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Boys Nation 2019: Sunday’s schedule gives senators chance to pay respect to the fallen

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Before the delegates to American Legion Boys Nation joined him, National Chaplain Father Philip Salois had a moment to himself Sunday night at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

He reached out and ran his hand across the names of his fallen comrades — Terrance Bowell, Salois’ lieutenant in the war; and right below Bowell’s name, Herbert W. Klug, Salois’ squadmate who died trying to help Salois rescue Bowell and others from an ambush.

A Boys Nation senator joined Salois, then another, then more, a few asking questions about Salois’ friends and the others who gave their lives, their names memorialized along the wall.

“It puts everything into perspective. You really don’t understand how fortunate you are, (me) not being from a military family at all, and realizing what they have gone through, what the families have gone through,” said Ashrit Verma of New Jersey. “Especially with them just touching it, almost as if they’re able to see, maybe not physically, but some sort of spiritual embodiment of the fallen soldiers.

“… I’m speechless, to be honest.”

Sunday’s time at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial came hours after Salois shared the story of his Vietnam experience, and the loss of his comrades, during the annual Boys Nation memorial service.

“I know that they’re helping me every day to plod on, to keep going,” Salois said during the service at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., which hosts Boys Nation.

“I didn’t mourn for my two buddies until many years later, because when you’re in a battlefield, when you’re in the middle of war, the middle of an ambush, you don’t have time to cry, you don’t have time to have feelings, you don’t have time to mourn their loss,” Salois said. “You talk about it a little bit, but you’ve got to shut down, and that’s what happened to me. I shut down and I didn’t really go back to see the family (of Klug) until 20 years later, and I felt I needed to do that to complete my own healing, as well as help the family heal.”

Boys Nation Senator Parker Rossignol of Florida said listening to Salois was an emotional experience.

“Walking down there by yourself is nothing like walking by it with a veteran,” Rossignol said of the group’s visit to the Vietnam memorial. “You really see it from a whole entirely different angle, them pointing at the wall and seeing their friends, their neighbors, their classmates that died; you just realize the personal connection they have with people in this one location, and how many died all at the same time, same day, same month.”

Boys Nation will honor the fallen again on Monday, when Nebraska’s Evan Jolley and Oklahoma’s Tobias Johnson participate in a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Also Sunday

  • President pro tempore Mason Moore of Idaho appointed Nationalist Andrew Gary of Louisiana as chief clerk; Federalist Ashrit Verma of New Jersey as assistant clerk; Federalist John Pellegrin of California as senate chaplain; and Federalist Jeremiah Phillips of Washington as sergeant-at-arms.

  • Secretary of the senate Manish Raj of Wisconsin appointed Nationalist Isaac Buchholtz of South Dakota as assistant.

  • The two parties began the process of selecting their candidates for president and vice president through the convention process.

  • The senators also had dinner with state and national Legion officers at Post 136 in Greenbelt, Md., Sunday night before the trip to the National Mall.

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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USAA Tips: Steps for an annual financial check-up

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

An annual financial checkup done is always a good idea. Financial advisors definitely have their place in helping us reach our financial goals, but there’s a lot you can do yourself so you know and understand your financial position.

The purpose of the annual financial review is to help you reach your financial goals: Do you want to retire early? Do you want to pay down debt? Do you want a new car? A self-administered financial checkup can help answer these questions.

Discuss Goals With Your Spouse/Partner.

Before diving into the numbers, sit and discuss the non-numeric issues. Each of you should discuss your financial goals for the next one to three years. What are your new joint financial goals? With financial issues, it is so easy to start getting into the numbers, becoming analytical, and discussing action steps. However, unless you and your partner are aligned on the financial issues and the priority of your financial goals, the next steps in the financial discussion will not be the ones that you specifically need. Remember, talk before you calculate.

Update The Important Information.

Next, get the most recent updated copies of all your investments, mortgage payoff, loan payoffs, health care insurance, credit card statements, and life insurance. While you are gathering these records, check and update all of your family information with the correct address, phone numbers, email and beneficiary arrangements, and ensure that your spouse or partner can speak on your behalf to the financial provider. This is also a good time to ensure that you can locate wills, Powers of Attorney, and other legal documents. Finally, put everything in one place and place an electronic backup on a secure device in another location.

Update Your Budget and Amounts.

Budgets take a lot of time to create, but once they are done, they are invaluable guides to ensure you meet your financial goals. First, update all your budget categories to ensure that your spending areas have not changed. Second, update the amounts for each category of spending that you are actually spending. Third, update all of your income sources with the correct amounts. Fourth, do a check to see if you can eliminate and reduce categories and the spending so that you can save more. This is the tradeoff step. If gymnastic lessons are important, do the gymnastics lessons and go out to dinner less. Credit card spending and any negative spending trends need to be addressed here. The point of a budget is to ensure that you can save and invest enough to achieve your goals while meeting your basic expenses.

Can You Find Other Financial Benefits.

Look for areas where you can get discounts, ask for reduced payments because of long service to a provider, and ensure you are effectively using all the financial benefits from your employers. Make sure you are contributing enough to get the maximum of your employer match for 401K investments, using pre-tax spending accounts for daycare, and the like. Any steps that you can take to ensure that you are maximizing all of your financial benefits and discounts are never wasted.

Assess Your Retirement Investments.

When you gather your current retirement account statements, make sure that you get copies and an analysis of your employers’ retirement benefits, your Social Security estimate, and any health care insurance following retirement. Conduct an analysis of your investments and pay close attention to the fees and expenses you are being charged. High fees with low comparative returns are never a good sign.

Generate Extra Income.

Often times, generating more income towards your financial goals is frequently overlooked during financial checkups. Can you start a part time job? Are there promotions at work that you can apply for? Do you have another skill that can generate an income? Additional income is an incredible point of personal financial leverage because, if your expenses are in order, nearly all of your additional income can go to meet your financial goals.

If Needed, Call In The Experts On Specific Topics.

When you understand your goals, spending, and have a complete budget, then the next step may be a personal financial expert. Want to apply for a new mortgage, want to try some different investment techniques, or need more life insurance? These are all areas of tremendous financial breadth where an expert would be of invaluable assistance.


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Boys Nation 2019: Senate officials elected on Saturday

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The numbers weren’t quite in Mason Moore’s favor when the field of candidates for president pro tempore at American Legion Boys Nation were announced Saturday night.

Of the 11 candidates seeking their fellow senators’ vote on the first day of business at American Legion Boys Nation 2019, eight, including Moore, were from the Nationalist party. And four — Moore, Arkansas’ Gavin Michau, Alaska’s Alden Jerome and Arizona’s Alexander Diaz — came from the Adams section.

Moore admitted those numbers factored into his consideration on whether to run for the position. Ultimately, he made the right choice.

Moore edged New Hampshire Federalist Kyle Duffy 52-48 on the final ballot to win Boys Nation 2019’s first elected office.

“We were having some serious discussions about, do we want to run this many candidates? And we eventually decided that we did, and since we had multiple rounds of voting, it wouldn’t be a problem. We did have to work more quickly than we would have had to otherwise in the oncoming rounds of voting to ensure that the votes coalesced around a single candidate,” Moore said.

As president pro tempore, Moore will preside over the Boys Nation Senate until a vice president is elected Tuesday, and will do so afterward when the vice president is not available.

“I wanted to be able to do something that not only allowed me to have a wide range of latitude and influence on the floor, but also allowed me to preside over proceedings — I also have some experience in the area, so it was a pretty easy decision to go with something that allowed me to exercise parliamentary procedure,” said Moore, whose experience at Idaho Boys State included mayor, president pro tempore and lieutenant governor.

Secretary of the Senate

After the president pro tempore election, senators voted for the secretary of the senate. Wisconsin’s Manish Raj defeated fellow Nationalist Alden Jerome of Alaska on the final ballot, emerging victorious from a field of seven candidates.

“I chose (to run for) secretary because, quite honestly, I have not been too involved in government in my life. That’s just never been emphasized as an option,” Raj said. “But now, after Badger Boys State and currently at Boys Nation, I realize that government really is an incredible opportunity to show your involvement in something, that you can really make a difference in. And I think secretary is just the best way I can serve.”

The secretary maintains the journal of the Boys Nation Senate and examines all bills, amendments and resolutions.

The senators will elect a president and vice president Tuesday. Unlike Saturday’s elections, in which any number of nominees could be offered by each section, each party will select a presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate in convention.

More from Saturday

  • The senators took their oath of office and officially began submitting their bills and resolutions. That legislation can be tracked online at https://www.legion.org/boysnation/legislation.

  • The senators also received their committee assignments and met in committee for the first time. One committee covers bills that, in the U.S. Senate, would be assigned to the Agriculture, Nutrition, Forestry, Appropriations, Armed Services, Banking, and Housing and Urban Development committees; a second covers Budget, Commerce, Science, Transportation, Energy and Natural Resources issues; the third addresses all bills assigned to the Environment, Public Works, Finance, Foreign Relations, Government Affairs, Indian Affairs, and Intelligence committees; and the fourth considers Judiciary, Rules, Veterans’ Affairs, Health, Education, Labor, Pensions, Small Business, Ethics, and Aging. Committee chairmen are Nationalist Noah Horlacher of Utah, Nationalist Luke Takashima of California, Federalist Ethan Roos of Indiana, and Nationalist Samuel Osa-Agbontaen of Massachusetts.

  • Party chairmen were elected at party conventions, with Federalist Ahmad Alsheikh of New Mexico and Nationalist Juncheng Quan of Rhode Island earning their respective party nods.

Friday

The 2019 Boys Nation senators arrived at Marymount University on Friday to begin their “week that shapes a lifetime,” the vast majority arriving in the D.C. area by air but some of the closer senators arriving by car.

After checking in and receiving their room keys and shirts, the senators split into their sections — Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Washington — where section counselors introduced themselves and informed the senators what to expect in the week ahead.

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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Text messages spur district’s membership surge

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Monique Clemons’ phone wouldn’t stop dinging.

The immediate responses to her mass text message confirmed Clemons was onto something. As commander of District 21 in the Department of California last year, she set out to break membership records.

By the time her phone quieted, Clemons’ plan had propelled District 21 to surpass its 100 percent membership target. In fact, every post in the district hit its goals, pushing the district to 117 percent for the year.

“It was pure determination,” explained Clemons, a member of Post 289 in Riverside and now 5th Area membership director in California. “It was a multi-step process. We actually had never been able to get to 100 percent. I knew my district had the numbers of veterans but they just aren't coming into The American Legion.”

Her first tactic was to deliver members from Post 1000 to a local post. But in order to do so Clemons understood that the posts needed to be appealing to the potential new members. So she ensured that at district meetings, post officers would report on Four Pillars activities. That motivated posts to examine their priorities and focus more on their programs related to the Four Pillars.

“I wanted to know what they were doing about the Four Pillars because membership is not just the numbers of who you're getting in, it is about retention,” she said. “It's all connected. We had to make our posts better to make our numbers grow.”

The next step was a mailing revitalization. Of the 1,700 cards that were mailed, about 450 immediately transferred into a local post. “That got the posts excited because all of a sudden this revitalization gave them a bump,” Clemons said.

That early success paved the way for the next step: a calling and texting revitalization.

As a Gulf War era veteran, Clemons understands the struggles of trying to reach Post 1000 members. Many only have cell phones. Many won’t respond to a phone call because they are at work, busy with family or don’t recognize the number.

So Clemons crafted a text message that succinctly explained who she was and that she could transfer them into a local post. All she needed from them was a confirmation via text.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Clemons estimates that she received 35 confirmations of the approximately 100 texts she sent out. It was important for her to connect with the younger generation of veterans.

“We need to start focusing on bringing the 9/11 generation in because right now we have to get them trained and mentored so that they will be able to carry on the Legion,” she said. “I think we're making it better.”

As successful as the experiment with modern technology was, she also values traditional face-to-face recruiting.

When discussing The American Legion with prospective members, Clemons focuses on the breadth of programs. She talks about Boys State, American Legion Riders, scholarship opportunities, children and youth programs, flag advocacy and whatever else until she finds that connection. “You have to find what their interests are; just keep talking until you find that match,” she said.

In retrospect, Clemons is proud of the support her plan received even though there was trepidation at first. “Everyone was shocked,” she said of the 117 percent rate. “In the beginning, no one thought my plan would work. Everyone said a revitalization can't possibly do that.”

Looking ahead, Clemons envisions her area — and the entire department — hitting 100 percent membership for the coming year. But the actual number isn’t the most important result.

“I want us to make 100 percent again and have every post hit 100 percent,” she said. “But I think even more than just numbers, I want every post to be an extraordinary post where no matter where you go in California you walk in and everyone feels welcome. And that we are participating in every program because then membership won't be an issue. It will be automatic.”


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Proper respect for the U.S. flag on a grand scale

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For 19 years, American Legion G.I. Joe Post 244 in Jeffersontown, Ky., has been conducting an annual flag retirement ceremony on a scale not typical for most Legion posts. And for the past 10 years, – six-plus years of that as post commander – Legionnaire Kurt Hall has been involved with the ceremony.

In that time, Hall estimates the post has retired well over 200,000 flags – most recently, 25,000 were disposed of honorably in June. “We have always had at least 20,000, so it grew pretty rapidly from when (the post) started,” he said.

Hall said part of the large number can be attributed to the Oates Flag Company in Jeffersontown, whose owner was a member of Post 244. People would send flags in to be repaired, and if they were beyond repair the company would bring the flags to the post for retirement.

And as word got out about the post’s efforts, flags began to pour in from all over the country. “We’ll get a box of flags in the mail … that have come from other posts in Massachusetts and Minnesota,” Hall said. “After (a recent USA Today article) we received a box that had some flags in it that a company had sent from Maryland. Whenever the story gets out, people will get interested for a while and we’ll be getting flags from all over the country.”

Hull said the ceremonies typically happen the weekend prior to or after Flag Day. The day before the ceremony pallets are stacked on the ground on farmland owned by Post 244 member Hugh Colbert. The flags are placed on the pallets and soaked with an accelerant – usually diesel fuel – overnight. The sizes of the flags range in size, all the way up to a garrison flag (30 feet by 60 feet) provided by a local car dealership and the county fairgrounds.

A 20-minute ceremony that includes Post 244’s color guard, a rifle volley from members of a local VFW post and the playing of Taps follows the next day. Then the flags are lit, usually by one of Colbert’s sons or a guest of the post. Dozens of area residents show up to watch the retirement take place.

“We try to make it as ceremonial as we can,” Hall said. “We want to make sure they’re properly disposed and not just thrown away.”

The ceremony is emotional for Hall, a Vietnam War Army veteran. “It’s almost like going to a funeral, a veteran’s funeral,” he said. “You think about the Americans who died fighting for the flag. I’m sure they felt the same way. It’s almost like burying a brother in arms.”

Showing the proper way to retire the U.S. flag also provides Post 244 a way to educate others about Old Glory. “In the past we’ve gone into elementary schools and middle schools trying to teach them flag etiquette: proper display of the flag, its disposal, the 13 folds,” Hall said. “And the kids are interested in that. We want to make sure that they have the same respect for the flag that we do.”

The 2020 ceremony will mark the 20th anniversary of the post’s annual event. “We’re going to try to do it up bigger and better,” Hall said. “We’ve got a few programs we’re working, trying to get a larger number of flags in from around the country. We want to make it as big as we can.”

 


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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.