of love,” says Clint Romesha, a former Army staff sergeant who received the Medal of Honor last year for his actions at the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan in 2009. “In the military, we put on a uniform, and we know the inherent risk of danger. But when average American citizens see their countrymen, their neighbor, their friends, their family in need of help, they react. And they do it because that’s the greatest thing about being in this country: that brotherly love and independent spirit to continue to drive on.”
The other recipients of the 2014 awards were:
• Sharon Landsberry, who accepted the honor on behalf of her husband, Michael, a retired Marine who was shot and killed while trying to protect students in his school from a 12-year-old boy with a gun. Michael, a member of the Nevada Air National Guard, served two tours in Afghanistan.
• Troy Yocum, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Army veteran, who has raised more than $1.3 million for military families through Active Heroes, a Kentucky-based charity that supports veterans.
The recipients were honored this year during a Medal of Honor Day event at Arlington National Cemetery. The 30 Medal of Honor recipients in attendance applauded the civilian heroes.
“This proves why (the United States) is still the greatest country in the world,” Romesha says. “It’s a great reminder that heroic acts – uncommon valor – are not a thing of the past. They’re still alive and well and thriving.”
View the Legion’s updated collection of first-person video stories by Medal of Honor recipients: www.legion.org/medalofhonor
Nominations for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s Citizen Honors are accepted beginning Oct. 1. To nominate someone or learn more about the program, go online: www.cmohfoundation.org/citizen-honors
Objective truth, just the facts, spin or propaganda – the diversity of viewpoints about military public affairs is as wide as the spectrum of opinions about the armed forces. But for the past half century, the common training ground for those entrusted to shape opinions about the U.S. military has been the Defense Information School (DINFOS).
In 1964, then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara issued a charter to establish the joint school, where the military branches study the principles of mass communication.
In 2013, 2,227 U.S. military servicemembers, international troops and federal employees graduated from one of the school’s 30 courses, which range from basic print journalism to broadcast management and just about every related activity in the field of mass communications.
Now located at Fort Meade, Md., the school has an impressive list of alumni, including former Vice President Walter Mondale, late NBC News anchor John Chancellor, Hollywood movie adviser Dale Dye and movie critic Gene Siskel.
“The value of DINFOS as a school that’s multimedia cannot be overemphasized,” said Clarence Page upon his induction to the DINFOS Hall of Fame in 2013. A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Page attended DINFOS before serving with the Army’s 212th Artillery Group at Fort Lewis, Wash. “Though I have a journalism degree, there was so much I learned at DINFOS that I did not learn in journalism school.”
Assisting journalists covering the military is also important, says retired Marine Col. Keith Oliver, who chairs DINFOS’ Public Affairs Leadership Department. “In the military, especially, trust and integrity demand public accountability. ‘Maximum disclosure-minimum delay’ is the mantra taught at DINFOS and, except where legitimate security concerns dictate otherwise, the public affairs officer’s job is to ‘get it out there’ – fast.”
Prior to the school’s founding in 1964, each military branch relied on a variety of schools and individual training to communicate with the public and its internal audiences. Originally located at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., the school relocated to Fort Meade in 1995 and later consolidated the Defense Photography School at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and the Defense Visual Information School at Lowry Air Force Base, Colo., under its umbrella. DINFOS itself is a component of the Defense Media Activity (DMA).
While it will never be confused with SEAL training, students are aware of the power of the press and affectionately refer to those who graduate from the intensive courses as “DINFOS-trained killers.” In addition to meeting the school’s academic challenges, they’re expected to meet the military standards set forth by their respective service branches.
“What we do here is important,” says Army Col. Jeremy Martin, DINFOS’ commandant. “The public affairs and visual information practitioners who study at Defense Information School go all over the world, in war and peace, to bring no little measure of accountability and transparency to the American people. They expect no less, nor should they. Our motto, ‘Strength through Truth,’ says it all. If our nation is to send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way, the very least we can do is provide an accurate accounting of their extremely serious and dangerous work, whether those missions are reported by the civilian news media we assist, or with our own cameras, laptops, pens and radio equipment.”
DINFOS’ instruction covers far more than how to publish a compelling article or produce a segment for the Pentagon Channel.
“Classroom teaching is our forte, and we have great success in the online world too, but we also teach by demonstration,” Martin says. “When one of our departments, for example, conducts a graduation ceremony, we are still teaching. We show students how to stage a proper ceremony – to include details like proper lighting, an attractive and accurate printed program, water for the guest speaker.”
While an accredited journalism school usually requires four years of college instruction, DINFOS trains combat correspondents in just 12 weeks. That includes basic writing or broadcast training, with supplementary photography, editing and electronic-journalism coursework.
The American Legion National Headquarters currently employs at least six DINFOS graduates, including Peter Gaytan, executive director of its Washington office.
“My DINFOS training has proven invaluable to my work in D.C.,” Gaytan says. “The education I received in media and public relations helps me better serve The American Legion when delivering our message to Congress, the administration and national news outlets.”
Lee Harris, who served as the Legion’s national deputy director of public relations, spent eight years as a DINFOS instructor during his Air Force career.
“Time was tight,” he says. “Three weeks is not a long time to teach radio or television skills. The vast majority of (my) students more than 40 years ago headed overseas to provide news and entertainment to those who needed to hear a bit of home.”
From training personnel to act as media representatives to molding journalists, photographers, broadcasters and radio announcers to publicize military news, the mission of DINFOS is much the same as it was 50 years ago: fulfilling the communication needs of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Oliver, who examines the DINFOS model in his book “Command Attention: Promoting Your Organization the Marine Corps Way,” credits the school with refining servicemembers’ professionalism and communication skills. “DINFOS equips the young specialists well to be able to work alongside and assist their civilian counterparts. Initial training – followed by assignments aboard our ships, posts and stations – renders hands-on appreciation for deadlines, photo angles and other aspects of print and broadcast journalism,” he says. “Such value to civilian journalists who find themselves covering American forces is really a byproduct, since military men and women assigned to what academia calls the ‘communication arts’ are storytellers in their own right.”
Though it’s been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, DINFOS ensures that the U.S. military has people equipped to handle both.
John Raughter, media manager for the national commander of The American Legion, is a 1984 DINFOS graduate.
We received several good reports that could not be considered. If a report is not properly filled out and signed by a post officer, it will not be considered. The committee does not have the time to add up the volunteer hours or funds, or try to find out who filled out the report.
The reports are divided into the five membership categories. One winner is picked from each category. By reviewing some of the unique things the winning post did, we hope to give each post some new ideas. You may want to start these programs in your post.
In class one, Post 385, sponsored the Henry Hill Post 385, Youth Basketball League. There are 125 youth involved in the league. Members spend over 400 hours running the league, keeping children on the basketball court, and off of the streets. They also conduct a project called “Staying on the Ride Side of the Law”. This involves taking Youth to the Criminal Justice Center where the youth experience what really happens to bad youth.
In class two, Post 816, raised over $23,000 to help two children with rare cancers that needed life-saving surgeries. They sponsored a motorcycle ride, a silent auction and a spaghetti dinner.
Class three found Post 626 sponsoring a golf tournament to raise funds for the local homeless veterans. They also sponsored three Eagle Scout projects by holding a flag retirement ceremony and spreading the ashes near the veterans graves buried at the Birdsboro Cemetery.
In class four, Post 340 pays the monthly rent to keep the local senior center open and they deliver Meals on Wheels to the center each week. One Saturday, they provide a Community Breakfast for free at the post. The breakfast is free to everyone regardless of membership status.
In class five, Post 105 has a very unique program called Police Appreciation Night. They invite the local police officers and their families to a night of dinner, cocktails and dancing to show their appreciation for the local police. They also have a program called Adopt a School. The program entails adopting an inner city school. They held a coloring contest, gave matching funds to buy tablets for the school, held a school grounds clean-up project and a Veterans Day program. They also planted a Veterans Memorial Garden at twelve area cemeteries.
These are but a few of the ideas that other posts may want to consider for their own post. I know there are many other posts out there that have unique programs. The problem is we don’t know about you because your post did not report your activities. We are asking that the post commanders and post adjutants make a commitment to send in reports this year so we can see some of your unique programs.
William H. Bowers
Community Service Chairman