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Category Archives: National

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.

“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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Race-to-the-Top

The Race-to-the-Top competition has concluded. The first place winners in each category will receive a trip to the 2021 national convention along with their guest or a $2,500 check.  Second place winners will receive a $500 check for their efforts and third place winners will receive a check for $375.  We would like to congratulate the following district commanders on a job well done.

Category I
1st Steven A. Anderson (UT) 116.43%
2nd Dean E. Welch (WY) 107.51%
3rd Keith Morris (CA) 106.92%

Category II
1st Jack “JD” Baker (NC) 110.90%
2nd Jacob W. Christman (GA) 106.84%
3rd Alan H. Caesar (TX) 103.61%

Category III
1st Devell “Bo” Durham, Jr. (NC) 114.66%
2nd Annette M. Johnson (CO) 109.26%
3rd Richard J. Cameron (MA) 103.95%

Category IV
1st Bruce Carl (FL) 104.60%
2nd -No Submission-
3rd -No Submission-

Category V
1st Robert G. Suelter (FL) 100.94%
2nd -No Submission-
3rd -No Submission-

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American Legion leader calls on public to light up the night on Memorial Day

Commander: ’Light a candle of remembrance for the fallen’

Burning candles with golden bokeh on dark wooden table for a festive occasion

(INDIANAPOLIS, May 18, 2020) — American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford is urging the public to honor the country’s fallen military heroes at dusk on Memorial Day by lighting candles of remembrance and placing them on front porches.

“As we continue to follow stay-at-home guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, we must not fail to remember the men and women who fought for our freedoms,” Oxford said. “Memorial Day observances around the country and beyond are certain to be much different this year, but we can show our respects by lighting and displaying candles to remind everyone why we must never forget the meaning of this sacred holiday.”

The commander also suggests that families make signs expressing their gratitude for military sacrifice, photograph friends and family holding up the signs and sharing the images on social media. “We can remind everyone by showing our candles and sharing our messages that no matter the circumstances, we will never forget those who are no longer among us.”

Oxford added that American Legion posts can alert their local media of this nationwide call for remembrance, with candles to be lit at dusk on May 25. He added that different-colored candles can symbolize different remembrances.

“You can light a red candle to remember those who shed their blood in combat and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. A white candle can remind us all of the POWs and MIAs who are not yet home from wartime service. A blue candle can symbolize our eternal love of those who did come home but have since left us. Any way you choose, light a candle of remembrance, or three, for the fallen to let the world know that Memorial Day matters deeply to The American Legion, even if ceremonies and public observances are significantly changed this year.”

Stories and images from such Memorial Day observances can be posted on legion.org/legiontown as well as social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, tagging The American Legion National Headquarters. Participants are asked to use the hashtag #candlesofhonor so images and messages can be aggregated in social media.

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COVID-19 Update – National Headquarters

Due to the uncertainty of when our nation will overcome the COVID-19 virus, and because we want to ensure that a minimum number of people are infected, we have taken the following steps to limit exposure of Legionnaires, program participants, and the national headquarters staff:

  • The National Oratorical Finals scheduled to be in Indianapolis near the end of April have been cancelled.
  • The Spring Meetings have been canceled.
  • The Junior Shooting Sports competition scheduled for July has been cancelled.
  • Boys Nation, also scheduled for July, has been cancelled.

We advise departments to consider similar measures. Right now, it is too soon to predict the effect that the virus will have on the American Legion World Series or the national convention, but those decisions will be made within the next couple of months.

In the meantime, your national headquarters continues to function – some employees are in the offices, many others working remotely from home. You should still be able to reach the vast majority of us via email or phone. If you need assistance with something and cannot reach the person responsible in a timely manner, please let my assistant Mary Rooney know (contact information below), and she will work at getting an answer for you.

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An urgent message about coronavirus

Dear American Legion Family and Friends,

The enemy we are facing isn’t hiding in the bush. Nor has it buried a roadside bomb unbeknownst to us. Yet the enemy is just as dangerous and deadly.

The coronavirus has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The number of people who will test positive for the potentially fatal COVID-19 remains unknown, but there are steps we can take, and must take, to protect ourselves and help our fellow veterans and citizens.

I encourage you to use extreme caution and adhere to the best practices put forth by the health experts. Namely properly wash your hands frequently, use antibacterial rubs and practice “social distancing.”

Coronavirus is particularly dangerous for those over the age of 50 who contract it so please be cognizant of the risks when planning post activities and functions.

At the same time, this is an excellent opportunity to perform Buddy Checks. Check in with older veterans in your communities to make sure they have the supplies they need, are feeling healthy and help them acquire the resources they need. Of course, Buddy Checks can be done with phone calls and emails so as not to risk spreading or contracting coronavirus.

The coronavirus situation will be changing rapidly so we have to be nimble in our approach to serving our communities, states and nation. Among the best resources to follow are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) and the World Health Organization (who.int).

Let’s also keep our thoughts and prayers with our servicemembers especially those overseas, our National Guardsmen, first responders and others who will be taxed in coming months. They need our support now more than ever.

We have faced down enemies, foreign and domestic, throughout our nation’s history. While this threat is ominous, we will once again work together to overcome it.

James W. “Bill” Oxford
National Commander

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Oxford presents American Legion legislative agenda to Congress

Photo by Ben Mikesell/The American Legion

By John Raughter
Mar 12, 2020
After touching on a series of historical accomplishments that defined the first century of American Legion legislative successes, National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford presented a three-step mission to lawmakers during a joint session of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs March 11. Watch here.

“Implementation. Oversight. Improvement. That triad is the prevailing theme in The American Legion’s legislative priority list for the second session of the 116th Congress,” Oxford said in a packed hearing room.

The theme is the logical follow-up to landmark legislation passed in recent years such as the VA MISSION Act, the Blue Water Navy Act and the Harry W. Colmery “Forever” GI Bill.

“Between Vietnam and 9/11, The American Legion and Congress worked together to reinvent the VA – one that is now described as quote, ‘the best care anywhere,’” Oxford said. “Today, so many of these issues, and new ones for a new generation, continue to occupy The American Legion’s priority list.”
That list went largely unchallenged to receptive members of Congress that attended the hearing.

“Reading today’s testimony, it is clear that we share many of the same priorities,” Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said. “We must address the national crisis of veteran suicide. Veterans must receive high-quality healthcare. We must understand the full impacts of toxic exposures, and make sure that another generation of veterans don’t have to wait for the benefits and care they need and deserve.

“In addition,” Takano continued, “as our veteran population grows increasingly more diverse, we must support our women, LGBTQ, minority, and Native-American veterans. The legislation we pass must improve access to culturally competent care for all veterans.”

Though The American Legion recognizes that VA care isn’t always the best option for veterans living in remote areas, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., emphasized the point while trying to assuage Legion concerns about privatizing the system.

“In my view the MISSION Act is nothing to replace the VA (but is) providing care and services for those who in their best interest need another venue,” said Moran, the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Moran mentioned that many Kansans would have to travel great distances in order to obtain care from a VA facility.

Another major concern for The American Legion is the high suicide rate among veterans. Most of the veterans who have taken their lives were not receiving care in the VA system. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., announced that the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which was supported by The American Legion, passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee 17-0 by unanimous consent.

“We got everyone from Blackburn to Bernie to vote for that bad boy, so now all we got to do is get Sen. (Mitch) McConnell to take it up on the floor,” Tester said, informally referring to Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who refers to himself as a “democratic socialist.”

It was likely the last opportunity House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., will hear an American Legion national commander present congressional testimony. The physician and longtime Legionnaire will retire from Congress at the end of the year.

Roe reflected nostalgically on recent and historic Legion accomplishments. “It would be impossible for me to detail all the work that The American Legion has performed throughout your more than a century of service or the value that the Legion continues to bear on matters of military, veterans and national security policy,” Roe said. “Even now it is with the help of the Legion and working with our committees and partners in the Trump administration that the Department of Veterans Affairs has undergone such a positive transformation over the last few years. Thanks to our mutual efforts, I’m proud to report that veterans today have great access to care (and) greater control of their care than ever before. Veterans can use their GI Bill benefits whenever they choose. Veteran unemployment reached near lows.”

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