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Young scholars give thanks to The American Legion, Samsung

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Nine recent high school graduates from across the country gathered in a room at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., the morning of June 5 to be honored for an achievement they all share – the 2018 Samsung American Legion Scholarship. For the past five years, The American Legion and Samsung have brought the 10 national scholars to the nation’s capital for a two-day special recognition that includes time spent with American Legion and Samsung leadership, a tour of memorials and monuments, a visit to the White House and more.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is an achievement the scholars earned through their participation in American Legion Boys State or Auxiliary Girls State, being a direct descendant of a wartime veteran, academic excellence and community service. Several thousand applicants apply for the scholarship every year, with 10 being named national scholars and the recipient of a $10,000 college scholarship. One 2018 national scholar could not attend the recognition due to other commitments.

As the scholars congregated inside the Capitol Visitors Center for breakfast alongside Legion Family leadership that included Committee on Children & Youth Chairman Michael Westergren of Arkansas and Auxiliary Education Chairman Lisa Williamson of Alaska, several of them met their state senators and heard remarks from keynote speaker Rep. French Hill, R-Ark. Hill reminded the scholars that they are now ambassadors for The American Legion, Boys and Girls State, and for civic engagement in their communities.

“I want you to reflect on (your civic commitment and the sacrifices made by those who keep us free) because you now have a connection to The American Legion. One percent of Americans are in uniform and they protect the other 99 percent in this country. That’s an awesome responsibility,” said Hill, a Sons of The American Legion Post 1 member in Little Rock, whose grandfather founded the post after his service in World War I. So as the scholars embark on their careers and family life, Hill asked that they “don’t forget your obligation to your country to continue your public service.”

The continuation of service to their country was also reiterated from Dr. David Steel, executive vice president of Samsung Electronics America, during his remarks.

“This scholarships is all about continuing (your community) service and making it a lifetime commitment to giving back wherever you are,” Steel said. “I just encourage all of you to think about what got you to this point in the scholarship, the sacrifice made by your parents and grandparents and great grandparents, and how do you continue to pay that back going forward.”

The scholars had an opportunity to share their appreciation for the scholarship and how it’s helping them further their education and dreams.

“This scholarship is really a great honor. It doesn’t just speak to my achievements but to the many generations of service to this country that have come before me,” said Elise Sopelle of Pequot Lakes, Minn., who will attend the University of Northwestern in St. Paul and pursue a degree in Biblical and theological studies. “My great-great-grandfather served in World War I, my great-grandfather in World War II, my grandfather in Vietnam and my mother served in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Last year when I was at Girls State my brother was at Army basic training. These are the people who have brought me to this point in my life and Samsung and The American Legion are the people who are taking me forward.”

The scholarship is allowing Mattilyn Winburn of Bainbridge, Ga., to pursue a liberal arts degree at The King’s College in New York City. “(The Samsung and American Legion) partnership has literally changed the lives of so many young, civic-minded individuals by removing financial barriers to furthering their education and allowing them to pursue their dreams and I am so blessed to now be one of those people,” said Winburn, who has made it to the top nine semifinalists the past two years at The American Legion’s National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis as her career goal is to become a constitutional lawyer.

Samsung bestowed a $5 million endowment to The American Legion in 1995 for the establishment of a scholarship; it was their way of showing an appreciation for the U.S. troops that came to the aid of South Korea. Through interest earned on the endowment, the Samsung American Legion Scholarship has awarded more than $6.1 million to 2,164 youth since 1996. “It’s just an incredible tribute to the success of the program,” Steel said.

Following breakfast, the scholars visited Samsung’s new innovative office near Capitol Hill where they viewed Samsung products, such as tablets, watches, frame TVs and the flip board – which takes a place of a white board where you can draw and take notes but have the ability to email the notes. They too met staff and learned about their daily roles at Samsung and career paths.

“Immediately upon coming (to the sixth floor) when we stepped off the elevator I looked up and there is a screen on the ceiling. It’s pretty awesome that you can have a work environment that has a playful vibe to it to be creative,” said Colt Crowson of Madill, Okla., who will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy this fall. He wants to be a fighter pilot and an astronaut, a dream he’s had since he was little playing with flying toys and jumping off his family’s barn thinking he could fly.

Valerie Puliafico of West Bridgewater, Mass., who will be attending Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., felt the Samsung office “is a 21st century workspace. The furniture is moveable to encourage collaboration and the glass walls, literally and figuratively, I think it encourages transparency in the workplace which I think is important.”

Samsung provided each scholar with a new Galaxy tablet to aid in their education and continue the connection with each other that the scholars have made since arriving in the nation’s capital Tuesday night.

“There’s really not words to describe how grateful you are when you’re in this position. I just thank The American Legion and Samsung for their gracious support,” Crowson said. “Being one of those top 10 people that get to come here and experience this is just kind of life-altering.”

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As the number of surviving veterans dwindles, the old pillars of trans-Atlantic certainty have begun to tremble.

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Trump and Macron Honor D-Day Troops

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President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France gave speeches and greeted World War II veterans during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday.

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Chairman Takano Statement on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano issued the following statement in recognition of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. See a video of Chairman Takano’s floor speech here and his remarks as prepared below: [[{"fid":"57","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 260px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]] Madam Speaker, I rise today in gratitude for the bravery and sacrifices made by American and Allied Armed Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944. This week marks the 75th anniversary of that “Longest Day”-  a moment in history when servicemembers from across the globe stormed the shores of Normandy, France to defend liberty and fight against the tyranny of Nazi Germany. As we pause to honor and express our gratitude to the tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors and airmen who bore the battle that day and for many days after until victory was achieved, we are reminded again that the cost of freedom can be very high.   As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, it is my duty to ensure the promises made to veterans and their survivors are kept. A veterans’ sacrifice never expires-- their service to this country does not end on the battlefield, and it doesn’t end when they come back home. It lives on, even long after they’re gone.  In the same way, our duty to care for our veterans does not end either. The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is committed to honoring their legacies by improving mental health services, providing accountability for the fair and timely delivery of benefits, and ensuring we honor the memories of those who are gone. Today, I ask everyone to reflect on the sacrifice made by the “Greatest Generation” in Europe 75 years ago and join me in thanking those of this generation who have stepped up and are ready to continue in this tradition if called upon today. ###

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American Legion post helps keep Fort Gibson strong through disaster

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With the town of Fort Gibson, Okla., experiencing the worst flooding in its history, members of Frank Gladd American Legion Post 20 knew it was time to step up.

“As soon as we saw the situation we decided we were going to feed everybody,” said Tim Smith, who serves as Post 20’s commander, Oklahoma’s National Executive Committeeman and is a past department commander.

A charter post from 1919, Post 20 was faced with declining membership with just 28 members when Smith took over in 2010. Now, with 230 members, the post was ready to help when needed.

“We have a very strong heritage here and our growth is a testament to following the four pillars of The American Legion and participating in its programs,” Smith said. “You will get stronger, you will grow, you will influence more people than you can imagine and you will be a rock for the community to stand by. We proved that through this disaster.”

Following flooding, post members served over 10,000 meals and the post itself became a hub for locals to congregate, get a meal, charge their phones and apply for emergency assistance. In the coming weeks, the post is also hosting a home cleanup seminar and offering some free medical services.

Michael Sharpe, a Vietnam-era veteran, is the mayor of Fort Gibson and a member of Post 20.

“I am proud of the way this town came together and I am proud of the way this post has worked really hard when we needed it most,” he said.

Two weeks after the disaster, Post 20 is looking to help in other ways.

“Now we move on to the second phase of the recovery, which is going site-to-site visiting members, delivering snacks and water and picking up their spirits and let them know we’re not forgetting about them,” Smith said.

A tour of the town of Fort Gibson today shows water receded but a town still in need of help.

Navigating road closures and avoiding scattered debris and sinkholes, Smith and his vice commander Jim Quinn lead a convoy through typically familiar neighborhoods that look very different.

At Jack Lloyd’s house, you can see his barn still underwater and when he jokes about being able to fish from inside his home you know he is only half kidding.

In his time of greatest need, Lloyd, an Army veteran, still has been involved in helping at the post and his loyalty has been repaid by his fellow members who helped save his cherished American flag and helped it fly again.

Outside of Wayne Osburn’s house, there is a water mark near the top of his white picket fence.

The Korean War veteran has been a Post 20 member for almost 50 years. His daughter Lisa reflected on the first 10 days since the family lost everything and talked about Post 20’s assistance saying, “They have fed everyone breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have grants they are giving out. I can’t imagine trying to get through this without The American Legion and the Emergency Resource Center.”

That Emergency Resource Center, led by volunteer Haley Norman, is a free donation-based grocery store located in a high school gymnasium for locals to pick up emergency needs.

“The American Legion post has been amazing,” Norman said. “They have been serving hot meals since the beginning and have been supplying our volunteers meals here as well to keep us running.”

Norman has been most impressed by how much the community has come together. “There are people who lost their homes and they still come here to volunteer every day to help. The recovery is just beginning so if anyone is considering donating, I would say to do it. We need your help.”

Smith echoed those thoughts, emphasizing the importance of donations to The American Legion’s National Emergency fund.

“We are going to continue working hard getting people applications for the National Emergency Fund, which is set up for American Legion Family members to get immediate aid up to $3,000 in reimbursement for displacement or repairs to your home,” he said. “It is a fund that is really effective and it helps and all of the money donated is returned to veterans. I could show you several people right now at our post that are going to get that grant. It is how The American Legion supports our members and our veterans. Being a member of The American Legion means we have programs that put your talents to work and we have nonprofits that help you when you have hardship.”

To donate to the National Emergency Fund, click here.

In addition to disaster relief, Post 20 also realized the importance of fulfilling its patriotic duty in these harrowing times.

Starting in 2011, members of the post establish a Trail of Honor each Memorial Day, lining the road to the Fort Gibson National Cemetery with 650 flags.

Smith was unsure whether it was appropriate to continue the Trail of Honor in light of the disaster, but numerous community members requested it and over 150 volunteers stepped up understanding the importance of continuing the tradition.

“Memorial Day here is an emotional day for us. On Memorial Day we go out of our way to do our patriotic duty to honor the 25,000 soldiers buried in the Fort Gibson National Ceremony,” Smith said. “We want people to really to understand what the flag is stands for. We found a way to get the flags up, even during devastation, because if you let little things get in your way you lose the meaning behind it. It was a very good morale booster for the whole town of Fort Gibson.”

“Our post is very strong on patriotism and this shows what it means to us. Sure it might just be a piece of cloth with some colors, but it is what they stand for. The flag is a symbol of hope. The American Legion is a symbol for hope.”

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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