I want to start by apologizing for not doing a Legion Link article last month. I would like to thank all the sponsors and volunteers of the Veterans Expo. I’m proud to say that each year the results of the Veterans Expo have doubled in donations and assistance to the veterans and their families. Here are just some of the results.
2023 Veterans Expo Results
- Polk County and Highlands County Sheriff’s Department: Provided three (3) patrol cars each for the escort
- Procession was over: 3 ½ miles long.
- Motley Jeep Crew: Had approximately 30 Jeeps in the Escort.
- Skyway Corvette Club: Had 9 Corvettes in the escort.
- Several hundred people were on the side of the road waving flags as the wall passed by.
- We had the honor of having four (4) queens in the procession, our own Queen State Commander Eunice Butts, Ms. Veteran of America, Ms. Ann Farrel, American Legion Post 69 Queen Bee, who is a Koran War Veteran, and my 13-year old Grand-Daughter Brooklyn a Junior and a Rider.
- When the Wall arrived at Post 69, Thunder the Bald Eagle opened her wings to honor the 58,300 names on the Vietnam Wall and the 300 names on the Global War on Terror.
- Blood One: 8 procedures-10 donors participated = Each procedure can save up to three lives.
- Highlands County Fire Department: Had a fire truck on display.
- Thunder (Bald Eagle Was on site): Overall aesthetic of patriotism.
- Avon Park & Sebring JROTC: Opened the Ceremony by presenting the Colors.
- Cape Coral VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator: Passed out Suicide Awareness cards to everyone who participated in the event, with the signs and symptoms and the hotline number. (988)
- Spirt Training: Had a horse on site; the trainer was on the horse walking around with Old Glory.
- Quilts of Valor: Awarded 8 Veterans with a Quilt.
- Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA): Was able to submit 37 fully developed disability claims and started 25 more.
- Highlands County Service Officer: Started 35 disability claims.
- Ms. Veteran of America: Was part of the Escort of the Mobile Vietnam Veterans and Global War on Terror to American Legion Post 69. She also sang the National Anthem during the opening ceremony and Lee Green Woods’s song Proud to be an American, and was able to talk to hundreds of veterans.
- Amy Green: Received the Project VetRelief VA Employee of the year award.
- Avon Park Rotary Club: Was able to talk to 100 Vietnam Veterans about the Freedom Flight.
- Dr. J Royster Semper Motis, LLC: Talked to 75 Veterans and set up appointments for ten (10) veterans to get counseling for PTSD.
- Kari Russo First Orlando Counseling: Talked to 100 veterans and set up appointments for ten (10) veterans to get counseling.
- Paint 22: Talked to 70 veterans about therapy through art.
- I Got Your 6: Talked to 100 veterans and scheduled 8 to go on a retreat.
- Mission 22: Connected with approximately 200 veterans within two days.
- Blue Guardian Network: Connected with 15 active or retired law enforcement officers to get counseling.
- Hands for Homeless: Got two homeless veterans off the streets.
- K9 Lines: Because of the Veterans Expo they have now teamed up with 5 more Organizations and started the process for five (5) veterans to get a service dog.
- Wolfhound Legacy: Because of the Veterans Expo, now has teamed up with 5 more Organizations and started the process for four (4) veterans to get a service dog.
- South Florida College: Started the paperwork for ten (10) veterans to enroll in college under the GI Bill.
- National Veterans Resource: We had a mother who just lost her son 2 weeks before the Veterans Expo to suicide. The National Veterans Resource was able to team up that mother with another mother who lost her son a year ago.
- Both mothers are going to a retreat in May.
Reed Transport Services: Interviewed eight (8) Veterans for truck driving jobs.
- Good Shepherd Hospice: Was able to connect with approximately 200 people, around a dozen people interested in volunteering.
- The Juniors Raised: $1,300 for Project VetRelief by placing people in jail.
- Donations for Project VetRelief: 14,000
- Riders Poker Run: $1,500
- We are already starting the planning for the 2024 Veterans Expo which will be Friday, Jan 5th , Sat Jan 6th, and Sun, Jan 7th, 2024.
After the Veterans Expo
I had the Honor to give four classes at the Riders Summit on Veterans Benefits.
After each class, there was a test, Guys against Girls; well, I can say the Girls definitely pay more attention than the Guys. In three out of the four classes, the Girls won.
This is what the Girls got to hang up at their post.
GIRLS RULE GUYS DROOL
After the Riders Summit, I got to go to the Washington Conference to talk to Senators and Congressmen about our benefits.
Here are just some of the things we talked about.
- Pay the Coast Guard
- Protect the American Flag
- Military Quality of Life
- Mental Health & Suicide Prevention
- VA Healthcare Modernization
- Pact Act: Implementation & Oversight
- Protect Veterans from Predatory Actors
- Concurrent Receipt
- Guard & Reserve GI Bill Parity
When I got back from Washington, I had the honor to work at the St Pete Indy Race with the BE THE ONE TEAM.
What an honor to pin a suicide ribbon on Alex Palou, The No. 10 American Legion Indy Car driver.
VA Entitlements Chair