Commander’s Newsletter September
Rearranging the Chairs on the Titanic
We all know of the tragic sinking of the Titanic in April 15, 1912, when it hit an iceberg in the north Atlantic, 400 Miles off of Newfoundland, Canada. That impact doomed the unsinkable ship the moment it struck the Iceberg. Pretending everything was normal by rearranging the chairs on the deck would have been a fruitless job to busy the hands of those who were going to perish anyway. Admitting they were in peril and working to solve the problem would have been much smarter. Launching lifeboats or filling them to capacity would have saved many more, but the idea of the ship sinking was ignored until it was beyond help.
Are we ignoring the thought that the American Legion is taking on water and sinking lower in numbers yearly, while we methodically go about our ways and continue as though nothing is happening? Let’s face the facts that our numbers are decreasing and new members are fewer in number each year. Yes, it is a fact that many of the World War II members have answered the final call, and Korea and Vietnam is closing in at a fast pace. The fact remains that there is a new generation of veterans who have met the requirements for membership in the American Legion, yet few join. In 2017 we had a membership if 1,717 members. Over the past several years the trend has been a loss of 8 percent. If this holds true again this year our expected renewal would be 1,545.
We are now entering the time of our year when memberships for 2018 start arriving at the post. Each year I read notes on several renewal slips that criticize our post for the cost of membership and state that they are not getting their money’s worth. Our post has not raised membership cost for years. These increases have come from national and the state. We receive $10.25 from the $40 dollars submitted for dues. Your cost per day is 11 cents. This is a huge bang for your buck. We also feel the loss of revenue from lost members, but still manage to submit a budget that meets the Four Pillars of the Legion.
The American Legion provides life-changing assistance and guidance for veterans, military personnel, their families and communities in thousands of ways every day around the world. Help comes in the form of personal assistance, cash grants, donated goods, disaster relief, labor, networking, volunteerism and advocacy.
A short listing of the programs we fund with your dues follows. No dollars are ever spent on salaries. All work is voluntary and few receive a thank you for the hours involved in managing a functional post.
We support the American Legion Baseball program and pay for students to attend Boys and Girls State. In addition we:
· Pay for students to attend Junior Law Cadet
· Sponsor Oratorical Contest
· Donate to Temporary Financial Assistance
· Donate to National Emergency Fund
· Present School Talk/Flag Programs in the community
· Donate to Soldiers Christmas Fund
· Help fund coffee program at VA Hospital
· Purchase supplies for mother’s pantry at VA Hospital
· Provide Military Honors for over 150 funerals yearly, and many Honor Guard Ceremonies
· Provide funds to Wreaths Across America, Matt Talbot Kitchen, Homeless Shelter, Special Olympics and Veterans with emergency assistance, College Scholarships, County Government Day, Scouting Support and many others.
You can see at a local level we provide many vital services for your membership dollars. What about the dollars that support our State and National Program? The following listed programs you receive as members of the American Legion.
Free Subscription to The American Legion Magazine
Our nation's leaders speak directly to citizens on the pages of The American Legion Magazine. The American Legion's organizational goals are promoted using the words of talented writers, professional journalists and world leaders.
The American Legion offers expert advice, support and representation for veterans and families seeking government benefits they are eligible to receive at the federal, state and local levels.
Hundreds of job fairs and career events every year across the country are coordinated, sponsored, promoted or produced by The American Legion. American Legion business workshops also help veterans and their families pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
Comfort for the Recovering
Operation Comfort Warriors helps active-duty military personnel and newly discharged veterans recover and adjust to lifestyle changes.
The American Legion conducts student-veteran roundtables, networks with Student Veterans of America as well as college campuses, and works with agencies to better apply military experience toward professional and vocational licenses and certification credits.
Family and Community Support
Cash grants and volunteer aid are among the ways The American Legion reaches out to families of military service members and veterans during times of financial difficulty, short-handedness at home or natural disaster.
The American Legion and USAA, two organizations driven by the same values for nearly a century, are allied through a “preferred provider” relationship that connects Legionnaires with the best advice and service in banking, insurance and personal finance.
Homeless Veteran Outreach
The American Legion offers hundreds of opportunities for homeless veterans across the country, including temporary housing, mentoring and job training.
Honor and Remembrance
American Legion honor guards provide official services at thousands of veteran funerals around the world each year. The Legion is also a leader at every level in the establishment and maintenance of memorials and monuments that honor military sacrifice.
The American Legion offers members and their families practical, money-saving discounts that can easily save many times the cost of annual membership dues.
The American Legion offers volunteer opportunities that fulfill needs in local communities throughout the country and beyond. The Legion and the Sons of The American Legion provide millions of hours of free community service, assistance at VA medical facilities and help at military installations each year.
Advocacy in Washington
The American Legion is the nation's most influential, effective and dependable advocate of veteran affairs fighting for better active-duty pay, improved housing for active-duty families and helping to ensure that the VA's medical system can properly care for veterans. Need an example of what the Legion is fighting for in Washington? The Senate's markup for the 2018 defense authorization bill was revealed this week. The Senate aligned itself with DoD's budget request to increase pharmacy copayments and to repeal a grandfathered TRICARE fee structure, under the guise that it is too confusing and costly.
This legislative proposal goes even further and aims to raise pharmacy cost shares even higher. By contrast, the House voted to maintain the current grandfathered TRICARE fee structure and pharmacy cost shares and maintain fee increases tied to COLAs. MOAA strongly supports the House proposal to stick with the current TRICARE fee structure, which prevents disproportional fee increases foisted onto military beneficiaries.
The fee increases proposed by the Senate are nothing short of an assault on beneficiaries' hard-earned benefits. Beneficiaries are being asked, again, to fund readiness accounts and other DoD projects with money out of their own pockets, rather than asking the broader base of American taxpayers for their support. Sadly, this regrettable practice has become almost routine. Your dues help to support those causes that you earned and need. Worth the cost of a membership? You will need to decide this!
Individually we stand alone; together, we make a difference!
Please Note: I’ve been informed that your State dues will increase as of January 1. If you pay prior to this date you will save $6 for the year. On January the dues will increase to $46 instead of $40, so pay early to avoid the increase. Due to a delay with the state and national dues processing, it is possible that you will receive a due notice even though you have paid. We mail your 2018 card the day we receive it. If you have your 2018 card, you are paid up for the year. Ignore this renewal notice--throw it away.
As always, thank you for your membership and more important, thank you for your service.
Commander’s Newsletter April 2017
District 3 American Legion Members
You Just Died, Now What?
Post 3 is honored to have a fantastic Honor Guard that provides military funeral support to all branches of the service that request a military honors funeral. You are entitled to this honor, but do your loved ones know what is required from you to receive military burial benefits? Your time of passing is not the time to place any additional stress on an already sad day.
In the past, Post 3 has received calls from a grieving family member asking how to receive burial benefits, only to discover they can’t find proof that you served. Don’t lay this burden on their shoulders at the time of your passing--take care to inform them of your wishes and have your papers in order. If we receive a request, and the proper information is not available, a military funeral won’t happen!
So, what must you do to insure your wishes for Military Funeral Honors are honored? The following information will give you facts, qualification, what you are entitled to, and what is necessary to be honored at the time of your death.
The rendering of Military Funeral Honors for an eligible veteran, free of charge, is mandated by law upon the family's request, Public Law 106-65. An honor guard detail for the burial of an eligible veteran shall consist of not less than two members of the Armed Forces. One member of the detail shall be a representative of the parent Service of the deceased veteran. The honor detail will, at a minimum, perform a ceremony that includes the folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin and the playing of taps. When available taps will be played by a bugler; however, there are so few buglers available that the military services may choose to provide an electronic recording of taps. The veteran's parent Service representative will present the flag. A three-shot volley will be provided if requested by the family.
Funeral Honors Eligibility
The following points are provided by Dignity Memorial Providers. While you may qualify as a veteran for certain burial benefits, they do not come automatically.
1. First and foremost you or your family will need to verify your Military Service. Discharge or separation papers are normally required to verify your service. We all know this as your “DD214.” Let your family know where your copy is located and its importance. If your DD214 is not available to you, a copy can be requested by contacting the Military National Personal Record Center for Standard Form 180 (SF-180) to Request Military Records. The web site is, https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html You can also contact your local VA office for help with this matter. Note that Nebraska required all returning vets from WWII to file this form with their county court house. The 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Records Center damaged or destroyed 16-18 million Army and Air Force records that documented the service history of former military personnel discharged from 1912-1964. Although the information in many of these primary source records was either badly damaged or completely destroyed, often alternate record sources can be used to reconstruct the service of the veterans impacted by the fire. Sometimes they are able to reconstruct the service promptly using alternate records that are in their holdings, but other times they must request information from other external agencies for use in records reconstruction. In some instances requests that involve reconstruction efforts may take several weeks to a month to complete.
2. A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of the deceased veteran, but it must be requested by the family. The funeral home with a copy of veteran’s discharge papers will submit an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008).
3. Funeral Honors Ceremonies must be scheduled in advance. Post 3 has nineteen veterans that give their time and effort to honor a deceased veteran. This service is provided at no charge to the family. To provide these services, ample time is needed to notify and prepare for the service. It is equally important to have the funeral home inform the Honor Guard of the arrival time of the family at the place of burial. The funeral home, upon request, will make these arrangements with the Military and Honor Guard. A deceased veteran does not need to be a member of our post or any VSO to receive these honors.
4. The VA takes special care to pay lasting tribute to the memory of Veterans who served and sacrificed and that of their families. VA meticulously maintains 135 VA national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico and is working to increase access to accommodate Veterans and eligible family members close to home. In a few years, 95 percent of Veterans will have a burial option in an open VA, state or tribal veteran’s cemetery located within 75 miles of their home. Some benefits are also available for Veterans who choose burial in a private cemetery. See additional article in this paper that outlines burial at Omaha’s Veteran Cemetery.
Veterans with a qualifying discharge are entitled to VA burial benefits. Spouses and dependent children are eligible too, even if they predecease the Veteran.
The following burial benefits may be provided:
Burial in a VA national cemetery
Burial in a private cemetery
5. Headstones, Markers or Medallions for a burial space in a private cemetery must be requested. An application for standard government headstone in private or state VA cemetery, (VA Form 40-1330) must be submitted for headstone or markers. VA form 40-1330M must be submitted if requesting the medallion.
As you have read, this involves forms and applications for many of the items involved in the passing of a veteran. Not only can this be confusing, it is confusing! Be assured that most funeral homes provide the necessary forms and information to acquire these services. Make sure your family notifies the provider that you were a veteran in good standing, with the proper proof of service. If you have passed and your family did not receive a flag or proper burial marker, they should contact their local VA Service Offer for assistance. Any questions can always be directed to Legion Post 3. We will always direct those involved to find and acquire needed help.
As always, thank you for your service to our country. You have earned the respect and honor from your brothers in arms. Let us honor you and your family in your passing.
Post 3 Commander
WHO KNOWS YOUR STORY?
Several months ago, our Honor Squad attended and conducted honors for a 71-year Legion Member who served in WWII. It’s not unusual to honor the rapidly disappearing veterans that served during this time period, so what was so unusual about this veteran? His obituary was written by him, prior to his passing.
It was a wonderful service that shed much light on his life and his military career. His letter told his life story. I found it interesting and comforting listening to his memories of his active duty during World War II. I’m uncertain if his children or grandchildren knew fully of his past and what contribution he made to the war effort and his country, but he Told His Story.
Have you told your story? A member of Post 3 recently gave a moving talk at our monthly meeting about his days in Vietnam and his trip to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. His story told us what a day was like in Vietnam. His story reminded us of the hardship and the comradeship of his fellow veterans.
For many, remembering their past was so painful that they just didn’t share their story. But, we all have a story to tell, whether we served stateside or overseas in a combat zone. Your memories of your service and the part you played in the history of our country need to be passed down to your families and future generations.
I fully believe, after teaching 33 years in the public-school system, that many young people don’t appreciate the sacrifices made, simply because we have chosen not to tell them. Reenactments shown on TV, movies and video games do not tell the real story.
Real people lived these events. Real people watched the backs of their friends and comrades. Real people were injured or killed. These stories are true accounts of the lives of veterans who gave their best at a time when it was needed.
My father never spoke of his service to our country in WWII. It was several years after his passing in 1979, that I wanted to know his story. This process took me 12 years to compile, and even today I learned a few more facts about his time in Europe. I didn’t seek out the gore and anguish of war. I just wanted to know where he was, who he knew, and what he did. Today I know my father’s story and know that his service to our country helped preserve the quality of life we enjoy today.
My father, Lloyd Wayne Sibert. served with the Third Army, 83rd Infantry, 329th, “Thunderbolt,” Infantry Regiment, Battalion B, F Company. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster for his service. After being drafted he spent seven weeks of Basic at Fort McClellan, Alabama. He was then shipped to England to train for the eventual invasion of Germany. On June 18, 1944, less than two weeks after the Allied D-Day invasion of western Europe, the “Thunderbolt” Division landed on Omaha Beach and began advancing into France. By the end of September, the division had moved into Luxembourg. In late December 1944, the 83rd, under the command of General Patton, took part in the Allied effort to stop the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. It was here that my father was wounded in a tank battle near Petite Langlir, Belgium. He was treated for his wound and later returned to his unit. Several months later the 83rd crossed the Rhine and subsequently captured the German city of Halle on April 6, 1945. At war’s end the “Thunderbolt” Division had established a bridgehead on the Elbe River.
On April 11, 1945, they encountered Langenstein, a sub camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp. When they arrived, they found over 1,000 inmates in very poor physical condition. To stop the spread of sickness and death, the 83rd ordered the local German mayor to supply food, water and got the town residents to help feed and care for the remaining prisoners. It is estimated that prisoners continued to die at a rate of 25 to 30 persons per day after their liberation. At war’s end the 83rd Infantry Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army’s Center of Military History and the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993. After his service my father returned home to raise a family, start a business and never again mentioned his story.
I attended a 329th infantry Division reunion in 1990 hoping to find someone who remembered my father. Six members of his company were there. I was honored to be able to spend several hours with them. I was told they never discussed the horrors of war but spoke only of the good memories they cherished of each other. I have collected many of these memories that I will share with my children and grandchildren so they will always remember HIS STORY.
The VA has an excellent way to share your story. Please consider participating in the “Veterans History Project.” The VHP is a project of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. The mission of the VHP is to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American War Veterans so future generation may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Learn more at www.loc.gov/vets. Chuck Hagel, former U.S. Senator and Army Veteran says this about the program, “It’s important that the voices of the past, people who fought wars for their country, for their children, for the future, have an opportunity to exchange their own personal views with future generations. This is one way to do that.” You do not need to be a combat Veteran to participate. The story you tell is your choice. For more information you can call your local VA Health Care System and ask about this worthy program.
Please before it’s too late, “TELL YOUR STORY”
If you have questions, concerns, or need literature about the American Legion, please call 402.466.3958.