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The American Legion and Hawthorne Gardening Company team up to support veterans

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The nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization and a leader and a pioneer in the gardening industry will join forces to help veterans overcome the mental and physical wounds suffered during deployment.

The American Legion announced today that the Hawthorne Gardening Company will support its Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program, which provides supplies and equipment that play an important role in the rehabilitation and quality of life for wounded warriors and veterans.

“Today’s veteran is recovering from illnesses and injuries in traditional and non-traditional ways,” said American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad. “Some of the more creative ways aren’t included in military and VA budgets. Whether it is loose-fitting sweat suits to cover their healing wounds, fitness equipment to rebuild strength or a fun outing that helps them reintegrate into society, The American Legion, with incredible support from companies like Hawthorne, is filling a need.”

To kick off the relationship, Hawthorne and The American Legion will host a respite event in August in Tacoma, Wash., with 500 veterans and their families. The gift from Hawthorne will also be used to support additional emergent grant requests through the end of 2020.

“Support for our nation’s veterans is a responsibility we all share,” said Chris Hagedorn, senior vice president and general manager of Hawthorne Gardening Company. “More than ever, our country’s veterans need our support and The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors program is able to provide recovery items and services that are tailored to the individual needs of servicemembers. This is especially important to me as a member of a family with military roots, as well as a proud employer of military veterans.”

Each year The American Legion awards approximately 25 OCW grants that provide support at military hospitals, warrior transition units and VA medical facilities across the country. For more information about the Operation Comfort Warriors program visit www.legion.org/ocw.


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Centennial post arises from near extinction

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Just three years ago American Legion Post 3’s building in Mobile, Ala., faced being torn down.

The city had condemned the building. Transients had taken up residence inside. The basement was flooded. Animal carcasses littered the hallways. The roof had started crumbling.

“It would have been a good place to hold an astronomy class,” Post 3 Historian Wayne Sirmon said of the building, which was built in 1857.

The situation was bleak. The city wanted to demolish the building. The post didn’t have funding for the massive repairs. Membership was dwindling.

Now, the Kennedy House-American Legion building has a bright future after post members led by Hal Pierce worked with a Mobile historical association to save it. Essentially, the post handed over the building to the 1857 Foundation, a Mobile-based 501(c)(3) that was established for the purposes of historic preservation. The 1857 Association now owns the building but allows Post 3 to use it.

“It’s amazing,” Pierce said. “You can’t imagine the difference between then and now.”

The nearly 10,000-square-foot building with two floors and a full basement sits just outside of downtown Mobile.

“It makes me very proud that we were able to bring it back,” Sirmon said. “It's a great location. All of the other posts are out in the suburbs. We are very proud to be able to bring the Legion back to a visible point in downtown Mobile.”

The $2 million restoration project included installation of a new roof, removal of 11 large dumpsters of debris and trash, and a complete overhaul of the floors. Workers were able to keep some of the original tiles, which are now surrounded by wood flooring. It took nearly a year to complete the project, said James Alexander, president of the 1857 Foundation.

When Alexander first saw the building in its compromised state, he didn’t flinch. “My first impression when I first walked in was not one of dismay or despair,” he said. “My impression was, ‘Wow! Just imagine what we can do with this.’ It was a very positive perspective. But it was really all about harnessing all the resources to make it happen.”

That was in March 2015. By the end of 2018, the transformation was essentially completed. By March 2019 — the Legion’s 100th birthday — the post could once again hold meetings in the facility.

“This is one of the oldest residences in Mobile,” said Alexander, who is also president of the Mystics of Time, Mobile’s largest Mardi Gras group. “It would have been a horrendous loss if we had not been able to save the building. It started off as an effort for us to find a place for ourselves, and in the end, it wound up being an opportunity not only to save a landmark in Mobile, but an opportunity to find a home for our organization and to be able to allow the Legion to be able to resume meeting in their historical location. So it was a win for everybody.”

Most of the 650 members of the 70-year-old Mystics of Time were awed by their new home as they went about this year’s Mardi Gras celebration.

“We had grown men weeping on the front porch, if you can believe that,” he said. “This completely changed everything. It completely changed our whole Mardi Gras experience.”

During a tour of the building, a combination of Greek revival with Italian influences, Alexander pointed out additional work that had been part of the renovations. Pocket doors were saved. Glass in 19 windows, measuring around 11 feet high, were replaced. A rooftop area that can host small events was modernized.

Alexander, whose father is a member of The American Legion, was honored to give back to local veterans. “I'm a very proud citizen and patriot,” he said. “I'm a very big supporter of the military and military causes. And so it was very natural for me to see, not only the need, but to want to try to help in some way.”

With its future solidified, Post 3 — a centennial post — is actively engaged in its community once again. Post members participated in Memorial Day activities in Mobile. At the community’s Patriotic Independence Day concert, the Mobile Symphonic Band played The American Legion March in honor of the post’s centennial. Looking ahead, Post 3 will have a float in the Veterans Day parade among other activities.

Membership has grown from 15 to 50 since the effort to save the building began. “We became somebody,” Pierce said. “That concert let the community know we’re back. I got a lot of great feedback.”

The Mystics of Time will use the building for meetings, parade preparations and more. “Their spirit and initiative in acquiring this building was a terrific thrill,” Pierce said. “A major historic site on their downtown parade route — this is a terrific site to meet at and watch the parade from.”

The building was once a house for Mobile native Joshua Kennedy Jr., a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. Post 3 bought the building and used it as its home from 1947 until the 1990s when it fell into disrepair.

It had been decades since post members used the building for meetings or anything else. Among the first official meetings since its reconstruction was a 33rd District meeting held on July 21.

District Commander James Daniels beamed as he talked about the success story in his hometown.

“The resurgence of Post 3 means a lot,” said Daniels, a member of Post 76 in Mobile. “It’s a historical building. It had been in disrepair for a long time. I know the members are very proud of this building and their accomplishments. Post 3 is one of the pillars of this district. The post can serve its community once again and that’s a great thing.”

Even though Daniels is a native of Mobile, he never knew the building’s history as a youth. “Even when I came back in the 90s and joined The American Legion, I had no idea what was inside this building. I knew it was a historical building but I was unware of what it stood for.”

Daniels credited Post 3 members with not only saving the historic building but ensuring that the centennial post would march into its second century.

“For me, as district commander, to see the revitalization of Post 3 and its home, it says a lot for the membership to staying steady and believing in what they could,” he said. “A lot of posts would have folded under the circumstances. It’s been a long journey but you can tell by the enthusiasm from the members that they are grateful to have this home.”

Pierce plans for Post 3 to continue its ascension.

“We’re excited about the centennial,” Pierce said, noting this was the first time Post 3 has hosted a district meeting in at least 25 years. “We’re doing things with the district. We’re getting involved. Today is a landmark day for us.”


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Four Legion Baseball alums inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame

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There are now 81 former American Legion Baseball players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Sunday, the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., with former American Legion players Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina and Lee Smith enshrined alongside Edgar Martinez and Mariano Rivera.

For the full list of American Legion Baseball players in the Hall of Fame, click here.

Natchitoches, La., Post 10 alum Lee Smith joined The American Legion for a podcast this week reflecting on his time playing American Legion Baseball.

During his induction, Smith recalled his time in rural Louisiana saying, "It was community that gave me the chance to play baseball."

Baines, who played American Legion Baseball for Talbot Co. (Md.) Post 70, was emotional talking about his hometown of St. Michaels.

"My journey started in a small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore called St. Michaels,” Baines said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to this entire close-knit community for helping raise me as a child and teenager. I would not be where I would be where I am today in baseball or in life without so many people from St. Michaels."

Roy Halladay played American Legion Baseball for Lakewood (Co.) Post 178.

The late pitcher’s wife, Brandy, started the emotional speech by saying, “I’m going to do the best I can to say the things I believe Roy might have said or would have wanted to say if he was here today. The thank yous could and should go on for days when you consider the impact so many people had on Roy’s career.”

Montoursville (Pa.) Post 104 alum Mike Mussina was inducted on the first ballot and reflected on all of the help he received along the way.

“I need to thank everyone who was on the journey with me,” Mussina said. “You’re all piece of a giant puzzle, and whether your contribution was large or small, the final product would not be complete without you.”


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Monday at Boys Nation 2019: Wreath-laying at Arlington a moving experience

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Evan Jolley and Isaac Buchholtz agreed that they’ll remember Monday morning at American Legion Boys Nation for the rest of their lives.

“It’s such an honor to be chosen from such a great group of kids,” Buchholtz, of South Dakota, said after he and Nebraska’s Jolley were chosen from the Boys Nation senators to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.

The wreath-laying is an annual honor at Boys Nation, but like the senators who have done so before them, Buchholtz and Jolley were deeply moved by the experience.

“Even to stand in the presence of the Tomb of the (Unknowns) is something truly moving, and so the fact that we were able to partake in a ceremony that was so meaningful, so historic, it was truly one of the greatest moments of my life,” Jolley said. “It’s definitely the most honored I’ve ever felt. It made me think about what it truly means to be an American citizen.”

“It’s a different dynamic seeing the actual Tomb that close, and being among the soldiers, because you can’t usually get close to the soldiers like that,” Buchholtz said.

The two senators were joined by National Commander Brett Reistad and National Chaplain Father Philip Salois for the ceremony during Boys Nation’s trip to Arlington and the nearby Iwo Jima Memorial.

Also on Monday

The two parties selected their candidates for president and vice president ahead of Tuesday’s election. The Federalist candidates are presidential nominee Lou Acevedo of Massachusetts and vice presidential nominee Thomas Penley of Montana. The Nationalist ticket is presidential nominee Jack Cogbill of Kentucky and vice presidential nominee Ryan Dudley of Connecticut.

Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation 2019 here on legion.org and on social media using the hashtag #BoysNation2019.


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Legion hams participate in Field Day

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TALARC Vice President Bill Sloan, NZ9S, made the following report in the latest e-newsletter:

"The American Legion Amateur Radio Club (TALARC), with call sign K9TAL, participated in Field Day 2019 along with the Indianapolis Radio Club and other groups. The site chosen this year was next to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Station K9TAL operated on the 10M band exclusively and made some 53 contacts as the GOTA (Get On The Air) station and later made a Field Day 1A entry of its own, in the final scoring. We consider it a great step in our progression as a club, and plans are already underway for next year.

American Legion National Headquarters also stepped up and provided not only a Legion-branded trailer, but also a 2800-watt generator to keep our batteries charged overnight. While we had a great weekend operating, the event didn’t gather much attention from the community, likely because of other activities always underway in a city this size. But we did have a steady flow of youngsters and students studying for their first “ham” licenses, and we gladly handed the mic to them so they could attempt to make their first “CQ.” We’re happy to say that several of them made their very first HF QSO that day!

But we weren’t the only TALARC station operating during Field Day. Ken, KY4KD, with the Wilderness Road Amateur Radio Club and American Legion Post 46 in Danville, Ky., sent us a link to the newspaper coverage they were able to generate at Post 46, courtesy of the Advocate-Messenger newspaper. This is a great example of the value in taking the time and effort to host and participate in this annual national event. Not only does it allow us to practice emergency communication skills, but it highlights The American Legion as a provider of local services and disaster preparedness in front of the community and its leaders. Very fine job by the members of Post 46."


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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at www.archives.gov