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Legionnaire among thousands who play taps in a moment of remembrance

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On Memorial Day, Jari Villanueva stood in an area of grass that overlooked Baltimore National Cemetery and played taps. The Legionnaire was among thousands of Americans who sounded the call at 3 p.m. local time for the “Taps Across America” initiative – a way to still remember and honor the military men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the United States when Memorial Day ceremonies across the country were canceled because of the current pandemic.

Villanueva – a retired master sergeant who played the bugle for 23 years with the U.S. Air Force Band at Arlington National Cemetery – helped initiate “Taps Across America” along with CBS News “On the Road” correspondent Steve Hartman. The overall idea was to have the playing of taps, the National Song of Military Remembrance, to coincide with the National Moment of Remembrance when Americans are asked to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day “to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.”

“We wanted people to gather in their neighborhoods, to not make it a public event but make it a community thing where people would play the call from their porch, their driveway or lawn,” said Villanueva, a member of American Legion Dewey Lowman Post 109 in Halethorpe, Md., and co-founder of Taps for Veterans where buglers and trumpet players perform taps for military veterans funerals and ceremonies. To draw attention to the movement and gauge participation, Taps for Veterans sent an email to its distribution list that asked for people to register on www.tapsforveterans.org. As word began to spread, CBS aired a segment about participation in “Taps Across America” and that added to the “snowball” effect, said Villanueva.

“I’m really proud and really in awe of all the people who performed (on Memorial Day),” Villanueva said. “Makes me proud to be an American.”

Videos have been uploaded on social media of people playing taps on the bugle and trumpet, as well as the flute, clarinet, violin, saxophone, trombone, French horn and bag pipes.

“It’s amazing and very rewarding,” Villanueva said. “It’s a great piece of American music and now everybody wanted to be part of it.”

Congress designated taps, the bugle call that U.S. military servicemembers have used since the Civil War, as the National Song of Military Remembrance in 2013. Villanueva was part of the efforts to get the bill passed, which started with a resolution in 2009 from the organization Taps 150 that commemorates the famous call.

As videos and photos continue to come in, Villanueva said the response has been of gratitude.

“It really helped bring people together as Americans. At the core of our nation is our neighborhoods. So to have the American call, which unifies us all together as Americans, sounded in a neighborhood really helps bring that neighborhood together. Memorial Day (this year) really exemplified that.”


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Illinois Army reservist, 34, was third US service member to die of coronavirus

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A 34-year-old Army reservist from Illinois died Friday from coronavirus complications, becoming the third service member to succumb to the illness that has sickened more than 6,000 U.S. troops, service officials said Wednesday.

Sgt. Simon Zamudio died at a suburban Chicago hospital after contracting the virus, according to Army officials and an obituary announcing his death. He had served in the Army Reserve since October 2015 and he had been promoted to sergeant in April, said Lt. Col. Simon Flake, a spokesman for the Army Reserve.

He was not on active-duty orders as part of the military’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he contracted the illness, defense officials said Tuesday.

Zamudio was assigned to the 371st Theater Movement Control Element at Fort Sheridan, Ill., Flake said. Defense officials on Tuesday incorrectly said he had been assigned to a unit based in Wisconsin.

Zamudio was born in Phoenix and lived in Carpentersville, Ill. He is survived by his widow and a daughter, according to his obituary.

His death is the second among Army soldiers and the first U.S. service member death from the virus since April 13, when Navy Chief Petty Officer Robert Thacker Jr., 41, died of complications of the virus at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. Thacker was among more than 1,000 crew members to contract the disease aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, by far the military’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Army Capt. Douglas Linn Hickock, a member of the New Jersey National Guard, died March 28. Hickock, 57, a physician assistant, was preparing to activate as part of the pandemic response just before he was hospitalized with the virus and died one week later.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that 6,168 service members had tested positive for the virus. Among them, 168 had spent some time in the hospital and 3,474 had recovered.


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Military shows, kidney stones and a beer app highlight new podcast

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Join the growing community of Tango Alpha Lima fans by downloading, subscribing and listening to The American Legion’s new podcast.

In each episode, Tango Alpha Lima co-hosts and post 9/11 veterans Mark Seavey, Ashley Gorbulja-Maldonado and Jeff Daly engage in vibrant camaraderie, playful joking and hot takes. The group explores current events, interesting trends and quirky stories of interest to the military community.

Download, listen to the new episode and discover:

• Why the Grand Canyon, boat trips and kidney stones are a bad combination for Seavey.

• The co-hosts’ favorite military-themed television shows, including one featuring an “old grizzled Marine Corps drill instructor read and answer mail.”

• The risks involved in servicemembers using an app for beer lovers.

DOWNLOAD, LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE

You can find more information and links to all episodes in both audio and video formats, by visiting www.legion.org/tangoalphalima. Even better, you can subscribe for free so you never miss an episode. Here’s how:

Subscribe on your phone: Locate the Podcast app on your phone, open it and search for Tango Alpha Lima. Tap the logo and then hit “Subscribe.”

Download using iTunes: Another option is to download podcasts in the iTunes app on your computer. You can listen to them on the computer or sync them to your iPhone. Open the iTunes store on your computer, search for Tango Alpha Lima and click the “Free” button to download it. Click “Subscribe” and automatically download all future episodes.

Other apps: Tango Alpha Lima is also available on other sites such as Spotify and Stitcher where you can find podcasts.

Watch and listen: Another option is to watch the podcast video. Each episode is on The American Legion’s YouTube playlist for Tango Alpha Lima.


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July 1 deadline to submit Consolidated Post Report for 2019-2020

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American Legion posts have an opportunity to share the great work they are doing in their local community through the completion of the Consolidated Post Report (CPR).

The CPR was established for posts to document external activities, such as volunteer and fundraising efforts, funeral honors and youth programs, from the reporting period of June 1-May 31. This data is collected by National Headquarters to help quantify – for Congress, American Legion media, national leadership and more – the good that American Legion posts do in their communities every year.

The 2019-2020 CPR is due to National Headquarters no later than July 1. Download the report online or fill out and submit through www.mylegion.org.

So far, 27 percent of the more than 12,600 American Legion posts have submitted a 2019-2020 CPR.

Plaques are presented to departments with at least 95 percent CPR reporting by July 1.


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American Legion Family answers national commander's candles of honor callout

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American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford asked, and the American Legion Family answered.

In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, Oxford asked Legion Family members to light candles of remembrance and placing them on front porches at dusk on Memorial Day. The purpose, Oxford said, was to “show our respects by lighting and displaying candles to remind everyone why we must never forget the meaning of this sacred holiday.”

The American Legion Family responded, using social media to share dozens of photos using the hashtag #candlesofhonor. We’ve put together an album of some of the photos that were shared; find out on our National Headquarters Facebook page.

Thanks to all who participated in this campaign.


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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.