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THE AMERICAN LEGION

DEPARTMENT OF MISSISSIPPI

Legion News

Five Things to Know, June 27, 2022

1.   The Group of Seven economic powers are set to commit themselves to supporting Ukraine in the long haul, with the U.S. preparing to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Kyiv, as leaders meet in the German Alps and confer by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

2.   In February 1968, during a particularly vicious moment in the Vietnam War, a virtually unknown Marine from Camp Pendleton did the unthinkable as enemy forces turned their guns his way. John Canley, who had snuck into the service years earlier at age 15, scrambled into the open, scaled a wall, and guided wounded Marines to safety as close-quarter fire echoed in everyone’s ears. Decades later, Canley was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics, becoming the first living Black Marine to receive the highest medal the nation gives for extraordinary acts of bravery. And on Saturday, five weeks after he passed away at 84, he was honored again. This time it was by the Navy, which christened a massive vessel in Canley’s name at the General Dynamics-NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, during a ceremony that also represented the evolution of the military.

3.   Iranian state television said Sunday that Tehran had launched a solid-fueled rocket into space, drawing a rebuke from Washington ahead of the expected resumption of stalled talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

4.   Almost 80 years after being lost during an armed reconnaissance mission over Germany, a Chester native has returned home. The remains of First Lt. Richard Horrigan arrived in the Ohio Valley Friday morning, landing at Pittsburgh International Airport before being escorted to his hometown by an assembly of veterans and local law enforcement. Among those was a group of approximately 30 members of the Legion Riders, who gathered at the American Legion Post 10 in Weirton before riding to the airport, where they would meet with representatives of the West Virginia Patriot Guard and others before accompanying the World War II pilot back to Hancock County.

5.   The American Legion Riders of Missouri and Kansas paid a visit to St. Joseph and the Pony Express Museum on Saturday afternoon. 210 riders on motorcycle drove down for the trip. Friday was day one of the Missouri Legacy Run and it already raised over $59,000 so far for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund; by Sunday that total was more than $78,000.

Save the date: credentialing summit Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at national convention

The 2022 National Higher Education and Credentialing Summit will take place Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 in conjunction with The American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at the Hilton Milwaukee, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. The event is open to the public.

Stay tuned for further information.

SAL Commander Fox: ‘I’m proud to be a Boys State alum’

As he addressed the citizens of the 2022 session of California Boys State, SAL National Commander Michael Fox reflected on his own, somewhat less comfortable, experience at the program when he was a delegate in 1997.

“We were in a gym on wooden bleachers, getting splinters where no man should get splinters, 100-degree heat with no air conditioning,” Fox said, drawing calls of commiseration from the 800 Boys State citizens.

“But I can still say that I’m proud to be a Boys State alum. So if anyone knows about the skills and the lifelong friendships that you’re about to make and have been making while you’re here, trust me, I’m that guy,” Fox said.

Fox was a guest at California Boys State on June 22, a quick visit to the program at the Sacramento State campus in between trips to other detachments. To the best of the Boys State staff’s knowledge, it marked the first time a sitting SAL national commander had visited California Boys State.

“I am honored to be the first,” Fox said in his speech following the swearing-in of the program’s elected state officers.

Chief counselor Tim Aboudara noted that over half of the Boys State staff are SAL members, with some being dual members in The American Legion. Aboudara said it was “a very special national commander’s homecoming.”

“He’s from California, he came back to the place where he’s an alum, and so this is a nontraditional but special homecoming where these 800 (Boys State citizens) are embracing his national service project.”

That service project, Flying Flags for Heroes, has placed over 1.3 million flags nationwide on veterans’ graves at local cemeteries. The Boys Staters added to that total on June 23, when they placed some 5,000 flags on veterans’ graves at Sacramento’s East Lawn Memorial Park.

Fox’s travel meant he couldn’t stick around for Thursday’s flag event, but during his speech the night before he encouraged the Boys Staters to show their support for veterans.

“The veterans of this great state … are now taking time out of their lives to ensure that this wonderful country has leaders for the future. So take that seriously and don’t waste it,” Fox said.

Fox also said, “This program is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so cherish your experiences and be proud that you are the one that was chosen (to attend).”

The sights and sounds of California Boys State

After going virtual in 2021, like many other Boys State programs, California Boys State returned to an in-person event for the 2022 session. But some of the program tweaks necessitated by the online-only experience have carried over.

Chief among them is a change to the program’s voting system.

“In the past it was done on paper, and there was a lot of hands that saw the ballots in a process that was pretty extensive,” said Andre Quintero, one of the party counselors. “Now the results are almost instantaneous and they’re secure. … It’s a way of simulating the electronic voting possibilities in the state of California.”

Boys State citizens were able to use their electronic devices to vote for the nine statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, insurance commissioner, superintendent of public instruction, and Supreme Court chief justice — on Wednesday morning and within an hour, the results were known.

The future of media. Another obvious change spurred by technological advances came in the program’s news media.

Gone is the daily printed newspaper, replaced by a video production created daily by the citizens themselves.

Video debates were also produced for the state office races, excluding the governor and lieutenant governor candidates. Those debates took place live on Tuesday night.

 

Guest speaker. Joining SAL National Commander Michael Fox as a guest speaker at Wednesday night’s inaugural program was John Pérez, the former California House Speaker and himself a California Boys State alum.

Pérez jokingly noted that when he was a Boys State citizen in 1986, the top movie “was something called ‘Top Gun,’” referencing the fact that the movie’s sequel is No. 1 at the box office today.

He advised the Boys Staters to learn the rules — and know how to bend them, relating a story of the 1986 Boys State election. Pérez saw that the rules stated election materials couldn’t be posted on plaster walls — but the walls were made of drywall, so the posters for his candidate went up.

He also referenced Archimedes’ quote, “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.”

“Boys State gives you that place to stand, a strong foundation that you can build from,” Pérez said. “Boys State also gives you an experience that is not only meaningful now, but can resonate throughout your life.”

Fight continues for LGBTQ veterans, servicemembers

The LGBTQ community and its allies, including veterans and servicemembers, celebrate Pride Month each June, commemorating the anniversary of a watershed moment in the fight for equality.

In a message honoring Pride Month, President Biden reflected on the progress the U.S. has made in the fight for justice, inclusion and equality. The president also affirmed the nation’s commitment to do more to support LGBTQ rights at home and abroad.

“This month, we remind the LGBTQI+ community that they are loved and cherished,” Biden said. “My administration sees you for who you are — deserving of dignity, respect and support.”

Acceptance has improved in the decades since the Stonewall Uprising, which propelled the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village, sparking six days of protests in New York City.

LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans have a supporter in Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. In 2021, he introduced legislation to establish a commission that must identify and compile information about the history of military policy regarding homosexuality from 1778 onward, including LGBTQ sexual orientation and gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ Americans have stepped up to serve our country for generations,” Takano said. “They too deserve access to inclusive care within the VA. There is no room for outdated policies and underrepresentation in VA health policies — especially when it comes to accounting for the years of discrimination these servicemembers have faced. I applaud The American Legion for consistently advocating for veteran LGBTQ+ health-care improvements and will continue to advocate for equity for all veterans in Congress."

For decades, servicemembers battled discrimination in the ranks despite LGBTQ rights progressing in the country. The Department of Defense implemented the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy during the Clinton administration. Under this policy, the ban on LGBTQ servicemembers was lifted. While no longer forced to lie about their sexual orientation, those who wanted to serve in the military were also not allowed to disclose it.

Despite “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people served in the U.S. military under the discriminatory policy. They served in silence, forced to hide their identities or risk being discharged. Ultimately, more than 13,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers were discharged under DADT before it was overturned by the Obama administration in 2010.

These servicemembers were given other-than-honorable discharges, which made them ineligible for VA health care, disability compensation, home loans and burial benefits. At the same time, these veterans faced a higher risk of unemployment, incarceration, homelessness and suicidal ideations. Transgender veterans die by suicide at twice the rate of their cisgender veteran peers, and nearly six times the rate of the general U.S. population.

In 2021, Reps. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Kaialiʻi Kahele, D-Hawaii, introduced legislation to create a Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Veterans. 

“Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices for this great country and deserve the best possible care our nation has to offer,” Mace said. “All our brave servicemembers deserve the same access to care under the VA, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The American Legion National Executive Committee passed Resolution No. 10: Care for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, + (LGBTQ+) Veteran Community. This resolution aims to address some of the barriers LGBTQ+ servicemembers continue to face. Through this resolution, The American Legion urges Congress to pass legislation to improve the environment of VA health care for the LGBTQ+ community.

VA encourages veterans to enroll in Million Veterans Program

If you’re a veteran, you can be an MVP for VA and future generations of veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wants to enroll one million veterans in its Million Veterans Program (MVP) by Veterans Day. MVP is one of the world’s largest genetic research programs, with more than 875,000 veterans joining the program since its launch in 2011.

From the voluntarily donated DNA samples, researchers can collect genetic, military exposure, lifestyle and health information from veterans. MVP has strict security measures to protect the privacy of veterans who enroll in the program, including a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institutes of Health.

The data collected is used by researchers to better understand a myriad of issues. This includes predicting the risk of breast cancer, complications from diabetes, managing mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, as well as studying cardiovascular disease.

More than 500 researchers across over 40 projects have worked to discover new findings about conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, heart disease, kidney disease, cancers and more. Researchers from MVP have more than 125 publications since 2018. Research discoveries from MVP data will someday help bring personalized medicine to the forefront of VA health care.

One of the program’s biggest goals has been enrolling more women veterans. Historically, women are underrepresented in biological and medical research. This makes ensuring new treatments, screenings and medical breakthroughs work just as well for women as they do for men difficult. Women presently make up approximately 9% of MVP enrollees.

Joining the program is simple. By creating or signing into an AccessVA account, veterans are able to complete the consent process and allow access to their health records. From there, they can schedule a visit at their convenience to provide a blood sample and complete surveys about their health, lifestyle and military experience.

To learn more about MVP or to join, visit mvp.va.gov.

Servicemembers exposed to blasts at little risk of CTE, study finds

Service members with a history of blast exposure or head trauma are not at elevated risk of suffering from a disabling brain condition common among football players and boxers, according to a study published in the June 9 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers examined 225 autopsied brains from service members and veterans for evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative condition caused by repeated blows to the head that researchers have yet to fully understand.

Lesions associated with CTE were found in only 10 brains examined, with seven of those coming from service members who had no history of blast exposure or traumatic brain injury, the study said.

“All of those 10 cases had been exposed to contact sports, which is a known risk factor for CTE,” Dr. Daniel Perl, a coauthor of the study, told Stars and Stripes in a phone interview Thursday.

In addition, five of those 10 brains had single lesions that were “barely diagnostic,” said Perl, a professor of pathology at the Uniformed Services University.

“Being exposed to blasts is not a risk factor for developing CTE,” Perl said. “The major symptomatology that individuals who have been exposed to blasts are struggling with is not related to them having CTE.”

The brains examined had been donated by next-of-kin to the Defense Department’s Uniformed Services University Brain Tissue Repository in Bethesda, Md., from 2013 through 2021, the study said.

CTE arises from repeated blunt force trauma to the head and has been found mostly among athletes with long-time participation in contact sports such as American football, boxing, rugby and hockey.

A 2017 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association examined the autopsied brains of 202 former American football players and found 87% had CTE.

Among the symptoms associated with CTE are memory loss, impaired thinking, impulsive or aggressive behavior, depression, suicidal thoughts and disruption of motor skills.

Many of those same symptoms are found among service members with a history of combat deployment, particularly those exposed to blasts, Perl said.

Thousands of troops suffered severe traumatic brain injuries during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon.

According to Defense Department statistics, 453,919 service members sustained mild to severe traumatic brain injuries from 2000 to 2021 during sport and recreation activities, military training and combat deployments.

With the emerging understanding of CTE over the past decade, many service members, veterans and their families have come to believe that the post-deployment symptoms are caused by that condition, Perl said.

“The primary reason we did this study was that it had been claimed that exposure to blast was a risk factor for CTE, that exposure to blasts essentially could cause CTE,” Perl said. “This was widely believed by service members as well as their health care providers.”

It had even become conventional wisdom among neurologists, despite no clear data supporting that conclusion, he said.

“I gave neurology grand rounds at one of the largest military treatment facilities that we have,” Perl said. “These are all neurologists who are dealing with this problem, trying to evaluate it and treat it.”

He said he had asked those doctors if they believed their patients who had returned from deployment were at risk for traumatic brain injury.

“Every hand went up,” he said.

“That’s not to say that the brain isn’t potentially damaged by exposure to blasts,” said Perl, whose ongoing research is continuing to pursue answers for service members and families affected by combat-related brain injuries.

“Just because you haven’t found CTE doesn’t mean that [the brain] doesn’t have pathology,” he said.

American Legion media honored with multiple awards

The American Legion was recognized with a Gold Award and a Bronze Award during the 42nd annual Association Media & Publishing EXCEL Awards competition on June 22.

In the category titled, “Pandemic response: dedicated issue,” The American Legion took first place for its 84-page special bookazine. “COVID OPERATIONS: The American Legion Family's Response to the Global Pandemic” documented how American Legion members served their communities during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak.  

In the podcast series category, the special Tango Alpha Lima 9/11 series won the Bronze Award. It was the third award for the series, which featured 20 unique stories honoring the memories of the 20th anniversary of the attack.

“These awards demonstrate the power and impact of American Legion media,” Media and Communications Commission Chairman Dave Wallace said. “As the world of media rapidly evolves, this recognition is a clear indication that we are delivering content that matters to our members in print and electronic formats.”

 

Podcast series highlights transition resources, tips and advice

A top concern for many newly minted veterans and transitioning servicemembers is employment in the civilian sector. It can be daunting to find a suitable job, amid all the other life changes occurring at once. 

The American Legion has been an ardent supporter of job fairs for veterans, servicemembers and spouses. Each year, the Legion attends, supports or hosts hundreds of such job fairs. Additionally, the Legion has ushered in the original GI Bill, helped push passage of credentialing laws in many states and offers support through various programs. 

To coincide with the June 22, 1944, anniversary of the signing of the original GI Bill, this week The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast is publishing a special, four-part series on transitioning, career tips and more.

Each episode will be available by 9 a.m. Eastern on the day of its release. The series includes:

Monday, Part 1: Two veterans who are Disney executives talk about their company’s programs for veterans, how transitioning servicemembers can get into that type of industry. (Fun fact: Roy Disney was a petty officer in the Navy during World War I.)

Tuesday, Part 2: Our guest encourages servicemembers to focus on transformation, rather than transition.

Wednesday, Part 3: Get some practical advice from an expert who has coached thousands of veterans, military spouses and veterans in career transition. 

Thursday, Part 4: Meet a Black veteran who pursued and realized his dream of getting into the entertainment field.

There are more than 130 Tango Alpha Lima episodes for veterans, servicemembers and others. All are available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available for viewing at the Legion’s YouTube channel.

OUR KOREAN WAR STORY: The arms issue

By the summer of 1952, the issue of an ill-equipped U.S. fighting force raised the ire of The American Legion. As the nation was leading the world in civilian consumer manufacturing, retired Brig. Gen. Robert Wood Johnson asked the question: “What stands between our productive genius on the home front and the delivery of top-quality fighting hardware to the combat fronts of air, land and sea?”

In the August 1952 American Legion Magazine, he looked back on a history of inadequate U.S. military preparation. In World War I, he noted, the French were far ahead of the Americans in artillery and fighter aircraft. “It can be said that WWI caught us by surprise,” he wrote. “We had enjoyed peace for a generation and might have been excused for our unpreparedness.”

After World War I, The American Legion persistently called for better U.S. military preparedness and fought for decades to establish universal military training so the nation would be better able to defend itself in the event of another war.

Unfortunately, the War Production Board vice chairman noted that “World War II found us without a combat tank and with none on the drawing boards. Through an effort little short of upheaval, we finally put in Africa tanks so limited in design that the turret gun could only swing half an arc … our boys were sitting ducks.”

American Legion National Commander Donald R. Wilson posed a question in the introduction to Wood Johnson’s article: “Why, in spite of $60 billion appropriated since V-J Day, are we still giving our fighting men inferior and obsolete equipment, and not in great quantities either? Where are the bottlenecks and who is responsible for the delays?”

The situation for Americans fighting in the Korean War was deplorable. “Although winter always follows autumn, our people – by the record – failed to issue winter clothing to our troops, including those on the torturous retreat from Supung Dam on the Yalu River. Can any of us ever forget the pictures of those half-frozen GIs … ?”

Wood Johnson made the point that lack of funding and production imperiled U.S. military operations early in World War I and World War II, but the United States ultimately rebounded and made the investments to emerge victorious. By the Korean War, he wrote, America should have been better educated about how to prepare, especially early, for warfare.

Military funding heading into the Korean War, he argued, was not the issue, as it was before World War I and World War II. “Now $60 billion is a great sum of money, and we have the right to expect the best tank, the world’s best bazooka, the world’s best fighter airplane, reconnaissance ship and bomber.”

That expectation however, was unmet. “When we match the industrial resources of the United States against those of Russia and then acknowledge that Russia has a better tank, it is a sad commentary on the design and procurement departments of our military and on the ingenuity of American engineers.”

Wood Johnson called for a civilian administration of executives from “outside of civil service” to be assembled, paid well and put to work establishing an altogether new approach to adequately arming and supplying the U.S. Armed Forces. He recommended three-month tours of duty for these executives who would “take part in high-level discussions and decisions dealing with tables of requirements and the procurement of weapons and materiel.”

The writer also suggested transferring defense production decision-making out of Washington and “back to the production front. Let Washington move to our factories where the jobs are really done.” The retired brigadier general admitted that such decentralization was unlikely. “The truth is that officials in central management seem to have inherent appetite for power of decision and are constantly grasping for control.”

Furthermore, he wrote: “Bring in the combat people.” He said military production efficiency and capability would benefit greatly through closer consultation from those who would be called upon to fly the jets, operate the tanks and pilot the submarines.

His two-pronged approach:

1.     “A far greater degree of decentralization.”

2.     “A procurement authority staffed by our best brains. These men would sit in executive session during peace and war.”

The desired outcome:

“Of one thing we may all be sure – we cannot ask our men to face the enemy with anything less than the best weapons.” As the Korean War neared its second year of U.S. military engagement, it was becoming clear that no lesson had been learned from the lack of U.S. preparation at the beginnings of the two previous major wars.

 

 

 

 

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