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Veterans Benefits Information

Riders in Florida celebrate centennial, raise money for hurricane relief

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A vote among Legion Riders at last year’s Department of Florida fall conference led to a way to both celebrate The American Legion’s 100th birthday and help members of the Legion Family affected by Hurricane Michael.

“We’re commemorating (the Legion centennial) with a 100-mile ride, with proceeds going to Post 375 up in the panhandle,” Florida District 6 Riders Chairman Joe Marcheggiani said.

Legion Riders from Florida’s District 6 were joined by Riders from District 12 for the event on March 16 at Post 10 in Kissimmee, which took place in conjunction with District 6’s quarterly meeting and picnic.

“The whole idea was to be part of the 100th birthday,” Marcheggiani said. “We decided we would do a 100th birthday celebration this year and ride 100 miles on this day.”

And the Riders would raise money to help Post 375 in Southport, which was destroyed by Hurricane Michael last October. Marcheggiani said the District 6 event raised over $500 for Post 375. Other districts in the state are conducting centennial rides/fundraisers throughout the month.

“The main thing with being a Rider is to support the Legion Family,” Marcheggiani said.

“Because of time constraints, we did a creative thing within our district to make up for the 100 miles. I have posts that will ride over 150 miles today to go to and fro from their posts,” Marcheggiani said. “We took and we added up all the bodies that are here, what posts they came from, added up all the round trip miles, and came up with 40 miles short of 100 miles for all those bodies. So we gathered up as many bikes as possible, sent them out on a 40-mile ride to make up for the 100 miles, so we could get our 100 miles in legit.”

The “make-up” ride took Riders from Post 10 on the shore of Lake Tohopekaliga southeast to the town of St. Cloud and back. Afterward, the Riders picnicked and played games at the post.

Post 10 Commander Dan Bush was pleased with the turnout and happy to celebrate the Legion’s centennial.

“To me, personally, 100 years of us being around, I’ve seen a lot of posts go defunct over the years, I cry every time I hear one’s going down,” said Bush, who’s in his second year as commander at Post 10. “I’m proud of the organization, I’ve been a member for almost 29 years.”

Part of Post 10’s building has stood since the 19th century, a log cabin that was once a railroad depot and now is part of the post’s meeting hall.

“The 100th year celebration is kind of an emotional thing when you think about it,” Marcheggiani said. “Myself, I’m from New England, there’s a lot of history there; as a kid, I used to walk around Revolutionary War cemeteries and stuff. I did 20 years in the Army, I consider myself a pretty patriotic person, so when the Legion is celebrating 100 years, that’s a major accomplishment. … I’m glad to contribute my time to represent it and to show its face in the community.

“I think it’s important that we keep our sights on the next 100 years, and with this pool of veterans we’ve got right now, coming in from the Global War on Terror, we need to get them in the mix. That’s our backbone right there. If we can’t get them in here and into the mix, it’s going to be rough. But we’re slowly but surely getting them in.”

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USAA Tips: Funding a vacation

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By J.J. Montanaro

Excitement and anxiety. As we map out our vacation plans for 2019 and beyond and there’s a curious mix of both. When you add in the financial dynamic, both emotions are understandable. However, with a little prep, hard work and discipline, you should be able to experience the excitement and leave the worry behind.

Vacations can be a bit tricky, though. Just when you think you’ve got it all covered – bam! – another expense hits you head on. That’s why I decided to break my tips into two distinct “financial phases” -- saving for and saving on your next vacation(s).

The “s” is intentional as if you’re like us, you may have more than one in the hopper. For example, I’ve been writing about our plans for a European river cruise for several years. This summer we’ll transition from savers to spenders and finally take the trip. That leads me to a few tips on saving for your upcoming vacation:

You don’t need a destination to get started. The point of saving for your vacation is to have the money necessary to take that vacation without having to hawk all your furniture, rent out the kids(?), or more likely use a credit card to make the trip. I’d encourage you to build a line item in your budget where you regularly and systematically set aside money specifically for vacations. We were directing money to a “vacation fund” well before we settled on a river cruise.

You do need a home. No, not the roof over your head, I’m talking about a place for your vacation savings. Consider setting up a separate savings account(s) for the money you do save. Unless you are saving for a vacation you are planning three plus years in the future, you should consider a plain-vanilla safe, stable and accessible savings account. Sure, shop for a good rate, but there’s no reason to invest and take on unnecessary risk when you should be saving.

It should be in your face. While we saved a bit each paycheck, our efforts really took off – we saved some big chunks when it was available – once we named our savings account “river cruise fund.” If you’ve got more than one vacation idea, set up multiple savings accounts and name them all. Naming the account makes it a tangible goal and a place where you will want to put money, not pull it. Photos, screen savers or other reminders can motivate you, too.

Go big, so you don’t have to go home. One of the coolest things (relative to funding a vacation, but well behind a lot of other life experiences) is to finish your vacation with money left over that you can roll to your next adventure. My point? Do a little research and set your savings goals properly and if you’re going to make an error, better to end up with too much than too little.

Next up, let’s shift our focus to saving on your next vacation. These are all-purpose tips to help ensure you end up in the enviable position of finishing your vacation with a surplus. These tips are designed to keep your trip fun even when being frugal.

Take advantage of trusted partners. Morale, Welfare & Recreation opportunities, Armed Forces Vacation Club, USAA’s Member Travel Privileges and Armed Forces Recreation Centers are examples of a few of the military and veteran-oriented resources you can tap into as you look for good value. If the situation is right, they can all help you save some serious dough. Of course, no matter where you’re shopping, make sure you always ask for a military discount.

Take advantage of on-the-fly opportunities. We have always been planners. So, the whole “save for” idea resonates with my wife and me. On the other hand, we have always been a bit envious of some of the deals friends have gotten by waiting until the last minute. They’ve taken last minute cruises, flown to $50 destinations and filled empty seats for a fraction of what we would have paid. If you can block the time and hold off on the destination, letting the best deal point the way, you may be able to do a lot more for less.

Enjoy the local cuisine. For many folks, eating out is already a huge expense and big money waster at home, so being cost-effective on vacation can be even tougher. But don’t let the bright lights of a new town throw you off your game. Instead, pack snacks for the theme park or other tourist destinations. When you do eat out, drink water and skip dessert. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with hitting the local grocery store and picking up the makings for some brown bag lunches.

Test the town. We all love to be entertained! But it can get expensive quickly. It’s imperative to do research in advance. Look online for coupons or military discounts for cheaper access, but read all the fine print. Is there something you want to do that doesn’t carry that big price tag? For example, a local museum may be a lot of fun (and free!) and, at the same time, give you another perspective on that locale! You can take that brown bag lunch to a local park and win on two fronts. You don’t need to fork out a lot of cash to enjoy your vacation.

Skip the souvenirs. Speaking of dishing out a lot of cash. From the $25 t-shirt (that might be worn twice more) to the soon-to-be broken key chain, save your money. Consider taking family photos or shooting a video record of the trip instead and encourage the kids or grandkids to write a daily journal. These types of keepsakes can truly capture the moment and last a lifetime.

Saving for and on your next vacation can result in an unforgettable getaway without leaving you in a financial bind.

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Membership drive set for California counties

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Department of California Legionnaires are conducting a district revitalization and veterans outreach effort March 27-29 in Eldorado, Nevada and Placer counties. All wartime veterans in the area are invited to the event to learn more about American Legion programs and veteran benefits.

The effort will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 27-28 and 9 a.m.-noon March 29 at Robert W. Townsend American Legion Post 84, Auburn Veterans Memorial Building, 100 East St., Auburn.

Veteran service officer information will be available to assist all area veterans with claims or other veteran benefit-related questions all three days.

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Veterans outreach taking place in Little Rock

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Department of Arkansas Legionnaires are conducting a district revitalization and veterans outreach effort March 22-23 in Little Rock. All wartime veterans in the area are invited to the event to learn more about American Legion programs and veteran benefits.

The effort will place from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 22 and 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. March 23 at the Arkansas American Legion Department Headquarters, 702 S. Victory St., Little Rock.

A veteran service officer will be available both days to assists veterans with Department of Veterans Affairs-related questions.

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Reistad salutes ‘heart and soul of The American Legion’

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While some may have wondered why The American Legion’s top leader chose to be in Charles Town, W. Va., during the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of his organization, National Commander Brett Reistad had a quick explanation.

“We could have had an elaborate ball in Washington, D.C., or perhaps a ritzy celebration in Paris, but that’s not what The America Legion is all about,” he said at a March 15 gala held at Post 71. “The heart and soul of The American Legion is found in our community posts. Places like West Virginia. Or Kansas. Our coasts. And, yes, our veterans communities overseas. Our work in Washington and internationally is of enormous importance. But 99 percent of our Legionnaires reside in communities such as this.”

It was a visit that was appreciated by the local American Legion.

“The chances of having the national commander here, on the day we officially turned 100, are one in a million,” said Don Chandler, a department vice commander of West Virginia who has been a member since 1970. “When you think of all of the people who belong to The American Legion and all of the places that the commander could be, it’s amazing that he chose historic Charles Town.”

Although chartered in January 1920, Jackson-Perks Post 71 began organizing in 1919. It was named in honor Wade H. Jackson and Joseph W. Perks, the first two county residents killed in World War I.

It was with fallen heroes such as Jackson and Perks in mind that Reistad acknowledged the history that The American Legion has in honoring military veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“The American Legion honors fallen veterans as much as we serve the living,” Reistad said. “It was The American Legion that stood alongside the president of the United States during the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a dedication that probably would not have happened if not for the advocacy of founder Hamilton Fish, who also happened to be a powerful member of Congress.”

In addition to covering milestones of American Legion history, Reistad emphasized that The American Legion doesn’t only serve veterans but all Americans, especially young people. “The American Legion serves the youth of America with outstanding programs such as America Legion Baseball, Junior Shooting Sports, Boys State and Boys Nation,” he pointed out. “The American Legion has supported the Boy Scouts of America since 1919 and today sponsors 2,400 Scouting units comprising more than 63,000 young men and women.”

It is that dedication to youth that attracted perhaps the youngest Legionnaire at the birthday celebration. Donald Lambert, 22, is commander of Post 29 in Elkin, West Va., and a district adjutant. It was his local post that sponsored his Boy Scout unit. “That post then sent me to Boys State in 2013,” Lambert said. “As soon as I finished basic training in the Air Force, I joined.”

While Reistad is certainly glad to have Lambert’s membership and emphasizes the need for growth, he lamented the need for an American Legion. “World War I was so horrific, it was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Sadly, we all know it wasn’t. Now this wasn’t in any way a failure of our military veterans. It was a failure of world diplomacy,” he said before adding that the legacy of the last Legionnaires could have been continued by the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary.

“But war continued. And as long as America fights wars, both declared and undeclared, America will always need a strong American Legion,” Reistad said.

Of the Legion’s founders, Reistad said, “They surpassed all expectations. Legionnaires continue to do so today, with a vision for tomorrow. That vision will continue on because we will renew our dedication for and our membership in the greatest veterans organization that the world has ever seen. We will recruit new members and retain existing ones. We will check on our buddies and continue to advocate for a strong America.”

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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