|A training plan for
The American Legion
Dear American Legion Family and Friends,
As we mark our first century of service to communities, states and nation, we have much to celebrate and generations of Legionnaires to thank. From our founders to today’s post officers, The American Legion is successful because of hard-working, passionate and caring individuals.
Our success can also be directly attributed to the internal training that molds our leaders. For scores of Legionnaires, including me, national Legion College was essential, and I strongly recommend it. The deadline for departments to submit applicants for this fall’s Legion College is July 31.
While the most notable, Legion College is not the only way to groom the next generation of leaders.
Many departments are creating their own versions of Legion College. California, for example, debuted its class this past April. In Maine, the department has launched a three-pronged approach — beginner, intermediate and advanced sessions that graduates complete within the same calendar year.
Revitalized earlier this year, the Basic Training module on the national website provides valuable information. It’s a great resource for recruiters so new members can familiarize themselves with the Legion and find their place in it. When I reviewed the course recently, I found it to be a great refresher and full of valuable resources. I am sure other longtime members would have the same experience.
Our national membership team has revitalized the August membership workshop into three training groups: long-term membership planning, district commanders and department membership chairmen. The leading candidate will have a two-hour session one day with department leadership and a two-hour session the following day with his department commanders. I am excited to see how this approach works.
At national convention next month in Minneapolis, there will be plenty of training opportunities for our members:
Of course, much of this year’s national convention will be dedicated to paying tribute to our first century of success. At the same time, we need to dedicate ourselves to training the next generation of leaders who will lead The American Legion to a second century of national leadership, supporting veterans and expanding patriotism.
Denise H. Rohan
Hirono Honors Fallen Service Members and their Families on Memorial Day
HONOLULU – Senator Mazie K. Hirono joined Gold Star families, veterans, active duty military personnel, and local elected officials to pay tribute to fallen American service members on Memorial Day. Senator Hirono spoke during the Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and attended the Governor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at Hawaii State Veterans’ Cemetery at Kaneohe.
In her remarks at Punchbowl, Senator Hirono honored Brian Kong and Donald Marshall – two of her classmates from Kaimuki High School who fought and died during the Vietnam War.
“On Memorial Day, we pay tribute to all those who fought and died for our country. Today, I want to particularly honor Donald and Brian – two keiki o ka aina who gave their lives in during the war in Vietnam,” Senator Hirono said. “Our Vietnam veterans returned home to a nation divided. But today, we know the importance and need to support our troops even as we may disagree vehemently with the political decisions to send them into harm’s way.”
During her remarks, Senator Hirono also recognized the service of her colleague Senator John McCain and denounced ongoing attacks on his service and character.
“We cannot appropriately honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country if, at the same time, we dishonor the service and sacrifice of those who are still with us – especially my friend and colleague John McCain,” Senator Hirono said. “It does this man and our country no honor to insult Senator McCain or to make light of his service or his current battle with brain cancer. We must be much much better than this on this solemn day and every other day.”
Reps. Gabbard and Mast, IAVA Lead Bipartisan Bill to Evaluate US Troops Exposure to Toxic Burn Pits
Washington, DC—Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Brian Mast (FL-18), along with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), hosted a press conference today urging their colleagues to support and pass the Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671).The bipartisan legislation would evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals.
Over 140,000 servicemembers and veterans have reported exposure to burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals over the past three decades. Based on deployment numbers, it is assumed that the number of those exposed is far higher. Exposure can produce serious and potentially life-threatening health effects, including neurological disorders, rare forms of cancer, lung diseases, and more—triggering some to call the crisis the ‘Agent Orange’ of the post-9/11 generation.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus, said: “I was deployed with many veterans who were exposed to burn pits for extended periods of time every single day. It was just a part of our everyday lives while serving there. This exposure is now proving to result in debilitating and potentially deadly illnesses for many. This is the Agent Orange of our generation, and the VA needs to take action now to collect data and information on veterans who were exposed to burn pits, so we can document the impact and make sure our brothers and sisters are cared for. Our legislation is an urgent and critical step toward getting them the care they need and deserve.”
“When I was serving in Afghanistan, trash and human waste were often burned in open air pits,” Rep. Mast said. “I think it’s quickly becoming clear that these burn pits are emerging as the Agent Orange of my generation. Service members that were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing terrible health effects at a very young age. These men and women risked their lives for our country, and this bipartisan legislation will go a long way toward getting them the care they have earned.”
“IAVA members have sounded the alarm on a potentially devastating health care tidal wave. A stunning 80% of IAVA members report that they were exposed to toxins during their combat deployments and 63% report associated symptoms already. So we set out to build a coalition of the willing, and worked with two outstanding allies from both sides of the aisle to be our champions in Congress. We’ve called for fire–and rounds are now inbound. We’ve now got historic legislation to begin to tackle this silent enemy that could impact millions of us for decades to come. Today, IAVA and two dozen veterans and military organizations are proud to stand with our fellow Post-9/11 veterans, Representatives Gabbard and Mast, Army Iraq and Afghanistan veterans respectively, to introduce a bill to finally appropriately focus on burn pits. It’s an important first salvo in what could be a fight to last a generation,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff.
“We cannot afford to wait 30 more years to see if burn pits and other toxic exposures are indeed at the root of our health challenges, like it did for the Vietnam generation. Post-9/11 veterans are suffering and dying now. We need a foundation of strong research to prepare for what could be decades of health effects. A definitive link between exposure and specific illnesses has not been established. And the VA’s Burn Pit Registry is not well-known and underutilized. That means data on exposures is not being collected at levels needed to inform policy and spur action. And DoD has never taken real accountability of toxic exposures by theater location for deployed servicemembers. This bill takes an incremental, but critical step toward increased research and awareness, and eventually, treatment for affected veterans. As Memorial Day approaches, we are thankful to stand with our brothers and sisters in arms today to bring much need attention to this issue,” added IAVA Chief Policy Officer, Melissa Bryant.
“I served more than five years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said retired General and IAVA Board Member, David H. Petraeus, whose service included serving as Commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) during the Surge of 2007-2008 and as Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during the Surge in Afghanistan of 2010-2011. “I was concerned about the effects of burn pits on our soldiers and civilians then (and raised those concerns at the time), and I continue to be concerned about the effects on those who spent periods in either country exposed to the smoke from waste pits and other sources.”
“Veterans are currently experiencing illnesses that likely are related to exposure to toxins in the war zones,” General Petraeus observes, “and swift action is needed to understand the impact on health of exposure to smoke from burn pits and other sources. That is why I support the bipartisan Burn Pits Accountability Act. It will mandate the data collection needed to help understand the effects of exposure to toxins on our men and women who were in the war zones and contribute to the development of appropriate medical treatments for them. I hope all members of Congress will stand with IAVA and our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and support this important bill.”
Background: The Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) would evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals by:
Requiring the Secretary of Defense to record whether servicemembers have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs).
Enrolling any servicemember who meets the above criteria in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless he or she opts-out.
Requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to exposure of burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals recorded in PHAs, SHPEs, and PDHAs.
The Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) is also supported by numerous veterans and veteran service organizations including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America, US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Service Women’s Action Network, US Army Warrant Officer Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the US, The Retired Enlisted Association, Chief Warrant Officer Association- US Coast Guard, Air Force Sergeants Association, National Military Family Association, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Wounded Warrior Project, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMSUS, American Veterans, Reserve Officers Association of the United States, Air Force Women Officers Associated, and Disabled American Veterans.
Follow Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on social media:
Today on Oʻahu, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) questioned state and federal leaders about the false ballistic missile alert that went out across Hawaiʻi on January 13, 2018. At a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee field hearing, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and the Hawaiʻi congressional delegation questioned leaders from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), United States Pacific Command (PACOM), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency (HiEMA) and Hawaiʻi Association of Broadcasters about the details of what went wrong leading up to the false alert and immediately following, as well as what needs to be done now to address the preparedness, communications, and response gaps revealed by the alert.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Nearly three months after Hawaiʻi’s false ballistic missile alert, many questions remain unanswered. Today’s hearing was an important opportunity to dig deeper into the gaps that still exist across every level of government, and what needs to be done going forward. One takeaway that is abundantly clear is that the status quo is both outdated and inadequate given the serious nuclear threat Hawai’i faces from North Korea. We must work to address the problems that have been identified, strengthen our missile defense system, and exhaust all diplomatic means to denuclearize North Korea peacefully and remove this threat.”
Earlier this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard hosted a Congress On Your Corner in Līhuʻe, where she visited with dozens of Kauaʻi residents, listened to their ideas and concerns, and answered questions about legislation and her work in Congress and at home in Hawaiʻi. The congresswoman also shared information about hurricane season and disaster preparedness, including a 14-day checklist for Hawaiʻi families.
Yesterday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined Representative Cedric Gates, Senator Maile Shimabukuro, and Councilwoman Kymberly Pine in hosting a Wai‘anae Coast community townhall, held at the Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. More than 200 Wai‘anae residents attended and asked questions of their local, state, and federal representatives. The discussion included questions on affordable housing, transportation, foreign policy, taxes, Native Hawaiian education and housing programs, and more. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also updated constituents on the omnibus spending bill that was recently signed into law, which contains major federal investments in Hawaiʻi, including key missile defense capabilities, opioid treatment and prevention measures, veterans’ healthcare, rural infrastructure, affordable housing programs, and more. She discussed bills she introduced since the false missile alert to increase public transparency and invest in community preparedness measures, as well as her Securing America’s Elections Act to secure federal election infrastructure through the use of voter-verified paper ballots or a paper ballot backup.
Dear American Legion Family and Friends,
One of the main job requirements of a national commander is to inspire the organization’s volunteers. Yet, I find that the opposite is often true.
During my recent visit to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it was the American Legion Family that inspired me. Still reeling from two historic hurricanes, I was told repeatedly by residents there that “We’ve been blessed, others have it worse.”
More than 40 percent of the region still does not have electric power and utilities on a permanent or consistent basis. Tarps still cover the roofs of thousands of homes. Tents in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, serve as a VA clinic.
I was concerned about the ability of The American Legion to make a difference due to the remoteness of the islands. Unlike the relief efforts in Texas and Florida, Legionnaires weren’t able to fill trucks with supplies and drive them to the affected areas. Even commercial air travel was nearly impossible during the initial aftermath.
My concerns were unfounded.
In addition to the grants provided by programs such as the National Emergency Fund, Temporary Financial Assistance and Operation Comfort Warriors, American Legion departments and posts have matched their “devotion to mutual helpfulness” with monetary donations. The American Legion Department of Pennsylvania sent $50,000 to the Department of Puerto Rico. North Carolina added another $10,000. Florida Post 75 raised another $4,500 and Hollywood Post 43 in California contributed $2,200. All told, more than $72,000 have been raised by Legion entities.
Due to communication difficulties, Legion Family members in those islands can still apply for NEF grants beyond the February 1 deadline. Extensions can also be granted to applicants in other areas depending on their circumstances.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp of the Virgin Islands was appreciative of American Legion support. But he also pointed out a sad reality. Hurricanes Irma and Maria will not be the last disasters that strike the region. Elsewhere, we have seen crippling blizzards across the United States, gargantuan wildfires in California and deadly mudslides that have killed at least 21 people.
We need a strong National Emergency Fund. It’s not a matter of if but when the next natural disaster hits. Just like insurance, the hope is that you will never need it. But by giving generously, you will be helping your brothers and sisters in the American Legion Family when natural disaster strikes. Like our other American Legion Charities, one hundred percent of NEF donations go to the stated cause.
Denise H. Rohan
National Commander, American Legion