Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Helping kids make the right choices

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For two years, American Legion Post 159 in St. Clairsville, Ohio, has provided financial support to the Belmont County Schools Staying Clean Club, a program designed to help students in all of the county’s schools stay drug-free.

Providing that support, including a recent donation to St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools, is just part of what Post 159 Adjutant Rick Johnson said the Legion’s mission has been in the community for years.

“We’re active in supporting the city of St. Clairsville, and we’ve supported the police department,” Johnson said. “I’ve been (post) adjutant for four years, and as far as I can think back – especially in my four years – we’ve been doing things like buying a canine training kit for the police department, (buying) a defibrillator, doing a number of things to be very supportive.

“We’ve built a relationship with the (St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools) resource officer. Right now we’re purchasing 34 flags for the classrooms at the school. He came to us and wanted to know if we’d be interested in helping the drug program.”

Students may join the Staying Clean program at the beginning of the school year by filling out the program’s form. The $10 fee covers all drug testing and any rewards earned throughout the year.

By joining the program, students agree to be randomly drug tested throughout the school year. All results of the tests are kept confidential; if a student tests positive, only the club coordinator and the parents are made aware of the results. School officials are not provided the results.

Students who test positive for drugs lose their club ID cards and don’t have them returned until testing negative.

“The students have to stay clean or their parents are going to find out about it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been very supportive of (the program) and will continue to do it probably annually as long as the program is successful.”

The post’s most recent donation was $750 to St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools. Johnson said more than 400 students in the school system have signed up for the Staying Clean program – more than all of the other Belmont County schools combined.

A year ago the post donated $750 to help fund testing – among approximately $15,000-$20,000 in donations the posts distributes annually – while this year’s donation will provide a rewards meal for the students.

“We are so fortunate in St. Clairsville to have Post 159 support our schools and community the way they do,” said Patrolman Jeff S. Gazdik, a member of the St. Clairsville Police Department and the School Resource Officer for St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools. “Our students appreciate the support of Post 159 in rewarding them to stay drug-free. Without support from fellow classmates, staff, administrators, parents and community organizations, students could very easily choose drugs, which would lead to bigger problems in their life.”

Gazdik said that in addition to the donation providing a meal for the students, it “will also be used to continue to educate the students about the dangers of drugs and the dangers of addiction. I hate to think where we would be without the support of community organizations like Post 159.”

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ALWS champions to attend MLB World Series, Play Ball clinic

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As the final four teams compete for spots in next week’s Major League Baseball World Series, the Blue Sox of Henderson, Nev., Post 40 anxiously awaits to see where they will go.

Continuing a 90-year tradition, the American Legion World Series championship team will attend the MLB World Series.

Serving as guests of the Office of the Commissioner, Post 40 will attend Game 4 of the World Series and will participate in a pre-game ceremony.

The team will also participate in a Play Ball clinic in the host city in an effort to give back to the sport that has provided the players and coaches with great opportunities.

Play Ball is a committed effort to spark widespread participation in all forms of baseball activities among all age groups, especially youth.

"The purpose of the initiative is just to remind people that you can engage with baseball without having nine guys on each team, uniforms and umpires," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said of Play Ball in an MLB news article. "There are lots of small games that are ways to play baseball that can be really fun for kids and can really help them develop skills.”

Game 4 of the World Series will be in Houston, New York or Chicago, depending on the results and seeding, as Los Angeles is guaranteed to be the host of Game 1 and Game 2 should the Dodgers advance.

“Houston, New York, Chicago … where will we go?” Tweeted the Blue Sox with excitement. “Either way, I'm sure we will be ok!”

Each of the four teams have at least one Legion alum with All-Star credentials, led by Kris Bryant, Justin Verlander, Corey Seager and David Robertson.

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A Marine Attacked an Iraqi Restaurant. But Was It a Hate Crime or PTSD?

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After a Marine attacked an Iraqi restaurant in Portland, Ore., his family said he was provoked by trauma, not hate, and that he needed help, not jail time.

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The search for photos of servicemembers on the Vietnam memorial

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There are 58,318 names etched in the black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And photos of nearly 5,000 of those servicemembers are still needed to complete the Wall of Faces project, which is an effort begun in 2009 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to commemorate this year’s 35th anniversary of the memorial. The Wall of Faces is an online database that features a photo of the servicemember with a brief biography.

American Legion Past Department of New York Auxiliary President Sue Britton, and the entire New York Legion Family, are doing their part to find those missing in their respective state.

“I think that every one of these veterans need to be recognized, and it’s become a communitywide service project here in New York to locate the photos,” said Britton, a member of Unit 589 in Rensselaerville, N.Y.

Britton heard about the Wall of Faces project during a trip to the memorial this past February while in Washington, D.C., for the Legion’s annual Washington Conference. “The whole thing seemed so sad to me that a face couldn’t be put with each of those Vietnam veterans,” she said. Upon returning home from the conference, she looked up the list of Vietnam servicemembers in her county of Albany that were on the Wall and had missing photos. There were 16.

But after investigative work and persistence by Britton and other Legion Family members, they have all been accounted for and uploaded to the Wall of Faces website.

Britton initially started the photo recovery process by looking in the phone book for those with the same last name as the Vietnam servicemember. Within two hours of making cold calls, she had made contact with three of the families. Other ways she has tracked down photos is by searching on Google, looking at obituaries for parents of the servicemembers to see if there are living siblings or other relatives, using the Coffelt database, and word of mouth.

The challenge with tracking down the photos of these servicemembers is that many were not married, did not have siblings or their parents are now deceased. When it comes to situations like this, Britton said high school yearbooks help because the photos don’t have to be of their military service. For example, Britton’s husband Donald, a Vietnam veteran and member of Legion Post 589, went to high school with one of the men whose photo was missing. He was an only child and his parents are deceased so Donald scanned an image of the fallen servicemember’s high school yearbook photo to have placed on the Wall of Faces.

Britton decided to expand her search statewide and initiated the support of the entire New York Legion Family. Her research unveiled that there were nearly 1,200 Vietnam servicemembers from New York whose names are on the Wall but are without a photo in the database. So during the Department of New York’s convention this past summer she created and inserted a flyer into the attendees' packets that called for the Legion Family to help put a face to every name. It was a call to “work together as a Legion Family and get this done for these American servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam,” Britton said.

Because of the New York Legion Family, as of today, New York is now missing 846 photos.

“This project has been so rewarding. It means so much to these families when they find out you’re trying to post a picture of their family member to the Wall of Faces to be remembered,” Britton said. “I don’t think there’s any greater tribute than having their face there.”

There are 26 U.S. states with missing photos of their fallen Vietnam servicemembers. See a list of states here that have all photos accounted for.

While the Department of New York Legion Family continues to locate the remaining photos, Britton is challenging other departments with photos of Vietnam servicemembers missing to do the same.

“Any department can do this,” she said. “You can help make this a reality where every Vietnam servicemember is recognized.” She even created a flyer that departments can distribute to support this effort. Download the flyer here.

The Wall of Faces will be part of the future Education Center at The Wall, which will be an interactive learning facility located on the National Mall.

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4 industries anxious to hire veterans right now

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Military servicemembers face many challenges when their enlistment ends. They must adjust to living outside a military compound, having more free time and less rigorous social interaction, seeing beloved friends and family every day and losing responsibilities while gaining others. However, the most stressful challenge for most soon-to-be vets is getting a job.

Rarely do servicemembers worry about interviews; even more rarely do they think about resumes and cover letters. Job hunting is as foreign to a military vet as living on an active military facility would be to a civilian; the difference is that vets usually have to find work, whereas few civilians will ever step foot on a base. Fortunately, it can be easy for vets to find jobs — especially if they look in the following industries that eagerly accept military experience.

Information Technology

As most servicemembers know, running into hostile territories equipped with guns and armor is a dying art. So much of America’s defenses have become digital that many servicemembers are trained specifically for information technology positions — which is an outstanding advantage in today’s civilian job market.

There is not a business in America today that does not rely on technology, which means anyone equipped with skills like operating digital equipment and networks, analyzing data, and building and maintaining computer systems is likely to have no problem finding a well-paying job.

Throughout the industry, jobs are expected to grow more than 6 percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries for information technology professionals vary based on job title and responsibilities, but servicemembers can always return to school for enhanced credentials and greater earning power.

Aerospace and Defense

The aerospace industry is committed to building technology used in military pursuits: aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. Therefore, it follows that most aerospace firms are eager to employ veterans who have experience using these technologies in the wild. Servicemembers can evaluate and improve defense-related technologies with greater assiduousness than average citizens, who generally do not understand the specific and exceptional needs of military personnel.

However, vets interested in aerospace engineering can look forward to more than building technologies for military use. In fact, many of the discoveries made to actualize air and space travel have become foundational in modern society, including water filtration systems, more energy-efficient lights and electronics, nutritionally enriched foods, and more.

Aerospace has been growing steadily for years — and not just in America. Vets can find ample opportunities for work in aerospace and defense outside the U.S., especially in countries eager to reach space, such as India. A bachelor’s degree is typically the lowest education requirement for aerospace engineers, but vets can return to school for master’s- and Ph.D.-level credentials that will boost earning potential.

Weapons and Security

The weapons and security industry tends to be an attractive option to vets recently out of service. As with information technology, servicemembers are often trained directly in the fields of weapons and security, which means their employment history makes them ideal candidates for jobs in this industry, where knowledge about national security and weapon use — as well as experience with teamwork and leadership — are mandatory.

Within this industry, the types of available positions — as well as job requirements and pay — are incredibly diverse. Vets interested in performing similar duties to their positions in the service should strongly consider investigating opportunities in weapons and security.

Government Agencies

It shouldn’t be surprising that the U.S. government is attracted to individuals who have already demonstrated commitment to the country. Passion for protecting and improving the U.S. is critical for work in government agencies, and vets’ history of service is proof of their American patriotism and zeal. Plus, there are two federal departments — the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs — which directly apply vets’ specialized training and experience. Not only can vets help advance the U.S. from these positions, but they can help individual servicemembers, as well.

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