Olivia Heersink - The Times of Northwest Indiana
KUWAIT — Jenna Jones begins each shift by saying hello and giving a hug to her younger sister, Justine Jones.
If she forgets, Justine said she’s quick to chastise her sibling for disrupting their daily routine.
“It makes a world of difference — it’s the small things,” said Justine, who starts work at an earlier time. “I start watching the clock, and if she doesn’t stop by, then I go over to her desk and give her an earful.”
“Yep, she’ll yell at me,” Jenna replied with a laugh.
Typically, Jenna said she isn’t much of a hugger, but she makes an exception for Justine, especially given their current situation.
The pair — both from Gary — are stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait as part of Task Force Spartan, a multi-component organization composed of active United States Army and National Guard units. This specific area is overseen by more than 600 members of the Indiana National Guard's 38th Infantry Division.
“The soldiers' mission is to help build partner capacity in the Middle East, to promote regional self-reliance, deter regional aggression and to increase security,” Master Sgt. Jeff Lowry said. “Every job over here is important.”
Jenna works as an aviation operations specialist, processing flight requests for the thousands of troops serving in Southwest Asia. The 30-year-old sergeant, who is often on-call, said she never expected to enjoy her job so much or succeed as well as she has within the role.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” Jenna said. “At first I just wanted to see if I could do it, and it’s turned out to be a very successful move for me. ... My days are never the same.”
Justine, 29 and a staff sergeant, deals with distributing food and other items to the various sites being occupied throughout the Middle East, keeping a close eye on rations and making sure each location has what it needs. She recently started working in maintenance, as well.
After training in Texas, the sisters left the U.S. in early July, traveling on Independence Day. It’s their first deployment in their decade-long military careers. At first, it was just Jenna set to leave. But Justine decided to volunteer for the task force, moving from the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to the 38th. They’ll be in Kuwait — where temperatures easily soar past 100 degrees — for at least the next nine months.
“We hang out as often as we can with our conflicting schedules,” Jenna said. “We’re really blessed to be going through this together. There’s not many people that have the support here like we do. It’s been easier simply knowing that she’s here for me.”
“It’s a whole other world here, so it’s really nice to be together,” Justine added. “We both understand each other.”
Both Jenna and Justine followed in the footsteps of their older sister, Jeri Jones Cooper, by joining the military. Cooper, 31, is also a member of the Indiana National Guard, but isn’t on deployment with them. However, the three sisters weren’t the first to do so in their family. In fact, they’re just the latest in a long lineage.
“We’ve got family in all branches of the military, except the Coast Guard,” Jenna said.
“Everybody expected me to do it anyway,” Justine added. “It’s provided a bunch of opportunities for us that we never would’ve come across otherwise. … Every job has its downfalls, but the Guard — this whole life — I just love it. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Their father, Dean Jones, served in the U.S. Air Force, which prompted the tight-knit family to move across the globe before making Gary their official home base. They’ve also lived in South Carolina, Germany and Tennessee. Jenna said the siblings’ structured lifestyle and disciplined upbringing made enlisting an easy transition for them.
Their parents took comfort in the fact that Jenna and Justine would be deployed together, which helped soften the blow of having to spend almost a year without them.
The sisters make sure to keep in touch with their parents and other family members. They often schedule “game nights” via video chat as a way to minimize the distance and get the most out of their hour-long phone calls.
“They move the pieces for us,” Justine said. “It gives us more time with them other than just explaining your day cause that’s over so fast. … I just miss them, and I know the holidays are going to be rough. But I’ve got Jenna.”
“It’s going to be OK,” Jenna replied, putting her arms around her younger sister. “We got this.”
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Article by: George Alyea, 11th District Commander
Hello from the 11th District. As your newly installed commander, I will be honored to get to know and work with all of the posts in the district.
I thank Joe for his support and dedicated service to veterans and their families. As always, focus on membership is paramount to the success of the American Legion. The district officers and I will be working hard to assist posts in achieving their goals. Also, retention is critical to the future success of the legion. As they Join, make them feel welcome by being a good host when you see them. Learn their interests and see how they may enjoy participating in post and legion programs.
Programs are continuing to grow. When new members join, teach them what these programs are about and encourage their participation. Oratorical, 4th Grade Flag education, Americanism & Government, Hoosier Boys State, Boy & Girl Scouts are great programs. Junior shooting sports is rapidly growing. Indiana Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Academy is expected to double in Applications in only three years to 100.
Education and Participation are essential to the growth of the posts and legion. Posts need to work on developing their members to become leaders. Going to other posts and sharing ideas will help strengthen the development of leaders within the posts and districts. Community involvement such as rewarding police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, Boy and Girl scouts, etc. will make stronger relationships.
I thank you for allowing me to be your 11th District Commander. I look forward to seeing you at your posts and elsewhere in the district.
Article by: Ron Patterson, 10th District Commander
The gavel has been passed, and new leadership is in place. Where will the “Terrific Tenth” go from here? What will the new vision be? Before we look ahead, I’d like to take a second and look back to the past for a moment. Under the command of Past District Commander Laurie Bowman, the 10th made significant improvements in communication with the Posts and the 10th’s officers. The 10th was number one in membership for the Department one year and the top in the Department for a percentage of Post’s reaching 100% (76%) membership in 2018-2019. Laurie’s leadership has brought a massive amount of respect to the 10th, and we are grateful for her service!
These accomplishments were not done by one person by any means. I am thankful for the many great stewards of the Legion who have carried the torch before me, and grateful for the guidance and mentoring that has been given to me. To name just a few, Jerry Jordon, Mary York, Homer Loudermilk, Jim Hagler, Jere Riggs, Dick Jewell, and Paul Smith, have provided me with just enough knowledge to be dangerous lol.
I look forward to your continued support and guidance.
Where do we go in the future? I want to see the 10th vigorously participate in the Departments vast range of programs. My goal is to have 75% of our Post’s present at least one candidate for all of the terrific programs that the Legion offers. We are going to introduce new media forms in and during the District meetings. Making a change for our future and honoring the past is a must if we are going to capture the eye of our younger savvy Veterans. Membership is vital of course, but making a place where Veterans feel comfortable, appreciated, respected and loved is the most important thing that we can do to not only increase our numbers but also to retain them.
And before you think I’m all soft and sappy, know this! I am an Airborne Infantry soldier, and I will work diligently to make the 10th the very best in the Department. I will support my fellow District Commanders with everything that I have to make the Department the best in the Nation. “What the mind can conceive the body can achieve.”
Article by: Jerry Melton, 9th District Commander
Greetings from the 9th District, “The Southern Storm.”
With the help of many, we got the close of books behind us, and 100% Post Certification turned in. This information is so vital to the operation of the Department of Indiana. It is crucial to have the correct information about the officers and chairpersons of each post. The information in the directory needs to be updated Each year.
As you have all been made aware, next year and after that, if this information is not turned in by the deadline, clearly stated, and certified, you will not get membership cards, for your post, they are received by Department. This, unfortunately, has been allowed not to be the case, which is unfortunate, but Will be strictly adhered to now and in the future.
With a new year started and membership cards in hand, we need to encourage our members to renew their memberships, as soon as possible, and to recruit new members, young and old at all times. Now is the time to use your early bird incentive and events at the posts to encourage membership. If you have a special successful membership event, share the details at your district meetings.
Membership is the lifeblood of your post and the American Legion.
Remember and use the programs of the American Legion Family. Scholarships, unfortunately, are not promoted as an important benefit to our youth. It is disheartening to see so many with no entrant and the much-needed money not benefiting our youth! Check the eligibility requirements, and explain the many opportunities available. If you have any questions or suggestions, contact your Post chairman or District Chairman.
We hope every Post or community had a fourth of July event. We need to celebrate every holiday or occasion and be visible to the communities we live in. Show them who we are, why we're here, and how we matter!
The rain has let up, and summer is in full swing. Summer youth programs and back to school events are gearing up, and need our attendance and help. Many items needed for classroom teachers and students aren’t readily available. We have the opportunity to help by fundraisers and programs, like the give 10, which involves getting a list of school supplies needed and buying and donating these items in groups of 10. A great, post, joint opportunity.
Now is an ideal time for community service projects to help, and also, promote the American Legion. It’s time to be planning your Veterans day events and hopefully including a community event. In many of our small communities, citizens, don’t even know we, the American Legion exist.
During our travels, we have asked for directions to a post location and been told they didn’t know there was one. How sad! Community involvement is vital.
We send congratulations to all 9th District and Department program winners. We thank all the post chairmen, and district chairpersons for their excellent work and candidates nominated, for these honors! Well done, thank you for representing The 9th district.
Congratulations to Allen Connelly elected Department of Indiana Commander, Post 215, 4th district for 2019-2020, and William Parks Southern Vice Commander, Post 59, 9th District.
As we are embarking on a new program year, we need a sense of the importance of our flag education program. Never before has it been so evident that the lack of respect for our flag and traditions need to be instilled in our youth and adults.
We have excellent resources to share with our schools and the public. Have you attended an event and seen the lack of respect given To our flag and the pledge of allegiance? It makes me sad, to think they don’t know the proper way to show respect.
Not my quote, but a good one, “if you’ve ever been handed a folded flag at a funeral and the honor guard person tells you it’s presented to you by a grateful nation for your loved one's service and sacrifice, it has a new deeper meaning, for you.”
We need to promote the oratorical contests and the Americanism and government programs as well. Get your schools involved in these programs and scholarship opportunities; don’t forget your homeschooled students.
Now is the time to get started on your packets for our “Hero of the Year” awards. It’s always easier to jot things down during the year for reference, and not scrambling for info as the deadline approaches. Remember to include the Program for youth cadet law enforcement, Contact Milt Howard in the 9th District for information.
I want to thank the great group of officers from the 9th District. You have done a terrific job!
They are always ready to assist in any way!
As with everything, we need volunteers to step up and become A post or district officer. So that we can keep the 9th District moving forward and provide all our legionnaires the best service and the information we can. It has been a pleasure to serve with you, and I appreciate every one of you.
We did an excellent job last year, but there’s still room for improvement until we get 100% in membership and participation, in all our programs.
Just doing as good as last year is not enough!
Your goal is to do MORE!!!
Article by: John Van Natta, 8th District Commander
It is an honor and privilege to have been selected to serve the 8th District Legionnaires as their District Commander. Regardless of which branch we served; (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines), we were united in the protecting and defending the United States of America.
It is with a deep sense of pride that I report that my father and uncle both joined the American Legion immediately following their service in WWI, and remained members until their deaths. My brother, sister, son and daughter are all current members of the Indiana 8th District Legion.
Once again, as legionnaires, we find ourselves united as the vanguard of freedom and democracy. It is through our unity as members of the Legion we can concentration our efforts for the protection and defense of our great country. I acknowledge that many of our veterans who, although they are willing, are unable to serve again. However, the dignity, compassion, and reverence we extend to our veterans is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a motivating factor for the encouragement our next generation to follow suit.
When we marched off to war, we left our families behind. Their suffering was great, fearful of every knock on the door. We carried them in our hearts, as they carried us in theirs. We are together again as the Legion Family; the Auxiliary, Sons of the Legion and Legion Riders. Their value to our cause and our hearts is invaluable. United, the Legion Family, makes the Legion a more formative organization.
Increasing the significance of the district to the posts and members in the 8th District will be my primary focus, followed by promoting increased community involvement and awareness of our patriotism. I purposely did not mention membership recruitment as my primary focus. It is my position that by adequately presenting the virtue, honor, and reputation of our organization will be copious.
I am committed to be deserving of the honor and merit the confidence the legionnaires of the 8th District has reposed upon me.
Article by: Ken Pridemore, 7th District Commander
Greetings from the “Fighting 7th”. I am honored and excited to get started on my second year serving as the Commander of the 7th District. I met a lot of new people and learned more about the Legion this past year and hope to expand my knowledge further as I continue this year. I have learned from the Post Commander role that the first year is basically learning the duties and then you get to see the fruits of your labor and build upon them the following year. I hope that I have served well this past year and am very appreciative of the great bunch of guys and gals I have working with me and providing support.
First, I want to thank everyone for working so hard on membership this past year as this is an integral part of our mission, and without new members, we cannot continue to thrive. Now that they have expanded the dates for eligibility, we hope to see a good increase across the state as a whole for the coming years. I was proud of my District for coming in first place for membership this past year and made sure Past Commander Strong was reminded of our position during the year, nothing like a good competition among Districts!
Department Commander Allen Connelly’s project this year is The Indiana American Legion Legacy Foundation, which I will also be supporting as my project. This foundation is being established to carry on the programs that the Legion has funded for the last century. Membership dues have always been the primary source of funding for these; however, due to the decline in membership over the years, it was determined that another source of funding needed to be established. These programs include the Oratorical and Boys State as well as the Service Officers that assist our disabled veterans, and their family members receive the benefits they are due. Without ample funding, we could see these programs and services decrease or possibly cease due to financial inadequacy. The foundation will depend upon widespread public support and collecting funds through donations. This will also allow for the distribution of grants to organizations that conduct programs and activities for the foundation. The foundation is an innovative and forward-looking approach to making sure we continue to meet the needs of our veterans and their families as well as communities across Indiana into our second century.
Our Legion families continue to rise and work together in our communities. Without the support of the Ladies Auxiliary, SAL, and Legion Riders we would not be prominent in our communities, so make sure to include them in your posts and encourage them to participate in all programs. I look forward to working with our District Ladies Auxiliary President Luanne McDonald, our SAL Squadron Leader Gary Miller, and all of our ALR groups across the District.
Don’t forget our State is hosting the 101st National Convention in Indianapolis this year. There will be a lot of activity and options for everyone, so make sure to come down and participate August 23rd – 29th. It is also the Ladies Auxiliary 100th National Convention. It should be one for the record books, and we hope to see record-breaking participation!
This year will also be exciting to return to visit the Posts in my District to see what programs they are working on and how they continue to grow. I look forward also to seeing all of our out of state Legion family at National Convention and hearing about what new ideas and programs the Legion have planned for our year.
Article by: Roy S. Dowell, Jr., 6th District Commander
Hello 6th District, I'm Roy Dowell out of Terre Haute Post 346 and will be your District Commander for the year 2019 - 2020.
I am looking forward to working with each and everyone in the district and hoping to get more of your posts involved in the district. We are here to help you. I am retired military, six years of my career was with the United States Army with one tour of duty in the Republic of South Vietnam 1968 -1969, 16 years were spent with the Indiana Air National Guard's 181st Fighter Wing out of Terre Haute, Indiana.
I have four beautiful children, two boys, and two girls and have seven grandchildren. I have served as your Executive Vice Commander for the last two years under the tutelage of Commander Culp and other past commanders of the district. I have a sense of what is involved with being District Commander, but the scope of it will be revealed in time I'm sure. There will be some changes coming soon that should benefit many members, and membership will continue to be a challenge for every post within the district. I will encourage the use of mylegion.org as a handy membership tool and will assist any post that wants to use the web site. Membership is not a single person's obligation; the life of our organization depends on it.
I learned at the 101st Department Convention that for the first time, in 19 years, we achieved 100% Officers Certification within the Department. Our district Certified Post Report (CPR) was 97% this year, that is the highest years. Next year I am sure we can reach 100%. I am anxious to get out in the District and visit many of your posts and join in your meetings. I am here to assist you and look forward to the challenges that lay ahead.
Article by: J. David Burnette Jr., 5th District Commander
Hello to all of my legion family, I am honored to serve you as your District Commander for a second year. I met a lot of people and made several new friends over the last year. I am looking forward to having another great year.
Every post in the District should be using mylegion.org to submit their membership; I am willing to help anyone get set-up and teach them how to use it. It’s simple and easy to use, and a valuable tool which allows you to know who paid online quicker and will aid in finding National members near your post. We need to get them in our State, which helps veterans in Indiana have a stronger and louder voice in our State government to help get better aid to our Indiana veterans.
The Legion Act passing in both the House and Senate it’s just a matter of time before Trump signs it to law which opens membership eligibility from December 7, 1941, until now. Combining our new years' membership goals and the Legion Act every post, squadron, and unit in the District could have a record-setting year with everyone being 100% by the end of the legion year.
The District has a vendor recruiting booth for any post in the District to use for free, it attracts attention, with program information, and an excellent way to promote the passing of the Legion Act, letting the veterans the were unable to join they are now eligible. Please contact Membership Chairman John Hawkins for availability.
5th District Golf Scramble September 14th at Arbor Trace Golf Club, 2500 E 550 N, Marion, IN 46952 8 am. This is the District's biggest fundraiser; all entities are welcome to sponsor and play. I am challenging all post in the district to sponsor a hole for $100 and send a team $200, includes a meal, skins game extra $20/team. Look for fliers or contact Richie King Sr, or myself for registration forms, must be registered by September 8th.
A reminder of the primary role of a District Officers is to provide a line of communication between Post and Department, providing new information and changes, and taking post feedback to the Department. We are also here to help you. We need to continue to support each other to make the American Legion stronger.
Thank you for all you do!
Article by: Gary Parker, 4th District Commander
Greetings to the Fourth District! This being my introduction article as your District Commander, I thought I would tell you a little about myself. I was born and raised in Ft. Wayne. I graduated from North Side High School in 1964. After school, I started to work for Zollner Pistons Corp. in Ft. Wayne. In late 1965 I joined the Naval Reserve Unit in Ft. Wayne. I was ordered to active duty in March 1967 and stationed aboard the U.S.S. Dubuque (LPD8). During my active duty service aboard the Dubuque, we made one tour eight months in the war zone of Vietnam. After my time in the navy, I returned home and married my wife Barbara in April 1969.
We have two children and seven grandchildren. I joined the legion in 1979 and have served post, district, and state positions. The highlight being elected Department Sergeant at Arms in 2009-10. In 2011 I decided to become a Fourth District officer and has held most of the offices in the district, this year elected Commander. I would like to wish newly elected Department Commander Connelly and new and re-elected state, district, and post officers a prosperous and fruitful year. If we all work together for the same goals, we will do great things. I want to thank the Fourth District delegates for electing me District Commander.
I would also like to all the past District Commanders for their guidance and support thru the years. The fourth district this year will be working on legion programs training to help veterans with V.A. benefits and legion traditions. I will promote all the post to do a Four Chaplain's program at their post this year. We will be working hard on membership to renew all present members and talking to area vets about the benefits of being a legion member.
God bless the USA
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