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Indianapolis braves cold to thank all veterans

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Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin offered perspective to the shivering crowd during his welcome at the Indianapolis Veterans Day service Nov. 10 at the Indiana War Memorial.

“I want you to think about those who were at Valley Forge, where it was 6 degrees and they did not have the equipment we have today,” said Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorial. “I want you to think about those who were at the Battle of the Bulge where records show that they had to start equipment — trucks and tanks — once an hour to keep them from freezing up. And, last but not least, remember those who served in the Korean War, especially the Chosin Reservoir, where it was recorded at minus 22 degrees and the equipment they had was less than beneficial.”

The ceremony highlighted veterans from throughout American history, but focused on the armistice that ended World War I, 100 years ago on Sunday, Nov. 11.

“Today, we take that sacrifice and we carry it on, from the standpoint they fought in this weather and we will celebrate in this weather,” Goodwin said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Navy veteran, said Veterans Day represents a time to honor all veterans while paying a special tribute this year to those who served during World War I.

“There are no surviving links to that war,” Holcomb said. “And that is why it is up to us — now more than ever — to remember the men and women that served over there, because that is where all this started. Armistice Day evolved into Veterans Day. It is an opportunity for all of us to honor veterans, all who served in war and in peace, at home and abroad.”

Holcomb recalled his recent participation in the last Honor Flight out of Lafayette, 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis. World War II, Vietnam and Korean War veterans from around Indiana visited memorial sites in Washington, D.C.

“At times it’s hard for us to recognize these heroes because they take off those uniforms, those cloths,” the governor said. “They camouflage themselves right back into society. But they are here among us everywhere you look. They are neighbors. They are teachers. They are business owners, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms and dads. We are grateful for their sacrifice.”

U.S. Rep. Todd Young, a Marine Corps veteran, greeted his fellow Marines in the audience, “I wish you a comfortably cool Marine Corps birthday.”

Young focused his keynote speech on comparing moments in civilians’ lives to those experienced by military families.

“Veterans and their families have a unique perspective on life and death that is more finely tuned,” Young said. “Elected leaders, community leaders and other Americans deal with important decisions every day. Some are issues that can be considered life and death. Most are not.”

Young showed a bracelet that he says gives him perspective when he considers difficult decisions as a lawmaker. The bracelet was presented to Young by the mother of Lance Cpl. Alec Terwiske, a Marine from DuBois, Ind., who was killed Sept. 3, 2012, in Afghanistan.

“She asked me to wear the bracelet. I do so proudly every day,” Young said. “This bracelet helps me keep the right perspective on things that matter most. Like honoring our commitment to honor the men and women who serve this country. It takes a special person to take up arms in defense of this country. It requires a true belief, a true conviction. In the words of my fallen comrade, John McCain, ‘a cause greater than oneself.’ A desire to put your life on the line for Americans you will never meet.

“We honor all of those who have served. Today, we say thank you to Americans of all faiths.”

To honor veterans, the ceremony included a laying of a victory wreath and the tolling of the USS Indianapolis’ bell — one time for each of America’s 12 wars from the Revolution to the ongoing War on Terrorism.

American Legion Department of Indiana Commander Rodney Strong noted the importance of the centennial anniversary of the end of the Great War, which coincides with the birth of The American Legion.

“Veterans Day is very special for all of us who are veterans,” Strong said. “We recognize all of those who have passed and all of our veterans. It’s very special, especially this year — being 100 years after the armistice.”

Strong received an award from the Veterans Day Council of Indianapolis for outstanding service to The American Legion. “It’s nice to be recognized for what we have done. It’s a big honor.”

He was among dozens of American Legion Family members who participated in the parade after the ceremony.

Strong, a member of American Legion Post 72 in Crawfordsville, is proud of the support the Legion, veterans and the military community receive in Indianapolis — the city with the second-most memorials dedicated to veterans, behind only Washington, D.C.

“Indianapolis has supported Veterans Day, The American Legion and others really well,” he said. “They come out and support us.”

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Legion centennial honored at CNY Veterans Expo

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New York State Assemblyman William Magnarelli was disappointed about 11 years ago when he attended a Veterans Day memorial service and parade in his Syracuse district of the state Legislature. He found interest and participation to be sorely lacking.

“There was supposed to be a parade following the memorial service,” he recalled. “I walked outside, and there was a trolley with about six fellas in it. That was the parade. That was it. I said, ‘This won’t do.’ So, I went back to my office and started making phone calls. Once I started asking, it was just, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ Right down the line.”

Saturday, during the 2018 CNY Veterans Expo and Parade at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, his disappointment had clearly been erased. Thousands of veterans and their families from throughout north central New York poured into an event featuring more than 100 exhibitors, a live band, children’s activities, food, vintage military uniforms, posters, vehicles, weapons and more.

The theme of this year’s CNY Expo was The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary. Immediate Past American Legion Department of New York Commander Rena Nessler was grand marshal of the parade, and Sons of The American Legion National Commander Greg “Doc” Gibbs was on hand in the exhibit hall and the parade reviewing stand to support the event.

The American Legion Family was well represented among the exhibitors, promoting programs and inviting new membership.

“It’s a great thing that we are here, representing 100 years of The American Legion,” said Andy Bender, commander of Onondaga County, which includes 20 American Legion posts in the Syracuse area.

Bender said The American Legion’s place in the CNY Expo “brings awareness to other veterans, to go, ‘Oh, The American Legion ... I’m a veteran. Maybe I should join.’ We offer our knowledge and support and say, ‘Here’s our programs. This is what we can do for you.’ And we’re an American Legion Family here – so we have our Auxiliary, the Sons and also the American Legion Riders.”

“A tremendous amount of resources are available here that the average person doesn’t even know about,” Gibbs observed. “As you go up to the tables you see places where you can connect. I think it’s just a giant, good resource pool for people.”

The event featured booths and exhibits from a variety of organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Marine Corps League, Daughters of the American Revolution, Syracuse University, Disabled American Veterans, Fort Drum Retirees, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Syracuse VA Vet Center and dozens of others.

Visitors viewed two of The American Legion’s centennial exhibits – the “Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Salute to the GI Bill” and “For God and Country,” a 160-foot chronology illustrating just a fraction of the organization’s accomplishments over the last century.

“For those who don’t realize it’s been 100 years, it’s clearly an awakening,” Gibbs said of the exhibits. “This is a big deal, and people are really engaged.”

Nessler said the CNY Expo gives all veteran-supporting groups in the area a chance to get together and share information about their work. “I think it’s a great service for the veterans, the community and everyone involved,” she said. “They just bond together. It’s all the veterans service organizations working together.”

The event benefited from positive media coverage. “A lot of energy,” Nessler said. “The PR that they do on this is just totally amazing – the support they get from radio, television and the newspaper – just to advertise it – is great.”

Expo coordinator Diana Abdella says the event has grown substantially over the last decade, drawing media attention and the kind of participation Magnarelli wanted to see in his district for Veterans Day.

“This is definitely a community,” Abdella said. “There are so many organizations in the community that serve veterans and serve their families. This is an opportunity for them to meet and to talk about their needs, and what they can do to get help in the community.”

“The whole idea here is to honor our vets and have the community come out and say thank you,” Magnarelli said. “That’s what the whole ballgame is… that’s what we’re trying to do. And I find that we get a very good response. Everybody comes together, and they have a good time.”

Among the veterans taking in the CNY Expo was Sarah Stenuf, an American Legion Auxiliary Girls State alum and Army combat veteran who also is a three-year member of The American Legion. An Apache crew chief in the Army, she deployed for a year to Afghanistan where she suffered a traumatic brain injury and has battled post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said the CNY Expo presents a great opportunity for veterans of her generation to connect with those who served in past war eras. “I think it’s awesome to embrace the different generations,” she said. “So often in our society right now the older generation doesn’t get the younger generation, and the younger generation doesn’t get the older generation. Here, we all put on that uniform, we all served, and here we can come together, we can bridge those gaps, thank each other and celebrate a day to be together. I think this is a beautiful way to celebrate something we all have in common.”

Stenuf said she is especially appreciative of The American Legion’s efforts to raise awareness and acceptance of alternative treatments for PTSD and integrative care that considers families and caregivers. After she got out of the Army, she explained, “PTSD controlled my life. I started out with two pills and ended up at 16 – not knowing how I got there. It became unmanageable and out of control. I just needed to stop and tell people what was going and ask for help.”

She turned to local veterans organizations that had stayed connected with her during her service years. “These guys in The American Legion were there 100 percent for me, before I joined, when I was in – they were sending me care packages – and after I got back, they were checking on me.”

She said The American Legion helped her find new purposes “and other options outside of VA and traditional methods of health care” after discharge. She found that volunteer activity and assisting other veterans was a route to relief that no pills could offer.

Today, she says she looks forward to finding ways to continue bridging gaps between older Legionnaires and those of her era so they can all be there for veterans yet to serve. “We need to embrace our differences. I feel that’s a gap we need to close if the Legion is going to retain members for future generations, especially younger ones.”

If Magnarelli has it his way, the CNY Expo will continue to build bridges, elevate awareness of services and give the people of his district a massive opportunity each Veterans Day weekend to say thank you to all who have served, regardless their era.

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Wreath tribute opens weekend of WWI commemorative programs

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At a wreath-laying tribute to the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I, officials said it is long past time their sacrifice is honored with a memorial in the nation's capital.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and retired Illinois Army National Guard Col. Jennifer Pritzker, founder of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, joined the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the public at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8 for the first of several programs commemorating the war's end and previewing the long-awaited memorial.

Wilkie spoke of his great-grandfather, Capt. A.D. Somerville, who in 1917 left a small-town law practice and part-time teaching job at the University of Mississippi School of Law to join the Army's 82nd "All-American" Division at Camp Gordon, Ga. Across the cantonment was a scratch farmer from Tennessee named Alvin York, who went on to become the country's greatest civilian soldier. Elsewhere in Georgia was his wife's grandfather, who by age 19 would fight in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. All were "ordinary Americans called upon to do extraordinary things," helping the United States emerge on the world stage, he said.

"Let this monument remind us of that long-ago generation ... their courage, their sacrifice, and their common bond as citizens of the greatest republic in history," Wilkie said.

The morning ceremony kicked off a weekend of commemorative events at the park, including tributes to women and minorities who served in World War I. Visitors can also stop by a "First Look" pavilion, open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Monday, to see a maquette and multimedia presentation of the new national memorial.

Terry Hamby, chairman of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and a Vietnam War veteran, welcomed guests.

"I speak for my grandfather, who lost his hearing in World War I, and for my great-uncle, who was killed in action at St. Mihiel, and millions of families of World War I veterans," said Hamby, a member of American Legion Nashville Post 5.

"The path to create a memorial in the capital to honor those who served in the Great War has taken many twists and turns in the past 50 years, and we were thrilled in 2015 when Congress designated Pershing Park as the site of the World War I memorial and directed the commission to build it .... Our doughboys were the first to deploy to a country most had never visited and fight in a war they didn't start, and were willing to die for peace and liberty for people they'd never met.

"This is our opportunity to correct a long-overdue debt. We need your help and America's help to build this memorial."

As the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" Brass Quintet played, representatives from each state and territory placed wreaths in memory of those who served.

Ely Ross, director of the Washington, D.C., Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs and a Marine Corps Iraq War veteran, praised the commission's work, which has included education programs, public outreach and commemorative events across the country.

He noted that of the 27,000 D.C. residents who served in World War I, 499 died, their names etched on the district monument on the National Mall dedicated in 1931.

"World War I was thought to be the war to end all wars," Ross said. "Unfortunately, as we all know, nothing could be further from the truth. Even today, in the midst of the longest war in our nation's history, men and women from the District of Columbia and across the nation continue to step forward and serve our country. It's our responsibility as communities and as a nation to not only care for our veterans when they return home but to make sure we never forget their service and their sacrifice.

"This memorial will finally and properly enshrine the service of our World War I veterans for future generations so they can learn from the legacy of the men and women who served 100 years ago."

Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, said Pershing Park is one of his favorite memorials in the city, but that it is "completely appropriate to transition just a bit from it being a memorial just to General Pershing to being a memorial to the Great War."

Guests also heard about the 100 Cities/100 Memorials program, launched in 2016 by the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and the World War One Commission, with the support of The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its goal was to help communities across the country restore and preserve local World War I memorials through matching grants of $2,000.

"These memorials provide a permanent connection to the profound impact the war had on local towns and cities," Pritzker said. "In the end, our $200,000 program helped stimulate over $6,200,000 in memorial restorations nationwide."

As founding sponsor of the World War One Centennial Commission and a life member of Union League American Legion Post 758 in Chicago, Pritzker has contributed $5 million to the commemoration of World War I.

Both her grandfathers served in the Great War: Navy Chief Petty Officer Abram Pritzker and Pvt. Oscar Gilbert, 84th Division, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), who served in France in 1918. Her great-uncle, Capt. Louis Pritzker, was an Army doctor. Another great-uncle, Harry Pritzker, was an infantry officer with the 22nd AEF.

"For them, it was their way of solidifying their citizenship," Pritzker said. "Louis Pritzker was an immigrant, born in the old Russian empire. Oscar, Harry and Abram were all born in the United States, but they were the sons of immigrants. This was the case in many families.

"We created a huge army in a very short time. People fail to understand the mobilization for World War I was a little like taking a high school baseball team and saying, 'You're going to play in the World Series next year, and by the way, you've got to create a Major League franchise from the ground up.' And we did it."

John Monahan, The American Legion's representative on the World War One Centennial Commission, is heading up the weekend's armistice centennial activities, including a sacred service at Washington National Cathedral on Sunday.

"It is our hope that we will fittingly and appropriately honor the memory of those who served and sacrificed in the Great War," Monahan said.

"As a Legionnaire, I view this as a singular honor to represent the Legion on the commission, and to be entrusted by the commission itself with the organization of these events over the next few days. The Legion has its roots in the first world war, and it was largely that spirit of the doughboys that was encapsulated in our founding documents. It's an organization I'm extremely proud of."

For more on the World War One Centennial Commission's "First Look" events, click here.

Learn how to support construction of the National World War I Memorial here.

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By Protecting Veterans’ Health, You May Protect Your Own

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V.H.A. doctors care for some of America’s most vulnerable. They are not “bad apples” who “rob us or cheat us.”

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Coach Says California Gunman Assaulted Her in High School

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While Ian D. Long may have suffered from PTSD, no evidence has been made public that it was ever diagnosed or that he was treated.

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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.