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Relief efforts underway at posts near Midwest floods

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American Legion departments and posts in the states impacted by last week’s devastating flooding are working to help those affected.

In Nebraska, Post 32 in Papillion was holding a relief drive Thursday, March 21, where anyone wanting to drop off donated goods could do so, Department of Nebraska Adjutant Dave Salak noted in an email. He also said Post 339 in Bellevue was coordinating with Sam’s Club for donations of water, fruit and toiletries, and with Hy-Vee to provide catered meals to displaced families in the area.

“I have received calls from Legionnaires as far away as New Jersey offering to truck in donated goods to help in the relief effort,” Salak said.

While Salak said that as of Thursday morning, the department had no official news of Legionnaires or posts hit by the floods — “We know they are out there but the news hasn’t reached us just yet” — he did confirm that one of the department’s regular membership drives will be impacted by the flooding at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha.

With about a third of the base covered in floodwaters and dozens of buildings damaged, the Air Force on Tuesday cancelled the 2019 Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show, originally scheduled for June 1-2. Salak said the department sends a delegation to every air show at the base to hand out brochures and flags.

“It is essentially a membership drive usually netting a couple handfuls of new members,” he said.

The department’s media specialist, Amanda Washburn, is coordinating with local TV stations to run clips touting the Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF) program.

“NEF applications have been forwarded to all district commanders so that they are ready to assist Legionnaires when called upon,” Salak said.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, Post 492 in Hornick has served as a makeshift food pantry as residents return home after heavy rains and a breached levee on the west fork of the Little Sioux River forced a complete evacuation of the town the week before.

NEF grants provide immediate financial assistance for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members who have been affected by the natural disaster. Legion posts also qualify. The NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted.

To apply for an NEF grant or to learn more, please visit www.legion.org/nef.

Donations to NEF are needed in order to provide funding for this and future natural disasters. To make a donation to NEF, please visit www.legion.org/donate.


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Legion to have presence at Virginia International Tattoo festival

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The Virginia International Tattoo – a world-class event in Norfolk that that draws in more than 45,000 people to honor America’s military, patriotism and freedom through music, marching, pageantry, panel discussions and more – will have two distinguished American Legion women at this year’s celebration.

American Legion Past National Commander Denise Rohan and American Legion 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee member Diane Carlson Evans, a Vietnam War combat nurse, will be present at the Tattoo, which has “Celebrating Women in Service to the Nation” as its theme this year.

The 23rd annual Virginia International Tattoo will be held at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, Va., April 25-28. Rohan and Evans will participate in the Courage, Commitment and Leadership Forum: Extraordinary Women of the U.S. Military on Friday, April 26, from 1:30-3 p.m. inside the Scope Arena. The event is free and open to the public.

Rohan and Evans also will be recognized and honored during the Tattoo Finale later that evening, which will feature a performance of the late American composer Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living” by more than 400 instruments and singers. Last year, the Tattoo honored Medal of Honor recipients of which eight attended the grand finale. Watch it here.

The Virginia International Tattoo began in 1997, and is the signature event of the Virginia Arts Festival with over 1,000 performers from around the world. The attraction draws in people from over 45 states and more than eight nations to watch “the largest spectacle of music and might in the United States,” with a display of military music, massed pipes and drums, drill teams, heavy athletics, colorful dances, and much more.

The origins of "tattoo" stems from 17th and 18th-century Dutch innkeepers who would cry “Doe den tap toe!,” “Turn off the taps!,” as the fifes and drums of the local regiment signaled soldiers to return to their barracks for the evening. Today the word “tattoo” refers to a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands.

The American Legion will display its four-panel “100 Years for God and Country” chronology exhibit at the festival where hundreds of other exhibitors and vendors will be present. For more information on the 2019 Virginia International Tattoo and how to attend, please visit www.vafest.org/tattoo/.


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Post 594 remembers Daniel R. Olsen

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Eagan High School in Eagan, Minn., hosted a special ceremony March 15 to officially rename Eagan American Legion Post 594 in honor of 2005 graduate Daniel R. Olsen, who was killed in action while serving his country in Iraq.

Post Commander John Flynn said they chose March 15, 2019, as the date for the ceremony because it would have been Daniel’s 32nd birthday and because it marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of The American Legion in Paris, France, on March 15, 1919.

Growing up in Eagan, Daniel sampled a variety of sports and enjoyed participating in karate and the Boy Scouts. During his high school years, he was part of Eagan’s drum line, was a valued worker at Camp Snoopy and volunteered in the children’s program at church. Daniel enlisted in the Marines on his 18th birthday. While it was hard for his parents to watch him go, they supported his decision 100 percent, Flynn said.

In January 2007, Daniel deployed for his first tour of duty in Iraq. On April 2, 2007, he was shot and killed by a sniper while protecting a critical position at the police station in Saqliwiyah, Iraq. Flynn said Daniel’s commanders described him as “a silent professional, reserved, modest and efficient. He was at the forefront of every one of his missions and had demonstrated proven courage under fire.”

Flynn and Post 594 Adjunct Wayne Beierman said they had been thinking about renaming the post in honor of Daniel and his family for more than a year. Then last November, a member of the post mentioned the idea to Wayne Olsen while the two were preparing breakfast for families of veterans staying at Fisher House at the Minneapolis VA. Flynn followed up with Wayne and Gwen shortly thereafter and said both supported the idea. In December, members of the post unanimously approved a motion to rename the post in honor of Daniel and drafted a formal resolution that was submitted and approved by the state and national American Legion.

Eagan American Legion Post 594 has been in existence since it received a temporary charter in January 1989. In June 2003, the post was granted a permanent charter. And on March 15, 2019, it was officially renamed Daniel R. Olsen American Legion Post 594.

Wayne and Gwen Olsen attended the ceremony along with Shelcy Kamrud, one of Daniel’s two sisters, and his grandfather, Jack Edstrom. In attendance were Darrel Redepenning, commander of the American Legion Department of Minnesota, and Dan Ludwig, past commander of the national American Legion.

See more pictures from the ceremony here.


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53 youth head to Indy for Legion's speech competition

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Fifty-three high school orators are headed to Indianapolis April 6-8 to compete in The American Legion's 82nd annual National Oratorical Contest to speak on the U.S. Constitution and compete for $48,000 in scholarships.

The competitors won their respective American Legion post, district and state-level Oratorical Contest to earn a spot at the national level.

The contest will get underway April 6 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel with the young orators competing in the quarterfinals; the top nine contestants will advance to the semifinals. The contestants will present a rehearsed eight- to 10-minute oration on an aspect of the Constitution in front of judges, as well as a three- to five-minute speech on an assigned topic discourse — a phase of the Constitution selected from its Articles and Sections. The top three semifinal contestants will advance to the championship finals.

The championship finals will be held Sunday, April 7 at 10 a.m. EDT, and will be streamed on Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/americanlegionhq.

Of the 53 competitors, eight are returning from 2018. They include Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York and South Carolina.

See a list of the 53 contestants here.

 

 


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Centennial birthday celebrations everywhere

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The popular Legiontown blog site already features several submissions on how American Legion posts across the country celebrated the Legion’s 100th birthday throughout the March 15 weekend. Among the entries:

Post 243 in Mount Vernon, Texas, celebrated the birthday with an open house and hot dog lunch on March 16. The town's mayor read a proclamation declaring it "American Legion Day" during a program which highlighted the contributions not only of the post, but of the many organizations partnered with it.

Fred Brock Post 828 in San Antonio hosted a special event on March 15 to commemorate 100 years of the Legion. Just some of the special guest speakers were State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert and retired Navy Rear Adm. Eric Young.

Department Of Connecticut Commander Tom Flowers and National Vice Commander Paul Spedaliere invited Buck-Dubiel Post 101, along with the entire department, to join them in attending the state’s recognition of the Legion's centennial at the capitol in Hartford on March 13.

Eagan (Minn.) High School hosted a special ceremony March 15 to officially rename Eagan Post 594 in honor of 2005 graduate Daniel R. Olsen, who was killed in action in Iraq. In addition to the Legion’s birthday, the 15th was also Olsen’s; he would have been 32.

To add your post’s activities to the list, go to www.legiontown.org/share and choose the American Legion Centennial category.


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