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Veterans Benefits Information

National convention: Did you know?

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5 quick facts about The American Legion’s national convention, which takes place in Indianapolis, Aug. 22 to 29:

  • 3 — Number of times Indianapolis has previously hosted The American Legion national convention (1990, 1995 and 2012 were the other years).

  • 101 — The number of American Legion national conventions, including this year.

  • 9,000 — Estimated number of American Legion Family members attending this year’s national convention.

  • 15,000 — Projected number of nights spent in hotels by national convention attendees.

  • 15 million — Estimated economic impact, in millions of dollars, visitors are expected to contribute to Indianapolis during their stay.

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Legacy Run Day 1: 'That's why I do this ride'

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On a day when 245 motorcycles and 47 passengers on the 14th annual American Legion Legacy Run left Lady Lake, Fla., Post 347 at 7:30 a.m., Mother Nature cooperated most of the day. But that cooperation ended in the middle of the afternoon, when the skies opened up and rain poured on the ride in Georgia from Valdosta to Waycross.

But that rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the American Legion Riders. They were in Waycross for a far more important reason that the weather.

At Kettle Creek Cemetery on Aug. 18, the Riders parked along Carswell Avenue, dismounted from their bikes and headed to the grave of U.S. Army Sgt. Chad M. Mercer, who was killed during combat operations on June 30, 2005, in Baghdad at age 25. There, the Legacy Run participants watched as Mercer’s mother Dorothy placed a wreath at his grave. The Legacy Run’s honor guard displayed the colors, while bugler Bob Phelps sounded Taps.

The turnout of complete strangers there to honor her son moved Dorothy, who attended the ceremony with Chad’s sister Lara Carter, his wife Pam and two of their three children.

“It’s overwhelming,” Dorothy said. “It’s such an honor and such a privilege. And it means so much to me (in my heart) knowing what they’re doing for my son. Losing him was awful. But people remember him. And that’s what I want them to do: remember Chad.”

Lara said seeing the 200-plus Legion Riders brave the rain to honor her brother made her “over the moon. I love it. I am just so proud of (Chad) and his service, and that people like these are coming out to remember him and to pay their respects for someone they don’t even know."

National Commander Brett Reistad, Waycross Mayor John Knox and American Legion Post 517 Commander Anthony Dixon joined Mercer in laying the wreath. Watching the ceremony was emotional for Virginia Legion Rider Sammy Granderson, a member of Post 284 in Colonial Heights.

“I lost a soldier in Desert Storm,” said Granderson, his voice cracking. “I saw the grieving mother … and it just brought back some memories. That’s why I do this ride. I’m riding for his kids. Seeing the grieving mother in the rain was very touching. We’ve got to keep (Chad’s memory alive).”

The stop in Waycross also included a wreath-laying at Doughboy Park in the heart of downtown. The centerpiece of the park is the Spirit of the American Doughboy statue, which was erected in 1935 and sponsored by Ware Co. American Legion Post 10. The statue is a part of the Smithsonian Art Inventory.

Afterward, the Riders headed to a fried chicken dinner at the Historic Passenger Rail Depot, where Knox read a proclamation honoring the American Legion Riders and the Legacy Run.

Honored, with a better view. National Commander Brett Reistad rode the entire day’s journey – including through pouring rain during the leg from Valdosta to Waycross – on the back of Texas Legionnaire Jim Fleming’s motorcycle.

Fleming, a member of Post 194 in Anna, hasn’t missed a Legacy Run and estimates he’s served as the national commander’s chauffeur for at least one leg of the ride eight to 10 years.

“It’s an honor,” Fleming said with a smile. “Plus, I’ve got a trike. Normally, where are the trikes? Way in the back. So I get to see what’s going on, where normally you’re busy trying to make sure you don’t hit somebody or somebody doesn’t smack into you.”

Fuel for the Riders – and their bikes. A mid-morning stop saw Post 57 in Lake City, Fla., rolling out the red carpet for the Riders. Post 57 Commander Rick Cabrera said the post spent a couple days preparing for the stop – which included a full breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fruits and pastries – but said it was worth the effort.

“It’s an honor for Post 57 to have all these veterans come up here,” said Cabrera, ALR Chapter 57’s assistant director. “It’s a lot of preparation, but it was the entire Legion Family doing it.”

The stop at Post 57 also served as an opportunity for the Riders to refuel. J+J Strong brought in two large mobile fuel tanks with multiple hoses attached to fuel up the motorcycles. Stuart Scott, Georgia’s Third District commander, helped arrange the fuel delivery.

“This fuel company is in the Third District, and they do a lot of fuel distribution, but they also do all the storm work in the region,” Scott said. “They go into the Carolinas and into Florida and do fuel work when the fuel grid’s down and fuel companies can’t dispense out of the ground. So when I heard about (the Legacy Run) coming here, I knew that they would be able to dispense fuel on the premises.”

The honor is in the mission. In Valdosta, Ga., Post 13 provided bagged lunches of hot dogs, chips and drinks. Both Valdosta Mayor John Gayle and Lowndes County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Slaughter were on hand to read proclamations honoring the Legacy Run. Also present were Department of Georgia Commander Eddie Asberry and Georgia’s Alternate National Executive Committeeman Phil Youngblood, a member of Post 13.

Post 13 Commander Rod Pedersen, who also is the Sons of The American Legion squadron commander and immediate past ALR Chapter 13 director, said the post had been preparing for the Legacy Run stop since July, that included prepping the food and helping arrange law-enforcement escorts. “We all work as a team here,” Pedersen said. “It was one big family.”

And although having ride stop at his post was an honor, Pedersen said the ride’s mission was what mattered. “They’re raising money for a scholarship fund, and to me that’s the bigger honor,” he said. “We get to participate in that. “

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Weather suspends play at American Legion World Series Sunday

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In the bottom of the third inning of Game 11 of the American Legion World Series, play was suspended with Fargo, N.D., Post 2 leading Shrewsbury, Mass., Post 397 by a score of 5-1.

The game will be resumed Monday at 11 a.m., and Game 12 will follow with Randolph, Co., N.C., Post 45 and Idaho Falls, Idaho Post 56 now scheduled for 1 p.m.

The two semifinal matchups will be played at 4 p.m., and 7 p.m., as scheduled.

All games will be played on ESPNU.

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American Legion teams honored to play on USAA Military Appreciation Day

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An annual tradition at the American Legion World Series, Military Appreciation Day took place on Saturday and was sponsored by USAA.

The event featured Medal of Honor recipient Hal Fritz addressing the crowd prior to the second game of the day and met with the teams.

“It was really cool to hear the stories of what he did and it gave me goosebumps,” Fargo, N.D., Post 2 left fielder Zach Sandy said. “The stories were humbling and I think it motivated some of us. It is great to see all of the veterans come out and support.”

Prior to the night game, a parade of hundreds of veterans came out onto the field grouped by branch of service and the 505th Engineer Combat Battalion.

Past National Commanders Dan Dellinger, Dan Ludwig and Jake Comer all represented The American Legion by reading the baseball program’s code of sportsmanship before games.

USAA representative and relationship manager Geno Montagno threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the first game. Before the second game, Gary Williams, assistant vice president for enterprise brand management for USAA, threw out the first pitch and was joined on the mound by Fritz. After the parade of veterans, Spc. Christopher Estevez of the 505th Engineer Combat Battalion showed off his arm with a strike on the ceremonial first pitch.

Destrehan, La., Post 366 right fielder Kolby Bourgeois was honored to be involved, saying, "To be here at a tournament that veterans are putting on for us, that is nationally televised, is a great honor. We appreciate everything that they have done so we can be here today. I just want to thank all of the veterans, especially my grandfather, for everything they have done for this country."

For over 97 years USAA has served the financial needs of military members and veterans who have honorably served. Find out if you are eligible for financial services from USAA at

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ALWS Game 10: Illinois comes from behind to advance to Monday’s semifinal

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In a must-win game for both teams, Danville, Ill., Post 210 rallied from a late deficit to defeat Festus, Mo., Post 253, 7-5, to advance to the semifinal of the American Legion World Series as the runner-up in the Stripes Division.

Both teams threatened in the first inning. Illinois got a walk and a single but Jordan Duncan got out of trouble with a double play on a ground ball up the middle. Missouri got two on the same way in the bottom of the frame with one out, but Chase Vinson threw six straight strikes to get out of the jam.

In the top of the third, Duncan caught a bunt attempt and wheeled and threw to first for a double play to end a threat.

Vinson got out of trouble again in the third, striking out back-to-back batters again, stranding a runner at second.

The top of the fourth started with a great diving catch in center by JB Bridges, charging in to make the grab.

Festus plated three in the fourth to open the scoring. Eddie Martin led off with a double and went to third on a Chuck Pratt single. Back-to-back walks brought home Martin and a wild pitch and sacrifice fly brought home two more.

The Missouri defense continued in the fifth when Jake Leitner made another diving catch in right field.

Missouri nearly added to its lead in the bottom of the fifth, putting runners on first and third but Dalton Dalbey on in relief got a groundout to third. Logan Spicer knocked the ball down and made the long throw, barely beating Pratt's dive into first base.

Illinois quickly got back into the game in the sixth. Ernest Plummer walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Chase Rademacher followed with a double on a 1-0 count scoring Plummer. After Vinson dropped a first-pitch single into shallow center, Logan Spicer lined a single into right-center to bring around Rademacher and send Vinson to third. Lucas Hofer skied the first pitch he saw into shallow center and it fell into the Bremuda Triangle and, while the runner at second was forced out, the tying run scored on the play.

Festus put two on the sixth, but couldn't capitalize and Illinois made them pay the next inning by sending 10 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh. Danville’s Dalton Dalbey lined a single a middle to lead off, moved to second on a passed ball and went to third on a failed pickoff attempt. Ernest Plummer chopped an 0-1 pitch over the drawn in infield to give Illinois its first lead. Plummer stole second and Kotah Broeker rapped a single hard down the first base line to bring him home. The margin was extended to 7-3 when Rademacher, Vinson and Hofer all singled to bring home two more runs.

Missouri didn't go quietly, however. Colby Ott walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh and Jake Leitner poked one down the left field line, all the way to the wall, for an RBI double.

With the tying run in the on deck circle, Rademacher came on in relief and got a strikeout, but Pratt dropped a check-swing single over the heads of the right side of the infield to bring the tying run to the plate with one out. After a strikeout, the lead shrunk to two on a wild pitch, but it was not enough for a Festus miracle, as Rademacher got a groundout to close the door on his save and send Illinois into the national semifinal.

“It felt good to play well since I’ve been struggling so far in the regional and World Series but it was an overall team effort,” Rademacher said. “We all played well as a team.”

Louisiana, the pool winner, will play at 4 p.m. Monday against the runner-up from the Stripes Division. Illinois as the runner-up will face the Stripes winner at 7 p.m. Both games are on ESPNU.

“It’s awesome,” Rademacher said of the Legion World Series. “There are over 3,000 teams that started the year and to be one of the last four standing feels really good.”

For Festus, the season ends as a historic one. Post 253 became the first team from Missouri to make the American Legion World Series since 2009.

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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.