The American Legion Riders of Cicero Chapter 341 are at it again, this time raising awareness and funds for suicide prevention in partnership with Wish for our Heroes at the Warrior Ride 2017.
The morning began with a stick-to-your-ribs, biscuits and gravy breakfast and 50/50 raffles, proceeds to Wish for our Heroes. More than 120 riders registered and participated.
“It’s about raising awareness and support for suicide prevention, more than 20 will happen today while were on this ride,” said Legion Rider Dave Baughman of Cicero Post 341, referring to the latest studies from the Department of Veterans Affairs. “If we can somehow make a difference today for them then it’s all worth it.”
The veterans of Cicero are active with plenty of support from the local community. Chapter 341 raised more than $4,500 for Operation Comfort Warriors at their 2nd Annual Battle Ride this summer.
“It’s all about being a part of the team, a brotherhood and sisterhood of the four branches of service,” Post 341 member Jennifer Blueher. “I encourage those veterans who aren’t involved to come out and get involved. These people are phenomenal, it’s all one big family and we all take care of each other.”
Riders from Auburn, Sheraton, Carmel, Fishers and Post 341 rode from Cicero to Fairmont, Greentown, Sheraton and concluded at Post 341.
Wish for our Heroes representatives Eric and Ellen Banschbach were there to raise awareness, part of September Suicide Prevention Month.
“We encourage all veterans to pick up the phone and call someone you know who may be struggling,” said Eric. “Don’t Facebook them, don’t text them, call. Let them know you care, it could mean all the difference in the world.
Learn more about The American Legion Riders
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By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES
Soldiers with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Airmen assigned to the 22nd Airlift Squadron, 60th Air Mobility Wing stationed at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., load an HH-60 medevac Black Hawk helicopter, Sept. 26, into a C-5M Super Galaxy at Campbell Army Airfield. The helicopter is one of eight aircraft the division deployed to Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. ANDREW MCCLURE/U.S. ARMY
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is shifting its response to Hurricane Maria-ravaged Puerto Rico to a land-based operation as it clears airfields and adds communications capabilities, allowing it flow more troops onto the ailing U.S. island, defense officials said Wednesday.
U.S. Northern Command on Wednesday sent 16 Army helicopters to Puerto Rico and was preparing to deploy a portion of a sustainment brigade — some 1,000 soldiers who specialize in distribution of goods in hostile environments — to the U.S. territory of 3.4 million people left devastated by the Category 4 storm that struck the island Sept. 20, Pentagon officials said.
The military’s top general on Tuesday pledged the U.S. territories in the Caribbean would receive the full support of the Defense Department.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help them out,” Dunford told senators on Capitol Hill. “We’re anticipating what they will need to get ahead of it.”
That included tasking an Army brigadier general to take command of the nearly 5,000 active-duty forces operating on the island alongside some 2,500 National Guard members, said Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. Brig. Gen. Rich Kim, Army North’s deputy commander, arrived in Puerto Rico on Wednesday to establish a land-based command structure, taking over for the USS Kearsarge-based commander who had been leading military response operations.
During the last week, the military has relied primarily on moving relief supplies and launching search-and-rescue operations from the Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship staged between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. National Guard members along with Marines and sailors from the Kearsarge had cleared runways at 10 of the island’s airports by Wednesday, drastically increasing the flow of aircraft flying onto the island, Davis said.
The military aims to fly about 10 planes per hour into the region Wednesday to provide relief. Only three to six aircraft had been able land each hour previously, Davis said.
Nearly all of Puerto Rico remained without power Wednesday and nearly half of its inhabitants did not have access to drinking water, according to the Pentagon. The military had helped restore some level of power to 59 of the island’s 69 hospitals by Wednesday, but most of them remained unable to provide advanced care.
The Pentagon has tasked the USNS Comfort, a Mercy-class hospital ship based at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, to leave for Puerto Rico by the weekend. The ship has 1,000 hospital beds and carriers medical evacuation helicopters. But it will be well into next week before the Comfort arrives in the region, Davis said.
WASHINGTON — Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Tuesday that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.
On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.
“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”
Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.
“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”
In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.
The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”
The American Legion
On Sept. 25, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on House Resolution (H.R.) 2519, The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, a bill that would require the Department of Treasury to mint and issue gold, silver and half-dollar clad coins in celebration of the centennial of the Legion, for one year, beginning in January 2019.
The bill has made steady progress since being introduced to Congress earlier this year. Over the past few months, Legionnaires have been gathering support and co-sponsors for the bill in both the House of Representatives and Senate (S. 1182). The Senate measure passed the chamber on Aug. 3.
The Legion has worked tirelessly to ensure H.R. 2519 passes and advances to the White House for the president’s signature, according to James Oxford, chairman of The American Legion’s Legislative Commission.
“This is great news that the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2519 today,” he said. “Out of all of the coin bills authorized in the last decade, The American Legion broke the record for co-sponsors. The previous record was held by the U.S. Army with 348. We currently have 375 and that’s phenomenal.”
Unique among U.S. Mint products, all surcharges received from the sale of The American Legion centennial coin will help raise money for Legion programs that support veterans, servicemembers and their families, as well as commemorate important aspects of American history and culture. The funds gained from sales will support caring for those who served and are currently serving in the armed forces, and programs that maintain patriotic values, strong families and assistance for at-risk children.
"Since 1919, The American Legion has dedicated itself to serving our nation's veterans,” said Congressman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I look forward to continuing to work alongside The American Legion in our shared goal of improving the lives of America’s heroes."
Congress only authorizes the minting of two commemorative coins per year, an honor Oxford said that the nation’s largest veterans organization is proud to share.
“The money that is generated from these commemorative coins will allow us to fund good, quality programs for youth, national security, deployed servicemembers and veterans,” Oxford said.
Congressman Tim Walz, D-Minn., Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were critical in getting this veterans-centric legislation across the finish line, according to Oxford.
“For nearly a century, The American Legion has worked tirelessly day and night to improve the lives of our veterans and their families, and for that reason, words cannot express the gratitude I have for the men and women of The American Legion,” said Walz, the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “As both a veteran and a legislator, I see firsthand the results they achieve for veterans on a daily basis.”
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By: Leo Shane III
WASHINGTON — The acting under secretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs abruptly stepped aside on Monday, leaving the agency with yet another leadership void as VA officials prepare ambitious reforms for veterans medical benefits.
Poonam Alaigh, who had served in the post since February, said in a letter to staff that she is resigning from the job for family reasons. When she started at VA in 2015, she had publicly told staff she planned on serving with the agency for only two years.
“I want you to know that it has been my greatest honor to serve (VA) Secretary (David) Shulkin, each one of you and all of our veterans,” she wrote. “As I prepare to now leave Washington, I thank you sincerely for what you have helped us to accomplish, moving from being the country’s largest integrated healthcare system into, truly, America’s greatest healthcare system.”
Her official last day is Oct. 7. Alaigh had served in the post since Shulkin, the previous top health official, was nominated for the department’s top job in February. Carolyn Clancy, the deputy under secretary of health for organizational excellence who previously served as the acting top health official in 2015, will again step into the post, starting next month.
Alaigh’s announced exit also comes just a few days before the scheduled departure of Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care Baligh Yehia. Both moves come amid a months-long search for a permanent replacement for the post.
VA officials began that search back in the spring, but have yet name any potential replacements. In a statement, department officials said they have made “steady progress” on finding a replacement and their goal is to “find the right permanent official for these critical leadership roles rather than simply fill for expedience.”
They also noted that former President Barack Obama did not have his first nominee for the under secretary for health post until nearly a year into his presidency.
Alaigh had previously worked at VA as senior advisor to Shulkin and the executive sponsor of the MyVA access initiative. She also previously worked as the health commissioner of New Jersey.
Governor Chris Christie and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno announce the nomination of Dr. Poonam Alaigh as Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Health and Marc Larkins as Executive Director for the New Jersey School Development Authority Board with Education Commissioner nominee Bret Schundler at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. (Governor Photos/Tim Larsen)
The Veterans Health Administration has an annual budget of about $68 billion and oversees medical care for more than 9 million veterans. The agency also employs about 300,000 staffers and oversees more than 1,200 medical sites across the country.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to reform the department’s health services, in large part by expanding opportunities for veterans to seek care outside the department.
In coming weeks, VA officials are expected to unveil plans for an overhaul of the controversial veterans Choice program, which allows individuals who face lengthy travel or long wait-times to visit private-sector physicians at taxpayers’ expense.
The new program is expected to ease eligibility rules and simplify payment processes for non-VA offices.
Shulkin has not said how much additional money the new program may cost, but has said he hopes to keep spending within the roughly $13 billion the White House requested for outside care programs for fiscal 2017.
Other details have yet to be released, and the Choice program is expected to run out of money in December 2017 or January 2018. That puts lawmakers and VA officials in a tight legislative timeline, given the multiple other contentious issues before Congress currently.
It also makes it likely that much of the work on the issue will be handled before a permanent replacement is named.
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INDIANAPOLIS– The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization characterized professional athletes and other Americans who fail to show respect for the national anthem as “misguided and ungrateful.”
American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan lamented the politicization of what used to be a display of unity at NFL games and other sporting events throughout the country.
“The American Legion is one of the original architects of the U.S. Flag Code,” said Rohan, a U.S Army veteran. “That code was produced by 69 patriotic, fraternal civic and military organizations in 1923. It included members of all political parties, big labor, industry, and minorities. The code calls on all present to stand at attention while the anthem is played. It wasn’t political when it was written and it shouldn’t be political today. Having a right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do. We salute Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood alone respecting the flag as his teammates stayed in their locker room. NASCAR also deserves credit for their support of our anthem. There are many ways to protest, but the national anthem should be our moment to stand together as one UNITED States of America.”
American Legion Department of Indiana Commander, Marty Dzieglowics added, "The Department of Indiana fully agrees with the comments from our National Commander. There is a difference between freedom of speech and dishonoring our nation's flag. Our stars and stripes not only represent the continued sacrifice of our nations veterans, but it also represents every single american in our United States of America".
With a current membership of two million wartime veterans, The American Legion, www.legion.org, was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through nearly 13,000 posts across the nation.
The deadline to submit orders for both the 2017-2018 Americanism & Government and 4th Grade Flag Education is quickly approaching.
THIS FRIDAY, September 29th, is your last opportunity to order and receive your materials at the Department Fall Convention on Oct. 6th-8th.
Material orders received AFTER the deadline date may be picked up at the Department Headquarters, if scheduled in advance with Department Staff. Otherwise the materials will be mailed to the requesting party by October 13th.
Cut-offs for these programs are coming up in December. Program material requests for the 2017-2018 Americanism & Government WILL NOT be honored after December 22, 2017 and material requests for the 4th Grade Flag Education will NOT be honored after December 4th.
For more information on both of these programs, contact Butch Miller, Department Program Director by phone at (317) 630-1391 or email at email@example.com.
Click the buttons below for easy access to the material requests for both programs.
By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, U.S. team captain, carries the American flag as her team enters the opening ceremony for the 2017 Invictus Games at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. At right is team co-captain Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears. The Invictus Games, established by Britain's Prince Harry in 2014, brings together wounded and injured veterans from 17 nations for 12 adaptive sporting events, including track and field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, swimming, sitting volleyball and -- new to the 2017 games -- golf. DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg
TORONTO, Sept. 24, 2017 — Competitors, celebrities, royalty and spectators came together here last night to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre here.
Inspired by the Department of Defense Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans, Britain's Prince Harry created the Invictus Games in 2014.
The prince, who was on hand at the opening ceremony, flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan during his military service.
"Invictus is all about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship and refused to be defined by their injuries," he said last night. "Invictus is about the families and friends who face the shock of learning that their loved ones have been injured or fallen ill and then rally to support them on their journey to recovery. Above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women, injured or not, provide providing the importance of service and duty.
"We made a great start in London in 2014," he continued. "We took it to the next level in Orlando last year, and over the next week, in this year, as we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary, Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world."
More than 550 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from 17 nations will compete in 12 sporting events at the Invictus Games, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball. The games run through Sept. 30.
"[There are] more competitors, more sports, more nations, more friends, more families and more people watching at home than ever before," Harry said. "With the people in this arena tonight and those watching across Canada and around the world, we have the biggest crowd Invictus has ever enjoyed. In the days ahead, I know that many of you will be experiencing Invictus for the first time. I hope you're ready for some fierce competition. I hope you're ready to see the meaning of teamwork that proves that anything is possible when we work together. I hope you're ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you're ready to see role models in action that any parent would want their children to look up to. And I hope you're ready to see lives change in front of your eyes."
Camaraderie Among Athletes
Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears, co-captain of the U.S. team, said he thinks his squad will be strongest in rugby, track and field, volleyball, wheelchair basketball and swimming. The camaraderie among the athletes from the respective service branches and other countries has been good, he added.
"I visited with someone from the Netherlands for about 20 minutes this morning," said Sears, who said his favorite sport is wheelchair racing on the track. "Everybody's getting along, laughing and having a smile on their face."
His mother, Judy Pullin, said she is proud of her son and his team.
"I'm very proud of Ivan. I'm going to be the bragging momma here. He medaled four times here last year. He medaled four golds, and it was just amazing. I was definitely crying," she said. "These are all athletes. Yes, they may have a disability. They may have something physical or an invisible wound, but you've just got to be proud of them."
Medically retired Cpl. Melanie Harris of the Canadian armed forces, who is competing in compound archery and sitting volleyball, joked that the Canadian motto is "I'm not sorry."
"Canadians are known for being sorry but not sorry; however I want them to know they're always welcome back here," she said with a laugh. Harris said Canada's wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball will be among the Canadian team's best events.
"It's going to be a great competition," she said. "We're going to do great. We will bring some gold home. We don't mind sharing, too, but whoever wins wins, [and] we're going to fight for it."
Harris said her teammates have been taking care of each other and are like family. "We're all there for each other," she added.
Medically retired Lance Cpl. Dennis Resell of Denmark's special operations forces is competing in archery and sitting volleyball. He said he has confidence in his team as well. "We're going to do great. You can't beat the Vikings," he said. "Team Denmark's biggest strengths are definitely our team spirit and our brotherhood."
Resell said he enjoys the camaraderie among the athletes and had been looking forward to the opening ceremony. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "Walking in there, people cheering -- it's going to be great."
The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces from Ottawa and the Royal Regiment Band from Quebec performed as the 550-plus competitors from the 17 participating countries entered the arena. Thailey Roberge of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Elliot Miville-Deschenes of Montreal represented the youth of Canada and hosted the opening ceremonies. They sang "O Canada," the Canadian national anthem, and then "Under One Sky" to celebrate the Invictus Games Flag Tour.
As Laura Wright sang the official 2017 Invictus Games song, "Invincible," more than 200 members of the Canadian Military Wives National Choir joined her. Canadian Rangers marched in bearing the Invictus Games flag and raised it high.
Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan performed "I Will Remember You" and then spoke of the Lighting of the Flame ceremony, which began in Kabul, Afghanistan. The flame passed from Afghan security forces veteran Maj. Ahmad Shahh to retired Canadian Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, official ambassador of the Toronto Games.
Michael Burns, CEO of the Invictus Games 2017 organizing committee, said the committee is leveraging most of the infrastructure used in the Pan American Games here in 2015.
"We will be up in Scarborough for swimming. Tomorrow, we will be up at York University at their brand new stadium for athletics. The old Maple Leaf Gardens will be a massive hub of activity. We drained the reflective pool at the Nathan Phillips Square to host wheelchair tennis. We're hosting archery at Fort York, and we're using Hyde Park for cycling," Burns said. "This city is going to be lit up over the next eight days. There isn't anywhere you're going to be able to turn and not see a banner or sign or sport competition or the competitors throughout the city enjoying themselves."
He said the closing ceremony and almost every ticketed sporting competition has sold out.
"Over the next eight days, you will be moved; you will be inspired. You will be entertained. You will see things on the playing field you have never seen before," he said. "These games aren't about the finish line. These games are all about making it to the starting line. The men and women who will be competing in these games -- talk to any one of them -- they'll tell you that they have been injured as a result of their service. Any one of them has been tested many, many times by faith throughout their careers, and yet they remain undefeated, undiminished, proudly and distinctly unconquered."
By C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service
WASHINGTON -- The White House announced today that retired Army Capt. Gary Michael Rose will receive the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Oct. 23.
President Donald Trump will present the medal, which commemorates Rose's heroic actions in Laos during a four-day mission, Sept. 11-14, 1970.
Rose served as a medic during the Vietnam War. As part of the Army's Special Forces, Rose took part in missions in nearby Laos that were meant, in part, to engage with North Vietnamese Army troops who had amassed there, and to possibly prevent them from returning to the larger fight back in Vietnam.
Laos, a landlocked nation in the center of the Southeast Asian peninsula, shares a 1,300-mile border with Vietnam, to the east. While conflict raged on in Vietnam, North Vietnamese forces used Laos to their own advantage -- forcing the American military to also enter the country at times to stop the progress of the NVA through its jungles.
During one mission in Laos, called "Operation Tailwind," which began, Sept. 11, 1970, Rose, then a sergeant, along with one other Vietnamese medic, was responsible for providing medical care to a company-sized element of special forces troops made up of 16 American Soldiers and 120 Montagnards.
Under Rose's care, all 16 American Soldiers returned alive from that mission, though many were injured in some way. A total of three Montagnard soldiers would be killed by the time that four-day mission had ended.
One of the most unexpected parts of that mission happened when all involved thought the task was all but over. Four helicopters had been dispatched to bring the team home from their mission in Laos.
Rose said that the entire company was able to board just the first three helicopters, leaving the fourth unused. Rose, along with about 30 others who were involved in Operation Tailwind, boarded the third helicopter to head home.
On the way back to safety, that third helicopter crashed to the ground, injuring many on board, and killing one Montagnard soldier.
Rose knew the helicopter might explode as a result of that crash. He ignored his own injuries -- which included not just those that resulted from the crash, but also injuries sustained earlier in the mission from a rocket-propelled grenade -- and re-entered the crashed helicopter to pull soldiers to safety.
Shortly after that crash, the fourth helicopter, which was empty, arrived to pick them up and bring them home.
Rose said he is honored to be selected for the Medal of Honor, but maintains that it is the entirety of Soldiers within the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, the unit in which he served, that the medal is actually for.
"There were only about 2,000 people who were ever in MACSOG from 1965 to 1972," Rose said.
"I can tell you that our raids and our reconnaissance into Laos tied up some 40,000 to 50,000 NVA troops originally sent going south to fight American units."
By Drew Brooks
The U.S. Army is sending thousands of additional soldiers to Afghanistan to bolster U.S. forces in the nation’s longest war.
Approximately 2,200 soldiers, including 1,200 from the 82nd Airborne Division, began quietly deploying this month, part of a long-discussed troop surge that involves more than 3,000 U.S. service members on top of the more than 10,000 already serving in Afghanistan.
The local soldiers – part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team – were alerted to the mission earlier this month and quickly deployed. Once in Afghanistan, they will be reunited with their brigade leadership and about 1,500 soldiers from the brigade who deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year.
The remaining paratroopers will come from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, which is based in Alaska.
The Fort Bragg soldiers will join teammates that are already spread throughout the country, from Bagram Airfield and Kabul to Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
They also have a variety of missions, tasked with training, advising and assisting Afghan partners and providing security for other U.S. forces in the country.
The commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, said the latest deployments are an example of how the division’s paratroopers remain ready for whatever the nation asks.
“This past week, the remainder of our 1st Brigade Combat Team departed Fort Bragg to join their fellow Devil Brigade paratroopers already engaged in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan,” Kurilla said. “We were directed to provide additional forces in Afghanistan and, as always, we stand prepared to provide combat power on short notice while continually maintaining readiness for other contingencies should those emerge. We are the 82nd Airborne Division; this is who we are and the business we are in.”
The 82nd Airborne Division is part of the nation’s Global Response Force – which is tasked with deploying anywhere in the world on short notice. The division’s paratroopers also are often in high-demand by combatant commanders around the world.
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