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Veterans Benefits Information

Legionnaires meet ‘Flying Vikings’

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The American Legion's National Security Commission visited two Minnesota air bases Friday and learned how both fulfill essential military-support services around the world and at home.

The group began the morning with a tour of the 133rd Airlift Wing, a Minnesota Air National Guard Wing headquartered in St. Paul. The Legionnaires climbed aboard a C-130 Hercules at the air base and were briefed about how the 133rd provides the U.S. Air Force with tactical airlift of troops, cargo and patients anywhere in the world. The wing also stands ready to support the state of Minnesota in the event of disaster.

The group then toured the 934th Airlift Wing, also known as the "Flying Vikings." Minnesota's only Air Force Reserve unit, the 934th flies C-130s into combat theaters, dropping cargo and people, and also provides aeromedical evacuation of patients.

At both installations, Legionnaires interacted with young airmen, discussing their duties, mission readiness and op-tempo. One airman told the Legionnaires that he has been deployed each of the past 10 years, usually between four and six months each time. Commission members also visited the Minnesota Air Guard Museum.

Following the tours, a lunch and the briefings, National Security Commission Chairman Mike Schlee presented American Legion Soaring Eagle Awards to Col. Darrell G. Young, commander of the 934th Airlift Wing, and to Col. Greg Haase, commander of the 133rd Airlift Wing. Also recognized were Col.. Brian Wyneke, Master Sgt. Paul Zadach and Chief Master Sgt. Mike Rak.

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Three keys to ending vet homelessness

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A dozen advocates, all devoted to meeting one of the most difficult challenges facing the veterans community today, lent their collective expertise to a Homeless Veterans Symposium during the Legion's National Convention in Minneapolis. Federal and state government officials and representatives of the private sector were among those in attendance.

"The cure for homelessness is in the college classroom," said Dexter J. Sidney, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Minneapolis Field Office. "Before I went to Vietnam, I sent an application on a wing and a prayer to the University of Notre Dame, and I received my (letter of acceptance) from them when I was in Vietnam. I put it in my helmet and it became my reason to come home. For a lot of men and women in the service, their only wish is to get out of the war zone, and their thoughts really don't go beyond that. I found that those I served with who did not have a goal (at home) were the ones who didn't come back."

Sidney agreed with his fellow panelists that a root cause of homelessness among veterans is the lack of concrete plans to follow or goals to strive for upon their return.

"The fight against homelessness is not a contest," said Kathleen Vitalis, president and CEO of the non-profit Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. She stressed the importance of a concerted and cooperative effort among government and private sector entities in attacking problems such as homelessness. "I do see a strong cooperative effort in Minnesota," she said, "but we have had to work at that over the past few years. I do think that it is something that other parts of the country really need to keep at the forefront because... I do not see the strong partnerships (elsewhere) that need to be in place."

Dr. Marci Myland of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System stressed the critical need for employment in the prevention of homelessness; not just because of the rent or mortgage-meeting paycheck it provides, but as a treatment for post traumatic stress, a common marker among homeless veterans. "Work cures what ails you," she said. "This has been studied in a lot of different mental health venues and people having meaningful work is positively correlated with recovery from mental health difficulties. We can't think in isolation about treatment. We have to think about the whole person and whole person needs. That includes housing, healthcare and meaningful activity."

The importance of a sensitive and empathetic family and community to welcome home those transitioning from military to civilian life was emphasized by panelist Reggie Worlds, deputy commissioner for programs and services in the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

"When a soldier goes off to war," Worlds said, "he takes a lot of people with him. He takes mom, he takes dad, brothers, sisters, wives, children - he's never alone. And when he comes back, he's going to have to step back into that community and that community is going to have to be there to accept him because he's going to be profoundly changed. They're going to have to have tools, they're going to have education, and they're going to have to have additional supports."

Symposium participants noted repeatedly the role of veterans service organizations in providing tangible supports for returning warriors and thus preventing homelessness. The American Legion and Legion Auxiliary in particular were lauded for their efforts. One panelist said, "Not since the Vietnam War days of the ‘70s has such attention been paid to this problem. It is good to see."

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Three milbloggers return to Convention

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The American Legion's 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis re-enters the milblogosphere again as "This Ain't Hell ... but you can see it from here" and Blackfive join the Legion's Burn Pit live from the event.

Joining MOTHAX - the Legion Burn Pit blogger - will be Jonn Lilyea of "This Ain't Hell." Jonn was a platoon sergeant in Charley Co. 1/41st Infantry in the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division Forward, which was attached to the 1st Infantry Division during Desert Storm. He is a recipient of the Combat Infantryman's Badge, among other awards, and is a Legionnaire currently living in West Virginia. MOTHAX and Jonn met in 2008 in the maelstrom of anti-war hearings in Silver Spring, Md., and have been blogging together ever since. The name "This Ain't Hell" comes from a comment made by an unnamed infantryman to a reporter on the Kuwait/Iraq border shortly before Operation Desert Storm.

For the third straight year, Mr. Wolf of will be blogging from the National Convention. Mr. Wolf has more than 26 years in the Army, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, and is Airborne with five years as an NCO before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had four company commands - Signal Corp is his basic branch and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, and as senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an information technology executive and is currently working on a book about media and the Iraq war. has registered nearly 30 million hits in its nine years of existence, and remains one of the most-visited milblogs.

They will be blogging live from The American Legion Magazine Division booth in the exhibit hall on Saturday from 10 a.m. - Noon.


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Prayer for those traveling to Convention

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"Precious Lord, we thank you for living in a great and free nation, for the safety of those who were involved in this week's earthquake, and especially for those traveling to Minnesota to once again celebrate the rich blessings YOU have given to this country. Grant them safety in their travels whether by plane, car, motorcycle, train, or even by walking or riding on a bike. May the days be filled with a strong espirit de corps of friendships and accomplishments in the A.L. We ask these things for the Glory of Thy Name. AMEN

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Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs honors Benton resident as its ‘Veteran of the Month’

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DUQUOIN –The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) this Sunday (August 28th) will honor John Metzger, a Benton resident and United States Army veteran, as its August 2011 “Veteran of the Month” during a ceremony at the DuQuoin State Fair in DuQuoin, Ill. “John Metzger served his country with honor in Vietnam, and he continues to serve by helping veterans through his work with the VFW and American Legion,” said IDVA Director Erica Borggren. “His efforts have made a tremendous impact in his southern Illinois community and beyond.”

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