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Veterans Benefits Information

Bringing the Legion Family 'back together'

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As American Legion national commander during 2017-2018, Denise Rohan traveled all over the nation visiting American Legion posts. And at many of her stops she heard from female Legionnaires married to non-veterans that there was no place for their spouses in the American Legion Family.

That's no longer the case. During the recent American Legion’s 101st National Convention, delegates approved changes to the Constitution and Bylaws to replace the word “wife” with “spouse,” related to the membership criteria for the American Legion Auxiliary .

In August, Denise – a member of American Legion Post 385 and Auxiliary Unit 385 in Verona, Wis. - watched as her fellow U.S. Army veteran husband Mike became a member of the American Legion Auxiliary. Mike received his membership card onstage during the American Legion Auxiliary’s 99th National Convention in Indianapolis, joining American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Director Chanin Nuntavong as the first two male spouses to join the Auxiliary.

“With a (national commander’s) theme of ‘Family First,’ and having the male spouses and having no place for them was really difficult to try to explain across the nation,” said Denise, who served as a member of a Legion ad-hoc committee that in 2011 was tasked with evaluating the male spouse issue. “So many of those male spouses … who want to help but didn’t feel like they really belonged … this is really a way of bringing the entire (Legion Family) back together.

“Now that we do have an answer … I’m really happy that Mike joined to get the ball rolling, kick it off and say ‘finally there’s a place for our male spouses.”

Mike, who also is a PUFL member of Post 385 and serves as chairman of The American Legion Marketing Commission, said joining the Auxiliary is “a way of honoring the service of Denise,” Mike said. “She served in the United States Army, and she served as national commander as both a Paid-Up-For-Life Legion member and a Paid-Up-For-Life Auxiliary member. So me joining … it was just a way to honor Denise.”

Mike said opening up Auxiliary eligibility to spouses is an opportunity “that draws us closer together and allows us to speak with one voice as a family. What I can do is promote the American Legion Auxiliary as a male spouse of a servicemember and encourage (others) to find their place in the American Legion Auxiliary.

“In my own mind I’m thinking that place doesn’t exist yet. It hasn’t been created yet. We don’t have to rush to be the leaders of the American Legion Auxiliary, but there is a place for us there. The male spouses have to figure that out in consultation with the Auxiliary (at the unit level).”

Pointing out there are several all-woman American Legion posts across the country, Denise said those posts also will benefit from the change. “They’ve been able to have (Auxiliary units) as far as mothers and their daughters go,” she said. “But those all-female posts out there are now able to have the Auxiliary with their (spouses) in them.”

Also joining the Auxiliary as soon as he was able was Maine Legionnaire Amedeo Lauria, who signed up Sept. 1. A 30-year veteran of the U.S Army and reserves – where he met his wife and current Harry James Conway Post 135 member Susan – Amedeo hoped to let more people about the change in eligibility for the Auxiliary.

“It’s good that we support reach other,” said Amedeo, a 20-year Legionnaire and former Department of Maine service office. “I did it mostly to get some awareness to the fact it’s changed. For me specifically … it’s not the ladies Auxiliary. It’s the Auxiliary.”

Amedeo said when he first joined The American Legion he wasn’t as active, mainly attending events and donating items. “I didn’t even own a hat, really, because I was focused on earning a living and being a member of the military,” he said. “When I retired … I went to the post (and became more active). And it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy the Legion Family. It’s just a great, positive group of people to be associated with.

“So when the opportunity came to be a member of the Auxiliary, I figured what better way than for somebody who’s a Legionnaire to get the word out. There are spouses of veterans who have no other way to become a member of the Legion (Family), except through this process. Hopefully we see some interest in joining the Auxiliary.”

Amedeo said Maine’s American Legion Auxiliary is “very strong. One of the ladies from our post, Joan Caron, was recently state president for the Auxiliary. She had a great year. She donated $24,000 worth of wheelchairs to the Togus (VA Medical Center). You can see the stuff they do. They just do great things.”


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Veterans benefits center set for North Carolina

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For the third time in four years, American Legion Post 67 in Cary, N.C., is providing an opportunity for veterans to get answers – and sometimes resolutions – regarding their benefits and healthcare.

On Sept. 12-14, Post 67 is conducting another Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC), teaming up with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Wake County (N.C.) Veterans’ Services and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The center will take place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 12, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 13 and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Herbert Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary.

In 2016 and 2017 Post 67 put on a similar event, assisting more than 1,600 veterans in the process while awarding more than $1 million in benefits. A VEAC was scheduled for September 2018 but was cancelled because of Hurricane Florence.

The VEACs make available to veterans various local, state and federal agencies to assist with veterans’ benefits and healthcare questions. Veterans will have the opportunity to meet face to face with those workers, rather than dealing with them over the phone or online. Veterans from as far away as Arizona have attended the events, where they can check on the status of pending VA claims and file new ones on the spot. Some receive VA disability ratings while at the center.

At the VEAC, workers will assist with face-to-face explanation and assistance facilitating and expediting existing claims and appeals, filling new claims, and accepting all claims-related evidence for processing and providing information regarding benefit-related VA programs.

Those seeking help at the VEAC are asked to bring proper documentation about their case: DD 214, all medical records about any military and civilian disability, and dependency documents if new or not already provided to the VA.

Post 67 Service Officer Richard Spyrison said he expects 1,400-1,500 veterans and family members to attend this year’s VEAC; wait times could be long, so those using the VEAC are asked to be patients. Coffee, water and snacks will be provided free of charge.

For more information contact Spyrison at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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American Legion Celebration of Freedom in Wisconsin

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The American Legion’s 100th anniversary is saluted Thursday through Sunday (Sept. 4-8) in a special state Celebration of Freedom at Veterans Memorial Field (Columbia County Fairgrounds) in Portage, Wis.

The Wisconsin American Legion Foundation, Inc., is bringing in the American Vietnam Traveling Tribute Wall, the 100-Year Centennial Chronology of The American Legion, the Greatest Legislation display on the history of the GI Bill, musicians, vendors, games for families, food, beverages and more. Activities get underway Wednesday at 3 p.m. when the traveling Vietnam Wall is escorted by American Legion Riders and local first responders to the field, located at 300 Superior Street in the headquarters city of the Department of Wisconsin, where it will be prepared for public display Thursday.

The wall will be open to the public for round-the-clock viewing mid-day Thursday through Sunday at 3 p.m. A blessing of the Wall by American Legion members from the Ho Chunk Nation highlights opening ceremonies is Thursday at 3 p.m.

Food and beverages are available all day Friday, which is capped with a concert by musician Chris Kroeze, who placed second on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2018. Tickets for the Chris Kroeze performance are $20 and can be purchased onsite or online here.

Audience members need to bring their own seating.

Saturday, the games begin. Kickball, corn hole, vendors, exhibits, a beverage tent by Post 47, and two 45-minute concerts by The Memories – 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. – fill the day, followed by an evening rock concert by Conscious Pilot. Tickets for the Conscious Pilot show are $20 and can be purchased onsite or online here. Audience members need to bring their own seating.

Sunday at 9:30 a.m., a POW/MIA ceremony will be conducted at the Wall, followed by a 10 a.m. POW/MIA Silent March led by Wisconsin’s 2nd District.

The event is produced by the entire American Legion Family of Wisconsin – The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Riders.

The event is being hosted by The Wisconsin American Legion, Inc. – a nonprofit 501 C3 organization. All proceeds help fund American Legion Department of Wisconsin programs and services for veterans, military personnel, youth and communities.

Visit https://wilegion.org/ for more information.


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Neil Walker honored as American Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year

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Neil Walker might not be a Pirate anymore, but Pittsburgh welcomed him home on Tuesday night to receive a prestigious award.

The Gibsonia, Pa., native and longtime Pittsburgh Pirate was honored prior to the game as the 2019 American Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year.

The award, first presented in 1958, honors a former American Legion Baseball player annually who is currently playing in the Major Leagues for his character, leadership, playing abilities and community service. Individuals are recommended by their respective post.

Walker received the award during a pregame ceremony Tuesday with Francis MacDonald, national vice commander of The American Legion, and was joined by his wife Niki, daughter Nora and parents Tom and Carolyn, as well as members of American Legion Post 548. To watch video of the ceremony, click here.

Previous award recipients include famed legends such as Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Brooks Robinson, Greg Maddux and Tony Gwynn, current stars such as Justin Verlander and Albert Pujols and even Walker's current manager, Don Mattingly, who won the award in 1987.

Walker, formerly of American Legion Post 548 in Gibsonia, Pa., was honored for his work in the community in the Pittsburgh area.

Among his many contributions, Walker frequently is involved with the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, veterans’ causes and homeless shelters in the area. Additionally, he and his wife are involved in the Animal Friends Shelter. Walker is a vice president of a group called "Clint Play Ball Fund" that brings baseball to underprivileged programs in Charleston, S.C., and Western Pennsylvania.

Despite being a member of the Miami Marlins now, Walker, who played in Pittsburgh for seven seasons, saw an opportunity to be recognized in his home community and the Pirates staff happily offered to host the ceremony.

“Pittsburgh is the town where I grew up learning sports, particularly the game of baseball,” Walker told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The Pirates were the organization that gave me my first opportunity, so it only feels natural to have it be there.”

“I’ve seen the list before, and it’s humbling,” Walker continued. “American Legion Baseball is such a good program for teaching kids the right way to play and learning valuable lessons through the veteran's program. I was really excited to know that I was a part of the list.”

Walker’s father, Tom, is a former Major Leaguer, a Vietnam-era private first class, an American Legion member and was an assistant coach on Neil’s American Legion team growing up.

That team’s manager, Bob Schleiden, is now the post commander and nominated Walker for the award.

“For American Legion members, we’re all veterans and Neil now represents, to us, all the qualities and expectations that we have for each other as veterans,” Schleiden told the Tribune-Review. “We hold each other to a higher standard because of our love of country and each other, and we consider each other family. Neil now represents that, and he is the essence of that on the field. So he carries a little extra visibility for us now, and we are extremely proud that he is the one that represents us.”


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A Muslim Marine’s Trauma: I Was Set Up, Arrested and Acquitted

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While stationed at Quantico, I was arrested for a crime for which I was later acquitted. But the scars of that ordeal stayed with me for years after.

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