American Legion Auxiliary — May 2013
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Walking the Walk in Washington, D.C.

The American Legion has written every piece of significant legislation for veterans since World War I. The Auxiliary has been there since the suffrage movement, supporting them and advancing their cause every step of the way. We walk the halls of the United States Capitol, walk the solemn grounds that memorialize our fallen veterans, and talk with countless White House, VA, and congressional leaders to support the Legion’s legislative priorities and advocate for veterans issues.

Just imagine: 800,000 Auxiliary members, beside Legion Family members, driving home the message of service to veterans, military, and their families throughout Capitol Hill. How could we not be heard? How could we not affect change? Our role as advocates for the needs of veterans and their families is more important than ever. The Washington DC Conference is open for every member to attend. Your presence is important, valuable and worthwhile.

Every year, Washington DC Conference attendees convene on Capitol Hill for the Hill Walk to meet with their senators and congressmen to educate them on the important issues that affect our veterans. This year was no different. The conference, held Feb. 24-27, was filled with speakers reconnecting members with the Auxiliary’s mission and the importance of what we do. Sequestration, the VA claims backlog, homeless veterans, transition back home, and the Stolen Valor Act are just a few of the issues Auxiliary members learned more about and shared with their legislators.

“I have been a member of the Auxiliary for 31 years and have been visiting my legislators on Capitol Hill for more than 20,” said Alabama’s Vickie Thrower, Southern Division Legislative Committee chairman and Unit 176 member. “It really hits home with me; it’s my passion. What I do is just a small contribution.”

Auxiliary members are essential to offer firsthand knowledge on how legislation personally affects Americans. “From my perspective,” said Thrower, “we discuss things with them they wouldn’t have a clue about if we didn’t go and talk to them about it personally. Unless they are veterans themselves or have a veteran in their family, they often don’t know what is happening and how it is affecting us.”

Prior to the Hill Walk, members heard from the Legion’s Legislative Commission Chairman Ken Governor, New York, with tips on what to expect during a meeting with a legislator, how to present the message and how to follow up. Legislative Division staff members then gave an overview of the Legion’s priorities for the year. Members were also invited to hear The Commander’s Call, where they heard from Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who thanked the Legion Family for all the work they do on behalf of veterans, military and their families.

“The Legion’s good works, day in and day out, have been crucial to the lives of millions of our fellow citizens all across this country,” Shinseki said. “So, from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, thank you all.”

It is important for representatives from the entire Legion Family to have a presence on the Hill and show their dedication. “We are a family, and we need to work as a family,” said Washington’s Barb Rutherford, Western Division national vice president and Unit 10 member. “The legislative priorities the Legion has also concern our mission priorities and us as Auxiliary members. We have a right and obligation to be in our legislators’ offices to speak about our knowledge and experiences as well.”

“The easily recognizable Legion caps make senators and congressmen mindful of the veterans,” said Mary “Dubbie” Buckler, national secretary/ executive director. “Our presence encourages them to be mindful of the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters who have served right alongside our nation’s service members, because policies affecting veterans and the military affect them too. Our presence is essential.”

In addition to important legislative work, Auxiliary members heard from a variety of speakers on topics such as helping veterans succeed in school, helping homeless veterans find homes, the Hiring Heroes program, caring for caregivers, tragedy assistance, and much more. They also visited Arlington National Cemetery where National President Peggy Thomas placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown, and toured several of the war and presidential memorials and military monuments.

“What makes championing our cause on the Hill even more exciting is the honor and respect we get to pay to the fallen,” Buckler said. “Getting to lay a wreath at Arlington never gets old no matter how many times you’ve observed it. It’s emotional, poignant. Everything we do is about honoring our service members and our veterans.”


TRAGEDY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FOR SURVIVORS (TAPS)

On Feb. 25, the American Legion Auxiliary was proud to present the 2013 Public Spirit Award to Bonnie Carroll at a luncheon sponsored by Quadriga Art. Carroll is an Air Force major, Army widow, compassionate counselor, president and founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and so much more. Carroll spoke to the general session and the award luncheon crowds about what it means to lose a loved one in service, the support that is often needed, and what TAPS does to help.

“Bonnie Carroll is truly an inspiration and proof of how a devastating event can have a positive outcome for others experiencing the same sadness,” said Illinois’ Pam Ray, National Public Relations vice chairman and Unit 71 member.

Founded in 1994, TAPS has assisted more than 35,000 surviving family members, casualty officers and caregivers, according to their website, www.taps.org. Anyone suffering the loss of a military loved one can call the organization for comfort and care through a number of services and programs, including peer-based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources.

“What Bonnie has done for our military families is valuable beyond words,” said National President Peggy Thomas. “Rising out of her tragedy to create TAPS and support others in their grief is a true example of the essence of our mission and Service Not Self.”

The Auxiliary’s Public Spirit Award, established in 1983, recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations for contributions that positively impact our communities, especially those efforts that benefit our military, veterans, and their families.


PARADE OF CHECKS SUPPORTS CHILDREN OF WARRIORS SCHOLARSHIP

Auxiliary members with checks paraded across the stage, kisses and hugs from President Peggy abounded, photos were taken, but when all was said and done, what remained is what matters: The 2013 Parade of Checks raised a generous $30,847 to benefit the Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship.

This premiere scholarship provides the children and grandchildren of those who served with recognition of their sacrifices through financial support toward higher education. Each year, 15 outstanding students who excel in academics and volunteer in their communities are awarded thousands in scholarship money from the ALA.

The Parade of Checks takes place each year at the Washington DC Conference and benefits a fund designated by the national president. Eligible funds are those presented at the conference specifically for this purpose.

Learn more about the Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship by visiting www.ALAforVeterans.org/scholarships.


Creating Advocates The Auxiliary’s National Legislative Committee exists to create advocates for our veterans. It works to train and inform Auxiliary members to become grassroots advocates for veterans and their families with local, state, and national elected officials. The Auxiliary supports the legislative agenda, initiatives, and priorities set forth by The American Legion.

The national Legislative Committee encourages members to contact their elected officials by phone, email or letter to implore them to keep the needs and sacrifices of our troops and their families front and center as they go about their legislative work. Resources to help accomplish this can be found at www.ALAforVeterans.org/Programs/Legislative.


PROMOTING NATIONAL DEFENSE THROUGH HOMEFRONT SUPPORT

The purpose of the Auxiliary’s National Security Committee is to develop, implement and monitor programs and activities that contribute to the practical, emotional and social well-being of military service members and their families. By supporting activities such as Operation Comfort Warriors, Operation Home front, TAPS, welcome home events, the Yellow Ribbon program, Gold Star/Blue Star Banner program, Citizen Corps, and more, the National Security Program hopes to ease the worries of those deployed so that they can focus on the monumental task of protecting our country.

Auxiliary members working the National Security Program step up and reach out to care for military families in very practical ways, such as assisting with household needs, childcare, or providing a listening ear. Taking care of the families back home helps promote a strong national defense. Information on all of these programs can be found at www.ALAforVeterans.org/Programs/National-Security.


A VISUAL FEAST OF AMERICAN HISTORY

The Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State offer a visual feast for any lover of art and architecture. For 50 years, this suite of 42 rooms has received dignitaries and diplomatic leaders from around the world. However, only one outside organization has the honor of holding a reception in this space — The American Legion Family.

Thanks to The American Legion State Department Post 68, the Legion Family has the pleasure each year to hold a reception among 18th century, museum-caliber American art in rooms where treaties have been signed, swearing-ins have been hosted, trade agreements have been facilitated, and peace has been promoted. During the reception, Legion Family leaders hear remarks from Patrick Kennedy, State Department Undersecretary for Management.

Items in the collection, valued at more than $100 million, include Paul Revere silver, Chinese export porcelain once owned by George and Martha Washington, American Chippendale furniture, the desk on which the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, and the Treaty of Paris itself.


TOP 12 AMERICAN LEGION FAMILY LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

With the majority in the House and Senate having significantly different political philosophies on our nation’s future, it is important that members of The American Legion Family show our non-partisan support for bi-partisan legislation for our military and their families. The current legislative priorities for the Legion are as follows. Visit www.legion.org/legislative for more information on each legislative issue.

• Protecting veterans and Department of Defense from the harmful cuts imposed through sequestration

• Mental health care

• Oppose any further increases in TRICARE fees, including prescription drug fees

• Stolen Valor Act

• VA Claims backlog

• Disabled veterans tax/ widows tax

• Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) and Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

• Small business verification

• End veteran homelessness

• Quality education through Post 9/11 GI Bill

• Military to civilian credentialing

• The American Flag

by Stacy Poca, ALA Creative Communications Specialist


Washington DC Conference 2014: Make Your Plans to Attend Your help is needed to create a bigger presence on Capitol Hill. The more legislators we meet with, the greater chance we have in making a significant impact. Planning is already under way for the 2014 Washington DC Conference. Start making your plans now to attend from March 23-26 to do your part on Capitol Hill. Remember: All Auxiliary members are eligible to attend.

Visit the Auxiliary’s Legislative Program page at www.ALAforVeterans.org/Programs for guides on contacting your legislators now and for making appointments later, and the Washington DC Conference page at www.ALAforVeterans.org/Meetings for Hill Walk Hints, 2013 presentations and recaps, and information for 2014.
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