American Legion Emblem

THE AMERICAN LEGION

DEPARTMENT OF MISSISSIPPI

Legion News

Lloyd Austin makes history as first African American Secretary of Defense

In a nearly unanimous vote, the Senate approved Lloyd Austin as Pentagon chief Friday. After the 93-2 confirmation vote, the retired U.S. Army four-star general became the first African American Secretary of Defense in U.S. history.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as our country’s 28th Secretary of Defense, and I’m especially proud to be the first African American to hold the position,” Austin wrote on his Twitter account. “Let’s get to work.”

Austin, who retired in 2016 as the commander of U.S. Central Command, needed congressional approval for a waiver to the law requiring that a defense secretary be retired from active service for seven years before being eligible to serve in the role. Such waivers have only been approved two other times in U.S. history. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis was also approved for a waiver in 2017, and George Marshall in 1950.

During his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing, Austin laid out some priorities for his time as Pentagon chief. He committed to prioritizing building a military that is a “working environment free of discrimination, hate and harassment” for all those at the Department of Defense.

“If confirmed, I will fight hard to stamp out sexual assault, to rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity,” he said.

Austin is the first African American to command an infantry division in combat, serve as vice chief of the Army and lead the U.S. Central Command.

Austin expressed his concerns about extremism in the military ranks and called it a “critical” issue.

"We woke up one day and discovered that we had extremist elements in our ranks and they did bad things," Austin shared of his time serving with the 82nd Airborne Division when a network of neo-Nazi soldiers was uncovered following the murder of an African American couple near the base.

"The signs for that activity were there all along. We just didn't know what to look for or what to pay attention to. The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks,” he said.

Austin called the COVID-19 pandemic the most immediate challenge facing the country. He also vowed to overturn the previous administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces.

American Legion Spirit of Service recipients exemplify the best in us

The American Legion on Jan. 21 hosted an awards ceremony to honor the recipients of the Spirit of Service Award, the National Law Enforcement of the Year Award and the National Firefighter of the Year Award. Watch the ceremony here.

These honors are awarded to those who have selflessly distinguished themselves over and above their normal duties predominately through community service activities and professional achievement. These awards are typically presented during The American Legion’s National Convention by a Medal of Honor recipient.

Since the pandemic canceled the national convention, this ceremony paid tribute to the honorees.

“This award is so significant,” said National Security Commission Chairman Steven A. Brennan, who presented the awards during Thursday’s ceremony. “To me, these are most significant awards in The American Legion. Your names will forever be written in the book of excellence.”

Spirit of Service recipients are nominated and chosen by their branch of service for their community service efforts.

“For the Spirit of Service awards, it embodies their branch of service and core values,” said Brennan. “Not only are they serving their military with pride, but in their free time, they are dedicating massive amounts of time to do things for their community.”

This year’s recipients are:

• Specialist Matthew J. Turley, U.S. Army. A member of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Spc. Turley volunteers with the Ministries and during Hurricane Dorian. He has devoted more than 600 hours to volunteer service.

• Cpl. Justin T. Middlemiss, U.S. Marine Corps. Middlemiss serves in the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. His volunteer activities include the Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative Youth Basketball Championship, the Holyoke Soldiers Home Motorcycle Ride Benefit, West Springfield’s Memorial Day Parade, among other community organizations and events.

• Staff Sergeant Amy-Christy Amakihe, U.S. Air Force. Amakihe is a Flight Operational Medical Technician with the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard. She volunteers her time with Ignite, a nonprofit dedicated to igniting the spark in students and commitment to higher education.

• Jasmine L. Johnson, U.S. Navy

• Seaman Amanda Moore, U.S. Coast Guard.

• Senior Airman Donald Lambert, National Guard.

• Sgr. Ryan N. Berney, Firefighter of the Year. Berney is the lead firefighter for Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska Fire and Emergency Services. Berney is currently a reservist in the U.S. Army and served during Operation Iraq Freedom where he deployed to Balad, Iraq, in 2003.

• Lt. Robert Berg Jr., Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Berg currently serves in Village of DeForest Police Department in Wisconsin. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Berg is a distinguished member of the police force who exemplifies “America’s Finest” by singlehandedly organizing food and clothing drives for veterans in need, working with the American Red Cross to provide relief during Hurricane Dorian and continues to coach and mentor DeForest-area youth.

 

‘We must end this uncivil war,’ President Biden says

Just before noon Jan. 20, Joe Biden took the oath of office of as the 46th president and commander-in-chief of the United States.

Biden begins his presidency as America grapples with a range of issues including political infighting, which escalated into a recent attempted insurrection at the United States Capitol, serving as a backdrop to his speech. Additionally, the new administration will face monumental challenges such as bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control, ensuring the nation's security from enemies foreign and domestic, and healing racial injustices.

He noted that the coronavirus had taken more American lives than were lost during World War II. Additionally, millions of jobs have been lost and businesses have stumbled into difficult times.

"This is a great nation," Biden said during his roughly 20-minute address as part of a largely virtual inauguration. “We are a good people and over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. We still have far to go.”

Biden takes on the role of commander-in-chief with a lengthy track record on defense and diplomacy. His work as a senator offers clues to how he will approach issues related to defense and national security.

American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford extended congratulations to the new president.

“The American Legion Family congratulates President Biden on assuming the most powerful position in the free world,” Oxford said. “We are eager to work with the administration to improve the lives of our military, veterans and their families. As the nation’s largest veterans organization, our members are dedicated to strengthening America. We also promise to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. We offer the same assistance and support to the new president as we have to all of his predecessors since our founding in 1919.”

There are scores of bills in the halls of Congress that will affect veterans. As Congress debates the legislation, some bills will surely end up on the president’s desk. This week The American Legion’s Tango Alpha Lima podcast welcomed the organization’s legislative director, Lawrence Montreuil, to discuss the Legion’s legislative priorities for the 117th Congress. Download and listen the episode here.

Following the inauguration, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with their spouses, Jill Biden and Douglas Emhoff, conducted a review of the military and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Here we stand, across the Potomac (River), across from Arlington Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace,” Biden said during his address. “And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever."

Biden and Harris were sworn in as tens of thousands of National Guard troops provided unprecedented security for an inauguration around the nation's capital.

“The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism we must confront and we will defeat,” Biden said. “To overcome these challenges and restore the security and soul of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”

Biden acknowledged how democracy survived a true test as unfounded allegations were aired since his electoral victory in November. “We have come so far but have so much to do. We have much to heal, much to build, much to gain.”

D.C. Police Officer Eugene Goodman, heralded for his role in protecting the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection, was named Acting Deputy House Sergeant at Arms. Goodman escorted Harris as she arrived for Inauguration Day. The violence at the Capitol was a theme Biden touched on throughout his address.

In reference to the violent uprising, Biden said, “We must end this uncivil war.”

Connecticut Legion post leading effort to bring Valentine's Day to servicemembers

Connecticut Legionnaire Donna A. Monteleone doesn’t know if a Valentine’s Day card sent to a member of the U.S. military from a stranger is going to change that servicemember’s life. But if it can make a little bit of a difference, it’s worth it to the senior vice commander at American Legion Post 202 in Newtown.

That’s one of the reasons Monteleone has headed up the Valentines for Troops program in Newtown, first as a veteran and parent, and now as a member of Post 202, which began sponsoring the program after Monteleone headed up a revitalization effort of the post in 2017. Each year, beginning in January, area students and members of the community write cards and letters to members of the U.S. military, which are then sent out in time for Valentine’s Day.

It’s a small gesture that may end meaning much more – especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when movement and travel among the military is even more restricted.

“This is not like you and I … who can go to work or to the supermarket or CVS or whatever,” said Monteleone, who served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1983 and then in the Army Reserves until 1990. “Some of them can’t do that. It’s really rough on them, and that’s why this program is so important.”

The idea for Valentines for Troops came in 2005 after Monteleone and her family had moved to Newtown after living in the Czech Republic for three years on a corporate assignment. Her son’s second-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, Carole MacInnes, had her students annually take part in a letter-writing project to their grandparents, but that fall came to Monteleone and said she wanted the 2006 effort to include sending letters to U.S. military personnel serving overseas.

Having just moved to Newtown and knowing hardly anyone, Monteleone wrote a letter to the local paper to publicize the effort, and then began visiting local churches synagogues, “which was good because I got to know places and people,” she said.

The first year’s effort produced 50 cards and letters. “It sort of exploded after that,” Monteleone said. “People got letters back, and the kids and their parents and the school were thrilled. It grew and grew and grew.”

Post 202 came aboard after Monteleone – who previously had joined nearby Post 176 in Monroe to learn more about The American Legion and how to reactivate a post – led a revitalization effort at 202 in late 2017 and has sponsored the effort ever since. Last year, more than 700 cards and letters were collected and sent.

This year the cards and letters will go to members of the Connecticut National Guard, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army, either stationed stateside or overseas. Monteleone said she’s heard from a Vietnam veteran who teaches at Sandy Hook Elementary what the value is in receiving a card or letter from home.

“He told me ‘when I was in Vietnam, I would have given my right arm to get a letter from a kid like this,'” she said. “We certainly have, year on year, had (recipients) say ‘I really appreciate this. This made my day.' Even pre-COVID, this has been a big impact on people.”

Anyone wishing to participate in Valentines for Troops can do so by emailing Monteleone at americanlegionnewtown@gmail.com.

Honoring King over the airwaves

When leadership of The American Legion Amateur Radio Club (TALARC) announced the suspension of special event stations from National Headquarters in Indianapolis – to mark the “special events” of the Legion’s birthday and Veterans Day – they encouraged post ham clubs to conduct such events on their own. In that spirit, the amateur radio team at American Legion Post 275 in Glenarden, Md., conducted a two-day station Jan. 17-18 to mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Mike Phillips KB3ZCO is secretary of the post team, which operates under the call sign N3TAL. “To the best of my knowledge,” he says, “an event station honoring Dr. King has not been done before by TALARC members.” Phillips and several other N3TAL members monitored several different access channels for three hours each day, from both the post and the members’ homes. Over the two days, 114 contacts with other ham radio users were made – “that’s pretty good for an event with limited advertising,” he says.

Special event stations often involve scripts read over the air by the operators when making a “CQ,” or general call for communications. It can include both current information and historical facts. Communications, or contacts, start by exchanging users’ call signs, names and locations. After that, Phillips and his fellow operators got more personal: “As the conversation begins we might mention Dr. King's legacy and impact on our lives today, for example. It all depends on the operator.” They also asked contacts about their Legion membership status.

"In my opinion, things went very well," Phillips says. "This feeling seems to be shared by the other participants as well." Contacts usually end with information on how to receive a memento of the communication – a “QSL” card created by the station putting on the event. Designs vary widely, and the Post 275 team made sure King was, appropriately, front and center.

Share your Buddy Check stories

In March 2019, The American Legion launched its Buddy Check program as a “comradeship campaign” to encourage posts to reach out to veterans in their areas – members, former members and others – to see what The American Legion could do for them.

A year later, the program became even more critical, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to stay-at-home orders affecting the mental health and well-being of isolated veterans.

Legionnaires across the nation have teamed up to make thousands of Buddy Checks during the pandemic, using phone calls, email or other safe ways to reach out. They’ve found veterans in need of assistance with getting groceries, prescriptions or other supplies, as well as others who just wanted to know someone cared.

As the pandemic approaches its 11th month – with new COVID-19 cases approaching 200,000 a day and deaths averaging close to 3,000 daily – Buddy Checks remain as critical now as in 2020. As Legionnaires continue to reach out to their fellow veterans, we want to be able to share the stories and successes from those efforts.

If your post, district or department already has or is planning Buddy Check campaigns or one-time efforts, whether via the phone, email or in person while observing safety protocols, we want to hear about your efforts. Email sbrooks@legion.org to let us know what you’ve done or what you’ve got planned, and then share your efforts afterward on www.legion.org.

We’ve created a variety of tools to assist with conducting Buddy Checks – including guidance on how to do so during the pandemic, as well as on the importance of recognizing mental health and well-being concerns among veterans during the checks. All of our Buddy Check resources can be found here.

The American Legion also urges all of its members to contact their members of Congress to urge support for S.4657 and H.R.2898, legislation that will require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a “Buddy Check Week,” as well as provide educational opportunities, materials and references for veterans to learn more about how to conduct personal wellness checks. The bill also compels VA to expand resources for the Veterans Crisis Line to handle any potential increased volume during the designated week. Contact Congress here.

Maine Legionnaires continue effort to assist homeless veterans

A project by a small group of Maine Legionnaires to provide temporary housing for homeless veterans has grown considerably in the past year. And it could not come at a better time.

Boothbay V.E.T.S. (Veterans Emergency Temporary Shelter), started by Charles E. Sherman Jr. Post 36 Legionnaires Ed Harmon, Arthur Richardson and John Hargreaves, picked up momentum in 2020 at a time when Maine’s homeless veterans population began to grow amidst the coronavirus pandemic. What started with one storage trailer retrofitted into livable space has grown to four trailers, with four more on the way.

Harmon, Post 36’s service officer and the commander of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 36, originally purchased the prototype and worked with Richardson – who has an electrical license and a background in carpentry – to convert it into a one-room living space complete with a bed, nightstand, end table, chair, microwave and refrigerator.

And it has heat, a must during Maine’s brutal winter months. Having gotten nonprofit status for Boothbay V.E.T.S., Harmon and the others rely heavily on donations to sustain the program. And they’ve been successful doing so.

“We knew the money would come when people saw we were real,” Harmon said. “The prototype is one thing. But a lot of organizations, when they just getting off the ground, people wait to see what actually happens. We have proven what we are. People see that what we do is for the vet. John … he knew. He said ‘this is gonna take off.’”

The trailers are designed to provide a place for a veteran to stay while he or she awaits placement into a long-term facility. Four currently are in use, assisting five veterans in the past month, while four base units of the trailers are scheduled to be manufactured in Georgia next in late January and delivered to VETS in February for refurbishing. Once they arrive, Harmon said they’ll order four more trailers.

Meanwhile, the prototype will be converted into a wider unit to allow for couples, married or otherwise, to stay in until they secure housing elsewhere. All of the units are powered by plugging the trailer into a regular electrical outlet located outside of a home or facility. And all of the new trailers have doors wide enough to allow for a wheelchair to enter.

The trailers are available to veterans anywhere in the state. One has gone as far as near Acadia National Park, which is more than 110 miles from Boothbay. Harmon said the veteran now using the V.E.T.S. trailer had been living in the park for 100 days.

“The (veteran) went inside (the trailer), looked around, sat on the bed and said ‘I just died and went to heaven,’” said Harmon.

Providing the temporary housing is critical at a time when the state’s homeless veteran numbers have gone up significantly since the pandemic started. Maine’s homeless veteran coordinator, Jarad Greeley, told News Center Maine, “Our numbers from pre-COVID to where we are now have gone up 40 percent,” adding that “what we’re all afraid of is all the evictions that have been put on hold for a while, when the protections get lifted and all the evictions happen at once, it will overwhelm the system.”

Boothbay V.E.T.S. works with Maine’s Bureau of Veterans' Services to place veterans in the trailers but has cut out one step in the process in order to get the veteran out of the cold and into one of the trailers as soon as possible. “Our rule is that if a vet says he’s a vet, and doesn’t have a DD214 and doesn’t have a (Department of Veterans Affairs) card, you have to put him in our trailer,” Harmon said. “He’s a vet until proven otherwise. And if it’s proven otherwise and he’s not a vet, we’ve saved his life for a few days.”

‘We did it’: Viral tweet helps Air Force veteran reconnect with long lost South Korean family

Air Force veteran Isabelle Hyon DuCharme had spent nearly a decade attempting to find her mother’s family in South Korea — but it took just three days for the internet to find her relatives after her request for help went viral.

On Sunday, Isabelle, of Salt Lake City, shared the update in a series of posts to her Twitter account, which included screenshots of video calls with her long-lost relatives.

“We video chatted & saw our ENTIRE family,” DuCharme wrote. “I cannot tell you how grateful we are.”

The reunion is bittersweet. Isabelle’s mother, Hyon Chu DuCharme, is in a medically induced coma after suffering serious injuries during a car accident on Christmas Day. Hyon Chu's condition worsened when she tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, while in the hospital. Doctors have told the DuCharme family that Hyon Chu may not have much time left.

After immigrating to the United States in 1989, Hyon Chu kept regular contact with the sister and two brothers she left behind in South Korea. But, in an email last week to Stars and Stripes, DuCharme explained how losing the family home to foreclosure in the early 2010s led to her mother losing contact with her siblings.

“We were given a short notice to vacate our home and tried to pack in a panic, but ended up leaving most of our possessions behind,” DuCharme wrote.

Those belongings included a small notebook in which Hyon Chu kept the addresses and phone numbers of her family in South Korea.

DuCharme turned to Twitter with a message on Jan. 14, and the next day had reaped thousands of responses and more than 51,000 retweets, including by the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, Gen. Robert Abrams.

Korean-speaking fans of the K-Pop group BTS translated DuCharme’s tweet into Korean; others reposted the message on social networks popular throughout Asia. Isabelle’s plea spawned its own hashtag: #HelpForHyon.

“In a matter of days, we somehow helped reunite this family together when they needed it most,” wrote filmmaker Aaron Stewart-Ahn, who assisted Isabelle in the search, on Twitter.

One of DuCharme’s cousins had also spent several years searching for her American family, Steward-Ahn said.

“My family has been so overcome with gratitude for every last person who has shared our story, commented on our posts, reached out, or even prayed for us,” DuCharme wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes. “If [my mother] could see the community that has gathered around her […] she would be in awe of what is happening.”

Members of The American Legion can receive 50 percent discounts on annual subscriptions to the Stars and Stripes digital platform of exclusive military news, topics of interest to veterans, special features, photos and other content, including the daily e-newspaper, job listings and history. American Legion members can subscribe for $19.99 a year by visiting legion.stripes.com and using the coupon code LEGIONSTRONG when filling out the online form.

National Commander Updates

20 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

When we were in the military, we always understood that there were places that were inappropriate to wear our uniforms. The same can be said for our American Legion attire.

Nobody supports the right to peaceably protest more than veterans. We swore an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment is one of the most cherished rights granted by our founding document.

However, when you wear an American Legion Emblem or carry the flag of the organization that we all love, you are no longer just representing yourself. The presence of these symbols imply the support of the nation’s most respected veterans’ organization, which is not often the case.

Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution and Bylaws of The American Legion is quite clear.

“The American Legion shall be absolutely nonpolitical and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles nor for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking public office or preferment.”

You certainly don’t need my permission to peaceably protest for any reason that you feel worthy. Just please remember to leave all of your Legion attire home.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Veterans Health Administration. When VA falls short of providing quality care, The American Legion speaks up and demands answers. When VA does well, the department will find no better friend and defender. We have long recognized that the modern VA is a major improvement over decades past and customer satisfaction surveys bear that out. The overwhelming majority of VA employees are dedicated professionals who truly care about veterans. For years The American Legion has believed that VA is a “system worth saving.” It’s also a system worth celebrating.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National headquarters will be closed Monday in observance of this great American.

The purpose of The American Legion can be summed up in an eloquent King quote. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

One week from today is our target date to achieve 80 percent membership. If the current trends continue, many departments will fall short. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more essential than ever to contact members and remind them that while buildings may close, The American Legion is never truly shut down. Let these veterans know that The American Legion has adapted to the current environment and is a valuable force in battling the coronavirus. Utilize www.mylegion.org and contact past and current members who have not yet renewed. Achieving a 90 percent renewal rate is a key factor in meeting our overall membership target.

Posts should also review the direct mail solicitation (DMS) list. National headquarters is providing a $5 incentive to departments for every 2020 DMS member that is transferred and renewed in 2021 at a local post.

With the distribution of vaccines, better days are ahead. We will have survived this great challenge due in no small part to an organization dedicated to the proposition of veterans strengthening America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

There is power in persistence. Particularly if you are a veteran filing a claim. Your American Legion national staff claims specialists assisted thousands of veterans in 2020. More than 75 percent of American Legion-represented cases were either approved or remanded for further development and study. Just because a claim was initially denied does not mean the decision will be permanent. If denied, use the appeal process. If you have not filed an initial claim, you can find a knowledgeable service officer here to assist you through the process.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda last week. The Dodgers great was a longtime friend of The American Legion. A recipient of our 1999 “Good Guy Award,” Lasorda was a strong supporter of our push for a constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from desecration.

“Speech is when you talk,” Lasorda said of the Supreme Court’s ruling that desecration of the U.S. Flag is free speech. His wisdom will be missed. The American Legion sends our condolences to his family and Dodgers’ nation.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

On the surface, programs and statistics can be boring. It’s the faces behind them that are truly inspiring. Shortly after transferring to Post 257 in Collegedale, Tenn., Walter Culberson was welcomed by Post Commander Dennis Smith. Upon learning that Culberson lost his job last year due to the pandemic, he arranged for Culberson to receive gift cards for groceries and gas, along with some rent assistance.

Thanks to The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation, the assistance didn’t end there. The foundation approved a Temporary Financial Assistance grant to help provide a couple of months relief for Culberson, his wife and two children. The story does have a happy ending as Culberson is transitioning to a new job.

This is yet another example of how American Legion Charities make a meaningful difference for veterans and their families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

08 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion is strong because of the quality, and yes, quantity of our members. Our size enables us to truly live up to our motto of veterans strengthening America.

Last year at this time we were within striking distance of matching our 2019 membership numbers. Then the coronavirus hit and we were unable to recruit in the traditional manner of previous years.

You are going to see membership brought up a lot in my future updates to you. As I write this, renewal notices are arriving in many mailboxes. Those notices will be much more effective if posts would personally follow up with these past and current Legionnaires. My goal is a for a renewal rate of at least 90 percent. We are currently at 72 percent. Use MyLegion.org to seek out those who have not yet renewed. If you have any questions or concerns, shoot an email to membership@legion.org. We are stronger when we are larger.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

07 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

Most veterans are familiar with the K.I.S.S. concept – Keep It Simple Stupid! And no, I’m not calling anybody stupid but I am in favor of simplification. With this in mind, The American Legion is consolidating access to its many national media platforms. Instead of entering separate usernames and passwords for legion.org, legiontown.org, mylegion.org and other popular forums, registered users will be able to enter with a single sign-on. But it will require a one-time re-registration. Details about the process can be found here. By registering, you can be quickly informed of the latest announcements and news pertaining to your American Legion benefits.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

06 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday that it had administered more than 146,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The number of vaccines administered rise every day and doses are being given at 195 VA facilities. Priority is being given to high risk veterans and health-care workers. If you would like to receive the vaccine, visit VA.gov to check for availability near you. Much like our nation defeated polio, I am convinced that we will prevail in the fight against this deadly virus.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

05 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

Unless our monthly magazine were to resemble an old-style big city phonebook, it is impossible to publicize all of the outstanding events and programs that occur regularly at American Legion posts around the world. The production costs and postage to mail The American Legion Magazine are also substantial.

There is an attractive solution to this dilemma, however. If you haven’t visited www.legiontown.org you are truly missing out. All content is generated by visitors. The website is your opportunity to tell the stories of your American Legion post and its members to a national audience. Once registered, the material that you submit will undergo a quick edit and legal review. If it meets the standard, it will be posted for all to see.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

04 January 2021

Dear American Legion Family,

The year 2020 was a historically challenging and tragic time for many Americans. On a local level, American Legion posts responded heroically to the needs of their communities. On a national level, I am particularly proud of the work of our American Legion Charities. Temporary financial assistance, life-changing scholarships, therapy grants to wounded warriors and natural disaster relief are just a few of the areas in which our charities have had a positive impact.

Don’t just take my word for it. Download our 2020 annual report to see how the generosity of our American Legion Family, supporters and friends have made a difference.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Christmas and other holiday gatherings are expected to be smaller this year due to the need to be socially distant. This is nothing new to members of our military, who like their veteran predecessors, often find themselves far from family and close friends as they perform their essential duty in places around the globe.

It has been a very difficult year for many but I do believe better days are ahead. I am an optimist because I believe in our great country and our American Legion Family. Vaccines are being administered and 2021 will bring forth its share of good news.

To all my Christian friends and all who celebrate the season, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Last week I wrote a letter to President Trump requesting an executive order authorizing a state funeral upon the passing of the last World War II Medal of Honor recipient. Only two of these special heroes remain among us. Such a funeral would be a fitting symbol to the 16 million American men and women who served in the war to preserve freedom.

My letter was authorized by delegates of the 100th National Convention of The American Legion, who unanimously passed Resolution No. 41 found here. It’s the least that we can do for our Greatest Generation.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

It was fitting that the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, that it had completed all Information Technology (IT) updates to process benefits promised by the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017.

One of the positive legacies of World War II was the original GI Bill, authored by a group of Legionnaires led by Past National Commander Colmery.

The recent IT updates, according to VA, will benefit the current generation of student veterans through “improved processing times, rapid response to legislation and fewer manual work arounds.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Help is on its way! World War II veteran Margaret Klessens, 96, was the first VA patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She received the dose Monday at the Bedford, Mass., VA Health Care System.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that 37 facilities will this week administer vaccines to frontline health-care workers and veterans in long-term care facilities. The facilities were chosen based on population served and the ability to store the vaccines at extremely cold temperatures. The list of locations is available here.

This is just the first wave. In the coming months, the vaccine will be more widely available. Though a semblance of normalcy will someday return, we must never forget the sacrifices made by those who were determined to help their fellow Americans despite the dangers. The men and women of The American Legion will always remember our family, friends and neighbors who were taken by this horrible virus.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Congress has passed the National Defense Authorization Act by an overwhelming and veto-proof margin. Democrats and Republicans widely agree that the NDAA is good for our military, our veterans and America. The American Legion encourages President Trump to sign the NDAA, which expands Agenda Orange-related benefits, increases pay for the military and strengthens America’s ability to provide for our common defense.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion has been asked about our stance on the appointment of Denis McDonough to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs during the incoming Biden administration. Because of our organization’s Constitution & Bylaws, we do not support any individual for elected or appointed public office. But we do support positions that are good for veterans.

We are looking forward to learning more about Mr. McDonough’s vision during the confirmation process. If he is confirmed, he will find The American Legion to be an informed and valuable ally that will assist him in making VA an even better resource for veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Even the coronavirus won’t stop Santa! At 3:30 pm tomorrow, people can safely visit St. Nick from their cars by driving by American Legion Post 246 in Betterton, Md. Pre-registered children will even receive a gift at the event which is co-hosted by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 246. For details, call Patti Boone at 443-298-0057 or Michael Heffron at 410-708-4872.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

America lost a great veteran this week.but heaven gained a great pilot. Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager was as brave as he was fast. He was not only the first to break the sound barrier but he was a World War II fighter ace. The one-time private in the Army Air Forces lived to see the creation of the U.S. Space Force. The history of America’s aviation success simply could not be told without including significant space to Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, one of the greatest pilots that ever lived. We extend our condolences to his family. He was a real American hero.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Though the national jobless rate has declined, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the veterans’ unemployment rate rose to 6.3 percent in November. I am especially proud of The American Legion virtual career fairs that not only assist transitioning military members but spouses that are searching for jobs as well. There are hundreds of success stories that have come from recent virtual events in Texas and North Carolina.

Another veteran career fair is scheduled Thursday in Virginia. Visit here for the upcoming schedule from job zone.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Along with the holiday season comes cold weather. Thanks to a grant from The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors and the work of The American Legion Department of Indiana and Indianapolis Post 522, homeless veterans in the Hoosier state will have a few additional items to battle the elements this winter.

More than $17,000 worth of winter costs, clothing and toiletries were provided to the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation during a presentation on Dec.3. It is estimated that the items will be used by at least 150 homeless veterans.

“In our Preamble we talk about devotion to mutual helpfulness,” Indiana Department Commander Allen Connelly said. “We have warm clothing for our homeless veterans, and I thank OCW and Past National Commander (James) Koutz (who helped raise over $1 million for OCW during his year as national commander). We are really supportive of OCW. So we are glad that some of it is coming back to Indiana.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

It was 79 years ago today that America was attacked. The world was forever changed by the infamous events of December 7, 1941. The American Legion will never forget the heroes of Pearl Harbor and the members of the Greatest Generation who ensured that freedom would not only survive but that it would prevail.

To all remaining World War II veterans, thank you for your service. The world owes you a debt that can never be repaid.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

By now, you have likely heard about the exciting new relationship between Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion. If not, here is racing legend Jimmie Johnson discussing it earlier this week on Fox and Friends.

You don’t have to wait until Tuesday to donate to our great programs. After all, ‘Tis the Season!”

Just visit www.legion.org/48.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Time is running out if you’re a military retiree who has not planned to pay an enrollment fee for TRICARE Select Group A.

According to the Defense Health Agency, hundreds of thousands of retirees will no longer be enrolled if they don’t set up a payment plan by January 1, 2021.

For more information on this change and how to set up your payment plan, visit https://www.tricare.mil/Plans/Enroll/Select/EnrollmentFees.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

December 15 will mark the 229th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. What better way to honor our nation’s revered founding document than to encourage young people to study it? The American Legion is understandably proud of its High School Oratorical Scholarship Program, “A Constitutional Speech Contest.” Constitution Day is a great opportunity to organize an oratorical program at your American Legion post. You can learn how by visiting www.legion.org/oratorical.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 December 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s an exciting time to be a Legionnaire! Your American Legion has reached a multi-year agreement with legendary drivers Jimmie Johnson, Tony Kanaan and Chip Ganassi Racing.

The Racing Team will feature The American Legion prominently on Johnson’s No. 48 Honda during every race in the 2021 and 2022 NTT INDYCARE SERIES. Our organization will be represented on the primary paint scheme for two races in 2021, including the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan, a winner of the 2013 Indianapolis 500, will be behind the wheel for those races.

Johnson and Kanaan are encouraging fans, veterans and their supporters to donate $48 to support the great programs of The American Legion. You will be hearing a lot about this exciting venture in the days ahead. But in the meantime, celebrate Giving Tuesday by making a donation at www.legion.org/48

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Even a global pandemic cannot stop American Legion Family members from living up to the organization’s motto of Veterans Strengthening America.

Several posts in Florida, led by Post 63 in Winter Garden, safely conducted the “Challenge 22” walk to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. Nearly 300 masked marchers hiked 2.2 miles after a series of opening ceremonies and speeches.

“People want to part of something,” event organizer Kurt Gies told The American Legion. “The number of younger members we are generating because we show we care is huge. Cause, purpose. It’s amazing to see what has happened with what started out as a little walk in Winter Garden, Fla.”

Recent statistics show a possible slight decline in the 22-per-day figure that was commonly circulated a few years ago. But until it is zero, The American Legion will make every effort to reduce and eliminate this national tragedy.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on your blessings. There are many things that Americans can be grateful for, but at the top of that list is our nation’s military, veterans and their families.

I know that I speak for the entire American Legion Family when I say that we appreciate you. To the men and women of the U.S. military, stay safe and thank you for defending our freedom.

And to all my fellow Americans , have a happy Thanksgiving!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, American Legion posts worldwide amped up efforts to collect blood for the American Red Cross. “The supply of blood plasma has been greatly increased by Legion donors and Legion campaigns for blood donations,” future American Legion National Commander Warren Atherton told the National Executive Committee in May 1942.

The American Legion Blood Donor Program remains an important component of The American Legion’s service to our country. Our Holiday Blood Donor Drive kicks off on Thanksgiving weekend. If your American Legion post isn’t conducting a blood donation drive, enter your zip code here to find the closest American Red Cross drive. It is just another example of Veterans Strengthening America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion is observing Family Week. Delegates at our 98th National Convention in Cincinnati unanimously passed Resolution No. 283, urging the president and Congress to establish an annual National Family Week to cover the period of Thanksgiving.

One of The American Legion’s four founding pillars is our dedication to children and youth. Our resolution calls the family unit “the foundation of our society.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

There has been good news recently on research into vaccines for the coronavirus. Moreover, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that more than 50 VA medical centers are participating in trials to test vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. You do not need to be a veteran to participate.

“Volunteering for our trials is a way people can help our country more quickly find vaccines and treatments to end the pandemic and get life back to normal,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a news release.

The American Legion never offers medical advice. But we do offer information provided by VA. You can learn more about VA’s research and how to volunteer here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Add obstetrician to the list of talents demonstrated by Texas Legionnaire Peter Hince. Pope Air Force Base reported that Lt.Col. Hince, director of operations for the 43rd Operations Squadron, thought he had a bit of time when his wife, Jacque, woke up with contractions on September 25.

Their fourth child thought otherwise. Peter, a member of Post 159 in Bryan, Texas, called 911 and, with a few instructions from the dispatcher, delivered healthy, 8-pound, 14 ounce- daughter Elizabeth Ann-Marie in their family dining room.

Just another success story for the graduate of Virginia Boys State. Elizabeth has arrived into a true American Legion Family, which includes proud Legionnaire grandparents John and Gerry Hince.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Congratulations are in order to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. Over the last 10 years, this organization which was founded by Air Force veteran Mike Haynie, helped more than 150,000 veterans and military spouses launch businesses, obtain civil career credentials and transition back into civilian society. Dr. Haynie is also the vice chancellor of Syracuse. The IVMF is the deserving recipient of the 2020 American Legion Patriot Award.

Strict quarantine requirements in New York prevent me from personally presenting the award. Fortunately, Past National Commander and current New Yorker Fang Wong will be presenting the honor in a ceremony streamed online this morning. The American Legion is proud to recognize such excellence.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion lost a great leader and I lost a friend on Tuesday. Past National Commander Clarence Bacon, a Navy veteran of World War II, went home to post everlasting. The Maryland native had a passion for national security and was elected national commander in 1984. You can learn more about this great national commander here in his own words. Our condolences and prayers go to his family and many dear friends. God speed, Commander Clarence, God speed.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s not one’s elected office, appointment or post activity that’s most important in The American Legion. It’s the price paid in order to be eligible.

To all of America’s veterans on this special day, thank you for your service. America owes you a debt that can never be fully paid. Happy Veterans Day!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Happy 245th birthday to the greatest Marine Corps on the planet! It was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island that I earned the title “Marine,” along with my eligibility to join The American Legion.

To all my fellow devil dogs, Semper Fidelis. The American Legion is proud of you.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

It was snowing like crazy when I left Nevada yesterday, but the trip was well worth it. I was able to attend a productive meeting of the Department of Nevada Executive Committee. I also met with the deputy director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, who also happens to be 2nd Vice Commander of American Legion Post 4 in Carson City. Her name is Amy Garland and she is an impressive advocate for veterans.

It wasn’t all just meetings for me. I had a great tour of the Nevada Railroad Museum, the Nevada State Museum and Carson City Mint.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

For the last five days I’ve been visiting the beautiful American Legion Department of Wyoming. It was a great combination of meetings with American Legion Family members, active-duty military and some county commissioners.

It was an honor to be the first national commander to tour America’s oldest active Air Force installation, Warren Air Force Base. Meeting the men and women of the 90th Missile Wing was yet another reminder that America is blessed with such a fine caliber of talented people defending us.

The naturally beauty of the west can truly be appreciated by visiting Devil’s Tower National Monument. Also impressive is Wyoming’s Abraham Lincoln Monument, which was dedicated on the 150th anniversary of the birth of our nation’s 16th president.

I’d like to thank the many American Legion Family members that I met from Posts 3, 6, 7, 13, 42 and 80 along with the leadership from the department, other VSOs and the director of the state veterans commission.

Now it’s off to Nevada for a few days.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion Department of Puerto Rico has faced tremendous challenges over the last few years. Devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and the crippling of its tourist industry have all wreaked havoc among its residents.

Even so, American Legion Post 102 in St. Croix continues to serve its community. The post recently collected and donated 1,350 disposable facemasks to the Department of Human Services and the Herbert Griggs Home for the Aged. The masks were given to the nurses working at the facility.

“We are proud that we can be able to accomplish one of our pillars, which is involvement in the community,” Post 102 Commander Secundino Cruz told the St. Croix Avis.

Well done, Post 102. Even in difficult circumstances, you continue to serve.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

July 4th is Independence Day but it is today that really is the point of it all. Election Day is our opportunity to select the leaders in this experiment of self-government. The American Legion will never tell you who to vote for. We just ask that you research the issues and vote your conscience.

It’s also a good opportunity to practice a Buddy Check by driving your fellow veterans to the polls. The bottom line is to vote. A million veterans died defending this privilege since we broke away from King George. Let’s honor them.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 November 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

According to the last American Legion membership report that I have read, we are up from this date last year. November is membership retention month. It is impossible for us to grow if we don’t keep the members that we have.

The American Legion has truly shown its value during the COVID-19 pandemic. From drive-through food pantries to virtual job fairs and buddy checks, we have been out there serving our communities and veterans throughout these challenging times.

Not only is The American Legion still serving America, our dues are truly a bargain compared to what you get back. If you haven’t renewed for 2021, please do so here. Just as important, reach out to your fellow Legionnaires and ask them to follow suit.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

I would like to extend a special thanks to The American Legion Department of Kansas for the great hospitality that the Legion Family members there have given to me all week. Since Monday I have visited 14 posts throughout the state. I have met with a number of mayors, city council members, county commissioner and other officials.

Last night, I enjoyed dinner with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., at American Legion Post 256 in Wichita. The senator is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He promised to consider legislation which would recognize a national Buddy Check week. His support and advocacy of veterans issues is extremely important as we advance the legislative priorities of The American Legion.

Next stop, Wyoming!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

I am delighted that the Department of the Interior is going to grant free national park access to veterans and Gold Star families beginning on Veterans Day. The American Legion passed a in 2017 calling for a similar benefit. This new policy expands it further and includes families who have already sacrificed so much for this country. What better way to appreciate America than to see our beautiful national parks and other federal lands? “America the beautiful” is also “America the free” because of the sacrifices made by her veterans and Gold Star families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Coronavirus protocols have caused the cancellation or postponement of nearly all of my official department visits over the last seven months. After recently testing negative for COVID-19, it is finally time for me to safely resume visits among departments that are equipped to support this travel without enduring significant hardship.

It made my visit to the Department of Maine last week even more meaningful. I enjoyed the briefing that I received from the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard and tour of the Togus VA Medical Center. The Department of Maine American Legion College students reinforced my belief that our organization has a strong corps of up and coming leaders. I was impressed with The American Legion posts that I visited and the donation to the Veterans & Children Foundation from Westbrook Post 197. I gladly accepted a membership application from F-4 pilot and Vietnam POW Tom Hanton, who hopes to find a Legion home in the Department of South Carolina where he lives. Many thanks to the dozens of American Legion Family members who showed me such great hospitality during my visit to the Pine Street State.

Soon I’ll send you an update from the Department of Kansas.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Veterans have been sacrificing their lives in the war against terrorism long before the 9/11 attacks. On October 23, 1983 a terrorist cowardly took the lives of 220 Marines and 21 of their fellow veterans by driving a truck full of explosives into their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Engraved in the Beirut Memorial in Jacksonville, N.C., is a simple message. “They Came in Peace.” The American Legion will always remember those heroes who lost their lives 37 years ago on a mission to make life better for people in a far-off and troubled region. We mourn with their families and comrades. Semper Fi.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

If you’re a veteran or the spouse of a veteran searching for employment, the Department of North Carolina is sponsoring a virtual career fair on November 17. National and local positions are available so one need not live in North Carolina to apply. It’s also an opportunity for employers to find highly qualified workers who have served their country.

Visit here for information and registration.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

In a sign of the times, your National Executive Committee met virtually for its annual fall meetings last week. While we all miss the personal visits of our Legion comrades, these leaders still attended the two-day meeting via teleconferencing and addressed many of the important issues facing veterans.

One of the developments is the formation of The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation steering committee to be chaired by Past National Commander Denise Rohan. The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a harsh economic backlash on the children of so many hardworking veterans who have lost business revenue or employment due to shutdowns. The VC&F has a mission to raise $25 million in order to create a robust and self-sustaining fund that can meet some of these large challenges. You can help by making a donation here. It’s yet another way in which The American Legion continues to show meaningful support for veterans and their families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Even a pandemic could not stop our American Legion Riders from raising money for a great cause. I was proud to greet dozens of Riders from all corners of the country as they arrived at national headquarters in Indianapolis on Tuesday. They came bearing gifts that they raised as they journeyed here on their Pony Express ride. Some started riding from Hollywood, California Post 43 last week. Others from our southeastern states and still others from the northeast.

So far, $83,562 was raised for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund from their latest ride. I say “so far,” because many of these Riders keep working everyday to ensure that scholarships for children of deceased or disabled military veterans will be available.

If you want to give to this great cause, you can donate here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

On Oct. 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the procurement of what would eventually become the United States Navy.

The American Legion wishes a happy 245th birthday to this great American fighting force. A special thank you to the 300,000 active-duty sailors and 100,000 Navy reservists who protect us today. Bravo Zulu to all of these outstanding men and women!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 emergency has caused unprecedented economic harm. Many veterans have struggled to pay their mortgages during this period of uncertainty. In response to the crisis, the Department of Veterans Affairs has waived some regulations to its mortgage loan program to make it easier for veterans to obtain deferments. You can learn more about VA’s deferment options here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Although the Covid-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of our national convention this year, it does not lessen our appreciation for our national award winners. Usually presented at the convention, the William F. Lenker National Service Trophy is named after the longtime chairman of the national Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission. It is awarded to the department that best supports and implements programs that benefit veterans, their families and their survivors.

Congratulations to the 2019-2020 winner, the Department of Colorado.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is the 19th anniversary of the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom. The American Legion, by national resolution, supports the Global War on Terrorism. The 9/11 attacks were not the last acts of terrorism inflicted upon the United States but we have been fortunate to not experience attacks on a similar scale. This is no accident. It’s because brave men and women have made tremendous sacrifice on our behalf. The American Legion will be forever grateful to these veterans and their families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Many of you are aware that The American Legion delivered more than $1 million of Temporary Financial Assistance to Coast Guard families impacted by last year’s government shutdown. The grants were non-repayable gifts and intended to help Coast Guard families support their children while their pay checks were delayed due to the inability of the federal government to pass a budget.

This was not just a rare occurrence of The American Legion assisting America’s veterans. During the most recent four year average of the TFA program, your American Legion delivered $693,000 annually in cash grants. Whether it’s the National Emergency Fund, the Veterans & Children Foundation, The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund or Operation Comfort Warriors, donations to American Legion Charities make a real difference in the lives of Americans everywhere. As the holiday season approaches, please consider making a contribution to one of our many outstanding programs.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

This morning I issued the following statement:

“The American Legion extends its heartfelt prayers that President Trump and the first lady have a full and speedy recovery from COVID-19. Our nation has accomplished remarkable feats in its history. We have prevailed against powerful enemies. We can, we must and we WILL defeat this dread disease that has caused so much pain and damage worldwide.”

The American Legion Family has lost many beloved members to the coronavirus. Please remember to practice social distancing, wear facemasks when appropriate and avoid behavior that causes unnecessary risk. These hardships, while inconvenient, will pass. I’m convinced of it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 October 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Few people can truly understand loss like those who are Gold Star Mothers. The Roy L. Drew American Legion Post 492 in Wisconsin honored these special women by unveiling a Gold Star Mothers statue at Veterans Memorial Park in Rothschild, Wis. on Sept. 27.

“Those that the fallen have left behind, Gold Star Mothers, have the greatest burden of all… they must live day in and day out with the loss of their beloved child,” said Paul Gwidt, commander of Post 492.

It’s common for Legionnaires to say that every day is Memorial Day. Gold Star families don’t just say this. They live it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

In a statement issued Sept. 23, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it had issued 100,000 appeals decisions in fiscal 2020. This beats the previous record of 95,000 appeals which were decided in fiscal 2019. These achievements are significant and a result of the appeals modernization efforts that were long advocated by The American Legion. In fact, the Veterans Affairs Improvement and Modernization Act was signed by the president on the stage of our 2017 national convention in Reno, Nev.

This is just another example of how American Legion efforts in the nation’s capital impact America’s veterans in communities throughout the land.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

As if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t already a big enough challenge, American Legion Family members in the western United States have had to contend with devestating wildfires. Kudos to American Legion Post 143 in Twisp, Wash., and Post 776 in Fallbrook, Calif., for contributing and gathering food and other essential supplies for people in their respective areas who have been impacted by these disasters.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

No parent wants to outlive their child. Sunday is Gold Star Mother’s Day. The American Legion Family is fortunate to have some of these special women as members.

Our nation owes these mothers a debt that simply can never be repaid. They will always have our unwavering appreciation and gratitude.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

During the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, “I like Ike” was the theme for the Republican nominee and eventual two term president. Decades later, Americans can now say “I remember Ike,” with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial now open to the public in Washington, D.C.

The American Legion supported this memorial with the provision that the design had the approval of the Eisenhower family. After obtaining the family’s blessing, the memorial was unveiled on Sept. 17. It’s a fitting tribute to the great general and life member of American Legion Post 39 in Abilene, Kan.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

We are in the middle of “Employ Older Workers Week.” Most of our Vietnam War veterans are above age 65. They still have much to offer this nation. Just as these veterans spent their younger years serving America, employers should seriously consider allowing them to serve in the workplace during their senior years. Experience is an asset that can only be achieved through time.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Congratulations are in order for an all-time great American Legion Baseball alumnus. Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels belted two home runs on Friday, giving him 662 career dingers as a major league player. He passed Willie Mays for fifth place on the all-time list.

Before reaching professional stardom, Albert played baseball for American Legion Post 340 in Independence, Mo. In a 2015 interview with The American Legion, he reflected on his American Legion-ball experience. “You play with the best competition around your area,” he said.

The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is full of former American Legion Baseball players. Any baseball fan can tell you that Pujols is a lock to be another one.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

A special thanks to Bob and Sue Fratino, hosts of “They Sacrificed for Us” on WINT radio in Ohio. Bob is a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 214 and Sue is an active member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 214.

I enjoyed being a guest on their show Sept. 8 to discuss issues facing veterans and The American Legion. If you missed the show, don’t fret. You can listen right here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

There are nearly 82,000 American servicemembers listed as missing in action or unaccounted for. The American Legion will always advocate for a full accounting of those whose remains can be found. We will also never forget the sacrifice and service of American prisoners of war and the many who died in captivity.

Today is POW-MIA Recognition Day, although The American Legion observes the service of these heroes at all of our official meetings. Our friends at the Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency work tirelessly to locate, identify and repatriate the remains of America’s fallen but not forgotten heroes. DPAA, like The American Legion, realizes that these veterans and their families are owed no less.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is American Legion Day. On Sept. 16, 1919, Congress chartered The American Legion as an organization of wartime veterans dedicated to the four pillars of veterans affairs & rehabilitation, a strong national defense, Americanism and patriotic youth programs.

While issues have changed over the years, our devotion to these four founding pillars has not. My theme as national commander is a “foundation for the future.” We will always celebrate our first century of service, while we commit ourselves to an even better second one. Full speed ahead!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

One of the top priorities that The American Legion has for this Congress is the passage of the Cmdr. John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, S. 785.

Katie Purswell, deputy director of health policy for The American Legion, testified before the Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. She reiterated the need to reduce suicide and make VA more accessible to underserved veteran populations.

“Our organization understands mental health care does not have a one size fits all solution in preventing suicide. It is a complex problem that needs to be treated at an individual level as each veteran’s situation is unique,” Purswell told the committee. “As (an American Legion) member, and as a veteran who has been touched by this tragedy, I am proud to say The American Legion supports this bill in its entirety.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Today’s update is a little longer than usual. Considering that the subject matter sparked the longest war in American history, I think it is justified.

We must never forget what happened 19 years ago today. We must not forget the passengers on the hijacked planes, the innocent people working in the buildings, the heroic first responders who entered the infernos as people were fleeing and the American people who unified in their support for this great country.

From the beginning, The American Legion supported the men and women who defended us and continue to defend us in the Global War on Terrorism.

We continue to remember the stories of heroism and, also the infamy, that occurred on the sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

The passengers of Flight 93 by their very actions have taught us a lesson that we must never forget as we fight the war on terrorism. These lessons can also be applied as we fight a global pandemic and struggle to achieve a more perfect America.

NEVER, NEVER, GIVE UP!

The 9/11 attacks do not stand alone but were a continuation of a long series of terrorist attacks aimed at destroying not just our nation but the very core values of freedom, democracy and the respect for human life.

It is these core values that produce heroes like the police officers, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and Space Force members who keep us safe every day.

I am proud to live in a country like ours where people take great risks and sacrifice their lives in the defense of others.

God bless all the souls lost on 9/11 and watch over their families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The veterans’ unemployment rate is nearly double what is was a year ago. While the rate has steadily lowered over the last four months, the coronavirus shutdown has been especially difficult for veterans attempting to start new careers after being discharged from the military.

Fortunately, The American Legion Department of Texas is sponsoring a virtual job fair for transitioning servicemembers, veterans, National Guardsmen, reservists and military family members. It will be held 10 am to 4 pm on Sept. 15.

Job seekers can register by clicking here.

Employers and service providers can register for the event by clicking here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Veterans in Anchorage, Alaska, enjoyed free meals August 13 as part of the Alaska VA Healthcare’s first Veteran Appreciation Curbside BBQ event. The 375 meals were funded by The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors.

“Great event, food makes people happy and it made me super happy serving veterans of Anchorage,” said Dept. of Alaska First Vice Commander Michael Downs.

Michael, we’re super happy that you and the Alaska Legionnaires continue to serve our nation’s veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

In addition to advocating for veterans every day in the halls of Congress, The American Legion is constantly serving communities across America and overseas. In August alone, your American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors awarded $46,000 in grants. The American Legion awarded $116,771 in national youth scholarships and $13,100 in National Emergency Fund grants. Veterans’ benefits claims specialists from The American Legion had 202 appeals ruled in favor of the veteran. Not bad for one month’s work.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Month, although The American Legion is committed to bringing awareness to prevent these tragedies whenever they occur. It is certainly an apt time to conduct Buddy Checks. I’m not suggesting that you bring up the topic of suicide when you conduct all of your Buddy Checks, but it is important to let your fellow veterans know that you care about them and The American Legion is here to serve.

More than 20 veterans a day commit suicide and stopping these needless deaths should be a priority for all of us. I applaud the efforts of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). The PREVENTS Task Force believes stopping suicide is everybody’s business.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255. You can also chat online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 September 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

I was honored to be the guest on the Army & Air Force Exchange Service Chief Chat that was streamed via Zoom on Facebook Aug. 27. The American Legion has been a strong advocate for AAFES, which provides affordable merchandise to military servicemembers, military retirees and their families. We were pleased when the AAFES benefit was expanded this year to include veterans with service-connected disabilities. I’d like to give a special thanks to CMSgt. Kevin “KO” Osby, Julie Mitchell and Leah Mathews for being such gracious hosts. You can watch our chat here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

31 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Louisiana is hurting. Lake Charles was especially hard hit by Hurricane Laura, as was DeRidder. Fortunately, we have many outstanding posts in the Department of Louisiana. If you’re in the area and need help, or could offer help, email Department Adjutant Tony Betts at tonyb_la@hotmail.com or adjutant@lalegion.org. This is an opportunity to show what type of family we are. If you wish to make a donation, visit www.legion.org/donate

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Our VA&R Commission Chairman Ralph Bozella did an excellent job last week representing The American Legion at an awareness event launched by Rep. Josh Harder, D-Calif., to expand Agent Orange benefits to more veterans.

Bladder cancer, certain thyroid problems and Parkinson’s-like symptoms would be added as Agent Orange-presumptive diseases if the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act becomes law. The American Legion has long championed treatment and disability compensation for veterans who have experienced health issues due to Agent Orange exposure.

To find your representative, visit https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. Ask your congressional representative to support this important act.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Fifteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravished our Gulf Coast. American Legion Family members everywhere responded with financial support. Posts in the area quickly transitioned into relief centers and shelters. Truckloads of water, clothes and other supplies came from all corners of The American Legion and made their way to the impacted areas. It appears as if we will have another busy hurricane season. Regardless of what type of natural disasters lie ahead, I am confident that The American Legion will once again rise to the occasion and serve those in need. If you live in a high risk area for natural disasters, I recommend that you download our free National Emergency Fund Preparation Guide.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion was able to “pay forward” a generous donation that we recently received from our friends representing the government of Taiwan. Last month, Taiwanese officials donated 250,000 face masks to The American Legion. We promised to put them to good use.

We have just given 10,000 of those face masks to the Holyoke Soldier’s Home in Massachusetts. The facility was hit hard by COVID-19, which took the lives of at least 76 patients there. Many veterans, particularly those who are senior citizens, have additional medical conditions that could make a coronavirus diagnosis especially dangerous. It’s just another reason why The American Legion has been emphasizing the use of teleconferencing instead of mass gatherings. We will get through this and be stronger in the end.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

This week the White House announced a posthumous pardon for suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was convicted of casting an illegal vote in 1872. The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified one hundred years ago.

The American Legion was formed in 1919, more than a year prior to this cherished constitutional amendment. In other words, women could vote for national commander of The American Legion before they could vote for president of the United States. A veteran is a veteran.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion welcomes the U.S. Postal Service’s announcement earlier this week that it would delay reforms that some observers believe could lead to slower delivery times.

Delegates at our 2016 national convention passed Resolution No. 344, which calls on the U.S. Postal Service to preserve standards guaranteeing the delivery of First Class mail to three days or less. Reliable delivery service is of major importance to many veterans who receive medication in the mail and to those who are in the process of filing disability claims through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Moreover, the U.S. Postal Service has a solid record of hiring veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

We are in the middle of Week 3 in our 100 Miles for Hope Challenge. I now completed 24 miles and will be in this for the long haul. For those who have accepted our challenge, thank you and keep up the pace! If you haven’t started yet, sign up here with Emblem Sales. It’s for a great cause, The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

If there is one thing that we learned in 2020, it’s that great things can still be accomplished virtually. Even our annual American Legion Legacy Run will be a virtual affair this year. While COVID-19 has certainly impacted our ability to hold mass gatherings, it is not stopping our support for the children of those who died or were seriously disabled while serving our country since 9/11.

So visit our online Legacy portal to learn how you can support The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

When our nation’s leaders work in a bipartisan fashion, good things often happen for veterans. Last week President Trump signed the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act which provides federal support for state, local and tribal veterans treatment courts. Proposed by Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., these courts allow veterans to avoid prison and instead access court-supervised medical treatment in cases that involve nonviolent crimes.

Delegates at our 98th National Convention in 2016 voiced their support for expanding these courts when they passed Resolution No. 145: Veteran Treatment Courts. The American Legion appreciates the efforts of all who supported this legislation.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Exactly three-quarters of a century ago, on Aug. 14, 1945, the Greatest Generation prevailed in the most horrific war the world had ever seen. These heroes, successors to our organization’s founders, became the heart of The American Legion for decades.

Although the day is frequently referred to as V-J Day, a reference to the surrender of Japan, President Harry S Truman signed a proclamation in 1946 declaring the occasion “Victory Day.”

A dedicated and active Legionnaire, Truman called upon the United States to “observe Victory Day as a day of solemn commemoration of the devotion of the men and women by whose sacrifices victory was achieved, and as a day of prayer and of high resolve that the cause of justice, freedom, peace and international good-will shall be advanced with undiminished and unremitting efforts, inspired by the valor of our heroes of the Armed Services.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on July 30 that it reduced prescription opioid use among its patients by 64 percent since fiscal year 2012. The American Legion welcomes this development.

Opioid use can lead to addiction, overdose and suicide. While prescriptions can play an important role in pain management, The American Legion has long believed that alternative therapies should be available to veterans who are dealing with PTSD, depression and other challenges. Additionally, let’s check on our buddies who may simply need a friend.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

If you wish to learn more about the great strides that the Department of Veterans Affairs is making in the field of tele-health, join VA Under Secretary for Benefits Dr. Paul Lawrence in a conference call this Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm Eastern Time. He will be joined by American Legion VA& R Chairman Ralph Bozella. VA will also update us on its pandemic response. To join us in the joint VBA/American Legion townhall, call 833-380-0417. Press *3 to ask a question.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

One collateral impact of the novel coronavirus has been a lack of exercise among the millions of Americans who have limited their activities due to the shutdown. Many gyms and fitness centers have been closed in the interest of safety.

I am excited that The American Legion has organized a “100 Miles for Hope” campaign that will not only help burn calories but will raise funds for our Veterans and Children Foundation. Whether you prefer to ride a bike, walk or run, this is an opportunity to improve your fitness while also helping veterans and families in need. Just click here for all the details.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

All military service requires some sacrifice but within our community of veterans is a special group. This group consists of the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart. Originally created as the Military Badge of Merit by Gen. George Washington in 1782, the Purple Heart is the oldest award given by the U.S. military. To earn a Purple Heart, a U.S. veteran must have been wounded or killed in combat.

It is always appropriate to thank veterans for their service. But today is Purple Heart Day, a perfect time to thank this select group of heroes for their special sacrifice. The American Legion will always be grateful for your service.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 August 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

For the first time ever, our national membership workshop is entirely virtual. Last year we had some great momentum and I believe we would have met our membership goal had it not been for the COVID-19 shutdown. Posts rightfully shifted their energy and efforts toward providing relief efforts in their communities.

While The American Legion will continue to provide outstanding service and conduct regular buddy checks, we need to add our coronavirus response to our great American Legion story. It’s just another reason to belong to our organization and to recruit others to do the same. If you are a member, don’t let your status expire. We need you now more than ever!

The national membership workshop runs through tomorrow afternoon. Click here to catch some of our remaining sessions.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Alaska is remote from the rest of our states, but Legionnaires at Post 5 in Seward are very connected to their community. The American Legion Family there has provided substantial food donations and facemasks to those in need since the middle of March. In addition to free breakfasts for the community’s frontline workers, the post has provided curbside dinners to members and those in need.

“I think our community partners … have begun to realize the potential of what we at Seward Post 5 can do to help,” said Post Commander Clare Sullivan.

Great job, Post 5, of providing some northern exposure Legion-style!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The names etched on the National Vietnam War Memorial are to be forever remembered but they are not complete. Veterans continue to lose their lives as a result of their Vietnam War service. The American Legion welcomes the measure passed by the U.S. Senate last week which would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s Disease to the 14 illnesses already covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs for illlnesses connected to Agent Orange exposure. Earlier this year, I signed a joint letter with other VSOs encouraging the passage of this amendment. We owe it to the heroes who are still paying a price from their service half a century ago.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Although the cancellation of our national convention this year prevents us from holding our traditional Legacy Run, American Legion Riders in several departments have conducted their own shorter rides to raise money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

Kudos to the Riders in the Departments of Oklahoma, Missouri and Virginia for their recent runs. I also want to wish the Riders of North Carolina a safe and successful run during their journey scheduled Oct 1-3.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Due to widespread shutdowns, the coronavirus pandemic is not just a health crisis but a financial one to millions of people. The Department of Veterans Affairs has wisely suspended debt collections to the end of 2020.

If you owe VA money due to a benefit debt, call 1-800-827-0648 to suspend your repayment terms. If it’s a healthcare debt, call 1-866-400-1238.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

I’m going to interrupt my normal coronavirus coverage to extend birthday wishes to an American hero.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole turns 97 today. After earning two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for valor during World War II, Dole’s service to his country is not defined by partisanship but by patriotism. He was a champion for and the chairman of the National World War II Memorial. The Legionnaire from Kansas has given his nation a remarkable legacy.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The secretary of the Army has confirmed what The American Legion has long believed. America needs a large and robust military.

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. military have risen over 20 percent during the last week, according to the Military Times.

“Quite frankly, all (the pandemic) does is justify a large end strength,” Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in an article posted by Military.com.

In a dangerous world with troops deployed worldwide, The American Legion’s pillar on a strong national defense is as relevant as it ever was.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

With the cancellation of our national convention due to the coronavirus, the presentation of national membership awards won’t happen, at least not on a national stage. But it was important that we still honor those who have helped add to the ranks of The American Legion in the past year. Recently we announced various award winners, including Department Commander of the Year recipients, Department Recruiters of the Year and District Commander New Post Achievement Award recipients. All the winners can be found here.

To call this a strange year would be a tremendous understatement. But that didn’t stop dedicated Legionnaires from actively seeking out veterans to join our organization. I want to thank each of these award recipients for doing their part to help The American Legion continue to serve our nation’s veterans, communities, military and families. But also, remember that membership is everyone’s business. There’s always work to be done, and we can always do better. The passage of the Legion Act opened up American Legion eligibility to millions of veterans. Keep reaching out to those veterans as we build a foundation for the future.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

This summer the American Legion Department of Wisconsin was planning a 2.2-mile walk to raise awareness about the estimated 22 veterans who die by suicide every day. But like most plans, the walk had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. But rather than letting the opportunity to raise awareness about veteran suicides pass, the department found another way.

The department’s Engage22 Virtual Suicide Awareness Walk-Run-Ruck-Bike on July 17 is encouraging participants to complete a 22-mile bike ride or a 2.2-mile run or walk, and then share their story through Wisconsin’s social media channels using the hashtags #wilegion, #engage22 and #22aday. Registration for the virtual event is $15. The fee, as well as any donations, will go back to department programs that support awareness for veterans suicide. And registered participants receive a T-shirt – the start of a conversation.

Wisconsin’s effort is one more example of our American Legion Family adapting and overcoming during the pandemic. We’re all in this together, and I am proud of how our family exhibited that idea time and time again.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

As of yesterday morning, the Department of Veterans Affairs has treated or tested positively 26,062 COVID-19 cases. Of those cases, 5,028 are considered active and 1,735 patients have died. VA has paid a personal price with 40 of its employees losing their lives to the virus.

When the pandemic is finally behind us, history should remember the service and sacrifice of the VA healthcare system. The American Legion will never forget it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

pdate 8 July 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

To say 2020 has been a challenging year is a dramatic understatement. Nonetheless I will always be proud of The American Legion’s response during an unprecedented shutdown of society.

Whether it’s conducting a local food drive or a buddy check, The American Legion has proven its value and I do not want to envision a future without the nation’s greatest veterans’ organization. I am excited about our upcoming National Membership Drive Aug. 3-6. Safety is always a priority so the workshop will be conducted virtually. The pandemic will pass but membership will continue to be our lifeblood. So visit our website and learn how we can grow and be a welcoming organization for all veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

Update 7 July 2020,

Dear American Legion Family,

If you are near Phoenix this week, you can take advantage of the free COVID-19 testing offered by American Legion Post 65 and its friends in the community. The post is teaming with the HeroZona Foundation, Salt River Project power and water, Maricopa County District 5 and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to offer this potentially life-saving service. Testing hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time at the South Mountain Community College July 9 and July 10.

The coronavirus numbers have continued to rise in recent weeks. We should all practice social distancing and common sense. I have said throughout this crisis that we will get through this and we will emerge stronger because of it. Stay safe.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

Update 6 July 2020,

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s a lot easier to find personal protective equipment than it was even a month ago. But even so, face masks can still be prohibitively expensive for some.

With COVID-19 still surging in many places, I thought I would post a video from Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. surgeon general. He shows us just how easy it is to make your own face mask. All you need are a couple of rubber bands and a bandanna or scarf. So take a minute to watch this important pointer that can help keep you and the people you care about safe.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 July 2020,

Dear American Legion Family,

Two hundred and forty four years ago a dream began among settlers and immigrants living in 13 great colonies. From its victorious revolution to the exceptionalism which led it to become the globe’s leading superpower, the creation and growth of the United States is nothing short of miraculous.

The American Legion has never claimed that our country was perfect. But on Independence Day, it’s only fitting that we acknowledge our gratitude for living in a nation dedicated to a principle of becoming a more perfect union.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 July 2020,

Dear American Legion Family,

Pick any major news story of the day and there are usually a few veterans questioning why The American Legion national headquarters doesn’t issue a statement addressing the topic immediately. The answer is simple. We need to hear from our members. You form our positions, not us. Our positions come in the form of resolutions passed by our membership.

The hosts of our podcast, Tango Alpha Lima, explained this beautifully during their June 24 episode. The American Legion is “trickle up” rather than trickle down, Hollywood Post 43 member Jeff Daly said.

If you’re not watching or listening to the podcast, you are truly missing out. You can access past episodes here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 July 2020,

Dear American Legion Family,

Although the novel coronavirus has caused most colleges and universities to close or delay their academic schedules, the high cost of education isn’t expected to go away. Fortunately, The American Legion offers assistance to the children of active-duty servicemembers who have died since 9/11. The American Legion Legacy Scholarship is also available students whose parents are post-9/11 veterans with a combined VA disability rating of 50 percent or greater.

In May, our great American Legion Legacy Fund awarded more than $667,000 in scholarships to 35 recipients. This is only made possible through the help of our entire American Legion Family. I’d like to add a special thanks to our American Legion Riders, who have contributed so much through their Legacy Run.

This is just another example of how The American Legion is able to change lives.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

I recently issued a statement about the tragic deaths that occurred at the Holyoke Soldiers Home in Massachusetts.

The American Legion will continue to advocate for better oversight and accountability so that veterans receive the care commensurate with the service that they have already given to their country. Lessons are only truly learned if preventative and corrective measures are taken.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Service to community is not new to Post 310 in San Diego. Although the post has been feeding those in need for a decade, Legionnaires there have enhanced their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joined by the San Diego Strike Force indoor football team and the SD Hip Hop 5K & Festival, the groups have distributed more than 5,000 meals per week to children and teenagers since early June. They have also assisted the homeless.

Eventually the COVID-19 emergency will end. But I have no doubt that The American Legion’s devotion to communities everywhere will continue for as long as there is an American Legion.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Family members take care of each other. The American Legion Auxiliary understands this. I am tremendously grateful to National President Nicole Clapp who presented a $12,500 donation on behalf of the Auxiliary to two great American Legion programs. It will be used wisely with $10,000 designated for The American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation and $2,500 going to The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation.

Although some family members must maintain separation due to social distancing, The American Legion Family is as close as can be.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. Considered the “forgotten war,” by the many overlooked veterans who fought it, their sacrifice and service will always be remembered by The American Legion.

In prosperous South Korea, 52 million people live in freedom. This would not have been possible without our Korean War veterans. Due to their age, survivors of that war are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. It’s an opportune time for Legionnaires to “buddy check” any Korean War veterans that are in their communities. Thank them for their service. It’s the least that we can do for these great men and women.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s hard to safely “shelter in” when you live in a transition facility for the homeless. Fortunately, American Legion Post 1948 in Montgomery, Ala., has shown strong support for such a place.

The local P.E.E.R.S. (Positive Environment Engaging Recovery Support) Caring Home for Veterans was the recipient of water, gloves, masks and food donations provided by the post thanks to grant money from the Community COVID-19 United Relief Fund.

This emergency has been difficult for communities around the world, but our American Legion keeps stepping up.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Veterans understand that even with the best possible battle plans there always has to be room to improvise and adapt. Congratulations to the Texas Boys State program of 2020 for doing just that by conducting an online session. Sure, there were a few technical glitches but these Texans would not let the COVID-19 pandemic stand in their way. Nor would they compromise safety.

You can read about their success here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The American people should all be unified in the effort to prevent suicide among veterans. This endeavor should be shared regardless of political views or party affiliation. COVID-19 isolation or shutdowns likely contributes to the loneliness experienced by too many veterans. I am pleased that the White House unveiled a plan last Wednesday as part of its PREVENTS (President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide) task force.

The American Legion Washington office was represented at the unveiling and the plan includes an awareness campaign, additional research, prevention training and new partnerships to address the problem. In the meantime, it is extremely important for American Legion posts to continue buddy checks. It can literally save lives.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Our national website is reporting on the results of our COVID-19 survey and the numbers are confirming our belief that many veterans have been impacted financially and emotionally.

I am especially pleased that more than 92 percent of those surveyed found our Buddy Checks to be somewhat or very helpful. I am proud of the manner in which so many American Legion posts have responded to their communities in this challenging time.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

The popular website “War on the Rocks,” includes an article with the headline, “Is Veterans Preference Bad for the National Security Workforce?” I’ll take a stab at answering. No!

In the July issue of The American Legion Magazine, I stress the importance of hiring veterans, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The absurdity of the “War on the Rocks” question should not be lost on anyone. Who knows more about national security than veterans? Why not ask if doctors are bad for the national healthcare workforce?

Rest assured, The American Legion will fight any attempts to weaken Veterans Preference policies. If potential employees want to benefit from Veterans Preference, they should simply visit their military recruiters.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

As stated in the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion, our organization pledges to “combat the autocracy of both the classes and masses...” No veteran is insignificant. We prove this every day as we dedicate significant time and resources to assisting homeless, unemployed, struggling and disabled veterans.

Post 53 in Greensboro, N.C., in conjunction with the Servant Center, recently hosted a drive that raised an estimated 1,000 pounds of food, cleaning supplies, hygiene items and $140. The Servant Center is a nonprofit organization that helps disabled and homeless veterans transition into productive and independent members of their community.

By nature of their military service, veterans have at one time contributed and produced for their country. Their country, in turn, owes veterans the opportunity to once again succeed after their military service ends.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

Congratulations to Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., who was recently confirmed as the senior officer in the U.S. Air Force. As the 22nd chief of staff of the greatest air force on the planet, he leads a proud service branch during a particularly challenging time for our military. In addition to war fighting and developing future defense strategies, our military has played a crucial role in responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic. And, on top of that, senior leadership has to now ensure that all reasonable precautions are taken to protect servicemembers and their families from coronavirus exposure. Veterans know that this no easy task given the close contact required of military members in fulfilling their critical missions. Even the living arrangements now require additional considerations.

I’ve said this throughout the coronavirus emergency, we will get through this. The American Legion will continue to support, as we have for 101 years, our great U.S. military.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 June 2020

Dear American Legion Family,

During my update of 28 May, I expressed disappointment that only 27 percent of American Legion posts submitted their Consolidated Post Reports this year. We have made some progress since that update but not nearly enough. As of last Wednesday, 40.8 percent of posts submitted their CPRs. American Legion posts have many outstanding stories to tell, particularly during this pandemic year.

Congratulations to the Department of Montana, the first to make 100 percent. I encourage all American Legion departments to follow suit. The deadline is July 1. You can download the form and submit it at www.mylegion.org.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

In honor of the U.S. Army’s 245th birthday Sunday, I offer you this quote from Gen. George S. Patton:

“The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one's country."

Happy birthday, soldiers!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Sunday is Flag Day and I can’t think of a more perfect time to fly Old Glory as a reminder of the greatness of America.

Some of the traditional Flag Day observances may be a little different this year because of social distancing. But your American Legion is offering plenty of resources on our national website. So utilize our offerings and let us know how your celebration goes.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

As the economy re-opens, an unprecedented number of Americans will be searching for work at once. The American Legion understands the value of veterans in the workplace, but not all employers do. It’s important for veterans seeking jobs to have resumés that generate results.

The American Legion’s will offer a federal resumé writing workshop from 11 a.m. to noon ET on June 16. The workshop will help attendees learn how to shape their resumé to apply for federal jobs. Click here to register.

A LinkedIn networking workshop will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET on June 30. Click here to register.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Imagine being a military servicemember secluded in a room while recovering from a war wound or disability. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing has discouraged the gathering of many wounded, injured or ill servicemembers in common areas for recreation or entertainment.

I am proud that The American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors program recently provided a $42,000 grant to Brook Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston to purchase Samsung smart televisions for all 166 rooms in its Warrior Transition Battalion Liberty Barracks.

It is just another great example of one of our American Legion Charities at work. You can make an online donation. to OCW here

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The generosity of the American public never ceases to amaze me. Even during a period which included a pandemic, more than $503,000 was raised for The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation during the program year that ended on May 31.

These donations will contribute to the wellbeing of children and assist established organizations that help children coping with disabilities or disease. Our own American Legion Family donated $407,000 and the Sons of The American Legion have raised more than $8.5 million since 1988.

You can donate to the CWF here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

According to our membership report of June 7, 11 departments have exceeded 95 percent of their goal for the year. Six departments have exceeded 100 percent. Considering the impact that the COVID-19 shutdown has had throughout the country, these departments can take extra pride in a job well done during an extremely challenging time.

The LEGION Act has increased our pool of eligible members. We just have a few more weeks remaining in the 2019/2020 membership year. All of our posts have a remarkable story to tell and great programs to offer their communities. As important as it is to recruit new members, give existing members a reason to renew. We are in the home stretch. By keeping our foot on the gas pedal, we can match last year’s numbers.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

A second century of service, buddy checks, COVID-19 response. These are just a few of the topics that I was able to address recently as a guest on the Veteran’s Corner Radio Podcast, hosted by Air Force veteran and Legionnaire Bill Hodges. You can listen to it here.

You do not have to be the national commander to talk about our great American Legion. Who can better speak about an American Legion post than its post commander? Who can better speak about your American Legion than you? But when acting as a Legion spokesperson, you should be educated about our positions. That means visiting www.legion.org and studying our programs and resolutions. Just reach out to local media outlets in your community. Most would love to have informed guests speaking about upcoming events in your area, programs and concerns.

Don’t speak about issues or areas that you are not familiar with. But you can never go wrong with a message of service to veterans and why it’s great to be a member of The American Legion.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of coronavirus safety measures is the inability of many families to arrange memorial services for their departing loved ones. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday that they will resume committal services at most of its cemeteries starting today. National cemeteries in Calverton, N.Y., and Long Island, N.Y., plan to resume these gatherings on June 22.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs wisely advised veterans to stay home unless they had an emergency or essential business. With safety in mind, VA stopped performing exams for compensation and pension benefits on April 2. VA plans to resume these exams on June 8. This is welcome news.

Stars & Stripes reported that the benefits backlog of claims exceeding 125 days has climbed to 119,000. This is terrible news. But for context, prior to reforms made over the last few years, the backlog was about 900,000 in 2013. With the resumption of the exams and some of the COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, The American Legion is eager to support VA in its efforts to once again reduce the backlog.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It was a chilling and heartbreaking scene captured on video as vandals set fire to a flag and hoisted it back up a pole in front of American Legion Post 282 in La Mesa, Calif., on May 30.

But this update isn’t about the actions of a misguided few. It’s about the inspiration that we should all draw from the volunteers from the post, the VFW and Boy Scouts who came together and cleaned up the significant damage to the post. A man named Cory is not a veteran but he is a patriot, and a fit one at that. He shimmied up the 60-foot flag pole and threaded a new rope. And now a brand new American Flag is in its proper place. Long may she fly!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Tomorrow is the 76th anniversary of D-Day. I hoped to be at Normandy for observances but the COVID-19 emergency caused a change to our plans. Regardless, The American Legion will never forget the price that was paid to liberate a continent from evil and tyranny. God bless our World War II veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion, along with our friends in the DAV, PVA and VFW, have called on Congress to fully fund VA programs, services and benefits. The American Legion has believed for a long time that VA is a “system worth saving.” During the coronavirus emergency, perhaps more than ever, we also believe it’s a system worth funding. You can read our letter here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The tweet has now become official policy. President Trump has extended the federal orders for the National Guard to respond to the COVID-19 emergency through August 21. Last week, the president promised this extension in a tweet. The extension will allow National Guard members who have been deployed more than 89 days to receive additional benefits. With the recent unrest in major cities across the country, the men and women of the Guard are truly needed. Please keep their safety and well-being in your prayers.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the schedules of high school seniors across the country.

Many seniors who joined the military will be denied the opportunity to participate in their commencement ceremonies. It was nice to see some of these students honored by American Legion Post 594 in Eagan, Minn., on May 21. The soon-to-be servicemembers and their families remained in their cars throughout the ceremony in accordance with social distancing guidelines. The emcee for the event was Post 594 Commander John Flynn and the special guest speaker was Past National Comander Dan Ludwig. Great job, Post 594 and good luck to the class of 2020.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion lost a dedicated and wise champion for veterans Monday. Philip B. Onderdonk, Jr., Esq., served as national judge advocate for 35 years before retiring in 2018.

A Vietnam War veteran, he was an expert on trademarks and a fierce protector of our American Legion emblem. His expertise was appreciated by posts seeking his advice and he was responsible for many filings before the Supreme Court.

Phil will be missed. Our condolences and prayers to his wife, Ann.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 June 2020, Morning

Equality.

Respect.

Peace.

2 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The media have played an important role in informing the public of the great response and relief efforts of American Legion posts throughout the coronavirus emergency. The American Legion depends on the media to help publicize many issues on our agenda. Newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst was a formidable champion for the original GI Bill and threw the weight of his editorial pages in helping it pass.

I am pleased to announce our 2020 American Legion Fourth Estate Award winners. They are KAKE-TV in Kansas (broadcast), McClatchy Newspapers (print) and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (online). The presentation of their awards will occur at our next Washington legislative conference.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Sometimes the best news is what doesn’t happen. A gunman was stopped from killing innocent Americans by brave security forces at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi on May 21.

According to media reports, a Navy petty officer immediately engaged the would-be shooter as he opened fire from a truck while he attempted to drive through the station’s gate. Even after being shot, the sailor was able to roll over and hit a switch needed to raise a barrier. She was treated at a hospital with minor injuries, but her actions likely saved many lives. The gunman was killed by other security officers at the scene. Military.com reports that the sailors who stopped the attacker will soon be recognized by the Navy. Well done, sailors!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 June 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Not only can The American Legion accomplish even greater things as a “family,” when posts, units and squadrons team together – they can become an even greater force multiplier.

Such is the case with American Legion Post 408 in Derby, Kansas. When its American Legion Family members teamed up with their Kansas comrades in Post 136 (Mulvane), Post 4 (Wichita) and Post 90 (Wellington) for a food collection ride, more than 1,100 pounds of food were donated to the Derby Food Pantry. An American Legion post is a positive force. A group of American Legion post is an UNSTOPPABLE one!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 June 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

On Thursday, President Trump tweeted “The men and women of the National Guard have been doing a great job fighting the Coronavirus. This week, I will extend their Title 32 orders through mid-August, so they can continue to help States succeed in their response and recovery efforts.”

On May 20, we had called for the president to extend these orders. The previous orders were for 89 days, just one day short of the 90-day threshold needed to obtain certain benefits. These benefits are certainly well-deserved.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 May 2020, Afternoon

Coronavirus captures the headlines but unfortunately other disasters still occur. American Legion Post 443 in Sanford, Mich., knows this too well. After dam failures caused massive flooding in the area, the post acted as a relief center supplying personnel hygiene products and cleaning supplies to affected residents. Moreover, its American Legion Riders chapter has been raising funds to rebuild a damaged monument to Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Burgess, who was killed in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

Hurricane season begins next week. Wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes will continue to happen. Now is a good time to consider donating to The American Legion National Emergency Fund.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 May 2020, Morning

From Buddy Checks to food drives, communities across the country have gained an even greater appreciation for The American Legion as a result of our response to COVID-19. But it takes members to make these activities and programs possible. That’s why it’s essential that we continue to proactively recruit and retain members. Kudos to the five district commanders who earned first place in our Race to the Top competition. These commanders all achieved 100 percent of their membership goal by March 31.

They are Steven A. Anderson of Utah (category I), Jack “J.D.” Baker of North Carolina (category II), Devil “Bo” Durham of North Carolina (category III), Bruce Carl of Florida (category IV) and Robert G. Suelter of Florida (category V). Well done.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 May 2020, Afternoon

Throughout the COVID-19 emergency, we have seen the amazing commitment American Legion posts have toward their communities. There are many outstanding programs and activities conducted and sponsored by posts that go unnoticed. That is why I am a bit disappointed that only 27 percent of American Legion posts have submitted their Consolidated Post Reports. Humility is fine but posts should still spread the word about their activities so they can attract the attention of Congress, the media and veterans searching for an organization worth joining.

There is still time to submit your CPR. The deadline is July 1. You can download the form here or fill out and submit at www.mylegion.org.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 May 2020, Morning

It is heartbreaking to see the horrific damage that COVID-19 has inflicted upon members of our Greatest Generation. Even before the coronavirus existed, The American Legion officially called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to open its doors to surviving U.S. World War II veterans. Delegates at our 2017 National Convention unanimously passed Resolution No. 3: WWII Veterans Hospital and Medical Eligibility.

Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R.-N.D., would accomplish the mandate of our resolution. No means test should be required for these elderly veterans. In fact, they already passed the most important “means test” of all on V.E. Day and V.J. Day. Their service “means the world would be saved.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 May 2020, Afternoon

There is a new breed of veteran now and The American Legion welcomes them with open arms.

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. It includes a provision establishing the U.S. Space Force as an Armed Force. This meets the membership criteria established in The American Legion federal charter, which is now open to those who “served in the Armed Forces…any time after December 7, 1941.

There is a lot of negative news this year, most of it associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Space Force should be an inspiration for all of us. Their mission is needed in a world where our potential adversaries have shown a willingness to weaponize space. Moreover, the United States has not added a new service branch since the U.S. Air Force was created in 1947. For those currently serving in our U.S. Space Force, you have a strong advocate in The American Legion. Come join us today!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 May 2020, Morning

One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the sky-rocketing unemployment rate. But there are other economic hurdles facing veterans such as a decrease in retirement savings, an inability to pay bills and funding higher education without going into excessive debt.

Fortunately, The American Legion is sponsoring an online financial literacy workshop, Thursday, 11 am – 12 noon (Eastern Time). Just register here if you can make it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 May 2020, Afternoon

A search on the broadcast monitoring site TVEyes revealed 154 television and radio segments and stories mentioning The American Legion during a 24-hour period that covered most of Memorial Day. The search covered stations all over the United States but it was by no means exhaustive. We also know that many events do not receive the media coverage that they deserve.

The results are strong evidence that COVID-19 did not stop American Legion Family members from observing one of our most solemn days. I’m proud to lead an organization that realizes that Memorial Day isn’t simply a day off.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 May 2020, Morning

Yesterday we observed Memorial Day. Today, I would like to salute another group of heroes.

Through May 21, the Department of Veterans Affairs listed 30 VA employees who passed away due to COVID-19. They worked in various facilities across the country. These are just known coronavirus deaths and by now the figure could be higher.

Dying in the service of veterans is the definition of noble sacrifice.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 May 2020, Memorial Day

Dear American Legion Family,

Scripture tells us, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

This Memorial Day, The American Legion expresses its gratitude to the one million men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives in service to this country since the American Revolution.

The American Legion will never forget their courage and their sacrifice. God Bless America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is National Poppy Day, our opportunity to wear a visible reminder of a universal symbol of sacrifice.

It is also my last update before Memorial Day. This weekend is an excellent time to wear a poppy or poppy pin, light a candle of remembrance (#candlesofhonor) and fly the American Flag. I plan on doing all three.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 May 2020, Morning

Every day we are seeing dozens of stories about American Legion posts serving communities and they never get old. American Legion Post 66 in Clinton, Conn., recently prepared 42 complementary lunches for members of the local police and fire departments.

Taking care of people who take care of us. It’s what The American Legion does.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 May 2020, Afternoon

Memorial Day is a day to honor our fallen veterans. Period. Full stop.

That does not mean we should feel guilty about enjoying time off and celebrating our way of life with our family and friends. Prior to making the supreme sacrifice, some of my fallen friends enjoyed many Memorial Day weekends and celebrated what has been called the unofficial beginning of summer. At The American Legion, we hope that you take some time to reflect the meaning of the day by lighting a candle of honor (#candlesofhonor), attending a virtual Memorial Day service or simply saying a prayer for our fallen heroes.

But there is also time for recreation and leisure. Take advantage of some of the Military Appreciation Month discounts and specials offered on the national website. You have earned that right as a veteran. But please remember to be safe. The coronavirus does not take holidays.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 May 2020, Morning

As difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic has been on communities across the United States, we would be much worse off without the efforts of the National Guard. Many of these men and women have left their homes and jobs to help build field hospitals, decontaminate nursing homes and deliver emergency supplies.

I find it disturbing that many Guard units are operating under 89-day federal deployment orders. This is one day short of the required 90-day period required for some home loan, education and retirement benefits to kick in. Yesterday, I issued a statement asking the president to fix this. As commander-in-chief he has the authority to extend their federal orders. Keep visiting www.legion.org to see what develops.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Retired Australian Army Brigadier General George Mansford penned a poem about ANZAC Day, an observance in Australia and New Zealand that is similar to Memorial Day. The scenes described in “When Dawn Breaks,” are reminiscent of the “Candles of Honor” that we are hoping to see on Monday in neighborhoods across the United States. When asked if we could run his poem, Gen. Mansford replied, “How could I say no to our American cousins?”

When Dawn Breaks

I was told of a plan by some far wiser than me

History is to be made this ANZAC dawn, for all to see

No virus can kill our spirit, or blind our eyes to a very special day

No parades or cheering crowds, yet all as one, we will do it our way

In early dawn, there will be lights, candles and torches, row upon row,

In front of family homes, they will flicker and glow

Beloved national flags of show from windows, fences and lawns

All to be readily seen by the ghosts of our Fallen, in light of dawn

Their long columns will march on the streets, unseen and with no sound

Imagine them as it once was, so young with dreams abound

Marching to war, heads held high and never looking down

In that special dawn, on parade again in every street of every town

When the sun rises high, and families are back behind closed doors

The columns will be gone and the streets empty once more

Surely you heard the echoes of their footsteps as they marched away?

To a camp where they sleep, until bugles call for the next ANZAC Day

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

This Friday is National Poppy Day. The American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters will be hosting a Facebook watch party at noon, EDT, on May 22. You can visit Facebook.com/alaforveterans to show your support.

There are other ways to show your support, while maintaining safe social distancing. For more information, visit www.legion.org/poppyday. You can also post poppy images or Poppy Day activities on social media. Please use #poppyday so people will be able to share your stories.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

This Memorial Day will be different but no less significant than previous years. Public closures of many cemeteries and social distancing require a uniquely 2020 approach.

One special way to honor America’s fallen heroes is to light a candle of remembrance for display on your front porch or other visible location at dusk on May 25. A red candle can symbolize the bloodshed in defense of this nation, white for the purity of the sacrifices made by our POWs and MIAs, and a blue candle for the eternal love that departed veterans have given to this country.

I would love to hear about your Memorial Day observance. Share your story with a photo on www.legiontown.org or post it on social media using the hashtag #candlesofhonor.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

America lost a true hero last week. Secret Service Special Agent Ronald Shurer II received the Medal of Honor from President Trump in 2018 for his actions as a Special Forces soldier during a 2008 battle in Nuristan, Afghanistan.

The 41-year-old veteran passed away Thursday while undergoing treatment for lung cancer at a Washington, D.C. hospital. We have seen many heroes in this country throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Medal of Honor recipients, however, are in a category all to themselves. Rest in peace, Special Agent Shurer. Our condolences to your family.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterans unemployment rate at the beginning of March was 3.5 percent. By April, it had more than tripled to 11.7 percent. No doubt it’s even higher now.

Fortunately, The American Legion has been sponsoring career training and job fairs with Hiring Our Heroes. You can find a schedule of events and some excellent webinars here.

If you’re an employer, you can help by hiring veterans. We can all patronize veteran-owned small businesses. Times are tough but we will survive this together.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I just came across this quote by Alexander Hamilton as reported in Ron Chernow’s excellent biography on one of America’s greatest founding fathers. “Justice and humanity forbid the abandoning to want and misery men who have spent their best years in military service of a country or who in that service had contracted infirmities which disqualify them to earn their bread in other modes.”

Well said, Alexander. It’s especially worth remembering now.

Bill Oxford

15 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

With the cancellation of most major sporting events and television shows on a production hiatus, people may be running out of viewing ideas. Sergeant First Class Brian Eldridge of the U.S. Army Field Band recently sent an email to national headquarters promoting his unit’s virtual concert series.

So if you want to view a combination of talent and patriotism, watch their streamed performances on YouTube.com/ArmyFieldBand. You can also visit the U.S. Army Field Band website for a complete schedule. Happy viewing.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The Grand Lake News reported that American Legion Post 334 in Ramona, Okla., and its Auxiliary unit fed more than 225 families of people working in the law enforcement, firefighting and medical fields on May 6.

Many of my coronavirus updates are about the great activities of American Legion posts in communities across the country. Even in the toughest of times, American Legion Families continue to shine.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

We’ve all seen the stereotype of a bureaucrat saying “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” At The American Legion, however, we REALLY are here to help and we have a century-long track record to prove it.

In order to truly assist, we need to know what is needed. That is the point of our COVID-19 Impact Survey and our buddy checks. More than 22,000 have responded to our survey since April 15 and I’m hoping to hear from more of you. Nearly 90 percent of the survey takers have indicated that coronavirus represents “some threat” or a “large threat” to their health. Not surprisingly more than 40 percent said “communication with friends and family” was the most beneficial resource to their emotional well-being, thus reinforcing the need for the survey.

If you haven’t done so already, take the survey here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s not surprising that a high percentage of first responders are military veterans. Service and sacrifice are synonymous with each of these professions.

Tomorrow, May 15, is Peace Officers Memorial Day. The president of the United States has authorized that American Flags be displayed at half-staff. The American Legion has a long history of support for law-enforcement. The COVID-19 emergency is just the latest chapter in the history of peace officers putting the safety of others before their own.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Few missions are as noble as feeding the hungry. American Legion Post 483 in Rosedale, N.Y., has embraced such a mission with the support of the BlaQue Resource Network, a community group based in Queens.

The post has been feeding more than 1,000 families per week, as the COVID-19 crisis has severely damaged the economic health of the Big Apple. In addition to delivering food to seniors quarantining in their homes, the post has been operating a food pantry every Wednesday. If you are able to volunteer or in need in food in the New York City area, call Timothy Turane at (323) 818-6673.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Legionnaires at American Legion Post 36 in West Bend, Wisc., are welcoming volunteers to help celebrate Armed Forces Day this Saturday. The Legionnaires and other volunteers all plan to maintain social distancing while placing more than 5,000 American flags on the graves of veterans buried in more than 100 cemeteries spread throughout Washington County.

The volunteers are encouraged to wear face masks and bring their own hand sanitizer. The events begin at 9 a.m. at Washington County Memorial Park and Holy Angels Cemetery. The project will also cover flag placement on city light poles.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The best buddy-checkers are those who are informed. If a veteran is in need of help, the buddy-checker should do everything possible to either assist or connect the veteran with someone who can.

Most Legionnaires are not mental health professionals. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs just kicked off a “Now is the time” online campaign in recognition of Mental Health Month.

On the campaign website, veterans can hear stories of recovery and find a list of resources that have been vetted by VA. Most importantly, if the veteran is having thoughts of suicide, IMPLORE the veteran to call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. Also, please follow up with the veteran and call a first responder if you believe he or she is in immediate danger.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

12 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Any Navy veteran can tell you that living aboard a ship or even an aircraft carrier can be cramped at times. Social distancing can be difficult to nearly impossible.

American Legion Auxiliary members throughout Utah have made and donated 1,000 face masks for personnel stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan. Some members are making financial donations to pay for shipping and supplies.

I am impressed with the many American Legion Family members who have adopted different military units. They are serving at a time when America is battling an invisible enemy.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Arizona American Legion Family members have taken community service to a higher level. District 11 and 12 Legion Family members have teamed with the Harvest Compassion Center in Phoenix to operate four food distribution drives over the last few weeks. Incoming District 11 Commander Bobbie Kimelton predicts that they will have conducted 10 to 12 such efforts by the time the national emergency ends.

The districts comprise of 40 posts and the distribution has been aimed primarily toward military members, veterans and their families.

“I think the thing that was most exciting for me out of all this is that this has not become an American Legion thing,” she said. “It’s a Legion Family thing. We have (American Legion) Riders delivering food to the (Northern Arizona VA Heath Care System) in Prescott. They’ve been delivering food bags to the Hopi Reservation and the Navajo Reservation. It’s just blown up into a huge, huge thing.”

As my friends in the Navy say, BZ.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

11 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

American Legion Legislative Associate Lawrence Montreuil will be speaking at a virtual veterans town hall on Thursday afternoon. Margarita Devlin, principal deputy Under Secretary for Benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs will also speak, along with representatives of other VSOs at the event which is sponsored by the Association of Defense Communities and Blue Star Families.

The program is titled, Addressing the Needs of Veterans During COVID- 19. It will be held at 3 pm (ET) on May 14. Register here: https://bluestarfam.us/thv-0b674.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

When I listen to anything Winston Churchill said during the darkest times of World War II, I cannot forget what he emphasized - NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! We, as Americans, are in a period of legitimate national crisis, BUT we WILL emerge STRONGER and better because of it. We cannot give up! We must maintain, preserve, and continue to be who we are and do what we do.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Seventy-five years ago today the war in Europe was won. The “VE Day” celebrations were so jubilant that President Harry S Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took to the radio to remind people that the war in the Pacific was still on.

Still, the importance of the European victory could not be overstated. Freedom won.

One of the greatest tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic is the harmful effects the disease has on our World War II veterans. Today, we continue to be inspired by the tenacity, toughness and sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our economy. Particularly hard hit are veterans who spent many of their prime working years serving their country.

Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring. You can seek out positions in your area by visiting https://www.vacareers.va.gov/.

Amazon is also seeking veterans, transitioning servicemembers and their spouses for a variety of positions. Amazon has three upcoming webinars scheduled:

Thursday, May 14: 5-6 p.m. EDT https://tinyurl.com/vfj5n4t

Tuesday, May 19: 12-1 p.m. EDT https://tinyurl.com/sebe55h

Thursday, May 28: 3-4 p.m. EDT https://tinyurl.com/tspeh85

If you are an employer, please consider hiring a veteran. It’s smart business.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. Healthcare workers are our infantry in the coronavirus war. One person who knows about war and healthcare is Diane Carlson Evans, the 2018 American Legion Patriot Award recipient.

In her soon-to-be released book “Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse’s 10-year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.,” Diane explains her own PTSD healing process.

“I was not ashamed to be diagnosed with PTSD,” she wrote. “For me, healing has meant remembering and honoring not just human beings but also memories. I look at them now without fear but a quiet reverence: they are a part of me and are what inspired me to continue to serve my country as an advocate for veterans.”

We are certainly glad to have you as an advocate, Diane. Welcome home.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Today is the first day of National Nurse Week. It is especially significant in 2020, when nurses risk their lives simply by showing up for their shifts.

Right before the COVID-19 emergency led to widespread stay-at-home orders, I was pleased to present The American Legion Distinguished Health Care Provider of the Year Award to Mary Ballard at our Washington Conference. Mary is the Registered Nurse Manager for the Oklahoma VA Medical Center’s Home-Based Primary Care Team.

Nominated by American Legion Post 353 in Mustang, Okla., her nomination letter stated, “She is a veteran. Her husband is a veteran, and she has a son who is a veteran. Mary cares for her patients in the way she wants other nurses to care for her veteran family members. She cares, and her passion shows.”

Mary, thank you for your continuing service to America and to the veterans of Oklahoma.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

When listing the many heroes that have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should remember the farmers of America. In spite of some empty supermarket shelves and issues of supply, the agricultural industry of this nation is ensuring that America does not face a widespread famine.

It’s exciting that American Legion Post 83 in Merced, Calif., is staging a “virtual” livestock show for hundreds of 4H and Future Farmers of America participants next month. The post has been assisting with donations for the event which will allow exhibitors to showcase their animals by video and receive the recognition that they deserve. The Merced County Shelter-in Showdown is especially important since the annual county fair was cancelled because of the pandemic. Post 83 has discovered a unique way of not only serving the youth of its community, but honoring those who do so much to feed America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Just as public health concerns have caused the cancellation of the 2020 American Legion National Convention in Louisville, it has had the same impact on the Sons of The American Legion. Fortunately, SAL National Commander Clint Bolt and his team of national officers have agreed to continue serving until the 2021 National Convention. The authority for these extensions was authorized through a recent resolution approved by the National Executive Committee.

Because of current restrictions on travel and public gatherings, these extensions will allow for American Legion and SAL national officers to resume visits to departments once public officials determine it is once again safe to do so.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

5 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

In a statement issued on May 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced its participation in clinical trials to be used in the fight against COVID-19. VA medical centers in Denver, New Orleans and Palo Alto, Calif., are assessing whether drugs such as Gilead Sciences Inc., remdesivir are effective against COVID-19. The Atlanta VA will work with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to study whether the rheumatoid arthritis drug sarilumab could be effective with coronavirus. Veterans interested in participating in these studies should contact VA centers in those cities or visit VA.gov for more information.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Officials in Marion County, Indiana, home of our national headquarters, and Washington, D.C., have extended “stay-at-home” orders until May 15. While The American Legion will always believe that serving veterans is an “essential” calling, we are fortunate that technology allows your national staff to work from home rather seamlessly. To ensure the safest possible environment for the staff, we are tentatively planning to bring the employees back to the office on June 1. Naturally dates could change later on as events dictate.

Other than dropping by their office, please do no hesitate to contact staff as you normally would. Even if done remotely, your national staff continues to serve.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

4 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Food by the truckload, four to be exact, arrived April 23 to a food pantry courtesy of American Legion Post 1 in Rockland, Maine.

The Courier-Gazette reported that the Legion helped re-stock the inventory of the Area Interfaith Outreach food pantry at a time when the community really needed it. That’s what The American Legion does. We support our communities.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 May 2020, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

This week President Trump signed legislation which continues funding for the GI Bill to students impacted by the coronavirus. It is the second measure taken since the emergency was declared.

The latest act protects veteran work-study programs and provides extra insurance for students whose colleges close. Students who are unable to reach their places of work-study employment will continue to be paid.

Congress and the administration deserve credit for remembering veterans during these challenging times. Nearly one million individuals received some type of veteran education benefit last year. Past Nationl Commander Harry Colmery would be proud.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 May 2020, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Survey results released by the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday confirm what The American Legion has said for years: VA really is a “System Worth Saving.”

Since 2017 more than 4 million veterans have been surveyed and for the first time results as of April 12 reveal that 90.1 percent trust VA’s outpatient services. This is an all-time high for VA and a 5 percent increase in trust since the surveys began three years ago.

The COVID-19 crisis is testing VA like it’s never been tested before. There is always room for improvement but that applies to every other healthcare system as well.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Never underestimate the tenacity or adaptability of Legionnaires. While produce and meat shortages have occurred in various pockets of the country throughout the COVID-19 emergency, Post 15 in Sumter, S.C. is still operating a very robust farmers market.

Now modified as a drive-thru, customers typically wait in line for more than an hour to pick-up their orders. But the service is worth it and the The American Legion Farmers Market is an important fixture in its community. In a little more than a month, vendors sold 542 pounds of pork products, 42 pounds of cheese, 62 dozen eggs, 72 pints of honey and 200 gallons of strawberries. Not is only is The American Legion providing an important venue for food purchases, it is allowing farmers to continue to feed their own families.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

You’re never too young to lead. The website Pennlive.com reported that 9-year-old Dominic Baker organized a food drive in Pennsylvania’s Steelton and Swatara Townships. Not surprisingly the young man is a member of the junior Sons of The American Legion through Steelton American Legion Post 420.

“I’m not sure we can ever express how proud we are of our son,” Dave Baker said. “He came up with this idea all on his own. He originally wanted to give blood but I had to explain he wasn’t old enough to do that.”

Auxiliary Unit 420 President Lisa Iskric reported that Dominic’s idea generated enough donations to fill up “a truck and a car.” The effort generated a statement of appreciation from the Swatara Township Police Department. Well done, Dominic!

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

A recent report by the Department of Defense reveals that an increase in military suicides and suicide attempts occurred between 2018 and 2019. Active-duty suicides increased 13 percent over that time. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, troops might feel more isolated than in previous years.

Not only are our Buddy Checks hugely important as we look out for our Legion brethren, we should pay special attention to military families and those who are deployed. Many posts have “adopted” military units. Others are involved with Family Readiness Groups. It’s always a morale-booster for those serving our nation to know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Most importantly if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 for veterans. You could also text at 838255.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

29 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring and this is good news for veterans. Long before the coronavirus existed, The American Legion has been concerned about personnel shortages in the health-care system which was created to serve veterans.

A statement by VA reports that the department hired 3,183 new staff members, including 981 registered nurses, from March 29 to April 11. “As VA proactively bolsters its workforce, the department expects to hire another 4,500 staff members, during the next several weeks,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie added.

The economic hardships inflicted by COVID-19 will provide enormous challenges for millions of Americans. Veterans, who have spent many of their prime working years serving their country, will be hit especially hard. The best way to thank a veteran is to hire one.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Lone Star Legionnaires at Post 166 are showing that they have a heart as big as Texas. KXXV-TV reported that the post opened its parking lot in Temple, Texas, and partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank to operate a drive-thru distribution service.

“I’m guessing right now we’ve had close to 800 maybe 900 cars,” Legionnaire John Potts told the ABC-affiliate last week. Potts addded that the post made its parking lot available after a previous request made to a different venue had been denied.

Like I said yesterday, when an opportunity closes another often opens up. It’s just another great example of The American Legion serving its community.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

28 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It certainly has a nice ring to it. “Operation Victory Virus,” is a campaign conceived by American Legion Post 25 in California’s Imperial County. Together with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 138, members hope to produce 1,000 face masks for use by the county’s emergency workers.

The Holtville Tribune reported that on April 17 Unit 138 President Karen Gibbs and other Auxiliary members completed and delivered 41 masks. They are cutting and stitching the materials themselves and are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“When my daughter, Misty, heard about the masks, she told me, ‘the home-made masks are awesome; I’m so proud of you,’” Gibbs told the newspaper. “I taught her and my daughter, Carrie, to sew.’”

I have to second Misty’s sentiments. The American Legion National Commander is also proud of you.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Often when an opportunity closes in The American Legion, a new one opens. Such is the case with our System Worth Saving (SWS) and Regional Office Action Review (ROAR) site visits.

Due to the suspension of national travel during the coronavirus emergency, the Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Commission’s executive committee voted unanimously to cancel the remaining SWS and ROAR site visits scheduled for this year. They also agreed to revisit the matter if circumstances change.

In announcing the cancellations, VA&R Chairman Ralph Bozella asked the national staff to strengthen visit protocols and volunteer training. This time will not be wasted. Through better and more robust training, your American Legion SWS and ROAR teams will have even more effective and productive visits in 2021 and beyond. And you can rest assured that The American Legion continues regular engagement with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and is monitoring VA’s COVID-19 response.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

During its meeting last October, your National Executive Committee passed Resolution 6: 75th Anniversary of World War II. While the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly limit the number of public observances that would have otherwise occurred to mark this historical event, you can rest assured that The American Legion’s media team will acknowledge these important milestones in all its national media platforms.

Seventy-five years ago this week, American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River in Germany. Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, was the final blow to the Nazi regime. After the meeting, the U.S, Soviet and British governments released statements reaffirming their determination to completely destroy the Third Reich government. We owe our freedom to the heroes of World War II.

The type of determination and sacrifice that led to victory in World War II will also get us through our current challenges.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

It isn’t just The American Legion serving communities during the COVID-19 emergency. Sons of the American Legion Squadron 586 and the South Jefferson Rescue Squad in Adams, N.Y., prepared over 500 barbecued chicken dinners and delivered them free courtesy of their drive-through service last Sunday. Television station WWNY reported that the meals were gone in 30 minutes and were the result of a team effort with donations coming from the Six Town Chamber of Commerce in Adams and a charitable foundation from Rochester, N.Y.

Even during a tragic pandemic, we are seeing the best of America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

One of the most devastating aspects of COVID-19 is the harm that it is inflicting on members of the Greatest Generation. Philip Kahn piloted missions to Iwo Jima and this month transferred membership from American Legion Post 160 in Great Neck, N.Y., to Post Everlasting as a result of the coronavirus. The 100-year-old truly lived a fascinating life. During World War II, he survived a sniper attack and was wounded by a booby trap. As an electrical foreman, he later helped build the Twin Towers. In a sad coincidence, a century ago Philip lost his infant twin brother to the Spanish flu epidemic.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

One of the top-rated television broadcasts during the COVID-19 pandemic has been “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on ESPN about basketball great Michael Jordan. As a native of North Carolina, I’ve always admired his “Airness.”

While people were amazed at Jordan’s skills and his drive to win, I am not surprised that he developed into one of the all-time best leaders to grace an NBA court. What would you expect from a graduate of The American Legion Department of North Carolina Boys State program?

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Memorial Day observances may have a different feel this year. Much will depend on the recommended guidelines in local communities pertaining to public gatherings. Regardless, it is important to honor those who sacrificed their lives for this country – even if it is done with a virtual or webcast ceremony.

Every Memorial Day, your American Legion National Headquarters provides a recommended speech for those who wish to deliver ceremonial remarks. They can be delivered verbatim or localized and changed based on the environment, audience or nature of the event. It is fitting that the 2020 remarks, which can be found here, also recognize a new group of heroes – the health-care workers who risk and sacrifice their own lives while helping us through the COVID-19 emergency. We will never forget that Memorial Day is observed in honor of our fallen servicemembers, but there is also room to acknowledge others who gave their all.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

All masks are not created equal. And if the mask is not worn properly, it can give the user a false sense of security. These are just some of the helpful tips that one can find on the Center for Disease Control website. In order for The American Legion to continue serving veterans and our communities, we must practice common sense and safety. For more on CDC face-covering guidelines visit here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

22 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Historically, when troops deployed their family back home would worry about the safety and wellbeing of their faraway servicemember. But the COVID-19 emergency has redistributed the stress to a more mutual equation. Troops now have the additional worry of how their loved ones are faring.

I am pleased that the 11th District of The American Legion in the Department of Illinois has joined an effort with the Doodlebug workshop to gather cards, letters, drawings and notes of encouragement for forwarding to troops downrange. The campaign will continue through May 16.

According to a recent article in the Daily Herald, mail of this nature can be sent or dropped off at the following locations:

DoodleBug Workshop, 314 S. Main St., Wheaton, Il 60187; Geneva American Legion Post 75, 22 S. 2nd St., Geneva, Il. 60134 or American Legion Post 589, 35371 Mignin Dr., Warrenville, Il. 60555.

The notes will not eliminate all stress associated with the coronavirus. But it will let the troops know that we acknowledge and appreciate their service.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I am proud of The American Legion response to the COVID-19 emergency. In addition to increasing Buddy Check calls, posts have held blood drives and provided food and supplies to people in need.

An emergency becomes an even bigger tragedy if you don’t learn. As impressed as I am with our organization, you can help us become an even better American Legion. Simply take a few minutes and respond to this survey. This data will help us better serve those who have served America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

21 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I recently received a letter from Isabella He, a junior at Pittsford Mendon High School, in Pittsford, N.Y. She is the founder of Teens for Veterans and has done volunteer work for American Legion Post 899 in Pittsford.

In her letter she wrote, “After years of interacting with these veterans, my generation and community have developed a greater appreciation for those who served our country. In return, our veterans have felt a stronger bond forming between themselves and the community. I am very proud of this achievement.”

Isabella, you should be proud. You should especially be proud of the virtual concert that you organized. Now, for everybody’s listening enjoyment, click here for “We are thinking of You” by Veterans for Teens.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Even in the middle of a pandemic, motorcycle enthusiasts in The American Legion can still find a great reason to ride. After gathering donations from members and additional support from Spanky’s Bar in Kenosha, Wis., and Red Oak Restaurant in Bristol, Wis., District 1 American Legion Riders in the Badger State made a delivery to a local hospital last Thursday. The Riders presented healthcare workers at the Froedtert South Medical Center with 100 free sandwiches.

“I thought, ‘we can do something,’” American Legion Rider Jim Rosco said in the Kenosha News. “These guys are putting their lives on the line.”

Veterans know something about putting lives on the line. In this war against a virus, it is the healthcare workers that are our infantry.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I was pleased to listen to the VA Secretary’s weekly conference call to Veteran Service Organizations last week. Secretary Robert Wilkie again emphasized the importance of veterans calling their local VA facility before showing up for medical services. It is important to reduce exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible,

Certain regions of the United States are doing far better than others. Secretary Wilkie mentioned that the veterans community west of the Mississippi has not seen the type of numbers as their counterparts in the east. For instance, VA was only aware of one veteran in the entire state of Montana that tested positive for the Coronavirus and that veteran was being treated at home. As of April 15, San Diego had three veterans who tested positive, San Francisco had one and Reno had none. These very manageable numbers out west led Secretary Wilkie to say that he sees the groundwork for re-opening regular processes at VA in those areas to occur “sooner rather than later.”

Predictions about this pandemic have varied widely over the last few weeks. But the one thing most of us can agree on is that the VA workers have done a tremendous job serving veterans, even as they risk their own health in doing so.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Let’s hear it for the blood donors in the Buckeye State. At least 13 American Legion posts in the Department of Ohio have scheduled a combined total of 29 blood drives through December 31. The COVID-19 pandemic makes blood donations especially important.

On Monday, Post 470 in Coldwater, Ohio, collected 75 units of blood. Post 648 in St. Henry, Ohio, is planning a drive from 12:30 pm to 6:30 p.m. on April 29. Post 584 in Marion, Ohio, will accept blood donation from 11 am to 5 p.m. on May 14.

Blood donations really are the gift of life.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

These are frightening times for children. School closures and stay-at-home orders have had a dramatic effect on their normal activities. But it didn’t stop American Legion Post 402 in Wayland, N.Y., from cheering up local children by holding a drive-thru Easter candy giveaway last weekend.

“This is our way of being able to still bring Easter to the community,” Wayland Auxiliary member Judy Perkowski told The Evening Tribune. “We are doing what we can to lift up everyone’s spirits in this time.”

This is what The American Legion Family does. We lift up America.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Kudos to Legionnaires and American Legion Auxiliary members at Post 219 in Alexandria, Ky. WCPO reported that World War II veteran Dale Reid recently celebrated his 96th birthday. Rather than spending the time shuttered alone at home with his wife, members serenaded him by singing happy birthday in a mini flash mob-type gathering outside his home. People all maintained social distancing, while at the same time letting Dale know that he was special.

We are still able to creatively celebrate our camaraderie in The American Legion Family, even if we are socially distant for now.

I would also like to extend a special thanks for all of the birthday greetings, cards and wishes that I received yesterday, April 15.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

16 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only emergency that many people are now dealing with. Tornadoes recently took the lives of at least 33 people and left millions without power in southern regions of the United States. Homes and businesses across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina have been damaged.

Current members of The American Legion and Sons of The American Legion can apply for assistance through our National Emergency Fund if they incurred property damage to their home as a result of a declared natural disaster. Help is available online at www.legion.org/emergency/apply. This is just another great way that The American Legion is still able to serve America. If you have not been impacted by this latest natural disaster but want to help, you can make an online donation at www.legion.org/donate and select the National Emergency Fund.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Long before anyone ever heard of the coronavirus, The American Legion was concerned about the health and well-being of our World War II veterans. Delegates to our national convention passed a resolution in 2017 calling on the Department of Veteran Affairs to accept all World War II veterans into the VA system and exempting them from a means test. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the ending of that war. The veterans of the Greatest Generation deserve access to the health care system that was created to serve veterans.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

15 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The Buddy Checks are working. Last week I called in as a guest on the Frontlines of Freedom radio show and podcast. The host, Denny Gillem, is a Legionnaire in Grand Rapids, Mich. He told me that his American Legion post had recently called to see how he is doing. His status as a radio show host had nothing to do with the call. It was just his post, 1111, checking to see if he is ok. That’s the purpose of a Buddy Check – Legionnaires checking on each other and helping when we can. This is a perfect example of what Legionnaires mean when we pledge “our devotion to mutual helpfulness.” Buddy Checks are new but this devotion is as old as The American Legion itself.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 April 20, afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

How do you listen to a stay-at-home order if you have no home? How will you receive a relief check from the federal government if you have no bank account or even a mailing address? These are just a few of the many issues facing homeless veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is assistance available. The American Legion national website offers a complete list of homeless veteran resource experts broken down by each state. If you are experiencing homelessness or know a homeless veteran, please reach out to one of our experts. Assisting veterans is one of the many reasons why we have an American Legion.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

14 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Despite the challenges that the COVID-10 emergencies have inflicted on healthcare delivery, a statement issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs on April 13 shows a dramatic increase of veterans accessing VA mental health care services through telehealth and virtual counseling sessions. VA reports that in March, these appointments jumped 200 percent from the prior month. Phone consultations increased by 280 percent.

“VA is open for business and we continue to provide same-day mental health services and mental health screening for veterans at-risk who require attention at any of our facilities,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “There is no doubt that VA’s early embrace of new technology is aiding veterans and I applaud VA health care workers and veteran patients for embracing it.”

Veterans in crisis or those who are concerned about a veteran in crisis, should call the national hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Not all Legionnaires were required to file federal income taxes in 2018 or 2019. They also may be entitled to relief as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress in March.

According to an April 10 news release issued by the Department of the Treasury, the IRS has set up a new web portal for non-filers to receive their relief payment. Millions of Americans are eligible to receive $1,200 payments from the federal government. Simply enter your bank information in the web portal, “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” Politico reports that paper checks will not be sent until May, for those who did not file taxes electronically or provide the federal government with their banking information.

The IRS has also announced that it will launch another portal for filers who chose to submit their taxes without providing banking information. Last month, the IRS announced that the filing deadline for 2019 federal taxes has been automatically extended from April 15 to July 15, 2020.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

13 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Through e-mail, your National Executive Committee approved a resolution last week cancelling the 2020 national convention previously scheduled for Aug. 28- Sept. 3 in Louisville, Ky. The terms of the elected and appointed national officers will continue until the closing session of the 102nd National Convention in Phoenix scheduled for Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2021.

The decision was difficult and easy. It was difficult because we are well aware of the importance of such an event. An enormous amount of planning for the Louisville gathering had occurred and never in our 101-year history have we cancelled a national convention. But the decision was also easy because the safety and health of our members and their families must be our top concern.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern history. We must respect the guidelines and restrictions put in place by public health officials and government leaders. Because of this turn of events, Louisville has been selected as the site of our 2026 national convention, the next available year.

In the meantime, we will continue to serve veterans and our communities through Buddy Checks, blood drives, advocacy and the practice of our four founding pillars.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

10 April 20, Good Friday

Dear American Legion Family,

This is Easter weekend, a time of hope for Christians as they celebrate the resurrection of their Lord. It’s also a time of hope for America. Numbers seem to indicate that social distancing and other safety measures are having a positive impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. The best and brightest doctors in the world are working hard to find effective treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus. And The American Legion has always believed in the determination and grit of the American people to overcome any obstacle.

Have a wonderful Easter and pray for our health care workers, our military and our neighbors.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Occasionally, national headquarters receives questions about canteens, lounges and other operations at various American Legion post homes. We have received an increase in these calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bottom line is that your national headquarters has no say in these matters. These are not national programs of The American Legion and, constitutionally speaking, departments and posts are autonomous and in control of their own operations.

That said, we are not indifferent to the hardships imposed by closures due to the national emergency. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $350 billion to protect employees and assist businesses. Included among them are non-profit organizations. More information can be found at www.treasury.gov; for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce checklist, click here.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

9 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

During these times of economic uncertainty, the Department of Veterans Affairs is understandably offering relief to veterans who may have difficulty paying VA for debts owed. According to guidance that we have received from the White House, the veteran must call VA to receive the relief. For benefit debts, call the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648 to make arrangements. For health care debts, call the Health Resource Center at 1-888-827-4817. Extensions for claims are also being granted. Those with questions pertaining to claim extensions should call 1-800-827-1000.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 April 20, afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

After consultation with our National Americanism Commission, I have decided to cancel the American Legion Baseball World Series, as well as the regional baseball tournaments for 2020. While the World Series wasn’t until August, the season’s games were scheduled to begin in May.

We are also suspending Samsung Scholarships to be awarded in 2020 due to the cancellations of many Boys and Girls State programs. Those who were awarded previous Samsung Scholarships will still have access to any unused funds that they may need.

The American Legion is justifiably proud of its outstanding youth programs and we look forward to bringing them back in future years. But National Americanism Chairman Richard Anderson explained the situation perfectly.

“These times are unparalleled,” Chairman Anderson said. “And while it’s distressing to think of all those youth across the nation who are disappointed to learn of the cancellation of American Legion programs this year, it would be a much greater tragedy if even just one of those youth were to fall ill during a program. The Americanism Commission feels this is the right thing to do.”

I agree.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

8 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Among the many shortages we are experiencing lately is fresh produce. Leave it to the Legionnaires of Post 301 in Austintown, Ohio, to overcome and adapt. According to WKBN-TV, the post worked with the Youngstown Community Food Bank and the Feed the Children Network to collect enough food to provide nourishment for 200 families. They even had food left over, which was donated to a local church. Another great example of how Legionnaires and their friends in the community serve their neighbor.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 April 20, afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Since day one of the current national emergency, I’ve been advising American Legion departments, posts and Legion Family members to listen to their local authorities. Our organization has believed in maintaining law and order since our founding and included it in the Preamble to our constitution.

As national commander, it’s only fitting that I respect and share with you the national guidance set forth by our elected leadership. The White House and Center for Disease Control have issued guidelines titled, “30 Days to Slow the Spread.”

You have probably heard most before. They include:

• Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities

• If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.

• If your children are sick, keep them at home. Do not send them to school. Contact your medical provider.

• If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people.

• If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.

For more information, please visit, CORONAVIRUS.GOV.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

7 April 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

It’s easy for me to provide frequent updates on the coronavirus. A quick scan of the day’s news usually provides new reports of American Legion posts serving their communities.

Today, I offer a salute to Post 159 in Kennebunkport, Maine. Legionnaires there are offering ongoing errand assistance, including pickup of groceries or prescriptions, rides to the doctor or help making other needed appointments. If you’re in the area and need some help, call Post Finance Officer Chris Meyer at 207-956-2056. The assistance, Chris says, is being offered to everybody, regardless of veteran status. You can also learn more about this great post by visiting the Post 159, Kennebunkport Facebook page. And while you’re there, give them a “Like.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion firmly believes no veteran should ever be left behind. We are concerned that the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act is too reliant on federal tax returns in identifying Americans receiving rebates. This would leave out a significant number of Americans, including many disabled veterans and their families with little incomes, who are not required to file a tax return.

I was happy to join leaders of other veteran service organizations Friday in writing a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. We pointed out that the federal government has many other ways to identify VA beneficiaries including disability compensation, pension, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and other non-taxable payments. Not only can they cross reference records that they already they have, but they also have records for Social Security recipients.

We should never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The legislation that was passed is needed to quickly help millions of Americans who have been devastated by the economic downturn. Now it’s time to improve the delivery process.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

6 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

They make them tough in Oregon. Various media outlets have reported that 104-year-old World War II veteran William Lapschies has recovered from COVID-19. He first showed symptoms on March 5 and was one of the first residents of the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ home in Lebanon, Ore., to test positive. But days after he experienced a spiked temperature and heavy breathing, VA spokespeople reported that he had recovered.

Fellow World War II vet Bill Kelly, 95, of McMinnville. Ore., also reportedly recovered from the virus. His granddaughter wrote on Facebook that Kelly said, “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this (coronavirus) bull----.”

Well said. The American Legion salutes your service.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Social distancing requirements have presented a new set of obstacles that American Legion posts have never faced during prior national emergencies and disasters. But the current crisis has proven that Legionnaires are as creative as they are tenacious.

In Dover, Mass., Post 209 has launched a food drive to benefit local agencies, a pantry and a church. Post 335 in South Gate, Calif., is providing care packages to senior citizens sheltered at home. American Legion Post 328 in Riley, Ind., will hold a free drive-thru cookout on April 4. These are just a few of the many reports that we are receiving every day of American Legion Family members serving their communities during these tough times.

As this continues, we may look back at this time as perhaps The American Legion’s finest hour.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

3 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

During a conference call with major veteran service organizations on Wednesday afternoon, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie implored veterans who are not feeling well to call their local VA centers before coming in. Dropping in unannounced endangers the veteran and others around the veteran. While VA is seeing nonveterans in New York City, it has not had to open beds to nonveterans in other areas at this time. As the numbers rise in other cities, you may see the VA expand its fourth mission – which is to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense during times of national emergency or war.

Not all veterans are comfortable receiving telehealth, but it is an option that many should consider and would reduce exposure opportunities for COVID-19.

While calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline have understandably increased at a time like this, I was pleased to hear Secretary Wilkie say that they have also the increased the staff who answer those calls. Once again, if you are a veteran who is feeling stressed or have thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 if you’re a veteran).

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I can think of no better way to observe Children & Youth Month , or month of hope as we have been calling it recently, than to make a donation to The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation.

The donations are used to train our outstanding service officers and provide temporary financial assistance to Legion Family members in need with children at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn, which only heightens the financial uncertainty many families face. Last year, our TFA grants provided more than $1 million of assistance to Coast Guard families that were impacted by the government shutdown. Those nonrepayable grants took their toll on the Foundation’s balance, but the donations were delivered to the people who needed them. The current crisis will also test the resources of this outstanding charity.

Administrative costs for this great foundation are paid by national headquarters, so you can be sure that your entire donation will go to the stated cause. In addtion to making a donation, feel free to share my video message on social media.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

2 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The COVID-19 crisis is taking its toll on America’s blood supply. While many Americans are wisely staying in their homes, blood donation is considered an essential service. It is perfectly appropriate to leave your home to make a donation. We are aware of many American Legion posts that have held or are planning blood drives. But regardless of where the donation is made, if you are healthy, please do so. If you enter your zip code here , the American Red Cross will direct you to a drive in your vicinity. And you can also help get the word out by sharing this video message on your social media page or post website:

Bill Oxford

National Commander

1 April 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Shutdowns should not be interpreted as closed for business. Your national staff of The American Legion is working remotely from the safety of their homes. The same could be said for our dedicated American Legion service officers.

While an office visit is not a safe option for the time being, if you would like to file a claim or have questions about your benefits, visit www.legion.org/serviceofficers While there may be some delays, many service officers are still responding to emails and calls.

1 April 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

April is Children & Youth month and this year it is being observed in a way that nobody could have anticipated even a month ago. While many of our programs have been postponed or cancelled, The American Legion’s devotion to the current generation of young people remains steadfast.

Most schools are closed because of the COVID-19 crisis. If you are sheltered in with your children, it is a perfect time to remind them of our country’s great history. Talk about how after America prevailed in the first World War this country persevered through an influenza epidemic in 1918. Talk about the Greatest Generation that battled through an economic depression before fighting the deadliest war in world history. More than 18 years ago, Americans were stunned to see New York’s tallest skyscrapers levelled by hijacked airplanes. The attacks also struck the headquarters of America’s military might. Yet we rebuilt, recovered and prospered.

This crisis, unique as it is, will ultimately result in a stronger, better and more prepared America when the emergency ends. Yes, there is much sadness. But from the grocer to the surgeon, we are surrounded by heroes.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

31 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Lost in all of the coronavirus coverage are people who we can’t afford to lose. I’m speaking of the twenty-plus veterans per day who commit suicide. Fortunately, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) has not forgotten.

The national emergency has only exacerbated feelings of isolation, economic despair and depression. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line have experienced an increase in call volume.

In addition to increasing our Buddy Checks, there is more that we can do. PREVENTS is trying to increase public awareness and perceptiveness to this problem by offering shareable materials on its Facebook page. You can follow PREVENTS on Twitter at @WeArePREVENTS and through various social media platforms using #MoreThanEverBefore.

Most important, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or expressing the slightest suicidal thoughts, call the Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 if you’re a veteran).

Bill Oxford

National Commander

Coronavirus Update 31 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

There is never a bad time to fly the flag of our country. We saw a huge spike of Old Glory being displayed during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. We also see the flag commonly flown on patriotic holidays. It is wonderful to see Americans rally around the flag during times of national crisis or emergency – though The American Legion has always championed the patriotic display of our flag.

If you don’t have an American flag, you need not leave your home to purchase one. Simply visit www.AmericanLegionFlags.com or call 1-888-453-4466. The flag can be delivered to your home and is competitively priced. Moreover, they are 100 percent made in the United States, with some of the proceeds being used to support American Legion programs which are assisting veterans and military families in your community.

If you are reading this message you clearly love your country. This is an opportunity to let your community know that you are also proud of it.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Yesterday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was opening 50 beds in New York City for nonCOVID-19 patients who are nonveterans. The request to do this came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will allow other hospitals to better serve the growing number of coronavirus cases.

Under normal circumstances, The American Legion would not support using VA resources for nonveterans. However, these are not normal circumstances. In fact, delegates at The American Legion National Convention in 2016 wisely anticipated emergencies such as the one we are now facing when they passed Resolution No. 188, which calls on Congress to fund VA’s role as a back-up to FEMA in response to national emergencies. While The American Legion believes in a strong VA health system for veterans, we also recognize its vital “fourth mission” to serve as a back-up for FEMA and the Department of Defense in response to national emergencies.

“VA is proud to assist the City of New York while continuing its primary mission of caring for our nation’s veterans.” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in an official statement.

The American Legion has been saying for years that VA offers the best healthcare anywhere. Now, other Americans will see why.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

30 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Buddy Checks have been around long before the coronavirus. In fact, I could argue that Legionnaires have been checking on their fellow veterans since our founding in 1919.

But COVID-19 is a unique emergency requiring a different type of response. Social distancing is needed to protect not only the people we are trying to help but the person conducting the buddy check as well. Moreover, economic uncertainty and health concerns have added to the stress and hardships that many veterans face.

With this in mind, The American Legion is offering a new toolkit for you to download: How to Perform A Buddy Check During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Included are sample scripts, along with tips on how to organize a team. It’s only five pages so it should be easy to print from your home. It’s just another example of how The American Legion is a true brotherhood and sisterhood.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I had a conference call with our department adjutants Wednesday afternoon. Many departments have cancelled Boys State, Oratorical Contests, American Legion Baseball games and department conventions. Others are delaying decisions and hoping that conditions improve to a point where these events can either take place or be rescheduled for a later date.

Please be understanding with those who have to make these difficult decisions. They are made with the safety of the participants and the public in mind. Please refer to your American Legion department websites frequently to learn the latest about these events.

Although American Legion departments are keeping their social distance, there is no doubt that they are very much engaged with what is occurring and anxious to continue to serve you – our American Legion Family.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

27 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion was only ten years old when the stock market crashed in 1929. Although today’s volatile stock market is the result of a world health crisis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933 included some inspirational words that still ring true today.

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work,” FDR said. “This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”

And, of course, Roosevelt’s most famous passage from that address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The American Legion has always been an active sponsor of job fairs and career training for transitioning veterans. Once society re-opens, you can count on your American Legion to once again be on the frontlines of this important effort.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

I’ve been hearing many great reports about The American Legion’s response to COVID-19 in communities across the country.

Legionnaires in the Blue Grass State have been making people feel, well, less blue. American Legion Post 23 in Bowling Green, Ky., teamed up with our friends in the Good Deeds Club and the Marine Corps League to provide a free hot breakfast by setting up a drive-through in its parking lot earlier this week. According to a report by local station WNKY, the first 200 drivers received sausage, biscuits, coffee donuts and toilet paper. These volunteers did it once again this morning.

Feel free to share these great stories by submitting them to www.legiontown.org or jraughter@legion.org.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

26 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

The American Legion is full of knowledgeable experts but our organization does not offer medical advice. That is best left for your personal physician.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is including much of its response information and services on its va.gov website. Included is this piece of advice:

“If you’re a Veteran seeking medical care, call your VA health facility if you have symptoms of the virus. Or sign in to My HealtheVet and send a secure message. You may be able to get diagnosed and receive care through VA telehealth without having to come in at all.”

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Many times I have mentioned the importance of conducting Buddy Checks throughout this crisis. It is especially vital that we check on senior citizens. Legion College graduate Jennifer Gedney Havlick (Class of 2018) has brought it to a new level. A member of Post 109 in Twin Harbors, Minn., she has formulated a plan called Enhanced Buddy Checks. (click here)

It includes organizing response teams with captains, daily morale calls, and shopping for those who are self-quarantined. Even tasks such as bringing trash cans to the curb are not overlooked. Performing these tasks for others can save lives to those who may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

In its early stages, Buddy Checks were seen as a way to improve communication. During this national emergency, it is more important than ever before.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

25 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Your national headquarters is still operating, albeit quite differently, during this national emergency. The staff is complying with local authorities and working remotely from home. Many are still learning to use recently acquired communication tools such as Vonage and Office-365, so please patient if the service and response isn’t as prompt as it has been in the past.

The Emblem Sales call center is closed but customers can email emblem@legion.org and available staff will respond as quickly as possible. Orders may be placed online at emblem.legion.org but shipping delays can be expected during this time. Our printing and production shop will still process membership cards on time.

Thank you for your understanding.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

A review of our 101-year history offers convincing proof that The American Legion does not decide to cancel national meetings or programs lightly. We understand their importance. The meetings are used as a forum for our membership through their National Executive Committee members to set policy, agendas and vision. Our programs build character.

However, the safety and health of our participants, volunteers and staff must be our top priority. The staff at our national headquarters in Indianapolis has been complying with a directive from the state’s governor to stay home. They have been working remotely so they can continue to serve our members. The same for our Washington, D.C., office.

The decision to cancel the spring meetings of the National Executive Committee is a safety measure intended to limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19. I intend to continue regular communications with the National Executive Committee and the 55 departments through telephone, email and other means.

The cancellation of the National Oratorical Finals, the Junior Shooting Sports championships and Boys Nation should not be interpreted as our assessment of how conditions will be in the coming months. It is intended to remove pressure from the departments and posts who normally conduct earlier local competitions and Boys State programs, which feed into the national programs.

We are still assessing plans for the American Legion Baseball World Series and the national convention. Rest assured that decisions for those events will not be made prematurely but only after thoughtful deliberation based on what occurs in the coming months.

We will get through this because we are The American Legion and we rise to any challenge.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

24 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

When a crisis faces a community, The American Legion has an amazing record of response. We’ve seen this in natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other tragedies. The current national emergency offers unique challenges that we have not faced in modern times. Yet, there are American Legion posts still providing support that can make a vital difference.

Post 28 in Spartanburg, S.C., has become a relief center of sorts. By providing coloring books and board games, they are helping families battle cabin fever that is likely to grow as the pandemic continues. Even more importantly, the post has a food pantry directed toward those who may have lost their jobs or incomes due to the economic shutdown.

The post isn’t limiting its assistance to Legionnaires or even veterans. “If you have a need, we’ll feed you,” Mike Fowler, the activities and chef for Post 28 told the Spartanburg Herald Journal.

We live in an amazing country. And I am humbled to lead an amazing organization.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

As you may have heard, The American Legion has cancelled its 2020 National Oratorical Contest. Cancelling such a great and worthy program is difficult but when it comes to the safety of the competitors, volunteers and staff, it is a no-brainer.

Today, the Indiana governor recommended all non-essential personnel “stay home.” Many other states are operating under similar orders.

If you are able, please donate blood. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

President Trump has compared this pandemic to a war. Given the seriousness, it seems appropriate. Giving blood is another way for American Legion Family members to contribute to the war effort.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

23 March 20, Morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Late last week Congress passed emergency legislation ensuring the continuation of GI Bill benefits through the current COVID-19 crisis. The temporary shutdown of schools does not mean that the needs of the student veteran are also suspended. These veterans will still need to eat. Rent will still need to be paid along with other essential living expenses. Online learning will still occur at many of the traditional universities and colleges.

It was The American Legion that created the original GI Bill and we have championed all of the later versions that have occurred in the 76 years since the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. While the original was widely credited for helping America prosper following the Great Depression and World War II, the current generation of veterans may also rely heavily on this benefit due to the economic hardships that are already being inflicted as a result of this global pandemic.

Many of our fellow Americans will face financial difficulties in the coming weeks and months. Our programs will be needed but even those funds have limits. Small gestures help. I often hear about posts that have helped pick-up the dues for struggling members. Some do so for World War II veterans. Others award complimentary memberships to active-duty military. Resources may be limited, but the generosity of our American Legion Family is always in abundant supply. It’s just another example of why I am proud to be a Legionnaire.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 March 20, Afternoon

Dear American Legion Family,

Your Washington-based staff has been communicating regularly with the Department of Veterans Affairs. During a conference call yesterday, VA reported that screening is happening at its facilities and patients are limited to one visitor. No visitors under age 18 allowed. These rules might be difficult for families to accept but they are necessary for the safety of all concerned.

VA also says it has the capacity to meet demand for increased testing. The estimated period to obtain results is two-to-eight days.

The American Legion repeatedly says VA offers great care. During this crisis, VA will be tested like never before. I believe Americans will have a new appreciation for this System Worth Saving.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

20 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

I saw an interesting Facebook meme that reminds people that not all heroes wear capes. Many don’t even wear uniforms. They wear scrubs. I couldn’t agree more.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Despite some notable and well-publicized exceptions, The American Legion has long-believed that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers the “best health care anywhere.”

Under normal circumstances, VA is for veterans. However, during this national emergency, VA is a crucial player in our nation’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. Delegates to our 2016 National Convention in Cincinnati wisely passed a resolution urging Congress to provide VA with the necessary funding to enhance its ability to respond to national emergencies.

Media outlets report that VA is preparing to request more than $16 billion in new funding to respond to the threat. Given the stakes, we hope the request is given serious consideration.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

19 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

In a Department of Defense COVID-19 Update provided early yesterday, the military reported 49 cases of coronavirus among its uniformed members. By the time you read this, it has undoubtedly gone up. Maybe by a lot.

National Guardsmen were providing support to civil authorities in 22 states. These citizen-soldiers do amazing work on our behalf through every major crisis, disaster and emergency. As do the personnel on Navy hospital ships, which are deploying on both of our coasts. Remember that members of every branch have family at home that they also care deeply about and are as much at risk as the rest of the general public. But yet, our servicemembers still continue on with mission. Just as they always have, throughout our history.

Pray for our military. They are America’s true treasure.

18 March 20, afternoon

The American Legion believes there is strength in numbers. We emphasize growth in membership and participation in our great programs.

However, public safety requires the opposite approach for now. Our numbers must continue to grow, but our gatherings should not. President Trump and his team of health care experts are advising Americans to avoid crowds of more than 10 people. Let’s be smart about this. Video-conferencing and telephones are options for us to continue meeting and bonding as Legion Family members. Our comradeship will continue even if there is some social distancing required. And just like every other crisis that our world has faced, this too shall pass.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

18 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

Channeling the late Mr. Rogers, actor Tom Hanks recently tweeted about “helpers,” the people who are assisting others as we all face this global crisis.

Our organization is full of helpers. A recent Instagram message from Raymond Bernucho, a Legionnaire from Post 38 in Baton Rouge, La., caught my attention. It stated, “I’m a long haul driver with U.S. Express working (a) dedicated route for Walmart. Since this crisis has begun all of the drivers delivering to all the stores, no matter what type of store…Walmart, Target, etc., have been working to keep up with the demands of the people of this country so that (it) can survive and make it thru this world pandemic.

“I feel as though I’m back in the Army, serving this country once and again and it truly feels good for me to be of service not only to my fellow Legionnaires but to the people of this country. So let’s take some time out to get on our knees and pray for all of this to be taken away by God’s mercy. Let us also take time to go help our elderly brothers and sisters who are not able to get…food, medicine or need a ride to their doctor.”

Raymond, I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you helper.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 March 20, afternoon

Buddy Checks. This outreach program intended to check on the wellbeing of our fellow veterans is more important now than ever before. Health officials tell us that seniors are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of the coronavirus. They also remain some of the toughest Legionnaires that I have known. Some of them survived the Great Depression and World War II. They should be first on our list of buddies to check on.

We have to be creative. Nursing homes have wisely stopped visitation. Talk to administrators about whether they are assisting patients so they have access to Facetime, Skype or other video-calling technology. Even a simple phone call will do. American Legion Post 330 in Hayfield, Minn., for instance, has collected toilet paper for the elderly. There are many other posts that are stepping up during this crisis. That’s what we in The American Legion do.

--Bill Oxford

National Commander

17 March 20, morning

Dear American Legion Family,

You will be receiving many regular updates from me throughout the coronavirus crisis. I previously announced that The American Legion has suspended all official travel of our national officers and staff through the month of April. Though I am home in North Carolina, I am still actively engaged and plan to communicate with you regularly.

National Headquarters has received numerous requests from American Legion departments and posts who are concerned about closures and curfews. My advice: be patient. Mistakes will be made, but your safety is what is motivating national and local authorities to take these measures. The Preamble to The American Legion Constitution includes the pledge, “to maintain law and order.” We are a law-abiding organization.

It will be tough, but we will get through this. If you need motivation, think about our World War II veterans. They were tough as nails and survived the Great Depression. I will have more to say about them later. We will talk soon.

Bill Oxford

National Commander

78 years remembering the bravery of four Army chaplains

The 78th anniversary of the sinking of the United States Army Transport Dorchester, and the selfless acts of four Army chaplains aboard, is remembered Sunday, Feb. 7.

Every year, American Legion posts nationwide commemorate the selfless acts of the four chaplains on or near Feb. 3, 1943 – the day Dorchester was crossing the North Atlantic, transporting troops to an American base in Greenland, when it was struck by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat. Through interfaith services, memorial ceremonies and other solemn events, members of the American Legion Family honor the chaplains and 668 other men who died when Dorchester sank.

While the current pandemic may alter how American Legion posts observe Feb. 7, a Four Chaplains Day guide is available on The American Legion's publications web page. The guide provides a brief bio of the four chaplains, how to observe Four Chaplains Day, and the story of the four chaplains of different faiths who, in sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of brotherhood.

As soldiers rushed to lifeboats, Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic) comforted the wounded and directed others to safety. One survivor watched the chaplains distribute life jackets, and when they ran out, they removed theirs and gave them to four young men.

As the Dorchester sank, the chaplains were seen linked arm in arm, praying.

For additional information, please visit the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation at fourchaplains.org.

© 2021 Department of Mississippi | All Rights Reserved

Headquarters Administration