(Military Times) Department of Veterans Affairs officials will expand coronavirus vaccine distribution to 128 additional sites this week, nearly quadrupling the locations where staff and veterans can receive the long-awaited immunization.
Previously, only 37 VA medical centers were offering the vaccine, because of logistical limitations related to the medication. The first vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration, manufactured by Pfizer, required supercooled refrigeration to remain viable, limiting the sites where VA could store and use it.
Fifteen more sites are expected to be added to that list this week, as new refrigeration equipment is delivered and installed.
A second vaccine, produced by Moderna and authorized by FDA officials in recent days, does not require those same storage requirements. In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said that means officials can reach more areas — and people — in coming days.
“We continue to implement our COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan and are grateful to be one step closer to seeing the end of this pandemic,” he said.
VA officials have not publicly released any data on infection rates or patient deaths due to the pandemic in the past 10 days. In the latest update, medical staff across the country were tracking nearly 18,000 patients with active cases of coronavirus, and more than 5,500 deaths related to virus complications.
Under current VA plans, health care personnel, community living center residents and spinal cord unit patients will be the first to receive vaccinations. Officials said that as supplies increase “VA’s ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”
But that could take a while.
Earlier this month, Richard Stone — the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration — told Senate lawmakers that about 73,000 doses would be available in the first wave of vaccinations. That’s enough to cover about 36,500 individuals, since the vaccine is a two-dose regimen.
He also warned it will be “a long process” to get the 7-million-plus vaccinations the department has estimated it will need to cover all interested, eligible individuals.
Indianapolis VA Medical Center (Moderna)
Marion VA Medical Center (Moderna)
The current global pandemic has implicated several limitations and restrictions on the way business is conducted. This is certainly the case currently in Marion County. The health and safety of our membership is the foremost priority as our membership is the lifeblood of our great organization. Therefore, the upcoming 2021 Mid-Winter Conference scheduled for Friday, January 14 through Sunday, January 17 at the Marriott East Hotel in Indianapolis is hereby cancelled.
For those that made hotel reservations for the conference, no action is required. The hotel has been informed and all cancellations will be done by Marriot staff. Credit cards are not charged for making reservations.
Committees will be given the opportunity to meet virtually at their chairmen’s call. More information on this will be forthcoming.
Stay safe this holiday season. Thank you all for your service and for your membership in The American Legion. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We will all get through this together.
If you have questions, call your Department Headquarters at 317-630-1300.
Number to Call When You Don’t Know Who to Call
With one phone call, Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors can easily access information on VA benefits and services or be connected to an expert for answers to questions.
1-800-MyVA411 is a national, toll-free number that serves as a “front door” to VA. You can still reach VA at any other direct or contact center numbers, but 1-800-MyVA411 offers the simplicity of a single number to call when you don’t know who to call. The Veterans Crisis Line is always available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, by Chat, or by Texting 838255. You can also call the White House VA Hotline at 1-855-948-2311 to share your compliments or concerns.
Call 1-800-MyVA411 to get information on VA care, benefits and services, such as:
1-800-MyVA411 callers have the option of pressing 0 to be immediately connected with a customer service agent to answer any questions or provide a warm-handoff to the appropriate VA expert.
1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411) is available 24 hours-a-day, 365 day-a-year to serve Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.
View and download photos of the commander's visit to Indiana here.
By Jennifer Campbell (For The American Legion)
The holiday season rings in Christmas movie binging and holiday treats. It’s easy to overindulge during the holidays and this year’s pandemic ushered in more comfort eating for many people. While Christmas may not be kind to your waistline, it’s important to be kind to yourself.
Holiday weight gain may be an inevitable part for many people. But there are ways to combat it while still enjoying yourself without feeling deprived or guilty! Due to COVID-19, gatherings may look and feel different this year and it can be especially hard to resist the temptation of some homemade cookies, an extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, or an eggnog nightcap.
Please remember before starting strenuous physical activities that you should be in good shape or be cleared by your primary care physician. The purpose of this article is to provide general guidance and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice.
Here are some tips to help you be your best self while still enjoying the holiday season!
1. Manage expectations. Ask yourself what is most important to you (and your family). Is maintaining your weight and healthy blood levels (blood sugar, lipids, sodium, etc.) the most important to you, or is it enjoying all that the season has to offer with loved ones, weight be damned? There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you come up with a realistic plan in advance, it becomes much easier to aim for a target and also allow for those cheat treats without feeling guilty.
2. Let’s make a deal. Consider compromising with yourself, that you're comfortable putting on five pounds with the expectation to work towards losing it in the new year, for example. It’s a great opportunity to set some SMART goals for yourself (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound), for yourself so you have something to work towards. Here’s a great example: Set a goal of only two holiday treats per day between now and Christmas, but allow for extra on Christmas Day. It’s a specific, measurable goal that still allows for some indulgence, but keeps you accountable!
3. Get creative in the kitchen: Another great way to combat the holiday bulge is to use substitutions while cooking. There are no shortage of recipes that use healthy ingredients and it’s entirely possible to make yummy treats and meals that are better for you. Replacing sugar with monk fruit extract (it’s granulated just like sugar, so it's perfect for baking and available at most grocery stores), can really cut down on calories and also keep blood sugar levels in check. Plain Greek yogurt is a great swap for butter in many recipes. Two tablespoons of butter have a whopping 22 grams of fat vs. just 2.5 grams of fat in a half cup of 2 percent fat Greek yogurt. Here’s another example: I’m a sucker for eggnog and I just can’t pass it up over the holidays, but it’s so glutenous. There is an almond milk version you can substitute for the real thing, that is pretty darn close to the original. Forgo the booze, sprinkle on a little nutmeg and you’ve got a sweet treat for only 70 calories — now that’s something to feel good about!
4. Keep moving: Getting in more movement is absolutely crucial to staying healthy over the holidays (and every day). I encourage my clients to get in an extra hour of walking daily. If time constraints or physical limitations keep you from getting a whole hour in, consider breaking it up into two 30-minute chunks or even four 15-minute sessions. You can easily burn a few hundred extra calories or more by moving at a brisk pace. Extra activity is an amazing bargaining chip with yourself or family members to justify some overindulgence. You could make a deal with yourself that for every cookie you eat, you walk an extra 15 minutes or take a family walk and spend some quality time with loved ones while doing something good for your health! It may not keep you from adding a little extra holiday pounds, but it’s definitely damage control. Remember to be kind to yourself. Allow for those simple holiday joys while compensating with extra physical activity, something that's good for the body and spirit!
5. Engage others: Most importantly, do it together! Everything is easier with support, so enlist the help of family and friends (near and far) to keep you accountable. The more people that participate, the less it feels like you’re missing out. The holidays are a special time of year with the opportunity to re-create special traditions and even make a few new healthy ones!
6. Move your feet and support The American Legion: If you had the opportunity to participate in American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford’s 100 Miles for Hope, I have an exciting opportunity for you! The American Legion has joined forces with TRUCONNECT fitness app for a global virtual 5k run/walk. Globe Trot 2020 is a virtual, worldwide 5k for charity taking place on Monday, Dec. 21. Join me on Team Jennifer to support The American Legion. You can walk or run, and invite your friends and family. The proceeds raised will be split among six charities, including The American Legion. It is $2 to enter or $20 to also receive a team medal. Go to https://truconnect.fit/ or download the TRUCONNECT app your mobile App Store.
Original story at Legion.org found here.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell, MS, is a certified personal trainer and holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Education. She works with veterans and civilians, from elite athletes to those just starting their fitness journey. She is the commander of Post American Legion 43 in Hollywood, Calif.
John Mort is the December 2020 Kosciusko County Veteran of the Month. He was honored at Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting. Pictured (L to R) are: Rich Maron, County Veterans Affairs officer; Bob Conley, commissioner; Mort; Cary Groninger, commissioner; and Brad Jackson, president of the commissioners. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
By: David Slone, Staff Writer
(Times Union Online) John M. Mort was honored at the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting Tuesday as the December Veteran of the Month.
In presenting the honor, County Veterans Affairs Officer Rich Maron said it’s probably the longest biography he’s ever prepared and read up to this point.
Mort was born Dec. 15, 1955, in Denver, Colo., to Dan and Betty Mort. He lived there until it was time to start school and then moved to Anaheim, Calif.
At 14, his family moved to Indianapolis, where he completed school. His family then moved to Pensacola, Fla., where he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on March 26, 1974.
He was processed through Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), Montgomery, Ala., then onto Orlando to start his recruit training.
Mort enlisted with a guaranteed assignment to be an aviation ordnanceman so for advance infantry training he was sent to the Naval Air Technical Training Command in Millington, Tenn. There, he started his first fleet assignment and Fleet Readiness Aviation Maintenance Program (FRAMP) training on the VA-128. The VA-128 was an attack squadron of the U.S. Navy, nicknamed the Golden Intruders, using the (A-6 Intruder aircraft) located at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.
Mort’s first assignment was on the VA-115 called the Arabs (A-6 Intruder aircraft), located aboard the USS Midway, which was home ported in Yokosuka, Japan, for 3½ years.
Maron said, “Up until now, everything had been pretty normal, but having just turned 19 and now in a forward deployed to an aircraft carrier in a foreign country, he was definitely in for the experience of a lifetime.”
With only three months onboard, they got the call to head to Vietnam for Operation Frequent Wind. Saigon was falling to the North Vietnamese; Mort’s unit was sent with a lot of other ships to help evacuate the embassy. They were on station for 30 hours and managed to evacuate over 3,000 American and Vietnamese allies.
Mort worked and climbed to the rank of E-5 second class petty officer and as his first enlistment was coming to an end, he decided to get out. But he was talked into re-enlisting. The bonus he received for signing up again helped, and he got his choice of orders.
He was assigned to Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., for some aircraft intermediate maintenance training where he met his wife, Georgia, and they have three daughters, Rachelle, Cheryl and Carla.
Mort’s shore duty took him to the NAS Miramar (Top Gun) for two years, working the ordnance equipment from the F-14 Tomcat Fighter aircraft. This was the time he got married and started his family.
Georgia was a social worker for San Diego County. Little did Mort know that he would spend half of his career in San Diego, Maron said.
Mort’s next assignment was USS Ranger CV-61, home ported in San Diego, Calif. After a year onboard, he was promoted to E-6 first class petty officer and selected as Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department Ranger Man of the Year. He also submitted for Aviation Ordnanceman of the Year.
He again had shore duty as the senior instructor for aircrews in the loading of ordnance and small arms qualifications. Then it was sea duty for him again aboard the USS Kitty Hawk CV-63, home ported in San Diego, Calif., as bomb assembly crew. After only a year onboard, Mort was promoted to E-7 chief petty officer and became the chief in charge of bomb assembly overseeing the handling, storage and assembly of all ordnance aboard an aircraft carrier.
In 1987, the Kitty Hawk would be sent to Philadelphia, Pa., for Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) to add 15 years to her life. To get to Philadelphia from San Diego meant the ship had to make a world cruise. They headed west out of San Diego.
Mort went back to San Diego to get his family. They settled in Wilmington, Del., till they could get on the base at the Naval Shipyard. Mort was assigned as a liaison between the ship and the shipyard for work to be done on the tanks and voids, magazines and radars.
Mort’s next assignment would prove to be “very interesting,” Maron said, as it was The Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
He was promoted to E-8 senior chief petty officer and was assigned as enlisted detailer, making the transfer and training of aviation ordnance personnel happen.
Georgia also worked in officer assignments for helicopter pilots.
One of the more notable things that happened during Mort’s time there was a call from George H.W. Bush. From time to time, Mort would get congressional inquiries from service men and women or concerned parents, which had to be answered. Bush knew the answer but just wanted to confirm; mostly they talked about their time in the military.
Being the one that got to say where everyone got to go, Mort detailed himself back to the Kitty Hawk for a second tour as the leading senior chief in charge of bomb assembly in San Diego.
After two years, he was at the 20-year (March 1994) point and he decided to retire and moved to Oklahoma. They bought a farm and Mort got a job as a mill operator in a rubber plant making automotive and commercial belts. Georgia got a job as a 911 dispatcher.
He put his military career on the shelf and thought this is how it was supposed to be, Maron said.
In 2007, Georgia was diagnosed with a failing liver and would need a transplant at some point. Over the next year, her kidneys failed and she went on dialysis that put her at the top of the list for a liver/kidney transplant and she was fortunate enough to get that in December 2008.
Mort retired for the second time to help take care of Georgia. Fast forward to 2011, she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and after a 2-½-year battle, she passed. They had 36 years of marriage.
Mort decided to return to Indiana in 2015.
Mort worked at Menards in Warsaw for three years. He soon found out that working and trying to support activities that he wanted to was not going to work.
Retiring for the third time, he became more involved in the American Legion and VFW and started out as a trustee and quickly became more involved in trying to make a difference with veterans in and around Warsaw, Maron said.
Mort and his girlfriend Kathy enjoy working with veterans and their families in many different ways. Kathy is the president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 49 in Warsaw. Mort is the commander of American Legion Post 49. He is also the vice commander for American Legion Department of Indiana Second District.
Mort is involved in many different organizations around northern Indiana: American Legion Post 49 and VFW Post 1126 joint Honor Guard, vice commander of Sons of the American Legion Squadron 49, life member of the Vietnam Veterans of America St. Joseph County Chapter 1027, life member VFW Riders Post 1126, member of American Legion Riders Post 286 and ride captain of northeast region Indiana Patriot Guard and ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) Region 1.
“This guy has done a lot for veterans and he is a wonderful veteran,” Maron said. “After reading this for a long time, it’s probably the longest bio I’ve ever read, but I understand because you have a lot to say. All those years of service to our country and doing your part.”
Source: Times Union Online in Warsaw, Indiana.
By Steven B. Brooks, American Legion National
DEC 14, 2020
As the rains stopped and the sun came out on Dec. 11, vehicle after vehicle pulled up to a table and canopy stationed outside of Choices Coordinating Care Solutions on the northeast side of Indianapolis. Out of each vehicle either came children, adults or both – to collect what was an early Christmas, courtesy of American Legion Riders Chapter 341 in Cicero, Ind.
For the second straight year ALR Chapter 341 provided Christmas presents for area foster children. A year ago it was 31 children; this year 33 children found themselves on the receiving end of Chapter 341’s generosity, ranging from ages 2-19.
In the midst of a pandemic in a year full of uncertainty, sacrifice and loss, Choices Foster Care Director Reba James said Chapter 341’s gesture provided both joy and relief.
“I think people are shocked and amazed and so appreciative knowing that all of our kids are totally taken care of for Christmas,” James said. “Especially during COVID, and with all the different families that are in need … it’s been hard to cover everyone. To have this happen for our families so we don’t have to worry about them is just amazing. We are so thankful, and our foster parents are thankful.”
James and her staff solicited individual wish lists from each of the children; Chapter 341 spent $100 per child. In 2019, the children were able to open the presents inside while American Legion Post 341 Legion Family members watched, but COVID-19 moved this year’s effort to a drive-thru outside of Choices’ facility. A table was set up so that the children could open their presents while the Legion Riders – all clad in masks – could see the reactions their effort generated.
“It’s a blast,” Chapter 341 Director Jody Brown said. “When we come here to give the gifts out and see the expressions on the kids’ faces, the smiles, and knowing we’re helping to support the parents by helping them with their foster children, it’s great.”
Past Chapter 341 Director Dave Baughman said a fundraising ride brought in more than $5,000 to fund this year’s gift giveaway and get started on what will be a similar effort in 2021.
“It’s very rewarding,” Baughman said of the effort. “These kids were in situations that I can only imagine. Being able to help those kids and the foster parents is a no-brainer.”
In addition to shopping for all the presents, Chapter 341 Riders get together to wrap all the presents. “We’ll have 25 to 35 of our Legion Riders all in there trying to wrap Christmas presents,” he said. “Most of us don’t know what we’re doing. It’s just a lot of fun.”
James said this year’s donation from Chapter 341 has been especially timely. “We’ve had some really crisis kinds of situations happen with our families,” she said. “Just recently, one of the families that was going to be coming today, the foster father was in an accident and was killed. I was emailing back and forth with the foster mom last night, and she’s not in any position to go get Christmas for the kids. She is so appreciative of this, knowing the kids are going to be getting these gifts and she doesn’t have to worry about that.
“We’ve had foster parents (who contracted COVID-19), we’ve had foster parents who have lost their jobs. This year, more than ever, it’s especially meaningful because of everything everyone’s been through.”
Brown also realized the importance of continuing the effort this year. “Some of these parents may have lost jobs. They’ve lost income,” he said. “We were able to rally some of our folks to raise enough money to help them out."
Chapter 341 was started six years ago and has made a name for itself through its support for various causes, including The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors, a local victim of a school shooting, and the daughter of a disabled veteran in need of a service dog.
Brown, whose tenure of chapter director ends this month, said being a part of Chapter 341 “is amazing. I put this chapter together six years ago … with nine guys. Now we’re up to about 70 members. And not to sound cliché, but we’re so much like a family. It’s just been exciting. And I think we’ve raised in excess of $80,000 in the six years we’ve been chartered. I’m just very proud of our group and what we’re able to accomplish. Our guys have big hearts, and they’re eager to help.”
My fellow Legionnaires,
I wanted to share a quick story with you all.
Late last year Fortville American Legion Post 391’s Service Officer was able to assist a local Veteran who was struggling to keep his home. He was a single father who had been laid off for several months and was about to become homeless. We provided emergency funds through The American Legion’s CEWF and TFA programs, the immediate funds were enough to keep him and his children in their home until he started work again.
The Veteran had mentioned that he had tried to get his disability rating improved through another service organization but it went nowhere. I recommended he try working with one of the American Legion Department Of Indiana’s Service Officers. He did, and I’m happy to say that in just over a year after having met with The American Legion, his rating was changed from 30% to 80% and, he will be receiving back pay going to 2004. What an amazing success for this Veteran and the American Legion! This Veteran told me he and his children will be forever indebted to the work that The Legion has done for them.
So now to cut to the quick of the matter. If you think that your membership dues don’t have an impact on the lives of Veterans, families and our community please keep this story in your heart and minds. I encourage you all to take a look at the date on your Legion card and if it doesn’t say 2021 please send your dues in so that we can continue the great programs that The Legion sponsors.
“ Continuing to Serve”,
10th District Vice Commander
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Local veterans took time Monday to honor Americans killed on this day 79 years ago.
Monday marked Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The American Legion in Indianapolis had a ceremony Monday morning. Attendees watched a video, witnessed a flag ceremony, heard “Taps” being played, and watched as a wreath was tossed into the river. The ceremony honored of 3,500 Americans either killed or injured on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked the naval base in Hawaii.
“These guys gave their all for our contry and it’s very important that we keep their memories alive. As I said today, there are still families that are still dealing with the loss of those people,” said Allen Connelly, department commander with American Legion Indiana.
Remembering fallen heroes is a little tougher during a pandemic; the Legion took extra precautions to protect those involved.
By The American Legion
The Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) of Indiana received a much-needed donation from The American Legion on Dec. 3.
The American Legion Department of Indiana and Indianapolis Post 522 presented an American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) grant worth more than $17,000 in winter gear and toiletries to help local homeless veterans during the cold months ahead.
“Thank you. What you do is going to matter to 150-plus veterans,” said Brian Copes, president and CEO of HVAF during the OCW presentation. “We get a lot of attention and a lot of energy, and a lot of generosity leading up to Christmas. And then it disappears. So January, February start getting to be really lean months. I think you have us set for the rest of the winter.
"It’s going to be put to good use. We pledge to be good stewards with whatever comes our way.”
HVAF is located a few blocks from The American Legion National Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. Staff members from the Membership and Internal Affairs Division helped Department of Indiana Commander Allen Connelly and District 11 Executive Vice Commander Ben Olsen unload a delivery truck filled with boxes that contained various sizes of brand new items:
- Winter coats
- Hats, gloves and scarfs
- Toiletry kits
- OCW bags to carry the items in
“This is a very, very thoughtful and targeted donation that’s going to meet a very specific need right now as the weather is changing for the veterans in the community,” Copes said. “As I often say, it’s unfortunate that that need exists, but it’s a privilege and a blessing to help meet that need.”
Connelly, who was amazed at the amount of winter gear that The American Legion OCW grant was able to provide to homeless veterans in Indiana, reiterated that “this is what we do.”
“In our Preamble we talk about devotion to mutual helpfulness,” he said. “We have warm clothing for our homeless veterans, and I thank OCW and Past National Commander (James) Koutz (who helped raise over $1 million for OCW during his year as national commander). We are really supportive of OCW. So we are glad that some of it is coming back to Indiana.”
HVAF Community Engagement Coordinator Robert White reiterated the organization’s appreciation for The American Legion’s donation.
“God bless you all. Thank you so much for this,” he said. “This place gives me life; God has just blessed me to be here. I just want to continue to let folks know how appreciative I am of your support because we couldn’t do anything without you guys.”
OCW provides wounded warriors and veterans with items that are not covered by government agencies. Items have included toiletries, clothing, electronics, rehabilitation equipment, adaptive sporting equipment and other necessities.
To assist the funding for future donations, visit legion.org/operationcomfortwarriors.
“Thank you all for helping us better serve veterans in need,” Copes said. “So thanks for what you do.”
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