Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Sign up for Legion flag e-newsletter, text alerts

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Flag Day is June 14. Did you know that The American Legion has a Flag Alert e-newsletter?

The Flag Alert e-newsletter provides notification when a flag proclamation is issued by the president to display the U.S. flag at half-staff. More than 47,000 people subscribe to the e-newsletter.

Sign up now at

The American Legion also offers text alerts when the flag is to be displayed at half-staff. To receive these text alerts, simply text the word flag to 35893. You will receive a confirmation email within a few minutes. The service is free, but message and data rates may apply.

For further flag information and resources, visit

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Sons marker dedicated at New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery

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A memorial walkway in the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery was lined with monuments dedicated to various branches of service and veterans service organizations, including The American Legion and the Legion family.

But there was no memorial from the Sons of The American Legion — until now.

On Saturday, a three-year project to erect a marker for the Sons came to fruition with a ceremony to dedicate the six-foot-tall, 3,500-pound monument at the veterans cemetery in Boscawen, N.H.

Gary DesRosiers, the finance committee chairman for the New Hampshire detachment of the Sons, said the project stemmed from a budget meeting with the state department three years ago.

“They asked, ‘Have you guys ever been up to the cemetery in Boscawen?’ Of course, I’ve been there for services. ‘Well, you know they have a memorial walkway up there. … there’s an area up there in the back corner where it’s pretty much just American Legion.’”

But there was no memorial from the Sons. “All of the other organizations of The American Legion Family in New Hampshire, everybody had something up there in Boscawen except us,” DesRosiers said. “It was extremely important to us to have the respect and dignity of our forefathers who fought in the great wars, which is in our preamble.”

So DesRosiers sought and received permission to have a monument made. Phil Davidson, a detachment vice commander who works for a granite monument company, helped get the marker made.

“There can never be an exact duplicate of that stone because it was hand-chipped out of granite,” DesRosiers said.

Saturday’s dedication ceremony included past SAL National Commander Dave Stephens, current SAL National Commander Danny Smith and leading candidate for SAL national commander Greg Gibbs, as well as State Sen. Jeb Bradley.

Stephens said during the dedication, “The monument is more than a piece of granite. It serves as a reminder that the Sons of The American Legion are serving the veterans, widowers and their families.”

DesRosiers extended his thanks to the color guard from Woodsville Detachment 20; Legionnaire Patrick Boyle, who played the bagpipes at the ceremony; visitors from the Vermont SAL detachment and past and present leadership of the entire Legion Family who attended the ceremony.

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Legion testifies on replacing private grave markers with headstones

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American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Deputy Director Gerardo Avila testified June 7 before the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Avila’s testimony on memorializing our nation’s veterans focused on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration (NCA), whose mission is to honor veterans with final resting places in national cemeteries and with tributes that honor their service.

The discrepancies and inconsistencies in how headstones, markers and medallions are issued based on era of service was one of the key issues brought up by Avila during his testimony. Presently, the NCA will provide a headstone or marker for veterans whose graves are marked with private markers and who died after Nov. 1, 1990. Veterans who died after this date may be issued a medallion to commemorate their military service.

“The American Legion firmly believes there should not be inconsistency or discrepancy between veterans based on era of service, and our members are in favor of having NCA headstones replace the private markers, if the veteran or veteran’s family prefers,” he said.

The long wait times family members face when trying to speak to an NCA representative during an emotionally trying time was another concern Avila highlighted, however, family members reported the process goes well once they’re able to get through to a representative.

The American Legion makes it a priority to ensure veterans and their families receive the postmortem respect they deserve. The American Legion previously passed resolutions addressing deficits with NCA services, including Resolution No. 237 which calls for the VA to allow veteran service organization accredited representatives to apply for headstones, markers or medallions when next-of-kin is unavailable. This resolution was passed to address cases where a deceased veteran was not able to receive a grave marker solely because a relative did not make the request.

“We need to make sure that our veterans’ history is not forgotten,” Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Michael Bost, R-Ill., concluded.

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Filling a gap after a tragedy

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On March 2 of this year, Boone County (Ind.) Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jacob Pickett was fatally shot while pursuing a man fleeing from police. The death of the K-9 officer and father of two young children rocked both the sheriff’s department and the local community.

For American Legion Rider L.J. Jermstadt, who had met Pickett and regularly does training with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Pickett’s death has carried a lingering effect.

“Since Deputy Pickett went down, I know that there have been other officers that have went down in the line of duty,” said Jermstadt, the ride coordinator for ALR Chapter 410 in Whitestown, Ind., which is less than 10 miles from the sheriff’s department. “It brings that closer to home. Even though they don’t live here, having lost one of our own, you think about it.

“I have a lot of involvement with both the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the Whitestown (Police Department), so I know the toll that it takes on them.”

Pickett had been paired up with Brik, a K-9 officer. The two were “inseparable,” according to news reports, and when Pickett was killed, the decision was made to retire Brik so he could live with Pickett’s family.

That left the sheriff’s department without a K-9 officer, which is where American Legion Riders Chapter 497 in Indianapolis stepped up. The Riders conducted Brik’s Benefit for BCSO ride June 9 in order to raise money for the department to purchase and train a new K-9 officer.

“This was more of a ride paying homage both to Deputy Pickett and his K-9 unit who was not only his family member, but a partner,” said Brandon McKee, assistant director for Chapter 497 and an Operation Desert Storm Air Force veteran. “Those of us that have dogs, they’re part of the family.

“This was a two-fold thing: The Pickett family not only lost … a husband and a father, but Brik lost a partner and his dad. It runs that deep.”

So “to appeal to both sides of the coin,” McKee said Chapter 497 decided to make the ride about both Pickett and Brik. “We were kind of Brik’s voice today,” McKee said. “As silly as that may sound, we were speaking for (Brik). And the fact that Brik got retired to the family, (the sheriff’s department) is now out a K-9. We wanted to try to fill that gap.”

The ride raised $1,229, and Post 497 matched that to bring the total to $2,458. A donation of $20,000 made anonymously to the ride and forwarded to the sheriff’s department pushed the amount to more than $22,000 – enough to fund the purchase and training of a new K-9 officer.

“We are a family; therefore, we love, fight and cry like family,” McKee said of Chapter 497. “I think what brings us together is at the end of the day we are all about the same thing here: the camaraderie of being brothers and sisters, and being a part of something bigger than us.”

The ride left American Legion Post 79 in Zionsville, Ind., and made stops at Post 410, Post 113 in Lebanon and Post 331 in Brownsburg before finishing back at Post 497. The ride included a pass and engine revving in front of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

Jack Schoettle, who spent 29 years with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and had met Pickett a few times after retiring, said Pickett’s death “was kind of devastating” to those in or formerly in the Boone County law enforcement community. “It’s devastating not only to Boone County, but all over the United States."

Schoettle, who rides with Harley Motorcycle Group (H.O.G.) and took part in Chapter 497’s ride, said the Legion Riders’ gesture toward the sheriff’s department “is very heartwarming and very appreciated. The motorcycle community is one of the biggest fundraiser for different organizations.”

Chapter 410 Legion Riders Director Mike Augh was at the stop in Whitestown where the riders were treated to food and drinks. He said a ride like the one on June 9 “is the best of both worlds. Not only do we get to get out on our bikes and ride, but we’re doing stuff for the community, raising money for good causes, and supporting our local law enforcement and trying to help them get back on their feet after a serious loss."

Although the ride started off in good weather, storm clouds moved in midway through, unleashing heavy rain on the riders between Lebanon and Brownsburg. But that wasn’t going to stop Mike Aubrey, the road captain for the ride and the ride coordinator for Chapter 497.

“We’re here for a reason, and we’re here to get it accomplished,” Aubrey said. “It’s being able to give back. The world has a lot of bad in it. The more good people can do and the more people see good being done, they have faith back in humanity.

“This (ride) just hit home for me. I’m from Lebanon, so it was personal.”

The weather also didn’t deter Chapter 497 Legion Rider Lawrence Przybylski from completing the ride. “The cause is a pretty good one,” he said. “This ride is about replacing Brik and raising funds to do that. It’s a costly effort to train a dog to be a police dog. We think it’s a worthy cause.”

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Flag symbolizes America's hopes

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Dear American Legion Family and Friends,

While Americans are divided on many political issues, most people – especially those in our American Legion Family – hold a special reverence for the flag of our nation.

For the flag does not symbolize perfection but it does conjure images of the hopes and dreams of those who built this country. Whether it’s the Apollo 11 crew planting Old Glory on the surface of the moon or New York firefighters raising the flag amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center, the Stars and Stripes make an emphatic statement about American determination and exceptionalism.

Ninety-five years ago, The American Legion chaired a National Flag Conference in Washington. Representatives from 68 other patriotic, fraternal, civic and military organizations joined us at Memorial Continental Hall for the purpose of drafting a code of Flag etiquette. President Warren G. Harding charged the group with an important task.

“I hope you succeed in formulating a code that will be welcomed by all Americans and that every patriotic and educational society in the Republic will commit itself to the endorsement and observance and purpose of the code that you adopt here today,” Harding said.

They were enormously successful. In two days, the assembly came up with 15 rules for the proper use and care of the U.S. flag. Texas and New York made flag code instruction required curriculum in their schools. During World War II, Congress adopted the code as public law.

But still, much work needs to be done. In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that flag desecration was “free speech,” despite laws in 48 states and the District of Columbia which said otherwise. In response, The American Legion has been working tirelessly to correct the flawed ruling by championing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would grant Congress the authority to protect Old Glory from such vile acts.

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark, re-introduced H.J. Res. 61, which would do just that. So would its companion measure, S.J. Res. 46, introduced by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

Past polling by the Citizens Flag Alliance indicates that most Americans want to see their flag protected. Moreover, every state legislature has appealed in writing to the U.S. Congress to pass the flag amendment and send it to the states for ratification.

The National Flag Conference made history in 1923. One of its participants was Samuel Gompers, the legendary president of the American Federation of Labor.

“To us,” Gompers said, “the American flag means more than even its colors in themselves portray. It means the leadership of the democratic and humane struggle that has been carried on through all the ages.

”It is a struggle that continues to this day. And it is for this reason that we must continue to wave the flag at every opportunity."

Family First.

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