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Disabled veteran finds 'brotherhood' during COVID-19 outbreak

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit Las Vegas, Army veteran Ricky Poe knew life was going to get even more difficult. Poe uses a power wheelchair and public transportation to get around, but he also is highly susceptible to getting both the flu and pneumonia.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Poe’s primary care physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs urged Poe to self-quarantine to avoid catching COVID-19. But that left Poe without the ability to get to the grocery store, something the veteran recently needed.

So Poe reached out to fellow Legionnaire Victor “Doc” Moss, the adjutant at Paradise Post 149. Within minutes, Moss had another Legionnaire ready to not just pick up groceries, but provide Poe a care package of well more than what Poe was requesting.

It was a blessing for Poe and an extension of a relationship that started in 2019 and has led to Poe becoming a Paid-Up-For-Life member of Post 149.

The help he got from Post 149 “says a lot,” Poe said. “I don’t have friends here. I lost my wife unexpectedly in January of 2019. I’m all alone here.”

Moss said Post 149’s relationship with Poe began in 2019 when Poe was the recipient of furniture through the post’s “Help for Heroes” program with Walker Furniture. The program provides wounded U.S. military personnel and veterans in Clark County with specialized and home furniture. After receiving the furniture, Poe joined Post 149 and soon became a PUFL member.

Moss said Post 149 staged a fundraising drive around two years ago to provide household items, food and money for struggling veterans in the community. Among the items collected during the drive was what Moss said at the time was around three years’ worth of toilet paper. When the coronavirus hit Las Vegas, leading to a toilet paper shortage, the post began donating the coveted item to the Greater Las Vegas Fisher House and other veterans programs.

The post also sent out an email to its membership, letting it know the toilet paper was available. It was shortly after that when Poe reached out to Moss requesting assistance, saying he was trapped in his house in need of frozen and canned vegetables.

Moss contacted fellow Post 149 member Greg Whalen, himself a previous “Help for Heroes” recipient, to see if Whalen could put together a care package from Share Village, a Post 149-supported facility that provides affordable veteran housing and has a community food pantry.

Whalen told Moss “no problem” and was able to bring to Poe a larger care package. Poe was overwhelmed when Whalen showed up at his residence with the food.

“All I asked for was to be put in contact for the help from a Brother Member and I would pay my Brother back for whatever he brought me from the store,” Poe emailed to The American Legion. “It took all of 15 minutes via email for (Moss) to get back to me with a response of a Brother Legionnaire who was going to take time out of his day to bring me more than I asked for. Even more to my surprise it was at no cost to me which was a larger help to me as I live like most of us that are disabled veterans on a very tight fixed income.”

Moss said the ability to help Poe is a result of a larger effort by Post 149 to be involved with its community, including Walker Furniture and Share Village. It also led to both Poe and Whalen joining the post. And being able to help Poe “reinforces for us the reason we exist, the reason we created this post, which is community service,” Moss said. “We take a lot of pride of being in the community, donating a lot of money to people and helping them out.”

For Poe, who was a member of The American Legion in Mississippi but eventually let his membership lapse for 10 years, finding Post 149 in Las Vegas has been like finding a new family. Another fellow Legionnaire, Scott Wells, just this week went grocery shopping for Poe.

“I have never been a member of such a united Brother Hood like this in my life, not the Boy Scouts, not even the Army was such a caring Brotherhood like this would take their time from there day to help each other to help another brother in need like this,” Poe said in his email to the Legion. “I am so glad and thankful that I am a member of such a great organization of people. There is no other BROTHERHOOD like The American Legion and why I became a life member as soon as I could and recommend (every) member to do so.”


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Disabled veteran finds 'brotherhood' during COVID-19 outbreak

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit Las Vegas, Army veteran Ricky Poe knew life was going to get even more difficult. Poe uses a power wheelchair and public transportation to get around, but he also is highly susceptible to getting both the flu and pneumonia.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Poe’s primary care physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs urged Poe to self-quarantine to avoid catching COVID-19. But that left Poe without the ability to get to the grocery store, something the veteran recently needed.

So Poe reached out to fellow Legionnaire Victor “Doc” Moss, the adjutant at Paradise Post 149. Within minutes, Moss had another Legionnaire ready to not just pick up groceries, but provide Poe a care package of well more than what Poe was requesting.

It was a blessing for Poe and an extension of a relationship that started in 2019 and has led to Poe becoming a Paid-Up-For-Life member of Post 149.

The help he got from Post 149 “says a lot,” Poe said. “I don’t have friends here. I lost my wife unexpectedly in January of 2019. I’m all alone here.”

Moss said Post 149’s relationship with Poe began in 2019 when Poe was the recipient of furniture through the post’s “Help for Heroes” program with Walker Furniture. The program provides wounded U.S. military personnel and veterans in Clark County with specialized and home furniture. After receiving the furniture, Poe joined Post 149 and soon became a PUFL member.

Moss said Post 149 staged a fundraising drive around two years ago to provide household items, food and money for struggling veterans in the community. Among the items collected during the drive was what Moss said at the time was around three years’ worth of toilet paper. When the coronavirus hit Las Vegas, leading to a toilet paper shortage, the post began donating the coveted item to the Greater Las Vegas Fisher House and other veterans programs.

The post also sent out an email to its membership, letting it know the toilet paper was available. It was shortly after that when Poe reached out to Moss requesting assistance, saying he was trapped in his house in need of frozen and canned vegetables.

Moss contacted fellow Post 149 member Greg Whalen, himself a previous “Help for Heroes” recipient, to see if Whalen could put together a care package from Share Village, a Post 149-supported facility that provides affordable veteran housing and has a community food pantry.

Whalen told Moss “no problem” and was able to bring to Poe a larger care package. Poe was overwhelmed when Whalen showed up at his residence with the food.

“All I asked for was to be put in contact for the help from a Brother Member and I would pay my Brother back for whatever he brought me from the store,” Poe emailed to The American Legion. “It took all of 15 minutes via email for (Moss) to get back to me with a response of a Brother Legionnaire who was going to take time out of his day to bring me more than I asked for. Even more to my surprise it was at no cost to me which was a larger help to me as I live like most of us that are disabled veterans on a very tight fixed income.”

Moss said the ability to help Poe is a result of a larger effort by Post 149 to be involved with its community, including Walker Furniture and Share Village. It also led to both Poe and Whalen joining the post. And being able to help Poe “reinforces for us the reason we exist, the reason we created this post, which is community service,” Moss said. “We take a lot of pride of being in the community, donating a lot of money to people and helping them out.”

For Poe, who was a member of The American Legion in Mississippi but eventually let his membership lapse for 10 years, finding Post 149 in Las Vegas has been like finding a new family. Another fellow Legionnaire, Scott Wells, just this week went grocery shopping for Poe.

“I have never been a member of such a united Brother Hood like this in my life, not the Boy Scouts, not even the Army was such a caring Brotherhood like this would take their time from there day to help each other to help another brother in need like this,” Poe said in his email to the Legion. “I am so glad and thankful that I am a member of such a great organization of people. There is no other BROTHERHOOD like The American Legion and why I became a life member as soon as I could and recommend (every) member to do so.”


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Congressionally mandated commission: Women should be eligible for the draft

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A congressionally mandated commission recommended Wednesday that women should be eligible for the draft and required to sign up at 18.

Congress created the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service in 2017 to develop recommendations about the need for a military draft and how to foster an interest in all types of national service among young Americans. In their final report, which was shared with the Pentagon, White House and Congress this week, commissioners recommend extending selective service registration to women.

“Women are as likely as men to be qualified for military service,” said Debra Wada, vice chair of the commission and the former assistant secretary of the Army. “Ensuring they are part of the registration pool will only make sure we’re more prepared. It signals that all Americans may be expected to serve in a national emergency.”

Conscription into the military hasn’t been used in more than 45 years, but adult men are still required by law to sign up for selective service at 18. The commission proposed that Congress introduce legislation to amend the Military Selective Service Act to eliminate male-only registration. The policy change would expand draft eligibility to all Americans ages 18 to 26.

Over a period of nearly three years, commissioners held public meetings and hearings, spoke to people in 42 cities, consulted more than 530 organizations and collected 4,300 public comments. The topic of extending the draft to women “evoked a range of passionate and heartfelt views,” the commissioners wrote.

In the end, they decided the male-only military draft excludes women from a fundamental civic obligation, reinforces gender stereotypes about women’s roles and omits a skilled population from being called into military service during emergencies.

The commission found that 29% of men and slightly more women, at 29.3%, are qualified to meet the initial physical and educational standards to serve in the U.S. military, Wada said.

“Ultimately it comes down to making sure that at a time of critical need, we have access to highly qualified individuals,” she said.

More than 224,000 women serve in the U.S. military. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the opening of all combat roles to women five years ago, and at least 30 women have successfully completed Army Ranger School, according to the report.

The policy change is long overdue, commissioners said.

The report, titled “Inspired to Serve,” listed dozens of recommendations to increase Americans’ participation in military, national and public service. It aims to make a “service year” a rite of passage for young Americans and boost standards for civic education from kindergarten through high school.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Wednesday the report came at a “pivotal moment,” as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our national service infrastructure, from the military, to public and community service, has been called into action to fight the COVID-19 virus,” Reed said. “This is not a report that should sit on the shelf, this is a call to action. These recommendations can serve as a guidepost for what the future of national service looks like.”

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., a combat veteran, said he would work with other lawmakers to turn language in the report into legislation.

“Whether it be in the National Defense Authorization Act or stand alone, we are going to make this happen,” he said.

Members of The American Legion can receive 50 percent discounts on annual subscriptions to the Stars and Stripes digital platform of exclusive military news, topics of interest to veterans, special features, photos and other content, including the daily e-newspaper, job listings and history. American Legion members can subscribe for $19.99 a year by visiting legion.stripes.com and using the coupon code LEGIONSTRONG when filling out the online form.


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Congressionally mandated commission: Women should be eligible for the draft

E-mail Print PDF

A congressionally mandated commission recommended Wednesday that women should be eligible for the draft and required to sign up at 18.

Congress created the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service in 2017 to develop recommendations about the need for a military draft and how to foster an interest in all types of national service among young Americans. In their final report, which was shared with the Pentagon, White House and Congress this week, commissioners recommend extending selective service registration to women.

“Women are as likely as men to be qualified for military service,” said Debra Wada, vice chair of the commission and the former assistant secretary of the Army. “Ensuring they are part of the registration pool will only make sure we’re more prepared. It signals that all Americans may be expected to serve in a national emergency.”

Conscription into the military hasn’t been used in more than 45 years, but adult men are still required by law to sign up for selective service at 18. The commission proposed that Congress introduce legislation to amend the Military Selective Service Act to eliminate male-only registration. The policy change would expand draft eligibility to all Americans ages 18 to 26.

Over a period of nearly three years, commissioners held public meetings and hearings, spoke to people in 42 cities, consulted more than 530 organizations and collected 4,300 public comments. The topic of extending the draft to women “evoked a range of passionate and heartfelt views,” the commissioners wrote.

In the end, they decided the male-only military draft excludes women from a fundamental civic obligation, reinforces gender stereotypes about women’s roles and omits a skilled population from being called into military service during emergencies.

The commission found that 29% of men and slightly more women, at 29.3%, are qualified to meet the initial physical and educational standards to serve in the U.S. military, Wada said.

“Ultimately it comes down to making sure that at a time of critical need, we have access to highly qualified individuals,” she said.

More than 224,000 women serve in the U.S. military. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the opening of all combat roles to women five years ago, and at least 30 women have successfully completed Army Ranger School, according to the report.

The policy change is long overdue, commissioners said.

The report, titled “Inspired to Serve,” listed dozens of recommendations to increase Americans’ participation in military, national and public service. It aims to make a “service year” a rite of passage for young Americans and boost standards for civic education from kindergarten through high school.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Wednesday the report came at a “pivotal moment,” as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our national service infrastructure, from the military, to public and community service, has been called into action to fight the COVID-19 virus,” Reed said. “This is not a report that should sit on the shelf, this is a call to action. These recommendations can serve as a guidepost for what the future of national service looks like.”

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., a combat veteran, said he would work with other lawmakers to turn language in the report into legislation.

“Whether it be in the National Defense Authorization Act or stand alone, we are going to make this happen,” he said.

Members of The American Legion can receive 50 percent discounts on annual subscriptions to the Stars and Stripes digital platform of exclusive military news, topics of interest to veterans, special features, photos and other content, including the daily e-newspaper, job listings and history. American Legion members can subscribe for $19.99 a year by visiting legion.stripes.com and using the coupon code LEGIONSTRONG when filling out the online form.


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Delivering medical suppplies part of 'what we're here for'

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Dave Butkus had heard enough. The service officer at American Legion Post 146 in Bethlehem, Conn., had listened to government updates, and viewed social media posts, of health-care workers running out of supplies – masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes – that impacted their day-to-day efforts and personal health in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

So during his post’s weekly Friday afternoon get-together on March 20, Butkus floated the idea of staging a callout for those very supplies from the community. With the post concurring, calls for donations were placed on various Facebook pages in the Bethlehem area and neighboring towns.

What followed was an outpouring from the community, leading to dozens of nurses, EMTs and other health-care workers from various facilities throughout the southern half of the state getting critical supplies.

At the Friday meeting, Butkus said “This is what we’re here for. It looks like things are pretty serious here. We should be the first to act.”

After posting on social media, the post already had donations by 8:30 a.m. the following morning. "We are connected to a blue collar mentality in America," Butkus said. "We are the ones that have the outreach to the carpenters and the painters and the woodworkers who may have these (supplies) in their homes and wouldn't be thinking about them."

Post 146 wanted to cut through red tape and make the supplies available right away, which is why it set up a distribution center at the post and began assembling kits with the donations. Fifteen minutes later a local LPN came in to get supplies, telling the Legionnaires “I could really use this.”

Donations continued to come in, including one person anonymously providing 100 masks. The kits included three to five masks, gloves, gauze, wipes and cleaning supplies; by 11 a.m., Butkus said the word had gotten out about their effort.

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. the post handed out 50 kits, distributing in those kits 250 masks and 1,200 pairs of gloves – all very much needed by the local health-care professionals.

“We were completely out (of supplies), so we realized what a big deal it was,” Butkus said. “The stories that came out from the people picking up (the supplies), they were nervous. They were out or getting ready to be out with no way to find the gear.”

Sue Ambadjes, a nurse in nearby Watertown, came to Post 146 after her workplace – the Glendale Center nursing home in Naugatuck – had run out of items such as masks. She left with a bag of supplies.

“I’m just on my way to work now and this will be a bigf help,” Ambadjes told the Republican American. “I will share these with the two girls I work with.”

Butkus said the reaction of those receiving the supplies were “thankful. When we should be the ones thanking them.”

Post 146 has continued to accept donations and is delivering more supplies, but is now suggesting that those wishing to provide help do so directly to the health-care providers. “We were just the middle man,” Butkus said. “But people have food and people need food, but they still go through a food bank. We just want to make sure we offer an outlet.”

What started as an idea quickly turned into a community groundswell. But for Butkus and Post 146’s 55-strong membership, it just made sense to get involved.

“That’s kind of what we’re here for, right?” Butkus said. “We have that duty and obligation to continue to serve as veterans."


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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.