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‘I believe NALPA is ready to step up’

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Mark Sutton of Eaton Rapids, Mich., is NALPA’s Region 3 vice president and leading candidate for 2017-2018 NALPA president. Sutton has been a member of The American Legion for 11 years and began his Legion career with Post 32 in Livonia, Mich.  Although he has not held any leadership positions within his post, he did spend his time volunteering with the department’s legislative team to advance veteran legislation, and six years ago he was hired as the Department of Michigan’s public relations director.

David Wallace: What inspired you to get involved with NALPA and how long have you been a member?

Mark Sutton: I have been a NALPA member for six years and joined shortly after becoming the public relations director.  I feel that NALPA is a good organization to help public relations officers in sharing ideas.

Wallace: Does your department have a press association and if so is there anything it does differently than NALPA?

Sutton: The Department of Michigan has the Michigan American Legion Press Association.  The group gives away awards, and we meet at each of the department’s conferences, meetings and conventions.

Wallace: What is your favorite article that you have written for The American Legion?

Sutton: A few years ago I wrote about the veteran service grants that Michigan veteran service organizations receive from the state and how the work being done by the officers impacts the state.  People and members were not aware that the $3-plus million dollars in grants given results in over $200 million or more each year in money back to the state of Michigan.

Wallace: What you would like to see in your year as the leading candidate for NALPA president? 

Sutton: I do not think I am alone when I say I don’t join groups just for a card.  It is like people saying that they don’t join the Legion because they don’t drink, they are missing everything else the Legion offers through one of their 22 different programs.
NALPA is more than just a card – we  are a group of likeminded individuals who want to know more about advancing the principles and ideals of The American Legion in our communities.  The members are mostly volunteers and many do not have a background in public relations.  They are not sure on what steps to take to get started.  NALPA can show them how.

That direction is where I would like to see NALPA move to.  When someone asks what benefits come with a membership in NALPA, I want to be able to say that NALPA has the tools, training and resources to help you do the best job you can.   
During the year I would like to see NALPA offer courses of instruction, via video or manuals – from a basic course, intermediate course, to an advanced course.  It is a large order to fill, but I think it is time and I believe NALPA is ready to step up.  I look forward to the challenge, if elected, and working with our partners in Media and Communications to bring NALPA members priceless benefits.


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It’s everyone’s responsibility to tell our story

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As I think about what a whirlwind year this has been serving as your NALPA president, I am amazed at all of the articles that have been created throughout the year – either through our newsletters or those written and shared by The American Legion’s Media and Communications Division about all of the Legion’s social media platforms.

Communication by any method is key to showing what our organization does and to aid in signing up new members. If you are having trouble putting together talking points about The American Legion, then share the video “This is The American Legion,” which can be found at www.legion.org/legiontv. The video also can be found on the Legion’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/americanlegionHQ), and it has been shared amongst many of NALPA’s members through social media. 

As a NALPA member, it is everyone’s responsibility to tell the story of what is going on within their respective communities. And it is my hope that you are enhancing that effort and being the communication leaders within your department, post and district. There is no such thing as an event too big or too small that doesn’t provide a message behind why it was being done.

For example, this year there was a push to promote The American Legion’s inaugural National Poppy Day (May 26) on a national level. In my opinion, and based on the many Facebook postings I read, that goal was accomplished! I even saw many utilizing the correct hashtags to help track the postings.

Our national convention in Reno, Nev., will be here before we know it and I am very pleased with all of the work our NALPA leaders have performed. I congratulate all of the soon-to-be announced winners of the annual NALPA awards, and I look forward to shaking your hand while presenting the award.

Best of luck to next year’s leadership team and thanks to our Executive Director Patrick Rourk and the entire Media and Communications team for their outstanding work putting together our newsletters and helping create a digital format to add to the progress we have made in improving this wonderful association!

I look forward to seeing you in Reno.


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Legion Baseball prominent at MLB All-Star festivities

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Former American Legion Baseball players made their mark on the Midsummer Classic and the surrounding events in Miami this week.

Decatur Post 15 (Ala.) alum Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless inning and earned the win in a 2-1 American League victory on July 11.

Bryce Harper, the leading vote-getter in the All-Star balloting and a Las Vegas Legion alum, may have had the best performance among Legion alums, reaching base in both plate appearances and making a diving catch to end a threat.

Minnesota Legion alum Brad Hand may have also made his case for being the most valuable Legion alum in the game, pitching a perfect seventh inning, including a three-pitch strikeout of eventual game MVP Robinson Cano.

Also of note, Creve Coeur Post 397 (Mo.) Legion alum Max Scherzer earned the start for the National League and pitched a scoreless inning, as well.

Oakland A's top pitching prospect A.J. Puk headlined the Futures Game on July 9, closing out the 7-6 victory for Team USA. Puk played on the 2012 American Legion USA Baseball Tournament of Stars team. Assistant coaching for that team was Jim Peck, who is a Minnesota American Legion Baseball Committee member and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

The All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game was headlined by two former Legion ballplayers who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this month: Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines.

Raines hit two home runs and made a stellar defensive play to help lead the National League to a high-scoring 28-22 victory and earn co-MVP honors.

Rodriguez received a hero's welcome as he returned to the city where he won the 2003 World Series. Rodriguez was also honored prior to the All-Star Game, which celebrated Latin-born players enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In addition, national staff participated in the Electric Run MLB All-Star 5k and attended All-Star Zumba, both of which benefit MLB Charities to support youth baseball and youth softball programming.


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How to use your NALPA press card

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The California American Legion Press Association (CALPA) press card saw the light of day when it gravitated from the dark recesses of a members wallet to an all-new custom lanyard. These stylish and bright red, white and blue lanyards with a hard plastic case were designed to highlight our status as a CALPA representative whenever and wherever the occasion might arise.

The key is to wear your press card as a representative of The American Legion at organizational events, as well as at public events. It takes the place of your pocket name plate as it displays your name, organizational affiliation and home state.

For example, I had the opportunity to interview country music star Trace Adkins about his support for military personnel for a story published in The California Legionnaire. When I contacted the PR office at the venue he was to perform at and presented my request for an interview with Adkins, I had to submit an email about my request. In that email I shared about CALPA and The American Legion, among other things. And when I had the opportunity to interview Adkins, I wore my Legion cap and CALPA press card.

You have a great opportunity through your NALPA membership to represent The American Legion – not only in your local community but through your own post, district and beyond. And any time you can help the Legion obtain greater visibility, it’s an opportunity to promote the organization.


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American Legion style guide available for download

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In all its media channels – print, Web and social media – clarity and consistency are key to successfully communicating The American Legion’s message.

The American Legion Style Guide, available for download at www.legion.org/publications, offers valuable tips on writing copy that’s clean and clear.

Here are a few examples from the style guide:
  • Avoid alphabet soup by using capitalization only where it’s necessary and appropriate. When too many words are emphasized, none stand out. Don’t write, American Legion Posts are full of Veterans who respect our Nation’s Flag. Do write, American Legion posts are full of veterans who respect our nation’s flag. Limit capitalization to the first word of a sentence, proper nouns (people, groups, places, etc.), and titles preceding names.
  • Not sure when to capitalize the “t” in The American Legion? Only when referring to the main organization or Sons of The American Legion. When the name is followed by another word or words, go with a lowercase “t”: the American Legion Family, the American Legion Riders, the American Legion Baseball program.
  • Do not capitalize post except when referring to a specific, numbered American Legion post. For example, write the Chattanooga post, American Legion Post 95 in Chattanooga or Post 95. When referring to posts in a general sense, write American Legion posts or Legion posts.
The style guide also has a list of frequently used terms, including:
  • servicemember (It’s one word, not two.)
  • half-mast (ships and naval stations ashore) and half-staff (elsewhere ashore)
  • Korean War. (Do not use Korean conflict.)
  • Medal of Honor (Do not use Congressional Medal of Honor. Use Medal of Honor recipient, not winner.)
  • taps (Lowercase without quotation marks for the bugle call sounded at “lights out” and military funerals.)
  • U.S. flag or flag (Do not use the Flag.)

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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.