DUNEDIN, Fl – The American Legion will hold a Walk for Veterans here on Saturday, March 26. Leading the Walk will be American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett and Department of Florida Commander Jim Ramos.
“The purpose of this Walk is to raise public awareness about the crucial issues facing America’s veterans and their families,” said Department Commander Ramos. “An estimated 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Traumatic brain injuries have become a signature wound of the Global War on Terrorism and up to 20 percent of the men and women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are believed to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans still have difficulty receiving health care in a timely manner and many have been waiting years to have their disability claims resolved. We owe it to those who served our country to never forget their sacrifice and devotion. We are walking for those who marched for us.”
The Walk will begin at 8 am and is open to all participants. The length of the walk is 2 miles and will start at American Legion Post 275, 360 Wilson Street, Dunedin. It will end at Purple Heart Park.
All of the proceeds will benefit The American Legion National Emergency Fund, which has provided more than $8 million of assistance to American Legion Family members and posts that have been impacted by natural disasters in communities across the country since 1969.
The registration fee for the walk is $15.00 and will include a t-shirt, bottled water and breakfast at the post following the walk.
For more information about The American Legion Walk for Veterans call (727) 733-8153.
On one side is a picture of the facilities at Nordhausen, a sub-camp of the German concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora in Thuringia, Germany. On the other side are pictures of the “residents” of that camp – some dying, some dead, most of them shells of the persons they once were.
In the middle of the two pictures, proudly displayed on the wall of American Legion Post 38’s John Ebling Veteran Art Gallery in Fort Myers, Fla., is an American flag stitched by those imprisoned at Nordhausen. What the flag represents is why it’s Post 38 Commander Kevin Boyd’s favorite piece in the gallery.
“As bad as it got, those people still had hope that the United States was coming to liberate them,” Boyd said. “That’s pretty powerful.”
The gallery, which opened last summer, was the brainchild of Boyd, who spent 29 years in the Navy and Naval Reserve before becoming Post 38’s commander seven years ago.
The post is named for Ebling, an Army veteran who worked in Lee County’s Office of Veterans Services. A wall in the gallery is dedicated to Ebling.
Boyd called Ebling “a man of vision. He always wanted to be the first of doing something that’s different (and) outside the norm. That’s what we need: people who go outside the norm.
“He opened (a Legion post) on a college campus (Hodges University). He brought the U.S.S. Mohawk down here and had it sunk. It’s a barrier reef for downtown. I thought it would be a great idea for a great person that has done so much for so many people, and a great way to honor him.”
And Ebling’s family’s reaction to the decision? “They were totally blown away,” Boyd said. “They couldn’t believe it. They come up here all the time.”
The gallery fits in perfectly with downtown Fort Myers’ Art Walk. On the first Friday of each month, downtown art galleries invite residents and visitors to a self-guided walking tour through downtown’s River District and Gardner’s Park area.
“I was talking with John Ebling’s daughter, and I said, ‘We have Art Walk. What a great way to bring people here to see what’s going on at The American Legion by creating an art gallery,’” Boyd said. “She goes, ‘What do we have to do to make it happen?'”
That set in motion the planning process. A room at the post was designated as the home of the museum, and post members then stripped the floors and walls, and repainted the room. “It took us two months to get it ready,” Boyd said. “This was veterans working night, day, whatever availability didn’t interfere with the operation of the post.”
Boyd said selling the idea of an art gallery to the post membership wasn’t difficult. “They look at it as change,” he said. “In any organization, change is an inevitable part of life. We’ve been doing the same old thing. If you do the same thing all the time and get no results, you have to change what you do. That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to be proactive (and) be part of the community.”
Boyd’s brother, an Air Force veteran and artist, provided the first nine pieces of artwork. The grand opening of the gallery, and ensuing local media coverage, resulted in a slew of donated pieces.
“We have people who have 20 pieces of art they want to put in (the gallery),” Boyd said. “So what we’ve tried to do is change it up every month so that we have a different look, a different face of art that’s in the gallery.”
The creation of the artwork can be therapeutic for the artists. “That was one of the things that came out when we first talked about it,” Boyd said. “I talked with (a Department of Veterans Affairs case worker), and she said, ‘Kevin, that’s a great thing. A lot of these veterans that have PTSD, this a way for them to release a little tension.’ If a veteran wants to come in and display or sell their artwork, it’s here for them to do it.”
Boyd said the art gallery has created more foot traffic at the post. An at-risk children’s facility has contacted Boyd about creating a gallery for its children at their facility. Other veterans groups, including one from Canada, have come to visit the gallery. One Jewish veteran, a former prisoner of war, cried when he saw the Nordhausen flag.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” Boyd said. “It helps them heal old wounds, especially with our Vietnam veterans. A lot of times they don’t want to talk about the things that they went through.
“This has truly exceeded my expectations. I thought I’d have a few paintings here or there. The room’s not big enough to display (all the donated items). We’d like to make sure that we rotate them every month so that people can see some of the great work that these veterans do.”
During his report to the National Executive Committee on Oct. 15 in Indianapolis, National Historian James Copher announced the winners of the National Post History Contest and National Department History Contest, which had been judged earlier in the week by a panel of past and present department and national historians. A meeting of the NADHAL (National Association of Department Historians of The American Legion) organization, to which the judges belong, was also held.
2015 winners include:
One-Year Department Narrative History Contest (out of three entries):
First Award, Department of North Carolina
Second Award, Department of Indiana
Honorable Mention, Department of Georgia
One-Year Department Yearbook History Contest (out of 12 entries):
First Award, Department of Nebraska
Second Award, Department of North Carolina
Third Award, Department of Florida
Honorable Mention, Department of North Dakota
One-Year Post Narrative History Contest (out of six entries):
First Award, Banks Post 90, Banks, Ore.
Second Award, Pony Express Post 359, St. Joseph, Mo.
Third Award, Carroll Post 143, Carrollton, Ga.
One-Year Post Yearbook History Contest (out of 25 entries):
First Award, Carroll Post 143, Carrollton, Ga.
Second Award, Alois-Dreikosen Post 469, Marathon, Wis.
Third Award, Frierson-Nichols Post 8, Winter Haven, Fla.
Honorable Mention, Cornville Post 135, Cornville, Ariz.
Dale Barnett was elected national commander of the 2.2 million-member American Legion on Sept. 3, 2015 in Baltimore, Md., during the 97th national convention of the nation’s largest veterans organization.
Barnett graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and served as an Army infantry officer from 1974 to 1996, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. A member of American Legion Post 105 in Fayetteville, Ga., he served The American Legion at every level, including Department (State) Commander of Georgia from 2007 to 2008. After leaving the military, Barnett taught high school social studies and coached basketball, baseball and cross country. He was the Creekside High School Teacher of the Year in 2005-2006 and a national board certified social studies teacher in 2003.
Raised in central Indiana, Barnett attended Whiteland Community High School, where he was student body president, captain of the track and basketball teams and president of the Whiteland United Methodist Youth Basketball Team. He credits his experience with Hoosier Boys Nation in 1969 with his decision to attend West Point.
Barnett served from 1990 to 1991 as the battalion executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. His decorations include The Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (3rd Award), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (2 Awards), Kuwait Liberation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and Pathfinder Badge.
In addition to an International Relations / Public Affairs degree that Barnett earned at West Point, he holds a Masters of Business Administration from Boston University and graduated from Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Barnett served as The American Legion National Membership and Post Activities Chairman from 2008 to 2010 and National Economic Chairman from 2010 to 2013.
Dale and his wife, Donna, live in Douglasville, Ga., and have five children: Michelle, Andrea, Desiree, Kathalyn, and Joseph. They also have four young grandchildren: Heather, Daniel, Joanne and Brandon.
Below are the totals for the National Emergency Fund, Commander’s Challenge. Florida has contributed $16,587 so far, that’s 46% of our goal. As a reminder, the deadline is August 1st. If you have any outstanding donations, please send them in.
On July 21, the 2015 class of Boys Nation senators elected a president and vice president in grand style.
The young men kicked things off in the same manner the program follows every year. The senators sat quietly and observed the presidential candidates’ campaign speeches. Following the speeches, the senators had a couple of hours to talk to the candidates offline and consider who they would cast their vote for.
After partaking in a meal together and a meet and greet with Jeffery Cole, a Marine Corps veteran who received the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan, it was time to vote. With their state signs in hand, the senators lined up and took turns verbally casting their votes for the new Boys Nation president.
The race was close, but Nationalist Aravind Byju, of Osprey, Fla., took home the victory, winning by a close vote of 50 to 46 with two abstentions.
“Right now this whole experience has been absolutely surreal for me, and it really has not hit me,” Byju said. “I am very blessed to be where I am and to have all the opportunity that I have enjoyed.”
Still fired up after the results of the presidency, the boys rolled right into the vote for vice president, which resulted in a tie – the first time in more than 30 years. Luckily, Boys Nation Activity Director and Past National Commander Bob Turner, who has been a part of the program for more than 30 years, knew just how to handle the situation.
“It’s always been said and written that in case of a tie – rather than do the whole (voting) process again – we do a coin flip. Everything went perfect and the young men knew beforehand that was the way we were going to solve it.”
Down to the wire, vice president candidates Federalist Peter Spectre and Nationalist Diab Eid watched as Turner flipped the coin that would decide their fate. After selecting the red side of the coin, Eid’s eyes followed the coin as it flipped in the air, landing on the blue side. Just like that – at the flip of a coin – Spectre’s vice presidency was confirmed.
“It was one of the closest elections I’ve ever seen in my time here,” Turner said. “We have had a lot that were close — even down to one point, but we’ve never had a tie.”
After a quick hug, the two candidates joined the rest of the group to celebrate.
Reflecting on their wins, the newly elected Boys Nation president and vice president said they were thankful to have made it so far in the election process, and they hope to take what they have learned home with them and build on their successes.
“I would not be anything without all of those who have supported me, and I want to thank my Legion Post 159 that sponsored me, and my entire family and my brother who is my inspiration,” Byju said. “I am very humbled, and I can only hope to make everyone proud.”
Make sure that you have your 2016 Membership Shirt in time for the Membership Workshop!
Shirts can be personalized with up to 4 lines of embroidery on the right chest, or you can order the shirt with no personalization. Shirts will be available for shipping in early July, or you can pick up your shirts at the Membership Workshop (subject to 7% Indiana sales tax.)
Personalized shirts will be shipped 3 weeks after we have your order:
Order by July 13th to have them before the Membership Workshop, whether we are shipping them to you or you are picking them up at the workshop
Non-personalized shirts will be available for delivery in early July:
Order any time – will ship in early July
Order by July 31 if you are picking them up at the workshop