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American Legion News

The Legion's role in immigration reform

Source: May 28, 2024

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Illegal immigration is a topic of high importance to The American Legion. It has tracked border policy for decades and remains committed to engaging in dialogue on the evolving issue. Not only is illegal immigration a national security issue, estimates say that 40% of border patrol agents are veterans.

As members of Congress politicize the issue, states fight to exert control and immigrant children face the threat of exploitation, The American Legion is leading the way in forging a solution. 

"There has been a lot of political showmanship and conjecture related to illegal immigration across our southern border," American Legion National Commander Daniel Seehafer said. "But those talking points, used by both sides of the debate, don't actively work to solve the problem. That's why The American Legion has conducted multiple trips to the border to get a first-hand look at the issue, learn from those at ground zero and use these fact-finding tours to get a comprehensive understanding of what's at stake."

Recently, Seehafer led a delegation to Eagle Pass, Texas, with American Legion National Security Director Mario Marquez. Their trip followed an earlier visit to the border in Arizona by American Legion National Security Chairman Matthew Shuman.

"I was impressed by the caliber of men and women serving in the Border Patrol, Sheriffs' Departments and Guard units from multiple states," Seehafer said. "But seeing scattered shoes in the middle of the desert worn by a child, muddy backpacks lying in debris and hygiene items in the brush, you can't help but picture the hell that some of these families go through in making that dangerous trip to enter our country. If the natural elements weren't bad enough, they are subject to sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and extreme violence by smugglers and cartels." 

After his visit with two members of Congress in late March, Shuman shared a report with the commission and others.

"My trip was invaluable as I came away with deep learnings and profound insight," he said. "Among my experiences were literally seeing a cartel scout and witnessing and meeting many passionate Border Patrol agents who not only care and love our great nation, but also have deep passion and respect for the people who cross our borders. In fact, I learned that during a government shutdown, many agents spent their own personal money to purchase food, toys and other necessities for the people under their care at processing stations."

Shuman's trip was two-fold: a visit to the border in Nogales and meetings with those in charge of the Tucson Sector, the largest area to monitor along the border. In 2018, the Tucson Sector reported 52,172 encounters, while the estimate in 2024 is 322,922. Additionally, the Tucson Sector holds illegal immigrants for about 22 hours, to conduct a rudimentary background and documentation check, assigns them a court date for their asylum request, which is often years away. However, they are often released to non-government organizations that collectively received about $650 million U.S. taxpayer funds.

Another issue that is a concern to many veterans is whether resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are being diverted to illegal immigrants and whether illegal immigrants are receiving VA health care.

VA claims agents process claims on behalf of other federal agencies. This includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has a contract with the VA Financial Services Center (FSC) to process medical claims. However, VA does not incur any costs for the claims which come from the ICE program.

According to VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes, "No resources meant for veterans are used as part of this agreement. FSC provides an administrative function for ICE, using ICE funds, that has zero impact on veteran health care or benefits."

Currently, there are at least 13 resolutions approved by the National Executive Committee that address immigration topics, ranging from drug trafficking to asylum reform to immigration rates and more. Resolution 23, Immigration Reform, approved by the NEC during Spring Meetings in 2022 is the most sweeping, covering six of the 13 categories.

Following his visit, Shuman said he evaluated the issue and the Legion's long history in it.

"The American Legion has it correct," he summarized. "We already have several resolutions calling for the right things to happen, from appropriate and adequate funding of a physical border wall where needed, to acquiring modern technology to increasing the number of agents. Our Legion has consistently passed resolutions with the logical steps. I am proud of our Legion for approaching this topic with genuine logic. I also think it's time we prioritize this issue and begin demanding Congress take responsibility and take action."

Seehafer agrees.

"This is a national problem which will require bipartisan solutions and bipartisan action by our Congress, president and governors," he concluded.

 

Next article: Five Things to Know, May 28, 2024

Five Things to Know, May 28, 2024

Source: May 28, 2024

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1.   Seoul for the first time has released video footage of a Pyongyang satellite launch, which failed Monday night and scattered debris over the Yellow Sea. The black-and-white footage shows the satellite's rocket exploding over the sea at 10:46 p.m., two minutes after launch, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday. The video was taken from a South Korea military vessel sailing northwest of the Korean Peninsula. The spokesman declined to elaborate on the footage but said it was the first time the military publicly released a video of a North Korean satellite launch.

2.   A U.S. congressional delegation met Taiwan's new leader on Monday in a show of support days after China held drills around the self-governing island in response to his inauguration. Rep. Andy Barr, the co-chair of the Taiwan caucus in the U.S. Congress, said the United States is fully committed to supporting Taiwan militarily, diplomatically and economically. "There should be no doubt, there should be no skepticism in the United States, Taiwan or anywhere in the world, of American resolve to maintain the status quo and peace in the Taiwan Strait," the Republican from Kentucky said at a news conference in the capital, Taipei, after the delegation met Taiwan President Lai Ching-te.

3.   New Israeli strikes on Rafah have killed at least 16 Palestinians, first responders said Tuesday, as residents reported an escalation of fighting in the southern Gaza city once seen as the territory's last refuge. An Israeli incursion launched in early May has caused nearly 1 million to flee from Rafah, most of whom had already been displaced in the war between Israel and Hamas. They now seek refuge in squalid tent camps and other war-ravaged areas. The United States and other close allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in the city, with the Biden administration saying that would cross a red line and refusing to provide offensive arms for such an undertaking. On Friday, the International Court of Justice called on Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, an order it has no power to enforce.

4.   While usage of caffeine and nicotine may have a positive effect in limited small doses, consistent and high-level doses of those stimulants often negatively impact operational readiness and health of U.S. sailors, according to a new study from Pepperdine University. The study included a sample size of 15,880 active-duty Navy personnel, and evaluated the relationship between job stress and stimulants, and their effect on readiness in an operational environment. It determined that stimulants could be the "best option" for short-term and occasional operations, but ultimately worsened conditions when sailors routinely faced high job stress and poor sleep schedules.

5.   A ship came under attack Tuesday in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, with a private security firm saying radio traffic suggested the vessel took on water after being struck. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell on Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have launched a number of attacks targeting ships over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Few other details were immediately available about the attack, reported by the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center. It happened off the port city of Hodeida in the southern Red Sea, near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links it to the Gulf of Aden.

Next article: Keeping military families healthy and fit

Keeping military families healthy and fit

Source: May 28, 2024

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The CHAMPs are in the house. 

This week The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast welcomes two experts representing the Consortium of Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), a designated Department of Defense Center of Excellence specializing in total force fitness and human performance optimization. They strive to achieve enhanced warfighter readiness through evidence-based human performance optimization knowledge, guidance and operational support. 

Representing CHAMP are: 

Capt. J. Russell "Crazy Juice" Linderman: A native of Pennsylvania, Linderman started out in biomedical research after receiving a bachelor's in pre-medicine from Penn State University and a doctorate in physiology from the West Virginia University. He then trained to become a Naval Aerospace and Operational physiologist. His roles have included serving as the Aeromedical Safety Officer, Commander Strike Fighter Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet, Naval Air Station Lemoore; and the director, Human Performance Lab at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. In October 2021, he transferred to the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine to serve as the deputy director of CHAMP.

• Andrea T. Lindsey: A nutrition information specialist with extensive experience in the field of dietary supplements, Lindsey has considerable knowledge and understanding regarding the content, safety, labeling and marketing of these products. She serves as director of Operation Supplement Safety and senior nutrition scientist with CHAMP. Most of her work encompasses the topic of dietary supplements and their ingredients, which involves reviewing, evaluating, and interpreting the scientific literature; writing; and directing the program. She regularly educates servicemembers, health-care providers, military family members and leaders about dietary supplements.

CHAMP, which was created in 1979, focused on research and wellness starting in the mid-1980s and is known for creating the Navy SEAL nutritional guide. (Learn more here.)

For today's servicemembers, CHAMP provides "evidence-based information that has been translated to educational materials so they can use them. There is a treasure trove of information that can be used. Though the information we are putting out is good for anybody with a heartbeat and a pulse."

Still, the primary focus is the military community from active-duty troops to veterans and retirees to military family members. "CHAMP is made for military and good for you," as Linderman says.

"It's a holistic approach to health care," he explains. "CHAMP has never been more important than now. We are in a situation where we have less than ever individuals being recruited in the military."

Lindsey's advice comes down to a simple mantra: "Eat real food first."

Still, there are times for dietary supplements, she says, though they need to be properly vetted and implemented. "Our audience is everyone. Certainly, the servicemember, our veterans, health-care providers, our health-care partners, and that includes strength and conditioning coaches, our occupational trainers, our nurses. It runs the gamut."

When a servicemember, for example, considers using a supplement, Lindsey starts with a basic question.

"Why?" she would ask. "What is the goal? Have they worked with a dietician or a provider to determine the need? Have you had blood work? Have you had tests to show you are low in something?"

Lindsey explains that just adding a supplement might actually be detrimental to the servicemember because of how it would interact with another that is already being used.

"That's why we are here," she points out. "We are not here to say ‘no' to supplements. We are here to allow all of our clients to be informed users and make safe supplement choices."

Check out the new episode for more on nutrition, supplements, sleep tips and more.

 Also, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Joe Worley and Adam Marr:

• Discuss an upcoming commemoration of Operation Overlord with the cast of "Band of Brothers."

• Talk about superstitions in the military.

• Hand out Bravo Zulus.

Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 240 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Next article: Chip Ganassi Racing bounces back with two top-five Indy 500 finishes

Chip Ganassi Racing bounces back with two top-five Indy 500 finishes

Source: May 27, 2024

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After a disappointing Indianapolis 500 qualifications weekend – one that saw Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) not put at least one car in the Fast 12 for the first time since 2019 – the organization once against showed why it is one of the elite teams in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES year in and year out.

Ganassi was able to put two cars in the top five of Sunday's race, including one on the podium at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Delayed by four hours because of stormy weather, the 108th running of the 500 featured eight cautions and saw 11 cars get knocked out.  

Scott Dixon, despite starting just 21st, led 12 laps on his way to a third-place finish. He added to his record of laps led in the Indy 500 (677) and now holds the records for the most Indy 500s with at least one lap led (16).

Teammate Alex Palou, driving the No. 10 DHL Honda with American Legion branding, was 14th on the starting grid but managed to move up in the field and run in the top 10 – and then the top 5 – the majority of the race. He finished fifth and maintained the lead in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points race. Palou now has three top-five finishes in five Indy 500 starts.

"Yeah, a bit frustrating," Palou said. "I think we did a really good job on strategies, and we were there at the end, we just didn't really have that top speed we needed. I'm happier than where I started today, it was just a bit difficult to fight for the win. But still, I'm happy we made it to the top five."

CGR rookie Linus Lundqvist, driving the No. 8 American Legion Honda featuring the Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, started the race 27th and was maintaining that spot or just a few positions above before lap 28. But on that lap, he was part of a crowded, four-wide group in Turn 1 and lost control of the car, hitting the outside wall and then spinning across the track before ending up against the inside wall. It ended his day after 27 completed laps; he was one of six drivers already out at that time.

"I'm ok, and I'm not entirely sure what happened," Lundqvist said. "But it doesn't really matter. I feel so bad for the No. 8 American Legion Honda team. We've had a tough couple of weeks, and it sucks to end it this way. Going through this whole experience has been an absolute pleasure. I just wish I could have completed the race."

Lundqvist still maintains an eight-point lead in the INDYCAR rookie standings over teammate Kyffin Simpson, who led three late laps on Sunday and finished 21st.

Josef Newgarden made it back-to-back Indy 500 wins – the first time the feat has been pulled off since 2002 – when he passed Pato O'Ward on Turn 3 of the final lap and held off O'Ward to the checkered flag.

It's another quick turnaround for the INDYCAR SERIES, which heads north to the streets of Detroit for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on June 2.

To learn more about Be the One, click here.

Next article: Legion provides World War II veteran with premiere vantage point for Indy 500

Legion provides World War II veteran with premiere vantage point for Indy 500

Source: May 27, 2024

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Before this year, World War II U.S. Navy veteran Francis Tuoti had never been to an Indianapolis 500 race. But thanks to a co-worker, that changed this year.

And when American Legion national staff learned that Tuoti was going to be in attendance at the race, they did what they could to enhance his experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

A New York resident, Tuoti spent a long Sunday watching the race – weather delayed by four hours – from the comfort of one of the hospitality suites along the main straightaway at the world-famous oval track roughly 40.

A National Guardsmen who sat near Tuoti and his friend Garrett Mossman during last Friday's Carb Day, shared the story of the World War II veteran with American Legion staff working the organization's Be the One activation display in the IMS Fan Midway.

Tuoti was able to spend some time talking with American Legion Be the One Program Manager Tony Cross on Friday. And when he arrived at the track on Sunday, he and Mossman were presented hospitality suite passes to watch Sunday's race.

Tuoti said being recognized by the Legion and getting a chance to watch the Indy 500 from a suite made him feel "deeply honored. You're recognized when, for a long time, you're not recognized."

Tuoti was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., but in 1926 his family built a summer home in North Salem, where Tuoti now lives, and – believe it or not – works. Since the 1980s, he's served as a substitute teacher at North Salem Middle/High School, often working several days a week.

Tuoti had begun listening to the Indy 500 on the radio as a 10-year-old in the 1930s, but it was through his job he got a chance to attend in person. He said a fellow teacher, Heide DeMorris, "comes (to the Indy 500) every year. We got to talking, and she said, ‘Would you like to come this year?' I said, ‘Of course.' That's something I never expected I'd be able to do."

Tuoti served in the North Atlantic during World War II on several ships, including destroyers the USS MacLeish and USS Putnam, as well as on a troop transport. Later in life, he worked as an aeronautical engineer for General Electric for years before retiring but has managed to continue to stay busy over the years.

"I've always been very active in everything. I've been involved in a lot of the town committees and so forth," he said. "Then I had the opportunity to go to the schools and I figured, ‘Well, maybe I can convey some thoughts to these young students. And that's what I do. If they get their work done on time, I tell them a life story of mine. I have a lot of them.

"I tell them they're not all stories that are exciting. Some of them just give you some idea on how to handle yourself in life."

But the relationship between teacher and students is mutually beneficial.

"I get a real bang out of it," Tuoti said. "I really enjoy the young folks. They're good. They aren't exactly like when I was (a kid)."

 

Next article: Vietnam Wall reconnects friends on a day of remembrance

Vietnam Wall reconnects friends on a day of remembrance

Source: May 27, 2024

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As American Legion National Vice Commander Randy Edwards stood in front of panel 65E of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he expressed joy to see the name of a friend who came home after being missing for over 40 years.

"I get to see Tommy again," said Edwards as he looked upon the name of his high school friend, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Edward Knebel. Knebel was identified on March 13, 2009, by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency after his C-130 crashed on May 22, 1968, during a flying mission over northern Salavan Province, Laos. "It's special because I know him, and he is one of the reasons why I joined the military." Edwards served 38 years in the Army, both active and reserve.

It was Knebel who Edwards was thinking about as he laid a wreath alongside Department of District of Columbia Commander Detashia Coleman at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on May 27 for Memorial Day.

"This was such an honor to lay the wreath for The American Legion," Edwards said. "I was just thinking of Tommy and him coming home after 41 years."

Guest speakers for the Memorial Day remembrance ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial included Frederick W. Smith, founder and executive chairman of Fed/Ex Corporation, who served four years in the Marine Corps that included two tours in Vietnam; retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Peterson who flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam; and retired Army Maj. Gen. Donna Barbisch, a Vietnam combat nurse.

Memorial Day marked 54 years, three months and 10 days that Barbisch arrived in Vietnam to save lives as a nurse. She felt called to serve after "seeing on TV the carnage of war and the loss the United States was suffering … we need to support our men and women in uniform." She recalled a specific day in war that she always remembers.

While stationed at the 91st Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai, Vietnam, she was in the emergency room preparing for casualties and severe wounds. "I could hear the whoop-whoop-whoop of that helicopter landing," she said. "My heart was in my throat. We needed to save these guys. One soldier that came in was lifeless, unconscious. By giving him fluids and blood and stopping his bleeding and resuscitating him, he became conscious. He started to talk to me about where he had come from, what he was doing."

As Barbisch was preparing the soldier for surgery, "I talked to him, held his hand while we waited. He told me of his dreams, he told me about home. I remember. He looked like my brother. He reminded me of home, something we didn't think about most of the time while we were in Vietnam. It was too far away. It was too painful. I remember his face. I pushed that gurney back to the operating room and I said, ‘Hang in there. I'll see you tomorrow.'"

The next morning Barbisch learned the soldier had died in surgery.  

"I have to say it was one of the darkest days I had in Vietnam because I had to recognize that all my effort wasn't saving those lives. I am so sorry to that man, to his family, to those on the Wall here that we couldn't save. It broke my heart. It broke my spirit. But I remember. And that's what Memorial Day is all about … we must remember."  

Edwards remembers Knebel and another dear friend from high school, Sid, who served in Vietnam. He was one of three Marines in his battalion to survive an ambush in Vietnam, Edwards said, that would eventually cost him his life. Sid died by suicide following the war.

"That's why Be the One is so important to me because it's personal," Edwards said of The American Legion's suicide prevention mission to save the lives of veterans. "The American Legion is changing lives and saving lives. I believe in what we're doing."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next article: ‘Never forget they gave it all'

‘Never forget they gave it all'

Source: May 27, 2024

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American Legion National Vice Commander Bill Roy was remembering all the veterans who have passed as he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

"It was an honor to represent The American Legion and lay the wreath. That's what we do at The American Legion: We honor our veterans, living and past," said Roy, a member of American Legion Post 2 in Manchester, N.H. "I read something recently that said Armed Forces Day is for servicemembers who are still in uniform, Veterans Day is for servicemembers who are out of uniform, and Memorial Day is for those who never got out of their uniform .... we can't forget them. Otherwise, we wouldn't be enjoying the freedoms we have now."

Speakers at the Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery included President Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. 

"We gather at this sacred place, at this solemn moment, to remember, to honor the sacrifices of the hundreds of thousands of women and men who have given their lives for this nation," President Biden said in his remarks. "Each one bound by a common commitment – not to a place, not to a person, not to a president. But to an idea, unlike any idea in human history, the idea of the United States of America. Today we bare witness to the price they paid."

Roy personally understands the cost of freedom, as a veteran and having lost family members and friends in war. It's why when the opportunity presented itself to have breakfast with Gold Star families of the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division on Sunday, May 26, at the Legion's Washington, D.C., office, he was committed to being there.

"Both of my grandparents had a son that they lost in World War II," Roy shared. "So being with the Gold Star families means a lot. I want people to remember the sacrifice of our veterans who gave their lives. I've heard the saying that they gave up their todays so we can enjoy our tomorrows. Nothing says it better than that. Never forget they gave it all."

Next article: How to find a doctor

How to find a doctor

Source: May 27, 2024

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LEARN HOW YOUR PLANNED GIFT CAN HELP THE AMERICAN LEGION

Can you recommend any resources to help me locate doctors in my area? I am looking for an orthopedic doctor for my elderly parent and a new internist for myself.

Finding and researching doctors is easier than it used to be. Today, there are a variety of websites you can turn to that provide databases of U.S. doctors, their professional medical histories, and ratings and reviews from past patients based on several criteria. Here are some good tips to help you find the right doctors.

Searching Tips The first step is to get referrals from trusted friends, or any doctors, nurses or other health-care professionals you know. You should also check with your insurance provider, who can provide a list of approved doctors or confirm whether the doctor you are considering is in-network.

If your parent is enrolled in original Medicare, you can use the care compare tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare (click on "Doctors & Clinicians"). This will let you find doctors by name, medical specialty or geographic location who accept original Medicare. If your parent is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, call or visit the plan website to get a list of approved candidates. Once you find a few doctors, you should call their offices to verify that they accept your insurance and are accepting new patients.

You should also consider hospital affiliation. Your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you visit, if needed, so find out where the doctor has admitting privileges. Then use hospital ratings services like Medicare.gov/care-compare (click on "Hospitals") to see how it compares with other hospitals in the area.

Researching Doctors If you find a doctor you are interested in, there are various websites you can consult to help you evaluate them. For example, some medical organizations may offer tools that list a doctor's board certifications, educational background, active state licenses and whether or not they have been disciplined by a state medical board.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is also a good source for researching doctors. The CMS website has a tool to help determine how many times a doctor has performed a particular procedure and their prices. To find this tool, go to Data.CMS.gov/tools and click on "Medicare Physician & Other Practitioner Look-up Tool." To learn about the financial relationship doctors have with drug and medical-device companies, visit OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov.

Physician rating websites also offer an online database of doctors, dentists and hospitals. These websites provide information on education and training, hospital affiliations, board certification, awards and recognitions, professional misconduct, disciplinary action, office locations and accepted insurance plans.

Some websites may also offer rating scales from past patients on issues such as communication and listening skills, wait time, time spent with the patient, office friendliness and more. However, keep in mind that while physician rating websites can be helpful, they can also be misleading and unreliable.

"Savvy Living" is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to NBC's "Today Show." The column, and others like it, is available to read via The American Legion's Planned Giving program, a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Consider naming The American Legion in your will or trust as a part of your personal legacy. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.

Next article: A day of honor for 631 Gold Star families

A day of honor for 631 Gold Star families

Source: May 27, 2024

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The names of 631 fallen soldiers of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now engraved on bronze plaques and memorialized forever on the First Infantry Division Monument in Washington, D.C. One of those names is Sgt. Kevin A. Gilbertson, son of Keeley Frank and stepson of American Legion Department of Kansas Commander Randy Frank. Keeley and Randy attended a ceremony at the First Infantry Division Monument on May 26 for the unveiling of the 631 names, and a rededication to the 27 names from Desert Storm.

"One of the greatest fears of a Gold Star Family is that your soldier is forgotten," Frank said through tears. "And now (Gilbertson) will be remembered forever.  (The monument is a place) where the world can see him. His voice will be heard."

Less than three months shy of his 24th birthday, Gilbertson was shot by insurgents on Aug. 29, 2007, in Ramadi, Iraq. He died from his wounds two days later.

"I'm really proud of my son," Keeley said, "always have been. I told him that every time he called me on the phone. It was his decision to go into service. He asked me if it was OK. I couldn't say no and I couldn't say yes. I said if you want to go into the service, I will be there for you. I loved him very much. And still do. I'm happy that his name is on there."

Gilbertson and his good friend Sgt. Edward L. Brooks were together on the same mission in Iraq that cost their lives. And now their names are inscribed next to each other on the First Infantry Division Monument.

"It's great that Kevin and Brooks have stayed together," said Keeley, who feels the presence of her son and Brooks from two cardinal birds that often fly together outside her home in Arkansas City, Kan. She and Frank heard a cardinal singing during the ceremony.   

‘Wherever we show up, there's a cardinal nearby," Frank said.

The ceremony was attended by 1st Infantry Division Gold Star families, soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Maj. Gen. John V. Meyer III, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, and other dignitaries. Meyer wears bracelets with the names of the 1st Infantry Division soldiers he has lost under his command, one being Gilbertson.  

In his remarks, Meyer shared that today's military men and women volunteer to serve something bigger than themselves. "But nobody really articulates what that something is. That something that these young men and women volunteered to serve are the ideals of our country, contained in the Constitution of the United States. It's a framework of laws that sets our nation apart to give us all hope that tomorrow will be better than today. But that comes at a cost. And the cost is around us… the 13,578 names. Those soldiers sacrificed, they defended those values, they defended the ideals of our country. We honor your sacrifice, and we stand in remembrance.

"No mission too difficult. No sacrifice too great. Duty first."

The First Infantry Division Monument was erected by the Society of the First Division to honor soldiers of World War I and dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge nearly 100 years ago on Oct. 4, 1924. The monument, which sits west of the White House, features 13,578 names of 1st Infantry Division soldiers from World War I to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The number of names by wars are as follows:

World War I: 5,516

World War II: 4,325

Vietnam War: 3,079

Desert Storm: 27 (includes one female soldier and one contract civilian)

Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn (Iraq): 439

Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan): 192

Sen. Marshall has been instrumental in getting the 631 names added to the First Infantry Division Monument, a more than five-year undertaking.

"As a physician, I know how important closure is," said Marshall, an Army Reserve veteran who has a long family history of military service, including a son who is serving as a private in the Army. "I think this gives some closure to the families because some of these kids didn't know their mom or dad who died. This fills in that missing chapter … who was my mom, who was my dad, who am I? It is important that they know their loved one, their mom or dad, did not die in vain. That they died to keep us free, to keep us safe, to keep us secure. Their names are inscribed forever."

Micah Lister was 13 weeks old when his father, Spc. Josph Lister, was killed in action on Nov. 30, 2003, in Ramadi, Iraq. He was only 10 weeks into his deployment.

"He believed in protecting our country," said Sierra Herring, Lister's wife and Micah's mother who was 21 when soldier's came to her front door to share the news of her husband. She described Lister as the life of the party, generous and one who could put a smile on your face no matter the circumstance. "He trusted his team, and he believed in his team."

Herring said that she, Micah, and other family members attend every possible memorial service for the fallen "to represent every fallen soldier who doesn't have a family there to be their voice. To say something. To write their name down and look them up. Because after 20 years when a war is done and gone, sometimes us as families feel like we're forgotten. And that the world doesn't remember what our family paid for us to be here and to be free. So the monument in adding Specialist Josph's name, adding fellow Gold Star families and their soldier's name, means that their legacy will live on. People will see his name and find out who he is. That means that you have guaranteed that Josph will live forever."

Prior to the unveiling ceremony, the American Legion Department of Washington hosted a breakfast at the Legion's Washington, D.C., office for the 1st Infantry Division Gold Star families of Spc. Josph Lister, Staff Sgt. Zac Hargrove, Pvt. First Class William Johnson and Sgt. Kevin A. Gilbertson. Sen. Marshall attended, along with District of Columbia Department Commander Detashia Coleman, National Vice Commander Bill Roy and Department of Maryland 5th District Commander Melvin Graves.

"Those that have given the ultimate sacrifice, they need to be supported, loved and remembered on this day," said Coleman, who retired after 20 years from the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman and respiratory therapist, and deployed to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2009. "So remembering their families and remembering their names, it's an honor."

In the past, Coleman said she would have shied away from a ceremony like the Gold Star breakfast "because I was so close to the death and life process in war. In the field, I didn't get to meet the families. Today is one of those times I get to meet the families of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. And assuring family members that their loved one never died alone, somebody is always there."

Gilbertson is present in the daily life of Keeley and Frank in the way his legacy lives on. While his name is now inscribed on the First Infantry Division Monument in the nation's capital, a bridge in Arkansas City is named in his memory and memorials at Fort Riley keep his name at the forefront as a reminder of the cost of freedom. 

Keeley said Gilbertson was always a happy child who had an affinity for remote control cars. She would take him to race cars in a Kmart parking lot in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he was raised. She recalled the time she understood his love of remote-control cars when she opened his bedroom door and there was smoke. "I said, ‘Kevin, what are you doing?' He says, ‘I wanted to see how the wheels burn rubber.'" It's stories like this that Keeley and Frank share when they talk about Gilbertson.

"We talk about Kevin all the time," said Frank, who met Keeley when his Legion post hosted the Remembering Our Fallen photographic traveling memorial that features Gilbertson. "And talking about him and doing things for him is how we continue his name. It's a great feeling that it (his name on the First Division Monument) has been accomplished. It's a tough day. It's an honorable day. Hopefully people know that today (Memorial Day) is a day to honor, not celebrate."

 

Next article: 2023 Baseball Player of Year savors Hall of Fame visit

2023 Baseball Player of Year savors Hall of Fame visit

Source: May 26, 2024

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Last August, Jacob Cyr opened the American Legion World Series with the third no-hitter in ALWS history and closed it with a shutout to lead League City Post 554 to Texas' first ALWS title.

Given the opportunity over this Memorial Day weekend, of course Cyr took the chance to pick the brains of Hall of Fame pitchers in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Cyr's pitching exploits last summer earned him the 2023 George W. Rulon American Legion Baseball Player of the Year Award. With that honor came a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this spring, where Cyr was recognized on the field during the Hall of Fame East-West Classic.

This year's edition of the annual Memorial Day weekend event served as a salute to the Negro Leagues. The East team won 5-4, sparked by Ryan Howard's three-run home run.

The visit to Cooperstown was not only Cyr's first trip there, but his first to New York at all.

"This place is beautiful, it's very, very exciting and a pleasure to meet the Hall of Famers up here," Cyr said. He took pictures with the likes of Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith, C.C. Sabathia and Ken Griffey Jr.

"Legion Baseball was definitely one of the most fun times in my life," Cyr said. "It's really cool to see all the (Hall of Fame) guys here and pick some of the pitchers' brains."

 

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