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Legion News

New Hampshire to kick off centennial at NASCAR event

The American Legion Department of New Hampshire will kick off its centennial celebration the weekend of July 20-22, during NASCAR events at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

A New Hampshire Legion color guard will kick the weekend’s racing off on July 20. The track will honor and recognize the Legion with interviews and announcements throughout the weekend; reserve a section of the stands for Legionnaires during the July 22 Monster Energy Cup Series race; and offer discounted tickets for Legionnaires and guests.

Learn more at www.legionnh.org. Or for ticket information, click here and enter promo code NHlegion18.

 

Legion to host small business conference for women veterans, spouses

The American Legion is collaborating with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), Syracuse University, Foresight CFO and the U.S. Small Business Administration to host a one-day course for aspiring women veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. The Women-Owned Small Business Conference will be held in conjunction with the 100th National Convention of The American Legion.

The course is designed specifically for women veterans and spouses. Attendees will receive an introduction to entrepreneurship and skills training, as well as information on support programs that aid businesses in navigating private and federal government entrepreneurship resources. Sessions will assist with conceptualization, financial planning, funding, branding and effective networking.

Despite owning less than 10 percent of veteran-owned small businesses, women veterans are outpacing their male counterparts in starting new businesses. Women veteran startups have seen an increase of nearly 300 percent since 2007, according to IVMF.

“We provide these aspiring entrepreneurs tools, resources and connection to launch their business or think more entrepreneurially within their companies and that’s why we’re partnering with The American Legion to put together this one-day conference,” said Misty Stutsman, director of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at IVMF.

The Women-Owned Small Business Conference will be held Friday, Aug. 24, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Symphony Ballroom II and III, Second Floor, at the Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Avenue South, Minneapolis. Women veterans and spouses interested in attending the free Women-Owned Small Business Conference can register here.

Texas celebrates centennial with monument dedication

The American Legion Department of Texas dedicated a monument, a century in the making, in the heart of downtown San Antonio on Saturday.

“It gives us a legacy landmark in the city of San Antonio, which is Military City USA,” said Al Alford, the 20th district commander who has overseen the project. “We now have national, statewide and local recognition of The American Legion, the principles of The American Legion. This is a significant day for us and we are very proud.”

The department funded the monument, which was unveiled during a ceremony outside the Cadena Reeves Justice Center on Dolorosa Street. Around 200 American Legion Family members, dignitaries, military supporters and others attended the ceremony.

The monument contains not only the shields of the service branches but the four pillars of The American Legion. Inside the 10-foot tall by 8-foot wide monument, a 50-year time capsule contains memorabilia from more than 100 posts from across Texas. Two plaques atop the monument were originally markers for the old American Legion Highway in Texas.

“We took those plaques out of storage, got them refurbished and straightened out,” Alford said. “The look is fantastic for our monument.”

As it did 100 years ago, the Legion held its department convention last week in San Antonio, which happens to be celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. On Friday, Mayor Ronald Nirenberg proclaimed July 13-16 as American Legion Department of Texas Days.

District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, a 21-year Air Force veteran, represented the mayor during Saturday’s unveiling.

“Continuing your service through The American Legion is really important,” Perry told the Legion Family members, encouraging them to pay particular attention to the Children & Youth pillar.

“That’s what we really need to count on. And let them know what it takes to be a person in service to the United States. But you don’t have to be in the military; service is giving back and helping others. That’s where it’s key for your organization in getting out to the schools, give them talks that opens their eyes to what you have done and what our predecessors have done in protecting and serving this nation.”

On Friday, Texas Gov. Gregory Abbott, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Nirenberg and others spoke at the department convention, congratulating Legionnaires on a century of service.

Department Commander John Hince focused his keynote address on the founders who set out to build a hospital for veterans returning from World War I with the signature wounds of that conflict.

“Our founders gathered here 100 years ago,” Hince said. “They set out to do something. We wonder in their vision, did they picture this happening 100 years later? Did they envision all the veterans hospitals and clinics spread out over Texas? Our organization has changed with the times. It’s changed with our membership as we welcome new generations to our ranks and as we support the four pillars.”

Hince hopes that veterans and civilians who walk past the monument will see more than just the design.

“When I look at it, every branch of the military is represented,” he said. “I see the four pillars. I see the emblem of The American Legion, which is the organization I have chosen to serve, as have our comrades out here. If passersby would walk by and just think that veterans have done a lot for our country, maybe that’s enough.”

He sees the monument’s time capsule as a way to communicate the Legion’s mission to future generations.

“We want those who follow us to have the same knowledge as we did to try and advance our organization,” Hince said. “We want to put it into the minds of our Legionnaires that it’s not just about what we do today. There is a legacy here. It has to be kept strong.”

Legion post back from the brink

Things had gotten so bad in spring of 2017 for Raymond Cleaves American Legion Post 861, located in Mattituck, N.Y., on Long Island, that Post Adjutant Art Tillman was afraid the post was going to shut down – just three years shy of its 100th anniversary.

“We had three meetings at the post … we never got more than four (members to show up),” Tillman said. “It was very bleak.”

The suggestion came about that since the post did have some cash reserves, maybe a free community meal would get the ball rolling on a revitalization effort. And it was just the spark the post needed.

The meal, along with a concentrated community outreach effort that includes both local traditional and social media, has helped Post 861 stave off extinction and head toward continued growth. The post has grown to nearly 30 members, sponsored two students to New York Boys State, provides a local high school scholarship, hosts a Vietnam veterans appreciation event and has stayed active in its community.

Tillman said he was brutally honest when prepping for the dinner. “I said that if we don’t get enough people to show up, the post is going to disband. Period. End of story. No doubts about it,” he said. “And people came out of the woodwork.”

The post took to a major outreach effort that started with better communication and involves the post’s sergeant-at-arms, Ed Thompson, and Post Public Affairs Officer Lisa A. Dabrowski, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary. Thompson handles electronic media, while Dabrowski – who works for radio station WLNG, owns her own production company and is the granddaughter of a World War I U.S. Army veteran – uses her media contacts to publicize what the post is doing and helps organize events such as a bowling night and USO-type events.

And Tillman still regularly uses traditional media such as area newspapers to get the word out.

““We got fortunate in that we’ve got Art, who can write,” Post 861 Commander John Ribeiro said. “(Thompson) is a tech guy, so now we’ve got the website (and) we’ve got Facebook. And we recruited Lisa because she’s in media. Basically, we’ve got old-school (communications) and new-school (communications). And the idea is to use those to attract new members. We’re having some luck with that.”

Thompson had been a member of the post at one time but had let his membership lapse when he became active in other areas of the community. But when he saw the notice from Tillman about the dinner and possible closure of the post, “I got sentimental. Here the post was almost 100 years old and it was going to close. So I came down, I signed up and I’ve become active.”

Thompson told the post membership that both a website and Facebook were necessary. “I can put information up there, and I can say ‘go to the website’ or ‘go to the Facebook page,’” he said. “And we get 60-70 hits on different things we’re putting out (on Facebook). You have to get the word out on things you’re doing.”

Dabrowski said she became involved with the post because “veterans have always been important to me my whole life because of my grandfather. I’ve always had a strong patriotism. I just wanted to help out and do my part.”

“One of the key elements is getting the perception changed,” Post 861 Vice Commander Ron Breuer said. “Lisa does a lot of outreach for us – a LOT of it. She really gets the word out.”

In addition to traditional American Legion programs, such as Boys State and scholarships, the post is trying out non-traditional activities.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is work outside of the box,” Ribeiro said. “We’re going to do a War Movie Wednesday (at the post). We’ll show a movie, and afterward we’ll have a discussion about both the movie, we’ll have popcorn and soda, and we’ll charge admission.”

Breuer also has started using mylegion.org, a web-based tool that provides membership information, reports and electronic membership tools such as data change forms for department and post leadership.

“I think that will be a great tool,” Breuer said. “You can access all your members … and see members who have joined but aren’t attending (meetings). It looks like a powerful tool, and we’ve shared that with everybody (in the post).”

Tillman said while things have turned around at the post, work remains. “It’s still a rough road,” he said. “We can have meetings where enough people don’t show up. But we can have meetings where maybe 20 people will show up. We’re better, and we’re going to keep trying to get better.”

More than just a visit to a fellow veteran

Curt Harper, the director of Francis Scott Key Post 11’s American Legion Riders Chapter in Frederick, Md., had a grandfather who lived in an assisted living home in Florida – and didn’t get a lot of visitors late in life.

That memory is one of the reasons Harper feels so strongly about he and his fellow Legion Riders visiting the post’s World War II veterans in person to make sure they know their membership dues are covered.

“A lot of these guys may be in nursing homes or living at home by themselves,” Harper said. “You don’t know how often they have family visiting them. I felt it was important that we at least went to let them know that we are thinking of them. We thought it would bring a big smile on their face.”

Harper said the idea started in the form of the motion made during a post meeting that the post would start covering the costs of the membership of all the World War II veterans in Post 11.

“I just came up with the idea after that that it would be a great thing if the Riders actually went out and started hand delivering these personally,” Harper said. “Most of them are in their 90s. Some of them do pop (into the post) from time to time, but most of them you don’t see. They did receive a letter a few months ago saying that their membership was going to be paid for, but they had no idea we were going to be coming out to personally deliver these.”

Harper and a dozen or so other Chapter 11 Riders recently delivered membership cards to World War II veterans in the area, getting media coverage in the process. Every time they make their visits, Harper said the veterans are overwhelmed.

“It’s been a huge success,” Harper said. “Every house we went to, every member was just ecstatic. They were just shocked and thanked us and told us it just made their day that we went out and did something like this.”

The visits give the World War II veterans an audience for their stories. “A lot of these guys, because they’re alone, they want to talk and want to tell stories,” Hunter said. “They don’t get the opportunity to do that very often. And we have some (Legion Riders) who haven’t been in the military before, so for them to hear those stories is something. And for us that are veterans, who may have shared some similar experiences, it was important for us to hear those stories, too.”

Hunter said the Riders make the perfect messengers for these visits. “For us as Riders, we’re always trying to help out with the community in the Frederick area,” he said. “I’m always trying to invite people to come up with ideas about what we can do. This is just one of those (ideas) that just came to the top of my head.

“I know I would feel proud if someone came to my door if I was in their situation. I would feel blessed and honored that someone even thought about me.”

The American Legion launches ‘We Believe’ public service campaign

The American Legion is kicking off a new public service campaign in conjunction with the organization’s 100th anniversary, aimed at highlighting the Legion’s values of patriotism, a strong national security, support for all veterans and a strong desire to turn today’s youth into tomorrow’s leaders.

The We Believe public service announcements (PSAs) use historic and current imagery to highlight Legionnaires in action and show the impact of hundreds of American Legion programs and activities that strengthen the nation.

“Members of The American Legion have a strong desire to continue to serve their country and community,” said Denise H. Rohan, national commander of The American Legion. “A lot has changed in 100 years, but our mission and values remain the same. We believe our work makes a difference and we want to invite the public to join us.”

Legionnaires and local posts can be found in nearly every community in America providing veterans and their families with a variety of programs and services including benefits claims support, career and education assistance, and temporary and emergency financial aid. The American Legion provides youth with programs that support learning, as well as educates them about citizenship and teamwork. The American Legion is also a voice for veterans at the local, state and federal levels to ensure the issues that are most important to them are a top priority to our government leaders.

“The American Legion has been instrumental in the creation of a number of major institutions of American society,” Rohan said. “We are responsible for such things as the formation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, creation of the U.S. Flag Code, and passage of the GI Bill; all things that continue to have a positive effect on society.”

To see the We Believe PSAs, learn more about The American Legion, find a local post, or support their efforts, visit www.legion.org/webelieve.

Training for incoming district commanders offered during convention

Every year, more than 750 Legionnaires across the nation are elected to serve as a district commander. Among the many duties of a district commander, they are the liaisons between posts and departments, responsible for relaying information through both levels. This ongoing communication ensures that The American Legion operates as a national entity.

The American Legion's Membership Division is hosting a training course for 2018-2019 incoming district commanders during the 100th National Convention in Minneapolis.

The Incoming District Commanders Training is Monday, Aug. 27, at 9 a.m. in the Marquette IV - VII, Second Floor, at the Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Avenue South.

Topics will include post analysis, district revitalization, MyLegion.org overview, centennial celebration, and the strategic plan for membership growth at the district and post levels. Leading candidate for 2018-2019 American Legion national commander Brett P. Reistad of Virginia will provide remarks.

Legion report calls for action to reduce veteran suicide

The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission has released a new white-paper report that calls for congressional action “to improve VA’s tedious hiring process and increase VA’s recruitment, retention and relocation budget” in order to properly staff facilities with mental health care providers to address a veteran suicide rate that remains higher than that of the general population.

Veteran Suicide: A White Paper Report” also urges changes in VA procedure when benzodiazepines are prescribed for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The American Legion remains deeply concerned by the high suicide rate among servicemembers and veterans and is committed to finding a way to help end this public health crisis,” the report states. “The American Legion established a Suicide Prevention Program in in 2017 and… is currently reviewing methods, programs and strategies that can be used to reduce veteran suicide.”

In June, VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention released a report analyzing suicide data from 2005 to 2015. Among the findings were that the number of veterans who commit suicide daily in the United States remains about 20 and that suicides are increasing fastest among those who do not use VA services.

The American Legion report concurs that VA services are essential to address what the white-paper report defines as a “public health crisis.” But those services must be expanded to include non-prescription treatment for PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the effects of military sexual trauma, and VA must remove hiring barriers that drive off candidates for jobs in VA and DoD mental health.

The report highlights the over-prescription of benzodiazepines, a class of psycho-active drugs that can have an immediate effect on anxiety, insomnia and agitation but has been known since the late 1980s to cause negative side-effects including dependency and suicidality. The report references a study that found 43 percent of servicemembers who attempted suicide between 2008 and 2010 had taken psychotropic drugs.

“The link between certain dangerous prescription medications and veteran suicide should be recognized, and steps should be taken to reduce unnecessary prescriptions,” the Legion white-paper report states.

The report suggests that lack of access or acceptance of alternative treatments “may cause an increase in patient-care program dropouts and a rise in prescription drug use.” The report also commends VA for establishing its integrative health and wellness pilot program, which offers non-prescription therapeutic activities for patients in some areas, and calls for expansion of the program. “Many veterans have reported great success with veteran-centric treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, martial arts and other forms of complementary and alternative therapies,” the report states.

To view the report, visit here.

USAA Tips: Correcting myths about credit scores

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Mikel Van Cleve

Strategizing with USAA members on tactics to improve their credit, I hear a lot of commonly held beliefs. Some carry bits of truth, and others are just flat-out wrong. The confusion around credit scores is understandable. From the number of credit scores we have to contend with to their impact on life’s biggest purchases, our number can sometimes feel beyond our control.

The good news is, we can control our credit scores, and there are actionable steps you can take to improve yours. For part two of this credit-score series, I’ll share seven of the most common misconceptions — and set the record straight.

Myth 1: A higher credit score just means you have more debt.

Fact: Credit scoring models take into account the different types of credit you have, from credit cards and auto loans to your mortgage. However, these models do not reward owing more money. In fact, the second largest factor in the FICO® credit scoring model is the amount you owe. The less you owe, the better.

Myth 2: Checking my own credit will hurt my credit score.

Fact: Checking your own credit creates an inquiry on your credit report, but not all inquiries impact your credit score. There are two types of inquiries: “hard” inquiries related to a credit application and “soft” inquiries from looking at your own credit report. Hard inquiries influence your score, and soft inquiries do not. You should review your credit report at least annually to ensure accuracy and to check for signs of fraudulent activity.

Myth 3: Married couples have a joint credit score.

Fact: There’s no such thing as a joint credit report or score; you will continue to maintain separate credit information. However, if you open any joint credit accounts, they will appear on both of your credit reports. This is where your spouse’s credit history can impact you. Let’s say you and your spouse decide to apply for a home loan together. If one of you has bad credit, it could impact your qualification/interest rate, as the lender may not look to the highest credit score between spouses when making the determination.

Myth 4: Closing a credit account will improve my credit score.

Fact: Closing an account does not immediately remove it from your credit report, and could have the opposite effect. Negative history can remain up to seven years, and positive history remains for 10 years. One of the biggest factors impacting your credit score is the amount of credit you have available versus the amount of debt you owe (known as your utilization). If you close a credit account, you lose the available credit limit on that account, which increases your utilization and thus could lower your credit score. If you plan to apply for new credit in the next three to six months, you may want to wait before closing an account.

Myth 5: Credit scores take into account income and demographics.

Fact: While lenders may consider your income in relation to the amount of debt you owe, income is not included in your credit report and has no impact on your credit score. Neither does demographic information such as race, origin, religion, profession, disabilities, sexual orientation, military status, etc.

Myth 6: Employers can check your credit score before offering you a job.

Fact: Some employers may check your credit history as part of the hiring process; however, they do not have access to your credit score. Common examples of employers who may check credit history include those in the financial services industry or the military. Why do they check? According to them, it’s helpful to know how responsible and financially stable you are.

Myth 7: I can improve my credit score by carrying a balance on my credit card.

Fact: This may be the most common misconception. While you do need to demonstrate that you can properly use credit cards — which means actually using them — you do not need to carry a balance from month-to-month, all the while paying unnecessary interest to the card issuer. I have always, since day one of having a credit card, paid off my balance in full every month. When your billing cycle ends for the month, any outstanding balance is reported to the credit bureaus, which shows usage. Paying off that balance in full and on-time will not only save you money, it will also be reflected in the two biggest factors of your credit report, which are payment history and the amount you owe.

Commander Rohan appears on Connecting Vets

American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan was a special guest on Connecting Vets on July 11. It was her second appearance on the program.

Rohan discussed her time to date as the leader of The American Legion; her theme of "Family First;" and upcoming events such American Legion Boys Nation and Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington, D.C., Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo., American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., the Legacy Run, and the 100th National Convention in Minneapolis; and more.

Listen to her interview here.

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