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Legionnaire shares how fallen son’s memory is kept alive

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On Memorial Day in 2010, U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles A. Ransom spoke at his First Baptist Church in Midlothian, Va., about how the holiday isn’t for outdoor barbeques but to honor veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Less than a year later, Charles, 31, was killed in action in Afghanistan.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t have Charles on our minds. I wake up with him on my mind,” said Willie Ransom, father of Charles and The American Legion’s national sergeant-at-arms and Department of Virginia’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation chairman. “When you serve in the military you’re serving for a purpose – to serve your country. He served his country and died for his country because he was a patriotic person.”

Upon graduating from high school, which Willie said Charles was voted “most likely to succeed,” he attended Virginia Military Institute (VMI) where he was elected vice president of the Class of 2001. After graduating from VMI, Charles served with the 83rd Network Operations Squadron out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. While there, Charles shared with his father, a retired Army master sergeant, that he was going to make a career out of the Air Force.

“He liked the service because I was in the service, his older brother (Stephen) was in the service (Navy, retired in 2011), so he took that same route,” Willie said. “He was a go-getter. He was dedicated to the military. And he was unselfish.”

Willie spoke with personnel that worked for Charles at Langley Air Force Base and said on holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, he would let his servicemembers spend dinner with their families. “He would work in their place. It was really honorable of him to do that,” Willie said. “Charles was an all-around good guy.”

Two years after Charles was killed on April 27, 2011, at Kabul International Airport from an Afghanistan pilot who opened fire, American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian was named in his honor. The post has remained without an honoree since its charter in 1938. Charles was a member of Post 186, which Willie also belongs to, and became the first servicemember of the post to be killed in action.

The naming of the post to Major Charles A. Ransom Post 186 made Willie “feel proud.” A sign with the new post name was donated by the VMI Class of 2001 and hangs on the outside of the post home, while a picture of Charles hangs on a wall inside. And on May 4, a ceremony will be held at his gravesite at Midlothian First Baptist Church where post members will place the American Legion emblem next to his headstone.

Charles was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Those medals, among many other items such as his VMI diploma, pictures of him while deployed, U.S. burial flag and even the first living room suite he purchased in 2001, are in a memorial room dedicated to Charles at the home of Willie and Marysue, his mother.

“Once you lose a child like that, and when you lose someone that you really love, and we love both our sons, (the memorial room) is just something that we have to keep him going and his memory alive,” Willie said. “By being in the church like we are, we keep his memory alive when we think about verses in the Bible. We have no problem keeping him alive because he will always be in our hearts No. 1.”

Another way Willie is keeping his son’s memory alive is by being an American Legion service officer at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va., and working with servicemembers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. “I felt that I could do more than just sit on the side and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” Willie said. “So I got involved about 10 years ago doing claims for veterans,” including claims for veterans of the Vietnam and Korean war.

“I feel that God gave us all a mission in life to help others so this is my mission on earth now is to help others because I’ve been blessed, retired from the Department of Defense and then the military, so now I’m trying to bless someone else.”


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TFA has record-breaking month with over $1 million in grants

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In January, The American Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program broke a single-month record in grant distribution – $1,030,163. Of the grants distributed, $1,000,500 assisted 3,120 children of 1,173 active duty Coast Guard servicemembers who were financially affected by the federal government shutdown.

The American Legion's TFA program was established in 1925, and it provides one-time cash grants to minor children of current active-duty or American Legion members. These grants help families in need meet the cost of shelter, food, utilities and health expenses to keep children in a stable environment during a time of hardship. Last year, nearly $229,000 in TFA grants supported 376 minor children of 179 veterans in 35 states.

TFA grants are made possible by donations to The American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation. The foundation supports veterans and military families in need, as well as American Legion service officers who provide free VA benefits and health care assistance to veterans. All donations are tax deductible and can be made online at www.legion.org/donate.


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Spirit of Service recipient embarking on lifetime of volunteering

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Sgt. Molly Hampton is in the Marine Corps, attends college classes and volunteers her time readily.

“Life is about people, meeting people, talking to people, helping people,” she says. “I love volunteering because I get to meet people. I get to hopefully help people depending on the event in which I'm volunteering for. I love that. I think it gives us a purpose, it makes us feel good and we're actually doing something that you usually get to see an immediate result with, which I think is awesome.”

Hampton decided to join the Marines when she was a high school senior. While in the Marine Corps, her enthusiasm for volunteering blossomed. “When I got involved with the Single Marine program, I started to see all these volunteer events to try out,” she recalled. “Once I started volunteering with the Marines, I really started to see the true value of it.”

For her volunteer efforts, Hampton was among the recipients of The American Legion’s Spirit of Service award, which she received on stage at the organization’s 100th national convention in Minneapolis last August.

“Receiving the Spirit of Service award honestly means the world to me, to be surrounded by these amazing individuals from other branches that have dedicated their life to selfless service in the military and beyond the military is absolutely humbling and amazing,” Hampton said. “It really encourages me to continue to serve others for my remaining time in the military and beyond.”

Her commitment to the Marines concludes at the end of this year. As Hampton transitions back to the civilian world, she will be mindful of continuing her volunteer work.

“I love The American Legion, especially after going to the convention,” she says. “I would absolutely love to work with The American Legion and I know that right now, because of receiving the award I was given the membership, I would also like to continue to be a Legionnaire, and continue to work with The American Legion.”

Hampton volunteers her time at Spirit Equestrian, a horse farm in Virginia, where she works with therapy horses and patients with disabilities who ride them. On Saturday mornings, she will arrive at the farm early to feed and brush the horses, then help the kids get on the horses and provide emotional support.

The patients range in age from 2 to 20 years of age. Some have physical disabilities. Other are dealing with emotional issues such as schizophrenia. “Just seeing these kids really makes me recognize I am just blessed in my health,” she said. “I love to help them in any way, especially on a horse. That's a brilliant way to help some of these kids, and they love it too.”

Hampton also routinely volunteers with the Salvation Army’s Grate Patrol, which delivers meals to the homeless on Washington’s city streets. The Marines pile into a van and follow the Grate Patrol. At various points, the volunteers stop, unload and dish out the meals.

“You see the people come up to the truck and they're struggling,” she said. “You see it in their face, you see it in the way that they look. Again, it's another reminder of how blessed we are. To be able to help these people that have a lot less than we do with just a meal is amazing. It is really fulfilling when they say, ‘Thank you, God bless.’”

After leaving the Marines, Hampton is eyeing a return to the classroom. She wants to teach her students to explore their worlds through reading and writing. As a civilian, Hampton plans to continue her volunteer efforts.

“God inspires me to serve,” she says. “I just think that we're called to serve others. I think that God calls us to serve others, and when I think about God, and the Lord I want to be more like him, I want to help people, and I want to be better and glorify God. I just think if everyone has that mentality the world would be a better place.”


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Lincoln’s legacy: ‘change and hope’

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The leaders of The American Legion Family joined dignitaries and department leaders from several Midwestern states Feb. 12 during the 85th annual pilgrimage to President Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Ill.

National Commander Brett P. Reistad pointed out that even though his Legion cap identifies his department as Virginia, times have changed for the better due to the president who saved the union.

“My how times have changed,” Reistad said at the observance held on Lincoln’s 210th birthday. “And they changed for the better, largely because of the president entombed just a few feet from us.

“At the start of his presidency, it was legal in half the country for one race to own members of another. Americans were divided as to whether the United States was a nation or merely a loose federation of independent states. Upon his election, the United States was already on the verge of its bloodiest war – a tragedy that would come to a merciful end in the last days of Lincoln’s life – an important outcome thanks in large part to his unwavering leadership.”

A month after swearing in as the new governor of Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker also paid tribute to Springfield’s most famous son. “I pledge to pay close attention to Lincoln’s legacy of action and his legacy of compassion,” Pritzker said at the pilgrimage. “To lead a state government guided by the pursuit of justice that recognizes that the goodness of those whose views may differ from mine is worthwhile to listen to and take heed to. And I pledge that I will move forward following Lincoln’s legacy of intellect and empathy. May we all find within ourselves the courage and the kindness that is Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.

Bob Wesley, a Legionnaire from American Legion Post 32 in Springfield, was the host of the gathering. “Today, we celebrate Mr. Lincoln’s birthday and commemorate his central role in building America,” he said. “Mr. Lincoln and his veterans freed millions from slavery, thus purging an ugly, cruel and inhumane blot on our national character, and preserved the union. ‘Freedom is not free.’ No one here will question the hard truth and painful memories evoked by these four words. As was true during Mr. Lincoln’s time and throughout our nation’s history. We are blessed with young men and women who step forward, take up arms, and risk, all too often, giving their lives to preserve our freedoms.”

Sons of the American Legion National Commander Gregg Gibbs evoked Lincoln’s promise from his second inaugural address as a reminder to what is owed to the families of the fallen. “’To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan…’ Had President Lincoln not said it first, it certainly could be deemed the motto of The American Legion today,” Gibbs said.

National President Kathy Dungan of the American Legion Auxiliary reflected on a less famous Lincoln quote. “At the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made it very clear that he believed it was every citizen’s duty to immediately begin caring for the remaining soldiers and their families. In fact, he was quoted as saying, ‘you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today,’” she said. “Lincoln’s call to action delivered over 150 years ago is alive and well in the American Legion Auxiliary’s mission to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of veterans, military and their families.”

Reistad, a retired police lieutenant, pointed to the progress society has made in the area of civil rights since Lincoln’s time but still acknowledged that work remains. “I believe the victory that most in the law enforcement and civil rights communities both seek today is a safe society where all people are treaty equally – where police officers and civilians of every race treat each other with mutual respect,” he said.

But still, Reistad said, Lincoln’s life should offer hope for America. “People often underestimated the country lawyer from Springfield, Illinois. They were wrong to do so,” Reistad said. “And people would be just as wrong to underestimate what America could accomplish today.”


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USAA Tips: 10 reasons to hire a veteran

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

The phrase “Hire a veteran” has been a staple of the U.S. economy for decades. Business leaders already realize that military veterans are hard workers, team players, ethical, driven, and technically skilled. What they don't realize is there are 10 hidden reasons that make every veteran a great employee and future business leader.

  1. The Ability to Work 24-7-365 With Great Results. The worlds of logistics, retail, food service, hospitality, manufacturing, and finance are now 24-7-365. Military veterans inherently understand the importance of working to high standards with a dual focus on quality and safety on any day and hour. This ability to work regardless of the hands on the clock or numbers on the calendar are an incredible value to an employer in a world where service, quality, and precision are now a requirement and not a differentiator.

  2. They Are Teachers. Any military member from any service and any military occupation knows that teaching peers, superiors, and subordinates is a central part of any job.

  3. They Aren’t Afraid to Get Their Hands Dirty. When I was in Iraq, my planning team of officers from O3 to O5 took our turn burning human waste in the August heat in Baghdad. Soldiers from Africa to Iraq to Afghanistan have done the same and as a group of senior officers we were no different and had to do our share. This ability to literally get your hands “covered” is a distinct sign of military “can-do” attitude and culture that the Marines to the Coast Guard and every service in between possesses.

  4. They Know Diversity Makes Great Teams. A lot of businesses and institutions espouse diversity but do not fully appreciate the strength that true racial, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity bring to a team. Military members have experienced true diversity daily and produced better results because of the diversity that encompasses them daily.

  5. They Take Stress with A Smile. Stress in the modern economy is becoming greater as competition grows. Customers demand more because high levels of quality service are the norm and not the exception. Military veterans know that humor, teamwork, high performance levels, and consistent quality are the best ways to perform under stress for long periods of time. Stress with a smile is a hallmark of military veteran workers.

  6. They Understand They Must Work Their Way Up. Every military veteran started their military career at the bottom. When military personnel transfer into a new military unit and duty station, they must relearn the ropes, learn the culture, and learn how the new team operates. This understanding, that starting at the bottom does not mean that you remain at the bottom, is what makes veterans a great entry level employee.

  7. They Understand Work-Life Balance for Their Team. Work-life balance swings and there are always exceptions. Military veterans understand how to maintain standards, get all the work done, and still allow soccer games to be watched, plays attended, and vacations with the family. All military veterans at some point in their career have missed an important family activity. Veterans can keep a strong work focus and still ensure that family and personal time happens.

  8. They Volunteer. All military members know they should “never” volunteer, but military veteran employees are always the first ones to volunteer for an extra shift or to help another team member. This ability to volunteer is an inherent maturity in military veteran employees because they understand that organizations, and their employees, need to be flexible, agile, and understanding of changes because of unexpected events or new requirements.

  9. They Will Pick Up the Trash. One of the first things military organizations do in the day is walk their area of responsibility and pick up trash. I still remember picking up trash as a Lieutenant Colonel because everyone else was – if a Private is picking up trash, then shouldn’t a Lieutenant Colonel? Trash pick up also gives everyone a level of pride in their organization. Finally, as Navy carrier operations demonstrate, making everyone walk the carrier deck looking for objects that could damage aircraft a safer, more effective, and higher operational unit. Trash pickup is a little task that demonstrates the pride of an organization.

  10. They Will Train Their Replacement. I have worked for organizations where leaders did not train or teach their subordinates because they were worried about being replaced. In the military, leaders know that training and teaching team members to understand and excel in your responsibility is how you create new leaders and how you make your replacement better than yourself. Military veterans see training their replacement as a part of their job and not a threat to their career.

Employers should always seek to hire the best employee. Hiring a military veteran ensures that an employer gets a great employee with many hidden skills sets that will benefit the organization for years to come.


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