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Legion News

Legion Riders get CBS Radio airtime

American Legion Riders Advisory Committee Chairman and Legacy Run Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan was a guest on CBS Radio’s Connecting Vets program on Oct. 18. Sussan, a member of Post `177 in Fairfax, Va., talked with host Eric Dehm about The American Legion, the Legion Riders and the success of The American Legion Legacy Run.

To listen to the entire 18-minute segment, click here.

November brings job fair options for veterans, military spouses

Here’s a look at November’s career fairs for veterans, servicemembers and military spouses:

Nov. 3: Third annual Mohegan Sun VETS ROCK Veterans Day Event and Hiring Fair. 10-11:30 a.m., personal branding workshop; 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., hiring fair. The first 250 pre-registered participants who attend the fair and other Hiring Our Heroes guests are eligible to receive up to two free tickets to attend that evening’s VETS ROCK! concert. Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn.

Nov. 7: Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Hiring Fair. 8:30-10 a.m., personal branding workshop; 9-10 a.m., employer brunch and learn; 10 a.m.-1 p.m., hiring fair. The Bolling Club, Theisen St., Bldg. 50, Washington, D.C.

Nov. 7: Atlanta Hiring Expo with the Atlanta Falcons. 10:30-11:15 a.m., LinkedIn for Veterans workshop; 11:20-11:50 a.m., personal branding workshop; 11:45 a.m.-12:40 p.m., mock interviews, resume and LinkedIn profile review; 11 a.m.-2 p.m., hiring fair; 4-6 p.m., stadium tour. All veterans, servicemembers and military spouse attendees are invited for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 1 AMB Drive NW, Atlanta.

Nov. 9: Peterson Air Force Base Military Spouse Career Event. 9-9:45 a.m., personal branding workshop; 10 a.m.-1 p.m., hiring fair. The Club at Peterson, 260 Glasgow Bldg. 1013, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Nov. 14: Patuxent River Job Fair. 3-7 p.m., Bay District Vol. Fire Dept. Social Hall, 46900 S. Shangri-La Drive, Lexington Park, Md.

Nov. 16: Joint Base Andrews Job Fair. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., The Club at Andrews, 1889 Arnold Ave., Joint Base Andrews, Md.

Nov. 21: Qualified Cybersecurity Hiring Event. 3-7 p.m., Security University, 510 Spring St., Herndon, Va.

Nov. 29: New Orleans Hiring Fair. 8:30-10 a.m., personal branding workshop; 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., hiring fair. Belle Chasse Civic Center, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, La.

Follow the links for full details and keep tabs on other upcoming career fairs at www.legion.org/careers/jobfairs.

More to honor

An Oregon Legionnaire has taken to heart the Legion’s call to gather information on memorials, and has expanded it to include those they honor.

Steve Adams, commander of both Post 10 in Albany and District 3, heard discussion at the 2016 department convention about The American Legion’s new database and the need to document World War I memorials across the country. That put him in mind of something his father, a longtime Legionnaire, had told him as a child. “He said to never forget World War I veterans,” Adams says, “as they were the founders of The American Legion and fought for benefits for themselves and future veterans … I promised him I would never forget.”

With that, Adams determined to go beyond memorials, and document all World War I veterans’ graves in his area. While hunting those, he found the graves of Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans. Eventually, with the encouragement of Post 10 members, he expanded his search to include the graves of all veterans. And his fellow Legion Family members are helping in the search, as well as people in the community.

His county has no comprehensive list of veterans’ gravesites, so much of this territory is being charted for the first time. Over 100 sites from World War I alone, including several charter members of Post 10, have been located. The plan is for the Legion and other veterans groups to decorate the graves for holidays and have the information available to others.

Adams has challenged other districts and posts in Oregon to follow his lead, and several are. He says what he personally gets from the project is “the satisfaction that I am doing what I can to honor a promise I made to my father. What keeps me going is to see this project to its end, and that is when all veterans’ graves in my area have been identified.”

2017 Fall Meetings resolutions available

During the Fall Meetings in Indianapolis in October, the American Legion National Executive Committee passed a total of 20 resolutions, including Resolution 1, the Reaffirmation for a Strong America. These resolutions are now available to view in the Legion’s Digital Archive; see the full collection here.

Legion commends VA’s draft proposal of CARE Act

In an effort to improve veterans’ experiences with and access to health care, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on Oct. 16 that it has released the draft proposal of its Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences (CARE) Act to Congress.

According to the VA news release, the bill aims to clarify and simplify eligibility requirements, set the framework for VA to continue to build a high-performing network, streamline clinical and administrative processes, implement new care coordination support for veterans, and merge and modernize community care programs.

“The American Legion applauds the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs for his efforts to improve health care for veterans by streamlining out-of-system community treatment options while strengthening care at VA facilities nationwide,” said National Commander Denise Rohan.

The CARE Act would replace the current 30-day/40-mile system, under the Choice Program, with patient/provider-centric decision making. The new criteria would

• Place veterans and their physicians at the center of the decision process on how and where to get the best care available;

• Ensure VA is improving medical facilities and staffing levels to meet veterans’ needs in areas where VA care is substandard; and

• Offer options for veterans to use a network of walk-in clinics for minor illnesses and injuries.

“The Choice program, implemented in the wake of the 2014 wait-time scandal, was never intended to be a permanent program,” said Rohan. “For many months, The American Legion has advised the VA on ways to provide better, more timely care to veterans based on the feedback of our 2 million members around the world.”

In addition, the bill includes proposals for new workforce tools to assist maintaining and strengthening VA’s world-class medical staff, a number of business process enhancements to improve financial management of the Community Care Program, and provisions that would strengthen VA’s ability to partner with other federal agencies and streamline VA’s real property management authorities.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said the administration wants veterans to work with their physicians to make informed decisions that are best for their clinical needs, whether in the VA or in the community.

“This bill does just that, while strengthening VA services at the same time,” he said.

When it comes to delivering improved health-care options and outcomes for veterans nationwide, Rohan said the Legion looks forward to working with Shulkin and his team to make the VA more efficient, transparent and effective.

“Medicine and the delivery of medical services in America is evolving, and we expect the VA to evolve as well,” said Louis Celli, director of the Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division. “Delivering 21st century health care to American veterans needs to be our No. 1 priority, and this CARE plan starts to take steps in that direction. The American Legion will continue to work with the department and lawmakers to ensure VA remains at the heart of veterans’ care as it evolves to meet those demands.”

Department of Alaska sponsors Honor Flight homecoming

On Oct. 14, The American Legion Department of Alaska sponsored an Honor Flight homecoming ceremony at Fairbanks International Airport.

The attendees returning from visiting war memorials in Washington, D.C., were World War II veteran Urban Rahoi and Vietnam War veteran Walter Gelines. The two were presented with quilts. Many Legion Family members were in attendance, including past department commander Steven Huisman.

Lisa Williamson, who posted photos of the ceremony on her Facebook page, commented, “Each time we welcome the return of our Interior Alaska veterans after their trip on an Honor Flight, the crowd and enthusiasm grows. If you've never had the opportunity to see these heroes return from this awesome trip, you're missing out.”

A flying tribute to World War I

Anyone with a flagpole – or a plot of grass – can commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I, and help get a national monument to the conflict built at the same time.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission is coordinating events and activities commemorating the U.S. centennial of The Great War, including building a permanent memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C. One method of raising funds is selling commemorative merchandise. The website shop.worldwar1centennial.org displays everything from poppy kits, to clothing and accessories, to signage and coins, as well as centennial flags in two sizes.

A 3X5 nylon flag with grommets sells for $49.95; one of these flags has flown outside The American Legion National Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. A 8X12 nylon flag with wooden dowel sells for $7.95; posts or departments looking for the graves of founding commanders and other officials can make the display of these smaller flags part of the ceremony.

Shipping is separate. A portion of the proceeds from merchandise sales will go toward the Pershing Park project. A certificate of authenticity as official merchandise of the United States World War One Centennial is included.

Glamorous Glennis at 70

It looked like nothing that had come before it. To compare it to the planes of World War II – with their propellers and sharp angles and guidewires and snub-nosed fuselages – is like comparing two entirely different species. Sleek, smooth and contoured, this thing looked like the future – and that’s exactly what the X-1 was. Seventy years ago this week, it rocketed through the sound barrier and into the history books, opening the way for America to reach beyond the earth.

Even today, in the age of the B-2 and F-22, the X-1 looks futuristic. The imagery of it breaking loose from the bomb bay of a B-29 and then screaming away makes the X-1 seem more like a missile – or better said, a bullet – than a plane.

Whatever you call it – jet-plane, rocket, missile, bullet or all of the above – we can trace a line from that moment 70 Octobers ago, when the X-1 streaked across the Mojave Desert sky, to the X-15 rocket-plane, to Mercury and Gemini, to Apollo and the moon and the Space Shuttle, to the otherworldly SR-71 and the hypersonic scramjets that will shape tomorrow.

Nerveless

The man who flew the X-1 into the history books was – and still is – as unique as the plane he piloted. Born in the tiny West Virginia town of Myra, Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager has lived an amazing – and quintessentially American – life.

Three months before Pearl Harbor, Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps not as a high-flying daredevil pilot, but as a mechanic. He found his way from engines into the cockpit and earned his wings in 1943. (Asked years later about the costs of learning to fly, he wryly responded, “Uncle Sam will pay to teach you.”)

Yeager was more than a natural; he was a phenom. “Chuck became the yardstick by which we could measure the rest,” a member of Yeager’s P-39 squadron later recalled. “Yeager could fly. Right from the start.”

His squadron mates weren’t the only ones who took notice. None other than Jimmy Doolittle promoted Yeager to second lieutenant, and then to captain during World War II.

Yeager shot down 13 German planes during the war, including two German ME-262 jet-powered fighters – no small feat given that he was flying a propeller-driven plane. Yeager himself was shot down over France, and later rescued by the French Resistance.

In addition to World War II, Yeager flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam , including “414 hours of combat time over Vietnam in 127 missions,” as one of his many chroniclers has written.

He flew more than 360 different military planes over the years (including a captured Russian MiG during the Korean War), and deployed to Europe (during World War II), Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan and West Germany (during the Cold War). He trained Gemini, Mercury and Apollo astronauts and served as the first commandant of the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He also rose to the rank of brigadier general, drove the pace car in the Indianapolis 500 and played a cameo role in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff”. “Besides playing Fred in ‘The Right Stuff’,” Yeager revealed in 2013, “I flew many of the planes for the movie.”

This was only appropriate given that the movie – and the book on which it was based – were partly about him. Indeed, Yeager is best known for what he did on Oct. 14, 1947, when he piloted his bright-orange “Glamorous Glennis” X-1 – named after his now-deceased first wife – beyond the sound barrier. He hit Mach 1.06 and reached 43,000 feet (more than eight miles high), making Yeager the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight. Yeager later eclipsed Mach 2 in an X-1A. Yeager and his supersonic flights are a thread that runs through “The Right Stuff."

However, the world wouldn’t know what Yeager had accomplished for a while. As a NASA history explains, “Air Force officials designated the flight and all data as Top Secret ... Not until December 1947 would word leak of the achievement, and it was not until March 1948 that the U.S. Air Force officially confirmed the achievement.”

Yeager, the mechanic-turned-pilot-turned-rocketman, had a unique mix of gut-level fearlessness (chasing the sound barrier was a dangerous and deadly business), raw talent, technical insight, and the ability to explain to technicians and engineers how a plane felt and reacted. But don’t take my word for it.

“We had several other outstanding pilots to choose from, but none of them could quite match his skill in a cockpit or his coolness under pressure,” Maj. Gen. Albert Boyd said after Yeager was selected to pilot the X-1.

Dick Frost, a flight test engineer on the X-1 program, called Yeager “completely nerveless.”

“Yeager flies an airplane as if he is welded to it – as if he is an integral part of it,” Maj. Gen. Fred Ascani said.

“Chuck Yeager doesn’t just fly an airplane – any airplane – better than anyone else ... Chuck Yeager communicates with the airplane, and then he is able to relate his conversation and priceless information – much of it absolutely unobtainable with even the most advanced and sophisticated instrumentation – to the engineers and other pilots,” adds Maj. Gen. Joe Engle, who served as an Air Force test pilot, NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander.

As Yeager matter-of-factly explained in 1988, “I see things that few people do.”

Great

What do Yeager and his now-antique airplane have to do with the here and now? More than we might notice at first glance.

First, the X-1 reminds us that developing the tools to defend America’s interests and way of life takes time and costs money. (And make no mistake, mastering supersonic flight was very much about defending America.) The X-1 program “lasted from 1946 to 1958, developed seven airframes (and) flew 236 test flights,” as Edie Williams and Alan Shaffer explain in a recent issue of Joint Force Quarterly. After the X-1 pushed the envelope of speed further than ever before, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (forerunner to NASA) approved a budget of $40 million for the X-15 program, “an enormous budget for a project in the early 1950s,” as Robert White and Jack Summers explained in their book “Higher and Faster: Memoir of a Pioneering Air Force Test Pilot.”

Second, with some saying the American dream is a myth, Yeager’s only-in-America story is a reminder that America is a place where a mechanic with a high-school education can become a general, where the right mix of hard work and God-given talent can change the world, where free people can pursue what they define as happiness – and soar.

Third, 21st-century America must not rest on its laurels or be content with the status quo. Fixated on their laptops, iPhones and tablets, too many Americans have literally lowered their sights, narrowed their focus and shifted their gaze from the heavens to their handhelds.

The story of what the X-1, its designers and its most-famous pilot accomplished in 1947 serves as a reminder that great achievements require great effort, great collaboration, sometimes even great risk and great sacrifice. The men and women of the X-1 program worked hard, worked together, dreamed big and took risks – and America was better for it.

Helping kids make the right choices

For two years, American Legion Post 159 in St. Clairsville, Ohio, has provided financial support to the Belmont County Schools Staying Clean Club, a program designed to help students in all of the county’s schools stay drug-free.

Providing that support, including a recent donation to St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools, is just part of what Post 159 Adjutant Rick Johnson said the Legion’s mission has been in the community for years.

“We’re active in supporting the city of St. Clairsville, and we’ve supported the police department,” Johnson said. “I’ve been (post) adjutant for four years, and as far as I can think back – especially in my four years – we’ve been doing things like buying a canine training kit for the police department, (buying) a defibrillator, doing a number of things to be very supportive.

“We’ve built a relationship with the (St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools) resource officer. Right now we’re purchasing 34 flags for the classrooms at the school. He came to us and wanted to know if we’d be interested in helping the drug program.”

Students may join the Staying Clean program at the beginning of the school year by filling out the program’s form. The $10 fee covers all drug testing and any rewards earned throughout the year.

By joining the program, students agree to be randomly drug tested throughout the school year. All results of the tests are kept confidential; if a student tests positive, only the club coordinator and the parents are made aware of the results. School officials are not provided the results.

Students who test positive for drugs lose their club ID cards and don’t have them returned until testing negative.

“The students have to stay clean or their parents are going to find out about it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been very supportive of (the program) and will continue to do it probably annually as long as the program is successful.”

The post’s most recent donation was $750 to St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools. Johnson said more than 400 students in the school system have signed up for the Staying Clean program – more than all of the other Belmont County schools combined.

A year ago the post donated $750 to help fund testing – among approximately $15,000-$20,000 in donations the posts distributes annually – while this year’s donation will provide a rewards meal for the students.

“We are so fortunate in St. Clairsville to have Post 159 support our schools and community the way they do,” said Patrolman Jeff S. Gazdik, a member of the St. Clairsville Police Department and the School Resource Officer for St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools. “Our students appreciate the support of Post 159 in rewarding them to stay drug-free. Without support from fellow classmates, staff, administrators, parents and community organizations, students could very easily choose drugs, which would lead to bigger problems in their life.”

Gazdik said that in addition to the donation providing a meal for the students, it “will also be used to continue to educate the students about the dangers of drugs and the dangers of addiction. I hate to think where we would be without the support of community organizations like Post 159.”

Veterans outreach effort headed to Illinois

American Legion national staff is heading to Illinois next week to assist department Legionnaires in a district revitalization and membership outreach effort.

Veterans in the area are invited to get information about American Legion programs and Department of Veterans Affairs and other veterans benefits.

The outreach effort will take place over four days at American Legion Post 365, 1022 Vandalia St., Collinsville. The hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 26-28 and 1-5 p.m. Oct. 29.

A veterans service officer will be available at both locations to assist with VA claims and other benefits questions.

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