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Short documentary highlights Colorado Post 119

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The history of The American Legion and its importance to community, state and nation was highlighted in a recent airing of "Our Town. Unfiltered," out of Estes Park, Colo. The documentary spotlighted Joseph J. Duncan Jr. American Legion Post 119.

Throughout the 17-minute episode, Post 119 Commander Terry Rizzuti, Post Adjutant Richard Erbe and members of the Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary shared what The American Legion is about, how the Legion Family serves veterans and its community members of Estes Park, and Post 119's history of leadership and service since it was chartered in 1920.

"I think it's important to serve than to be served. Help the veterans, help their families, help the community, help the state, help the country," said Rizzuti, who shared about his service as a Marine in Vietnam, what it was like coming back from war, and joining The American Legion.

Through stories shared, events held and Post 119's walls of history, journalists and "Our Town. Unfiltered" Producer Claire Mollé captured how Legion Family members in the town that sits alongside the Rocky Mountains continues to focus on serving veterans, their families and the community.

"Post 119 is a place where so many vets have found relief, both in being helped and in helping others," Mollé said. "It's a place where veterans can be heard. It's a community within a community. And it's a crucial part of our town, Estes Park."

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Revitalization shows veterans what Legion can do for them

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Richard Gilliam knows how easy it can be for American Legion members to slip away from the organization when they don’t feel engaged with it.

After all, he was one of them.

“They’re probably like me when I joined up; I just went to the district post in Austin (Texas), and I didn’t do anything. After a year or two, I let my membership lapse because it’s like, ‘Hey, what am I paying this for?’” Gilliam said.

A chance meeting with another Legion member brought Gilliam back into the fold.

“Walter Geraghty approached me and signed me up at a gas station on a Sunday morning as I was coming from Fort Sam (Houston), going to church. He stopped me, saw the Air Force emblem on my car, and he grabbed me, ‘Hey, would you like to join up?’ ‘Yes, I would,’” Gilliam recalled.

Gilliam is now the historian at Audie Murphy Post 336 in San Antonio, where Geraghty is the commander. They and 20 other Legion family members in the San Antonio area volunteered their time Feb. 1-3 working the phones in a revitalization effort.

“I feel that it’s a very necessary call to reach out to these people, because if we don’t touch them, they’re not going to get involved. ‘What are they going to do for me?’ And we can do so many different things for them, there’s so many different programs we can give them hands-on help in a number of different areas and we have all this talent out there. We need to grab it and bring it in. That’s an important thing to do,” said Gilliam, who also spreads the call as a volunteer chaplain at Fort Sam Houston.

“What we’re trying to do is give every post an opportunity to use these transfers from (Post) 345 (the Department of Texas holding post) and the (direct mail solicitation lists) to build up the population within their post,” said Al Alford, District 20 commander. “Some of them have shortfalls (in membership), some greater than others, so this is their opportunity to take members who are already paid up and move them into their post and get their numbers up.”

The revitalization efforts were based out of two posts — Fred Brock Post 828 on San Antonio’s east side and Alamo Post 2 on the city’s west side. Alford said the district has been doing it like that, working out of multiple posts, for 10 years.

“Geographically, it’s more convenient for our members,” he said. “We have the largest district, population-wise, in the Department of Texas, and this mitigates a little bit that crowding together of many posts in one location.”

And with the area’s size, it’s more productive for volunteers to man the phones in revitalization efforts than to go door-to-door.

“This is a unique opportunity where you don’t have to go out and beat the streets, if you will, or have to go and try to encourage people to come to an event in order to get them to join your post. Instead, this is a ready source of individuals we can bring in and make them productive at the post level, as opposed to sitting around idle at the headquarters level,” Alford said.

It worked, as the revitalization brought 126 transfers and eight renewals to 18 posts in the San Antonio area.

Among those volunteering their time was Jaime Caratini, temporary director for the American Legion Riders chapter at Gen. Robert McDermott Post 309. The new post is awaiting its charter, but the efforts of Caratini and others will ensure a solid membership foundation.

“We’ve been able to get at least eight people to join our group (today). … We’re looking forward to working with them and helping them however we can,” Caratini said.

“If in eight hours we can get eight members, imagine what we can do in (365) days?”

Geraghty can attest to that. He’s been a Gold Brigade member — signing up 50 new members a year — for 10 straight years, and he’s been the Department of Texas’ top recruiter each of the last nine years.

“Sometimes if you go to a revitalization (like this) … a post that’s thinking about closing, people that are frustrated, they can’t sign up new members; this is like a shot in the arm,” said Geraghty, who’s signed up some 4,000 Legion members in 42 years.

It’s those kinds of numbers — and ensuring the Legion retains those numbers — that can make a big difference in the lives of veterans and their families.

“There’s strength in numbers,” Alford said. “That’s extremely important that we understand that we need those numbers as we represent the veterans, whether it’s at the congressional level or the local level.”

Alford emphasized the importance of retention.

“When you stop and think about the fact that often times, people will come in and join an organization, if the organization does not show interest in them, why would they show interest in the organization? And the retention aspects of doing these types of things, bringing these people in and then doing the follow-up, that’s necessary to make sure they feel like they’re part of the post,” he said.

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Reducing stress and improving overall health focus of March workshop

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The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division is teaming up with Avenir for a Mind Fit Workshop for Veterans during the Legion’s Washington Conference in the nation’s capital.

The workshop is scheduled for March 1 at the Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW.

The workshop is geared toward veterans dealing with any of the following conditions:

• Trouble sleeping

• Intrusive memories or spinning thoughts

• Difficulty controlling anger or in feeling positive and optimistic

• Drinking too much

• Depressed moods or mood swings

• Guilt or regret

• A strong need for adrenaline-pumping, risky activities to feel more alive

• Poor interpersonal relationships

This workshop aims to relieve those conditions by teaching simple techniques to relieve and move past negative effects of stress, by building resilience and improving overall health.

The workshop will be led by Army veteran Marion Cain, Marine Corps veterans Chris Dixon and Jared Smyser, and Colleen Mizuki, a brain-based resilience coach and trainer and a part of the Department of Defense’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.

The workshop is free to veterans and their families. Click here to register.

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Lincoln’s legacy remembered at pilgrimage

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America’s most popular president was honored Monday during American Legion Post 32's 84th annual national pilgrimage to the tomb of President Abraham Lincoln.

“The annual pilgrimage is now an American Legion Family tradition and one that would please Mr. Lincoln were he to join us today,” said Bob Wesley, a Legionnaire from Post 32 in Springfield, Ill. “Our family is reunited here again today. With pride, we note the national officers of The American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of The American Legion in attendance to honor Mr. Lincoln and this tradition. Post 32 is humbled that our leaders and members from states across the nation join us in Springfield to honor our state’s favorite son and our nation’s greatest president.”

National Commander Denise H. Rohan was among those honoring the 16th president on his 209th birthday. “Often underestimated by opponents as a country lawyer, whose political experience consisted only of a single term in the House of Representatives and service in the Illinois legislature, the importance of the Lincoln presidency cannot be overstated,” she said after placing a wreath at his tomb. “Freeing the slaves and preserving the Union paved the way for an industrial revolution which would ultimately make America the world’s leading superpower.”

His legacy also inspired another important movement, according to Rohan.

“One hundred years after Lincoln came another great American, Dr. Martin Luther Jr.,” she said. “Dr. King inspired us with a Civil Rights movement and dream that he perfectly annunciated in a most appropriate place, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”

Pilgrimage organizers believe it is the longest running celebration of Lincoln’s birthday in the nation. A number of dignitaries pointed out that Lincoln’s support for veterans is a value shared by The American Legion Family.

“As we follow in the steps of Lincoln, we want to make sure that our heroes need to be honored,” Auxiliary National President Diane Duscheck said at a luncheon that followed the ceremony at the tomb. “As Legion Family members, we wake up in the morning and gratefully sow seeds, we want to ask what we can do for others and want to let the veterans, the military and their families reap the harvest.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner told the American Legion Family at the luncheon that the day was a celebration. “Today we celebrate the birth of America’s greatest president. Today we celebrate the birth of America’s most inspirational leader. Today we celebrate the birth of Illinois’ favorite son,” he said.

While Lincoln promised in his second inaugural address to “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan,” his life was famously cut short before the vision could be fulfilled. Rohan pointed out that The American Legion began to deliver on the promise more than half a century later.

“It really took another huge war to give us the Lincolnesque vision, this time from the ranks of the military itself, needed to deliver on his ambitious promises,” Rohan said. “Men like Theodore Roosevelt Junior, George White, Eric Fisher Wood, Bill Donovan and later, Harry Colmery, would never let America forget its debt to veterans.”

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USAA Tips: How much will that new car cost you?

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Content provided courtesy of USAA.

When figuring out what you'll pay to own a vehicle, don't stop at the sticker price.

Factors including financing, fuel, insurance and maintenance and repairs also determine how much you'll fork over during the life of your new ride. There's no way to put an exact number on your total costs, but estimating them can help you better manage your budget.

Keep the following in mind when you buy:

  • Search for rebates. Don't settle on a make and model until checking for special deals offered by the manufacturer or your local dealer. These bargains go by many names — rebates, cash-back incentives or bonus cash — but they all can mean "discount" to you.

  • Add up the interest. Shaving just a couple of interest points from your auto loan can mean long-term savings. Look for special financing incentives from dealers and manufacturers. Also scout for competitive interest rates offered by outside lenders, including banks and credit unions, and consider getting preapproved before you even arrive at the dealership. These auto loan calculators can help you weigh financing offers.

  • Compare insurance. In addition to your age, location and driving habits, insurance companies factor the type of car you drive into your rates. You might pay more to insure a vehicle that's commonly stolen or costs a lot to repair. Investigate the average insurance losses for the car you want to buy.

  • Dig into depreciation. Unless you plan to drive your car until the wheels fall off, depreciation is a major consideration. A car with a high resale value can prove the best financial bet because you'll get more cash when you sell it.

  • Factor in fuel. Choosing a fuel sipper over a gas guzzler can make a huge difference in long-term costs, so consider your commute and whether you drive more in the city or on the highway. According to the Energy Department's, a vehicle that gets 30 mpg will cost $672 less to fuel each year than one that gets 20 mpg (assuming 15,000 miles per year and a fuel cost of $2.69 per gallon).

  • Don't forget maintenance and repair. Putting money into auto upkeep is inevitable, but how much money you'll spend depends on the car. Reliability is important, since a car that breaks down more often will cost you more in repairs. If you're concerned about repair costs, consider an extended warranty. Be aware that warranty plans often require you to keep up with routine scheduled maintenance.

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