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American Legion News

Dellinger, president talk veterans in Oval Office

In a one-on-one meeting this morning in the Oval Office, American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger shared the Legion’s concerns on a variety of issues with President Barack Obama. The 20-minute meeting was part of a busy morning for Dellinger, who earlier spent an hour with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

During the meeting with Obama, Dellinger said the pair discussed easing licensing and credentialing requirements for veterans, the White House’s Joining Forces initiative and the Legion’s role in reducing the VA claims backlog through promoting the use of fully developed claims.

“The meeting went very well,” Dellinger said. “I thanked him for what he did as an administration in moving a lot of these issues forward. He recognized (fully developed claims), and we talked about the interoperable medical record (between VA and the Department of Defense). I asked him about milestones, and he said, ‘We’re working through that process.’ They’re having regular meetings, and his staff is an integral part of all of this to ensure that it stays on schedule.”

Dellinger didn’t get an opportunity to address the Legion’s concerns with sequestration with Obama. “We wanted to do that, but time didn’t allow it to happen,” Dellinger said. “I’m sorry that it didn’t because I think it’s important we continue that fight. Sequestration’s not good for anyone.”

During his meeting with Shinseki, Dellinger said VA construction projects, the claims backlog and shared medical records with DoD were discussed. But a large portion of the conversation focused on transparency within VA and how the agency is dealing with a rash of preventable deaths of its patients. During an April 9 hearing in which Dellinger provided oral testimony, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. – chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs – said that dozens of VA hospital patients in Phoenix may have died while awaiting medical care, and that committee staff investigators also have evidence that the Phoenix VA Health Care System keeps two sets of records to conceal prolonged waits that patients must endure for doctor appointments and treatment.

“They are taking this very seriously and looking at these issues,” Dellinger said. “A lot of this would never have come to light if it hadn’t been for their efforts to go back through the records and see what they thought were preventable deaths. He identified 78 cases, and 23 have been attributed (to being preventable) at this point. They’re going to do further reviews on those, also. But he says any death is a tragedy, and we agree with him on that. But they also need to be more transparent, and he says he is working on that.”

Dellinger said he was told both by the president and Shinseki, “That if you all see anything … let us know and we will act on it. And as the president stated, we’re the boots on the ground. We’re out there every day and working hard for our veterans. He realizes that, and he thanks us for what The American Legion does for veterans.”

National commander meeting with president, VA secretary

American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger will meet one on one Friday morning with President Barack Obama at the White House, just a short time after Dellinger and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will have a similar meeting in the nation’s capital.

Dellinger and Obama will meet in the Oval Office to discuss several areas of concern to the Legion: sequestration and how it impacts quality of life for military personnel and their families, the VA backlog and the Legion’s successful efforts in helping reduce it, and mental health among the nation’s servicemembers and veterans.

Prior to that, Dellinger will meet with Shinseki in a follow-up to Dellinger’s April 9 testimony before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. In his testimony, Dellinger said VA leadership must be held accountable for mistakes that result in preventable deaths at its medical facilities.

During the hearing, Committee Chairman Jeff Miller said that dozens of VA hospital patients in Phoenix may have died while awaiting medical care, and that committee staff investigators also have evidence that the Phoenix VA Health Care System keeps two sets of records to conceal prolonged waits that patients must endure for doctor appointments and treatment.

Nine employment obstacles veterans face

Transitioning from the military into civilian life isn't always easy. Despite the fact that you come from the same country and speak the same language, the culture of the civilian working world is radically different from the U.S. military. Both have different hierarchies, practices and industry-specific languages. Making a successful transition means learning a new set of skills to adapt to civilian workforce culture. Business Insider provided a list of the top nine obstacles transitioning veterans usually face, and we've touched on each of them for you below:

1. You don't see the transition from the military as starting over professionaly. When you first joined the military, how much did you know about it? Maybe a few basic concepts from books or what you heard from friends and family, but not much else. It took months of training and acclimating to fully integrate, and years to move up the ranks. Every step of the way brought new lessons and new ways of doing things.

The working world is no different. No matter what you did in the military, no matter how competent you are with the core skills necessary to do the job you want, it takes training and experience to climb the ranks. Although some may move quickly, the learning curve is unavoidable. When they join the civilian workforce, it's important that veterans realize they are, more often than not, taking a step down. Their responsibilities won't be as intense or, likely, important as they were in the military. Accepting that is imperative to maintaining a focused, realistic perspective.

2. You overestimate how unique your skills and experiences are. Years of intense experiences have shaped you in many positive ways. You should be a shoe-in for any civilian job, right? If there were far fewer people competing for the same positions, then maybe. Monster.com reported that 470,000 résumé were uploaded every week in 2012. If you compare that number to the number of job openings available, you have roughly 187 candidates, qualified or not, per job. No matter how qualified you are, you're likely competing with many others who are just as capable as you or are otherwise flooding the recruiter or hiring manager. Don't ever rely on your inherent worth – finding jobs will always require work.

3. Your résumé is too long or too short. How do you condense the depth and breadth of your work history and military experience into a single sheet of paper? According to Business Insider, you don't. The trick is to cherry-pick jobs and tasks from your work history, military experience included, that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. That means you might need to create a slew of résumés for different applications, but doing so will prove fruitful. An employer will respond more favorably to a résumé that clearly identifies what in your history suits you well to the open position rather than a laundry list of miscellaneous accomplishments.

4. You did not proofread your résumé. If your version of proofreading is scanning for all the red squiggly lines and unthinkingly making the suggested changes, you're doing it wrong. Proofreading tools that accompany word processors are powerful but limited. They won't always catch obvious spelling mistakes, they sometimes autocorrect to the wrong word, and their sense of grammar isn't as impeccable as yours should be. Take the time to honestly analyze every single sentence and scrutinize each punctuation mark. Have other people read it, read it five more times yourself, then have even more people read it; do whatever it takes, even using a professional résumé writing service, to make sure your grammar, spelling and formatting are impeccable.

5. You aren't using LinkedIn, or your profile isn't complete. The civilian working world takes LinkedIn seriously, and so should you. You don't have to be a social media expert, but creating a complete profile and remaining open to networking opportunities will serve well for any job-seeker. Some may even argue it's a necessity. A LinkedIn profile shows that you're capable of navigating modern technology and adapting to shifting business standards. Even if you don't have your sights set on working in upper management, having an easily accessible professional online profile will help you regardless of your chosen industry.

6. You aren't trying to leverage social media. A few years ago, scoffing at Myspace or Facebook wasn't an outmoded thing to do. Social media started off as an interesting way to reach out to others online, but only recently has it exploded into a nearly ubiquitous cultural phenomenon and enraptured the working world. Just as with LinkedIn, you don't have to be an expert but competency will make you a stronger candidate.

Websites like Facebook and Google+ allow you to remain in contact with individuals who may offer you a new job; even if you don't see each other face to face on a regular basis, professionals tend to remember who they like and trust when it's time to fill a position. Furthermore, Twitter isn't just for bragging about food or lamenting about "first world problems" – hiring managers and companies alike often tweet about job openings and provide information about their company, industry and other useful information.

7. You did not prepare adequately for the interview. No matter how many jokes you've heard about professionals successfully faking their way through work, the reality is that valuable employees train, prepare and make sure they're ready to accomplish a given task. Job interviews aren't to be taken lightly, and research and practice can only help you. The more you know about a company and the industries it's a part of, the more knowledgeable and prepared you'll appear during an interview. Potential employers respond well to candidates who show genuine interest, and that's proven by knowing who they are, what they do, who their competition is, what industry trends they're grappling with; the list goes on and on.

8. You wrote a lackluster thank you note. Thank you notes are simple, easy and help you stand out. After a job interview, get busy procuring and crafting your note and make sure it gets to the right people as soon as possible. Having said that, it's not enough to write: "Dear potential employer, thank you for the interview. I'm awesome. Take care, Veteran of the U.S. Military." The thank you needs to be accompanied by genuine introspection. Recall what you discussed during the interview, and mention one or two points in the thank-you note. The note itself is a mark of appreciation, but what you write is an indicator of what you learned and how much you pay attention.

9. You don't know what you want to do. If you really don't know what you want to do professionally, your job-searching forays are a poor time and place to figure it out. Candidates who lack focus aren't appealing to employers. You may not know what you want to do, but no one else will figure it out for you, especially hiring managers and recruiters. Rather than use job listings and the application process to find your path, try securing informational interviews, attending gatherings for different careers and researching online.

(Courtesy Military.com)

California post recruits new members from Vandenberg AFB

American Legion Post 534 in Orcutt, Calif., took advantage of a great opportunity to speak with active-duty personnel at Vandenberg Air Force Base in March. We were joined by members from the Department of California District 16 Post's 371, 211, 125 and 56.

As we engaged the personnel in conversations about The American Legion, we found everyone to be very receptive to hearing about the good work The American Legion has done since 1919, and continues to do in support of all veterans. There were also a few opportunities to dispel inaccurate perceptions of the Legion. We shared some Legion history and explained key benefits of Legion membership to those on active duty.

During our visit to Vandenberg AFB, seven new members were recruited into the Orcutt Post 534 family. One of the new Legionnaires, featured in the above picture, is Dani Drazin, who attended Florida Girls State. Drazin is a supporter of Legion programs and has agreed to serve on our Post 534 Public Relations Committee.

When District 16 returns to Vandenberg AFB in July, Post 534 will be there. Being able to talk with the active-duty personnel stationed at Vandenberg AFB is a great American Legion experience.

Visit Post 534's Facebook page here.

Ansbach JROTC holds military ball

The Junior ROTC Cougar Battalion of Ansbach High School celebrated their 30th annual military ball at the Orangerie in downtown Ansbach April 3. The ball program featured many military traditions, including a receiving line, the separate table set for the fallen Soldier, the posting of the colors followed by a rendition of the American national anthem, a toast, a grog ceremony and a cake-cutting. Col. Christopher M. Benson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach and guest speaker at the ball, talked about how the JROTC program is designed to teach high school students a variety of values, including leadership, diversity, character development, and engaging in civic and social concerns in the community. He emphasized how important it is to volunteer and give something back to the community. "No matter what path you choose to take in life, I hope you never lose that spirit of engagement, involvement and volunteerism," said Benson during his address. "It's the difference between a nice community and a great community." The 9th Junior ROTC Battalion has earned the Honor Unit with Distinction Insignia (the highest JROTC unit award, also known as "gold star") every year since 2004; with 122 cadets enrolled – or 59 percent of the high school students – the cadet command minimum of 10 percent has been surpassed many times. Participation is the highest percentage of any Department of Defense Dependent School. In the course of the evening, the cadet command honored the members of the successful rifle team, who made first place in their regional conference and third place in the DoDDs Europe championship, and bid farewell to 32 seniors who will graduate this June. http://www.legion.org/fodpal/photos/220926/2014-9th-battalion-jrotc-30th-annual-military-ball-ansbach
Apply for $20,000 Legion scholarship

The American Legion Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State programs will soon get underway, and a scholarship is available for many of the youth who participate in either program.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship awards up to $20,000 for undergraduate studies (e.g.,room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need.

Students who qualify for and are interested in the Samsung scholarship can download an application online here. Applications are submitted to program staff upon arrival to Boys State or Girls State. Please note that the scholarship is restricted to high school juniors participating in the current session of Boys State or Girls State; youth who participated in either program the previous year cannot reapply for the scholarship.

A Boy State and Girls State participant from each state is selected as a finalist for The American Legion Samsung Scholarship. During The American Legion’s Fall Meetings in October, the Samsung American Legion National Selection Committee will select and award nine finalists with a $20,000 Samsung scholarship; the 89 remaining finalists will receive a $1,100 scholarship. All scholarship recipients will be notified of their award by a letter in late October.

For the past 18 years, the Samsung American Legion Scholarship has awarded more than $4.6 million in grants, through interest earned on the fund’s principal, to nearly 1,700 eligible applicants.

Wounded Vietnam veteran steps into painting that hung over his bed

Army veteran Johnny Brooks was drafted only three weeks after his 20th birthday, three weeks after marrying his high school sweetheart, Flora. In 1969, Johnny had been in Vietnam for less than three months when his whole company came under attack, Flora said. He was shot in the back and both legs in Vietnam. One leg was amputated in Japan, another in San Francisco. The blood loss would lead to a cardiac respiratory arrest a month after the attack, causing brain damage. He returned home to Stockton, Calif., where Flora would take care of him for over 40 years. "We knew he could understand things, knew who we were - me, his mom and dad," Flora said. "He could open and close his hand, for instance, but couldn't hold a pencil to write." Because the wounds on his back were so severe, Johnny was unable to stay sitting in a wheelchair for very long. They set up a hospital bed for him in their living room, Flora's bed beside. Being in bed so long can cause the body to deteriorate, Flora said, "but he was one strong guy ... he was just a miracle guy." Flora would craft at a card table by Johnny's bed. She said she tried a little bit of everything - macrame, crochet and finally landed on quilting. It became a calling. In the early 1990s, a friend called her to tell her about a painting. It was of an older couple touching a name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, a wreath in the corner, the Wall mirroring not the couple's reflection, but two soldiers carrying a wounded soldier. "At the time we didn't have much money, so I bought the print, but I didn't buy a frame," Flora said. She framed it herself and hung it above Johnny's bed. The artist, Wes Kendall, a Vietnam vet himself, had wanted to paint something substantial about the aftermath of the war - how veterans' families and friends were affected, how they ached - for years. "It affects not only the soldier," Kendall said. "It affects your families and your friends and everybody forever. And not just in Vietnam. It’s still going on today. This is something we kind of forget. And I did, too." He had accumulated sketches (a mother leaning over a casket with a flag on it, letter in hand) and ideas, but none were quite right. Kendall had served as an artist in Vietnam, drawing up propaganda that was air-dropped. "We called ourselves the litter bugs of South Vietnam," he said. Years after his service, the idea for the painting finally struck once the Wall was dedicated. "I thought here’s my picture, here’s my backdrop, here’s where I start from." Using his dad and aunt as models for an older couple and an intern at the Louisville, Ky.-newspaper where Kendall worked as the model for the wounded soldier, he began to work seriously. He told his friends, fellow Vietnam vets, who he met regularly after work for beer, about the project. He was going to make up names and put them in the painting. They insisted he couldn't: The names must be real. Kendall would have to go to Washington, D.C., to collect them. He'd have to stare at the Wall. "I really didn't want to go to Washington because I thought this would be a real emotional thing. I just didn't want to deal with it," he said. But he went and took photos of one section, 16W, capturing the names line by line by line. He selected 16W because his friend's name, Conrad Jack "Jackie" Wheeler, was there. The painting itself was technically ambitious, maybe the most difficult Kendall had ever attempted, he said. "But the hardest part was the names, just getting all those. At one point I got so frustrated at night I threw it out of my studio in my front yard," he said. "Several times I quit. I just thought, 'It’s too much. I can’t do this.' But it seemed like along the way it kind of had some outside influence, you know. And I was able to get it done." He titled the artwork "A Touching Moment." Johnny passed away in 2011 at age 62; Flora saw to it his name was added to the Wall in 2012. When she returned home after the ceremony, for some reason the painting that hung above Johnny’s bed caught her eye. She looked at it carefully: 16W. An unusual name, Harvey Dudley, Jr., stood out. "I ran and got my pictures from the trip, and Johnny’s name on 16W is right under Harvey Dudley, Jr." Johnny had, in some very real way, entered the painting that still hangs above his bed. "The painting’s still on the wall in the same place. I keep all of Johnny’s stuff up," she said. "That painting has surely touched a lot of veterans." She searched for the artist on the Internet, found Kendall’s e-mail and wrote to him. "Not that I needed confirmation from God, but that’s what I felt like it was," Flora said. "I mean, what are the chances that that painting could be so special to us, and then Johnny’s name to be on it? It’s like God saying, 'You’ve always been in the palm of my hand.' ... It was kind of a confirmation that none of this was an accident." About a month later, Flora said, she received a big package in the mail. It was from Kendall — another print of the painting, this one though had a significant revision. Johnny’s name was inked in. "I'm kind of a crusty old guy that’s not too emotional, but this one - this one really got me," Kendall said. "What (Johnny) had experienced was what I was trying to say in the painting." "I think it touched (Kendall’s) heart, too, that it meant a lot to another Vietnam vet," Flora said. Though Kendall called Flora a "saint," she said caring for Johnny after he came home from the war doesn’t show a heightened sense of responsibility on her part, but rather the outcome of true love. "I can honestly say there was never a day that I said, 'Should I stay with Johnny or should I leave?' It was me clinging to him. ... To me it was pure joy being with Johnny." Now that she’s unable to quilt for Johnny, she actively participates in Quilts of Honor, which gives quilts to active military and vets. "Life is still a big blessing," she said.
Veteran employment summit set

Medal of Honor recipient and retired Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, an honorary life member of American Legion Post 735 in Hiawatha, Iowa, will be the keynote speaker during the National Veteran Employment Summit, April 29-30, in Washington, D.C.

Giunta was awarded the country’s highest military honor for his actions in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007. He is the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor.

The summit, sponsored by Monster and Military.com, will feature several speakers, including Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division in Washington. Gonzalez will discuss in-demand occupations, manufacturing jobs, credentialing initiatives, and skill sets that veterans entering the workforce should have. Giunta and Gonzalez will speak April 30 during an invitation-only event at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

The summit kicks off April 29 with “Recruiting Day,” from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT) at the Double Tree by Hilton in Crystal City, Va. Veteran-friendly employers will be matched with qualified veterans in northern Virginia who are seeking jobs, as well as National Guard and reserve members. Employers will have the opportunity to present their companies and job openings directly to a pool of pre-screened candidates and conduct interviews on-site to speed up the hiring process.

Those who wish to participate in Recruiting Day should send an email to veterans@nvtc.org. For employers, any jobs being offered must be open by April 29. To ensure a quality event, employer spots are limited. For more information about Recruiting Day, contact Andrew Schwartz at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services: andrew.schwartz@dvs.virginia.gov.

The summit’s second day will feature sessions about bringing government, industry and veterans together to share best practices in veteran hiring and retention. The audience will be comprised mostly of leaders from organizations and human resource professionals who seek to improve or start a hiring program for veterans.

Other speakers during the two-day summit include John DiPiero of USAA, Vivian Greentree of First Data Corporation, Evan Guzman of Verizon, Linda Nguyen of Workforce Central, Daniel Villao of the City of Seattle, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, John Harvey, the Virginia Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, and Al Garver of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

 

 

FODPAL at Washington Conference

Members of the departments of Alaska, France, Mexico and Puerto Rico attended the 2014 Washington Conference March 22-26, and were hard at work for FODPAL members around the world. A member from each of the above-mentioned departments was present at all functions, including all the business sessions, the State Department reception, the Commander’s Call, and the National Commander’s Testimony before the joint session of Congress. http://www.legion.org/fodpal/photos/220824/fodpal-washington-conference http://www.legion.org/fodpal/photos/220833/fodpal-washington-conference-pt-2
Visiting Arlington National Cemetery

Members of the departments of France and Hawaii visited Arlington National Cemetery on March 23, 2014, during the Washington Conference. Department of France members John Miller, Robert Fuelling, Ron Moore and Doug Haggan, along with Department of Hawaii Sidney Ladies Auxiliary unit members Dorothy Fuelling and Elke Haggan, visited the gravesite of dream friend and Past Department of France Vice Commander at Large Robert “Bob” Conrad. The group also witnessed the change of the guard, and went to the gravesite of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It was stated by Elke Haggan and John Miller “that no matter how many times you visit Arlington National Cemetery you always find new places in the cemetery and learn new facts about Arlington.” This year we came across an area in the cemetery that is the rest place for many of our prominent heroes of all ranks, who served in our U.S. Armed Forces. It was a who’s who of U.S. military history in the area. We also learned that military members who made a reservation to be interned in Arlington prior to January 1968 could have a headstone of their family’s choosing. Because of dwindling space in the cemetery, it was made law that for military members who make reservations from January 1968 to present that there be only one standard headstone, white marble. http://www.legion.org/fodpal/photos/220821/visiting-arlington-national-cemetery