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Veterans Benefits Information

American Legion Birthday special event another success for TALARC

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American Legion amateur radio stations and members across the nation participated in the American Legion 101st Birthday special event operation conducted on March 14. Brian W9IND joined the crew at the National Headquarters station K9TAL for the day’s operations. In South Dakota and Maryland, respectively, longtime volunteer net operators Bill KIØCW and Everett WA3DVO were joined by the members of Maryland Post 275 station N3TAL. Kenny KA3DCO of Cambridge, Md., Post 36 and the Easton Amateur Radio Society K3EMD out of Easton, Md., did really well as they chalked up their third special event with TALARC. Together we made 456 contacts on 20M, 40M, UHF/VHF, IRLP and EchoLink during the six-hour event. And on top of that, several TALARC stations operated by American Legion amateur radio operators actively relayed contacts from ham operators all over the United States and Canada who were trying to reach K9TAL.

We will honor all those relayed QSOs with a certificate upon request, of course. The special event certificate is available to all who contacted any K9TAL station during the event. To get yours, send a self-addressed 9x12 stamped envelope to:

The American Legion Amateur Radio Club, c/o The American Legion, 700 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, IN 46204. The certificate is the same for contact with any of the K9TAL net control stations, regardless of location – they have relayed the information to us here in Indianapolis. Please include your approximate contact time, frequency and mode. We collect QSL cards as well and will return our own in exchange.


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A month of hope for children and youth

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April is the month we raise attention to American Legon programs and services for children and youth. For Children & Youth Month this year, we need to raise more than attention. The coronavirus pandemic has created an urgent need to financially assist military and veteran families with children at home, whose lives have been turned upside-down in recent weeks. They need our help now, and they will need it for months to come.

American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance grants provide immediate debt-free cash for military and veteran families with minor children at home when food, shelter, utilities, clothing or other basic needs cannot be obtained, due to hardships beyond their control. And this pandemic has been beyond anyone’s control.

Last winter, more than $1.1 million in TFA grants were disbursed to U.S. Coast Guard families in need during the federal government shutdown when USCG paychecks were delayed. “It helped them not get behind on their rent,” Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charlie Ray said after the TFA grants were delivered. “It helped them put food in the refrigerator.”

Military and veteran spouses who have lost jobs or business income due to the coronavirus outbreak are now trying to figure out how to put food in their refrigerators and keep a roof overhead while a loved one serve in uniform, or did so honorably when called upon in the past. There is no doubt these patriotic American families need and deserve our help.

We can only provide that help through the American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation. The foundation supplies the funds necessary to assist needy military and veteran families with children at home.

In times like these, The American Legion Family steps up. I am asking all of us to do just that this month – American Legion Children & Youth Month – because the only thing kids and parents across our nation can count on in the coming weeks is uncertainty, financial and otherwise. Let’s turn April from a month of uncertainty into a month of hope.

Please help us help those who need us most with a tax-deductible gift to the American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation. Or visit www.legion.org/donate.


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Social distancing a good time to brush up on American Legion knowledge

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With a large portion of the nation’s residents under some form of “stay at home” policy, American Legion Family members have been brushing up on their Legion knowledge through the organization’s online training program.

On March 18, Michele Emery – a Member Engagement & Training Coordinator at National Headquarters and the administrator on the National American Legion College Facebook group – posted to the group that social distancing was a good time to promote The American Legion’s Basic Training platform, an online official training program for officers, members, Legion College applicants and those who simply want to expand their knowledge of the nation's largest veterans service organization.

Emery noted Basic Training “checks all the boxes”: working from home, eLearning, a distraction from cabin fever and free of charge. And Legion Family members have responded. Emery noted that 215 members signed up to take the course in March, with 147 completing it.

Basic Training continues to be available to any Legion Family member wishing to take the course. The course features videos, digital photos, clickable links, a historical timeline and additional features, and should take approximately two hours to complete.


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Oxford reveals key initiatives amid COVID-19

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American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford is at home following safety protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the commander wants to communicate with the nation’s largest veterans service organization during this extraordinary time.

There are twice-daily messages from the commander being posted on the Legion website.

Additionally, the commander recorded a series of public service announcements that are available for viewing here and available for download here.

The commander:

• Announces the “Month of Hope” campaign geared toward helping those affected by COVID-19.

• Addresses the importance of Buddy Checks during the pandemic.

• Encourages American Legion members to consider donating blood during this urgent time of need.

 


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Veteran organizations go virtual in response to pandemic

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Iraq and Afghanistan veteran James Martin logged in last week to what he hopes can grow into a regular meeting space for other veterans adjusting to life under a pandemic: online video game night.

Martin is a volunteer for the Wounded Warrior Project, which like other veteran service organizations is trying to find ways to reach and connect veterans at a time when most can’t meet up in person, due to social distancing guidelines meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Martin, a former Marine injured during combat in Afghanistan in 2013, said he is helping WWP in its effort to build a veteran online gaming community.

“Even though we’re locked in the house, you can still be connected, you can still meet other warriors,” Martin said. “We can play video games together and check on each other.”

Each night, the 39-year-old logs in from his home just outside Pittsburgh, Pa., into a forum recently created by WWP on the site Discord. There, veterans and gamers can chat and find others to play games with. The forum brings together veterans from all over the country, and Martin said the discussion is not just fun and games — it’s also about untangling the stresses of life as they play.

In one gaming session Thursday night, Martin and a few other veterans shared their frustrations with self-quarantining. One had a wife who needed a COVID-19 test. Another was struggling with his college classes after they moved online.

A friend of Martin’s, Gabriel Beltres, also a wounded veteran with WWP, lightened up the mood with a pregame speech:

“Listen up, today hasn’t been a good day, but it’s gonna turn into a good day. We are going to be happy, we are going to be good, because gaming is supposed to be fun,” Beltres said.

The WWP’s virtual gaming nights and fitness lessons began over the last few weeks for veterans, “just to give them a place to hang out during a crazy time,” said Matt Twigg, livestreaming and gaming specialist for the organization.

Other veteran service organizations, known for hosting pancake breakfasts and group workouts, are now organizing conference calls and virtual meetups.

Team Red, White and Blue rolled out an online fitness challenge for its members to do at home, with groups of veterans doing bodyweight exercises in a tournament styled on college basketball’s March Madness.

The American Legion is connecting members through their phones. Using party line conference calls allows the inclusion of older veterans who may not be comfortable with social media, said Jennifer Havlick, member of American Legion Post 109 in northern Minnesota.

“For those who don’t use Facebook, it’s the greatest thing, they all know how to talk on the phone,” said Havlick, an Army veteran and originator of “enhanced buddy checks,” in which veterans call older veterans and ask if they need help buying groceries or doing chores.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, which has been around for more than 100 years, is encouraging its members to reach out to each other via Skype and other video call services.

VFW Post 5066 in Collierville, Tenn., will be using the app Zoom to conduct its elections and broadcast a concert.

Its post commander, Justin Johnson, said he hopes teleconferencing becomes a permanent feature of VFW life. “Long-term, I think this will benefit this post, because now it allows members that couldn’t really make it to meetings to attend,” he said.

It’s important for veterans to stay connected, said Timothy Byrne, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and a peer mentor for WWP. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Byrne would always encourage veterans, especially those who have just left the military or are suffering from post-traumatic stress, to leave the house and interact with other people.

“When we self-isolate, we get into our own shells, think about stuff too much,” Byrne said on the phone from his home in Salem., Mass.

Now, self-quarantining has deepened the feeling of isolation some veterans already have, he said. One of the veterans he’s mentoring is suffering through a recent divorce, has lost his routine and shared thoughts of suicide.

“After me talking to him, spending some time, he said, ‘I went and got help,’” Byrne said.

Keeping in touch with fellow veterans, even it’s not in person but over the phone or online, can save lives, he said.

“We do these virtual things, and we still get that social contact with people,” Byrne said. “I don’t know what we’d do without it.”

Members of The American Legion can receive 50 percent discounts on annual subscriptions to the Stars and Stripes digital platform of exclusive military news, topics of interest to veterans, special features, photos and other content, including the daily e-newspaper, job listings and history. American Legion members can subscribe for $19.99 a year by visiting legion.stripes.com and using the coupon code LEGIONSTRONG when filling out the online form.


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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at www.archives.gov