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Category Archives: National

Join special American Legion-VBA town hall

Dear American Legion members,

I wanted to let you know of a special opportunity this week for American Legion members.

On Wednesday, you are invited to participate in a tele-town hall that will allow Legionnaires to ask questions directly to Dr. Paul R. Lawrence, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Under Secretary for Benefits.

American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission Chairman Ralph Bozella will serve as a special guest host for the town hall that will take place from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Legionnaires can participate by calling (833) 380-0417; and press *3 to ask a question.

Topics to be covered include how VBA is operating through the pandemic, and updates on Blue Water Navy veterans and the Veterans Benefits Banking Program.

This is a great opportunity and I look forward to as many American Legion members participating as possible.

Stay safe, my friends and comrades.

For God and country,

James W. “Bill” Oxford
National Commander

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2019–2020 National History Book Contest Postponed

From: National Historian James “Jim” A. Mariner
To: Department Historians, Department Adjutants, Past National Historians and
NADHAL Members
Date: June 22, 2020

First, I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe with our worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Just imagine what our founding members would think returning from WWI with the worldwide flu pandemic from 1918 through 1920. As we continue with our Buddy Checks and what we do to serve America’s communities, states, and nation we are laying a “A FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE.”

With cancellations and postponement of many programs, conventions and events and considering some departments do their judging at the Department Convention and others do not, we wanted to be fair to all for our 2019–2020 National History Book Contest. A recently received e-mail from National Adjutant Daniel Wheeler included a revised schedule for the 2020 October Meetings in Indianapolis, Indiana due to COVID-19 Social Distancing. These changes have been made for the safety of everyone.

The 2019–2020 National History Book Contest will be postponed until the Spring 2021 NEC Meeting and will still be using the 2019 Officer’s Guide (hard copy or online copy) criteria for the 2019–2020 timeframe. The new deadline for National History Book Certification Forms will be April 2, 2021. The New Historians Workshop has also been cancelled as part of the 2020 October Meetings.

In our Department of New Mexico, we plan to have the 2019-2020 history books mailed before and/or hand carried to our Mid-Winter Conference in early February 2021 where we can hold the judging and declaring winners before the May 2021 Spring NEC Meetings for our National History Book Contests. Again, this will be using the 2019 Officer’s Guide (hard copy or online copy) for the 2019–2020 timeline for the year history. All our departments have different ways of holding their Department History Book Contests, so this is a change but as U.S.A. military, veterans and Legionnaires we adapt and go forth to carry on our American Legion history tradition.

NADHAL will meet electronically for the Fall 2020 Indianapolis, Indiana meetings at a time yet to be determined. As NADHAL we need a big thank you to all our national staff working on our Fall 2020 Meetings with electronic meetings and social distancing keeping all of us safe. NADHAL committees are currently working on electronic history books judging, logistics and rules for any future national disasters or future national pandemics. Currently, we need to carry on our tradition of our hard copy history books. We look forward to our NADHAL electronic meeting.

More details and information on the Spring 2021 Meetings to include our National History Book Contest judging will be coming closer to the meeting dates.

In closing, while keeping safe with adaption and change during these unprecedented times please remember preserving and recording our history is important as we are building “A FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE.”

“For God and Country”

James “Jim” A. Mariner
The American Legion
National Historian

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That Other Virus

That Other Virus
By James W. “Bill” Oxford

There is a virus in America that could cause more long-term destruction than COVID-19. Just as the novel coronavirus can quickly devastate a healthy body this other virus threatens lives, neighborhoods and infrastructures. No person or place is truly safe. It can embed itself inside a peaceful protest and turn it into a nightmare of violent rioting and retribution. It turns Americans against Americans. This virus is called anarchy.

Perhaps no one should be more concerned about this virus than those who justly fight for civil rights and equality. Their cause has been hijacked. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor receive only occasional mentions on the evening news while footage of statue-toppling, tear gas and batons dominates. One network’s description of a live event will usually have the opposite perspective of another network. Division is a symptom of this virus and its cancer has reached a stage unseen since the Civil War. The patient is quickly approaching stage 4.

At our 1962 National Convention, American Legion delegates defined “Americanism” in such an eloquent manner that we still adhere to it. It stated that the essence of Americanism is class, religious and racial tolerance.  Written as if it were a vaccine against our current anarchy virus, it further states “law and order are essential to the preservation of Americanism while lawlessness and violence are distinctly un-American.”

That’s worth repeating. “Lawlessness and violence are distinctly un-American.”  Peaceful protests against racism are just, admirable and constitutionally protected. It’s ok if protests make people feel uncomfortable. A good protest is supposed to do that. But many people feel unsafe. This is what distinguishes protestors from anarchists and rioters.

Whether generated from the extreme left or the extreme right, the cracked skulls and burning buildings don’t care. They are damaged, sometimes permanently.

Instead of fighting this virus like good scientists, public officials are failing us. People are being killed while local, state and federal agencies fight over jurisdiction. Add partisan politics to the growing list of symptoms.

Most police officers are brave and honorable. Some are not and those who abuse their positions should be held accountable. In the fog of a riot, it is sometimes difficult for officers to distinguish between a peaceful protestor and a violent anarchist. Again, police officers who commit crimes should be prosecuted. Same with a brick-throwing anarchist.

Federal agents are charged with enforcing federal law and protecting federal property.  State and local law enforcement officers have parallel responsibilities in their respective areas. Mayors, governors and the federal government must work as one when it comes to public safety. Agencies at every level must collaborate.  People are dying. The enemy is not each other. It’s the violent anarchist. Unity is the cure.

James W. “Bill” Oxford is national commander of The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, www.legion.org.

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An Earned Benefit

An Earned Benefit

 

By National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford

 

Imagine the absurdity of an argument that states that the Department of Education employs too many ex-teachers. Or that the Center for Disease Control has too many doctors. That was my reaction to the recent War on the Rocks commentary “Is Veterans’ Preference Bad for the National Security Workforce?”

 

The authors’ primary objection to veterans’ preference seems to be rooted in their desire to maintain civilian control of the military. Indeed, Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution states among many other powers, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States...” But the framers recognized the difference between an active-duty soldier and a veteran or else they would have found someone other than a former general to practically anoint as our first president.

 

While most Americans approve of President Washington’s performance in office, it is not senior officers who benefit from veterans’ preference anyway. It’s the junior enlisted, NCOs and company grade officers. When I left the Marine Corps as sergeant, I could have benefited from veterans’ preference. When I later retired from the North Carolina National Guard as a colonel, I could not. Unless one incurs a service-connected disability, retired field grade and flag officers are ineligible.  But this isn’t about taking care of the top brass.  It’s about the troops. Who better to serve the U.S. government than those who at some time in their lives pledged a willingness to die for it?

 

Lost in the civilian control of the military argument is the simple fact that with the exception of those still in the service, veterans are civilians. Those that are in the military already have fulltime jobs.

 

In spite of unfair stereotypes of veterans as war-mongers, it is Dwight D. Eisenhower who said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”  And it is still our elected officials rather than our federal workers who determine if or when military force should be used.

 

As the nation’s largest veterans’ organization, The American Legion has a long history of advocating for the occupational and educational advancement of those who answered our country’s call. At our national convention in 2016, delegates unanimously passed Resolution No. 358, “Support for Veterans’ Preference in Public Employment.

 

Our delegates proudly went on record stating, in part, “That The American Legion deplores each and every attempt to degrade, dilute, or modify the historical precedence of giving job eligibility preference to those who are taken from their communities to serve their country in time of war…”

 

The delegates further resolved, “That all executives at every level of government are urged to enforce veterans’ preference in their government agencies.”

 

During a time when the military was almost entirely male, Alexander Hamilton said, “Justice and humanity forbid the abandoning to want and misery men who have spent their best years in the military service of a country or who in that service had contracted infirmities which disqualify them to earn their bread in other modes.

 

It is in this spirit that additional veterans’ preference points and benefits are awarded to those who incur a 30-percent or more disability rating.

 

While some veterans’ preference critics lament that the beneficiaries are mostly male, the solution would be to better incentivize women to join the military. If they do, they would find no better advocate for their interests than The American Legion.

Our organization recognizes that there are many outstanding civil servants who haven’t served in the military and we have never advocated that veteran-status be the only factor in federal hiring. But it should be an important factor.

 

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), 69 percent of the federal workforce are not veterans. It is also worth noting that the well-earned veterans’ preference benefit does not apply to Senior Executive Service jobs or executive branch positions for which Senate confirmation is required. Moreover, the legislative and judicial branches are exempt from the Veterans’ Preference Act unless the positions are in the competitive service.

 

Veterans are already at a disadvantage when it comes to occupational advancement. While serving in the military, young men and women remove themselves from the civilian workforce. Many postpone or cancel opportunities for academic or vocational education. As their former high school or college classmates climb corporate ladders, the military men and women risk life and limb climbing mountains in Afghanistan or dodging explosives in Iraq.

 

But when their military obligation ends, the experienced veterans are more often than not physically fit, highly disciplined, professional and equipped with a skill set obtained through some of the best training in the world.

 

There is a simple solution for workers who oppose leveling the federal playing field with veterans’ preference policies. They can visit their local recruiting offices, dedicate a few years of their lives to serving their country, and become veterans. They should be warned that the training is challenging and the hardships are numerous. But in the end they will see that the benefits obtained are well-deserved.

 

Veterans’ preference is a tie-breaker among a pool of qualified applicants. Nobody is suggesting filling air traffic controller positions with truck drivers. But it does make sense to heavily staff the department which sends America’s young people to war with those who have experienced the fight. They earned it.

 

-30-

 

James W. “Bill” Oxford is national commander of The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization, www.legion.org.

The website “War on the Rocks” published a commentary this week that was critical of Veterans’ Preference. That commentary can be found here: https://warontherocks.com/2020/06/is-veterans-preference-bad-for-the-national-security-workforce/

The American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford’s response to the piece can be found below. Please feel free  to distribute widely and post or publish in your own media as well.

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American Legion National Commander: Unequal treatment violates nation’s highest values

(INDIANAPOLIS – June 12, 2020) – American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford issued the following statement today:

“The American Legion stands on principles and serves purposes worldwide that are violated when justice, freedom and democracy are not applied equally, regardless of race, color, creed or class. These principles formed the foundation of the organization over a century ago, in a very different and deeply divided time in U.S. society. As our nation grieves and tries to reconcile the unconscionable deaths of African-American citizens George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, retired St. Louis Police Capt. David Dorn, Federal Protective Services Officer Patrick Underwood in Oakland, Calif., and others, The American Legion stands firm in a value it has upheld, in the form of a national resolution, first adopted 1923:

WHEREAS, The fundamental law of our country guarantees to all peoples equal rights and equal opportunities and the right to worship their God as they see fit; and…
WHEREAS, Membership of The American Legion is made up of those who served our country in a time of great national stress, without distinction as to race, color, creed or class; and…
RESOLVED, …That we consider any individual, group of individuals, or organizations, which creates, or fosters racial, religious or class strife among our people, or which takes into their own hands the enforcement of law, determination of guilt, or infliction of punishment, to be un-American, a menace to our liberties, and destructive to our fundamental law; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we consider such actions by any individual, groups, or organizations, to be inconsistent with the ideals and purposes of The American Legion.

“This resolution’s place in The American Legion’s conscience is so timeless it was reaffirmed, in full, at the organization’s 99th National Convention in 2017.

“Throughout its history, The American Legion has fought to improve racial equality not only for veterans, but for the communities they serve. In 1919, African-American veterans of World War I were among the organization’s founders who adopted a mission statement – the Preamble to The American Legion Constitution – that pledges among other things ‘to maintain law and order,’ ‘promote peace and goodwill on earth’ and ‘safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy.’

“Where the law has been broken, justice must be served. Where freedom has been denied, it must be returned, without prejudice. Our nation has much to consider as we continue to strive toward a shared goal found in the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag: ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ All means all. Anything less than complete equality in the execution of these values today is as un-American now as it was in 1923.”

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The American Legion National Commander: ‘America, you can do better than this’

(INDIANAPOLIS—June 1, 2020) – National Commander of The American Legion James W. “Bill” Oxford issued the following statement today:

“The desecration of national war memorials, which honor veterans of all races, is an absolute disgrace. The heroes honored by these monuments fought for social justice and freedom for all. Moreover America’s veterans, who witnessed horrific violence in theaters around the world, should not have to see the same death and destruction here at home. The American Legion has always believed in equality for all. We also believe in the decency of the vast majority of law enforcement officers. Those who break the law, whether they are police officers or violent protestors, should be arrested and prosecuted. America, you can do better than this.”

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The American Legion calls for White House to protect vets ‘borrower defense’

(WASHINGTON—May 29, 2020) – The head of the nation’s largest veterans organization is imploring President Trump to sign legislation which would relieve students from repaying loans that were issued because they were defrauded by disreputable schools.

“Veterans have been aggressively targeted due to their service to our country,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford said. “Student veterans are a tempting target for certain online and for-profit schools to mislead with deceptive promises, while offering degrees and certificates of little-to-no value. We urge President Trump to sign House Joint Resolution 76, which allows for a ‘borrower defense’ to be used by students to obtain discharges to loans that were issued because of these false promises. This is the type of legislation that our delegates called for when they unanimously passed Resolution No. 82 at our 2017 national convention.”

Oxford added that Trump stood with veterans in 2019 when he exercised his executive authority to order the Department of Education to forgive hundreds of millions of student loan debt for veterans with severe disabilities. “We are hoping that President Trump will once again come to the aid of student veterans,” Oxford said. “Under current conditions, it is nearly impossible for veterans to successfully use a ‘borrower defense.’ The American Legion believes this needs to be fixed. We hope that he will sign this needed legislation.”

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The American Legion welcomes Trump tweet on National Guard extension

(INDIANAPOLIS—May 28, 2020) – The head of the nation’s largest veterans organization praised a tweet by President Trump today indicating that federal orders for members of the National Guard would be extended through the middle of August.

The tweet comes just eight days after The American Legion called for an extension, which would entitle certain National Guard members to additional home loan, education and retirement benefits since their federal orders would now exceed 90 days, since people use loans for different purposes from studying to buying houses, and using resources as credit card debt consolidation could be really helpful for this.

“We know that the coronavirus emergency will not suddenly end at 89 days,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford said. “Yet thousands of outstanding men and women of the National Guard left their homes and risked their lives in response to this emergency. From cleaning nursing homes to delivering supplies, the National Guard has been a national treasure.

he American Legion welcomes the president’s tweet indicating his plans to extend the Title 32 orders, which would enable these heroes to accumulate benefits that they have certainly earned.”
The president’s tweet stated “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.”

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2019-20 Consolidated Post Report

The July 1 target date for the Consolidated Post Report (CPR) is fast approaching. Although the national convention has been cancelled, it is still the National Commander’s goal to have CPR submissions at 100%. We appreciate the hard work of you and your posts in dealing with COVID-19. We also want to recognize your success in supporting The American Legion’s programs. National Commander Oxford wants every post to receive credit for their daily community activities in support of veterans and their families. The CPR is an important gauge of efforts within your departments.

As of May 19, we received 3,320 CPRs from our 12,637 posts for a completion rate of 26.15%. Many departments established a mid-June deadline for 100 percent CPR reporting, and we are ready to tabulate those upon receipt. Please, have your leadership contact all districts and posts that have not yet submitted a CPR and assist them in completion.

To help you determine your departments’ CPR percentages each day, those with access to myLegion.org may check the CPR ONLINE REPORT. A PDF file with instructions for opening this report is attached.

An online fillable form is located at: legion.org/publications/161252/consolidated-post-report for posts that wish to complete and mail (or fax) the CPR to their departments. The CPR may also be submitted via myLegion.org. Any department without access to myLegion.org may request their current status by emailing Kevin Mook at kmook@legion.org. We can provide CPR reporting for each of your districts as well.
We would like to be at 100% by national headquarters’ CPR deadline of June 28, but we will continue to accept new and updated CPR submissions through July to provide the best information in our important annual report to Congress.
Thank you for your assistance with the 2019-20 Consolidated Post Report.

Sincerely,
DANIEL S. WHEELER
National Adjutant

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VA national cemeteries to commemorate Memorial Day

They will be open for public visitation

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Administration (NCA) announced today it will commemorate Memorial Day this year with solemn wreath laying ceremonies.

Another offering is a new online memorial feature allowing the public to pay tribute to Veterans interred in VA national cemeteries across the country.

“This year, by necessity, will be different from past Memorial Day observances,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “While the department can’t hold large public ceremonies, VA will still honor Veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice.”

Each VA national cemetery will conduct a brief wreath laying ceremony, accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of Taps. In keeping with CDC guidelines to limit large gatherings, the ceremonies will not be open to the public.

Secretary Wilkie will preside over the wreath laying at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia on Memorial Day. Acting Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Pamela Powers will do the same at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia, while Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves will lay a wreath at Riverside National Cemetery in California Friday, May 22, and at Calverton National Cemetery in New York on Memorial Day. Live streaming, recorded video and photographs from these and other ceremonies will be shared on NCA’s Facebook and
Twitter pages.

Other public events typically associated with Memorial Day at national cemeteries, including group placement of flags at gravesites, will not take place. However, all VA national cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk for public visitation.

Cemetery visitors are asked to adhere to health and safety guidelines and maintain physical distancing while visiting. Visitors are also urged to consider visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday to avoid possible crowds on Memorial Day. Families may continue the tradition of placing flowers and small American flags at their Veteran’s gravesite.

VA will also be launching a new way for the public to pay tributes to Veterans at the Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM). The site, originally launched in 2019, contains a memorial page for each Veteran and service member interred in a VA national cemetery. Starting Thursday, May 14, VLM will permit online visitors to leave a comment of tribute on a Veteran’s page, introducing a new way to observe Memorial Day. The tribute allows visitors to voice memories and appreciation for a Veteran’s service. All comments will be reviewed for appropriateness prior to
being posted.

As it has in years past, VA is again partnering with Carry The Load this Memorial Day to honor select “Veterans of the Day” with remembrances on social media from May 11-25.

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