Bill-ClintonThe American Legion Department of Pennsylvania opened applications today for the 2015 session of Keystone Boys State (KBS), a weeklong civic leadership program held at Shippensburg University. This program has grown over the last 10 years, picking up a number of Governor School students, and will approach 300 KBS citizens from across the state this year. All High School Junior Boys (incoming Seniors) are eligible.

Boys State was founded in 1935 by two Illinois Legionnaires to teach young men about the rights, privileges and responsibilities of American citizens. The program focuses on hands‐on participation in simulated city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, KBS activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, intramural sports, law‐enforcement presentations, a band and recreational programs. The program has produced such notable alumni as President Bill Clinton, KBS graduate Adm. Jon Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, astronaut Neil Armstrong, noted national news anchor Tom Brokaw, Michael Jordan, Robert Griffin III and entertainer Jon Bon Jovi, among others.

“KBS teaches young men to have pride in their communities and be responsible, engaged citizens. Our alumni go on to be leaders in whatever field they choose to strive in – we have alumni who are doctors, educators, military leaders, athletes, elected representatives, scientists, businessmen . . .” said KBS Director Bob Munhall.

KBS is open to all male Pennsylvania residents who have completed 11th grade and have at least one semester of high school remaining. The American Legion Department of Pennsylvania helps match successful applicants with a sponsoring Legion post so that the program is free for participants.

While the program has grown significantly in recent years, organizers and sponsors say they’re making a special effort to enable more attendance this year. The program is free to the family because the citizen receives a sponsorship/scholarship from his local American Legion Post.

“We know there’s demand beyond what we’ve been able to support in the past. A lot of people think KBS is only for guys who want to go into politics, but that’s far from the case. For one thing, there’s a lot more to the program than that. As we like to say, it’s “a week that shapes a lifetime”, said Darren Fossett, KBS Dean and 2006 alumni. “Plus, it’s just an incredibly fun time – that’s what’s kept me coming back for all these years.”

Each year, two delegates are chosen to participate in the American Legion’s Boys Nation program in Washington, DC, where they build on what they’ve learned at Boys State through participation in a simulation of the U.S. Senate and meetings with Congressmen and the President of the United States. Both delegates receive a $1,000 scholarship for college. All KBS citizens are also eligible to apply for a $20,000 scholarship sponsored by The American Legion and the Samsung Corporation.

“Seeing how the federal government works, up close and personal, was just an incredible experience and it was amazing spending a week with 97 of the most talented guys in the country. I’m still in touch with a lot of the guys I met there,” said Tony Salvatori, 2014 KBS Boys Nation delegate.

Openings are available at the 2015 KBS, which will be held June 21‐27 at Shippensburg University for 300 citizen delegates. Interested individuals can apply online through the website of the American Legion Department of Pennsylvania (http://pa‐legion.com/programs/studentprograms/keystone‐boys‐state/). Applications are due to the American Legion by May 15th.

For media inquiries, please contact KBS Media Director Lincoln Davidson (email: davidsonlincoln@gmail.com | phone: 570.541.9531)

A printer friendly version of the press release from the KBS

Keystone Boys State fillable application 2015 updated 2/18/15

02012015_apollohouse_5935If anyone has a right to demand a thank-you for his military service, Marcus Luttrell might fall into that category. The author of “Lone Survivor,” Luttrell was gravely wounded during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2003 that took the lives of three of his fellow SEALS and led to the deaths of eight 160th Army Special Operations Aviators and eight Navy SEALs during an attempt rescue.
But during an American Legion-moderated panel discussion in Phoenix during Super Bowl weekend, Luttrell said he doesn’t want any thanks.
“We do the things that we do so that (civilians) don’t have to worry about anything,” Luttrell said. “Live your life. Love your kids. Go to work and enjoy that day. If you feel you want to do something, there are positive organizations that you can obviously affiliate yourself with to help out in that way.
“I think you should just enjoy everything we have in our country. That’s the reason we have the military. You don’t owe me anything. You don’t owe us anything.”
Luttrell was one of three panelists, joining American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones and retired Maj. Gen. Major General Spider Marks, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and the the senior intelligence officer for the 2003 liberation of Iraq. The discussion took place in front of an audience comprised mainly of college student veterans at the University of Phoenix’s Apollo House in downtown Phoenix.
The panel focused primarily on the transition from the military to the civilian world and the obstacles that sometimes hinder that transition. Department of Veterans Affairs health care, getting or furthering an education and navigating the job market were among the topics discussed.
“It was very valuable,” Jones said of the panel. “The caliber of people who were (on the panel): (Marks) spent his life in the military, and Marcus … just the incredible things he had to go through to survive … that’s exactly who we advocate for. Those are the people that we get up and go out and create resources for. Those are the people we’re on (Capitol Hill) for – those veterans who have given so much to this country. And to raise the level of awareness of what veterans need … and how veterans feel was very important.”
Jones gave an overview of the Legion’s many programs that aid in the transition process, including participation in military and veteran career fairs, aiding veterans in getting their VA compensation and continuing to advocate for better education benefits.
“We can never do enough for veterans,” Jones said. “That’s why The American Legion continues to create programs. Somebody from The American Legion’s D.C. office is on (Capitol Hill) every day. We’re working with congressional liaisons to make sure that we can help with the right language for the right bills to help veterans – not just language, but what does it actually do for the everyday veteran when it’s put out there.”
Helping veterans further their education and find a successful career also are Legion priorities, Jones explained. “When you come out of the military you’re a well-oiled machine,” she said. “Veterans come in already ready.
“The American Legion believes that we need to continue to have those resources for veterans … for people who want to go back to school and build a better quality of life for yourselves and your families, and then pay that forward.”
Luttrell admitted leaving the military wasn’t easy. “It’s tough for everybody,” he said. “My brother’s dealing with it right now. You’re used to doing something your entire life … having that routine every day. I missed it, to tell you the truth. My brother was still in, and I missed all my buddies. That was the biggest thing: missing my friends and my teammates. It took me awhile to rotate out of that transition. It is an adjustment.”
Marks, a regular contributor on CNN who now serves as executive dean of the University of Phoenix’s College of Criminal Justice and Security, spent 34 years in the Army – developing strong relationships along the way.
“That’s the thing that’s most difficult to give up: the sense of purpose,” he said. “It’s really the sense of camaraderie. And it’s the focus you have and the shared sense of what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your brothers and sisters. It’s very difficult to make that transition. How do you redefine yourself without routinely looking in the rearview mirror and trying to be what you were once? You’ve got to take what you were once and move forward.”
A West Point graduate, Marks said it’s important to ask how education is relevant and accessible, as well as where a veteran is in his or her life and how an education relates to that. “Have an objective,” he said. “Have a mission which has to do with a vocation. (You) want to have an education that’s relevant, that (you) can touch and feel and understand that it’s going to lead to a conclusion.”
Luttrell, who uses VA health care, said quality care is important – as is seeking out that care. “The worst thing you can do is go home and not (seek care),” he said. “Most of us … don’t want to go in the hospital. I’d walk outside the door forever before I’d finally walk in there.
“A lot of times I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was that, that I was slowing down. That’s a hard pill to swallow for a lot of us.”
Luttrell said it’s also therapeutic to meet up with other veterans getting VA care. “You think to yourself, ‘This guy’s not thinking about this,’ and then he starts talking about it,” he said. “(You think) I was just going through that. It’s important.”
When it comes to looking for a job, Luttrell said veterans don’t want handouts or special treatment. “You give me a chance, that’s all I need,” he said. “All I’ve got to do is put my foot in the door. I’ll take it from (there). That’s how we all think.”
During the course of the weekend, Jones also was able to briefly meet one on one with various celebrities, members of Congress and industry leaders. She spoke with former National Football League greats Eric Dickerson and Richard Dent about traumatic brain injuries, and was able to talk veteran issues with U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham, Gregory Meeks, Kevin McCarthy and Kyrsten Sinema.
“We have to be out to tell our story so people understand who the Legion is and for us to understand who everyone else is, so we can find a way to take all the information that we get from different perspectives and bring it back and create those resources and those programs that are going to be veteran-centric,” Jones said. “For The American Legion to come out and network with so many people and get so many perspectives … gives us a lot of very good information.”
– See more at: http://www.legion.org/troops/225989/getting-perspective-transition-process#sthash.5od6hBbH.dpuf

Audie_MurphyMedal of Honor recipient and film star Audie Murphy topped an online survey of America’s “Most Beloved Veterans” conducted by The American Legion, the country’s largest organization of wartime veterans.

More than 70,000 votes were cast by about 4,800 participants; each respondent could vote for up to 25 veterans from a list of 100 candidates put together by the Legion. Write-in candidates were also accepted.

A farm boy from Texas, Murphy became the most decorated soldier of World War II and pursued a postwar movie career that included starring roles such films as “The Red Badge of Courage” and “To Hell and Back.”

Murphy led a top 10 of veterans that included, in order: George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Alvin York, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, Norman Schwarzkopf, Robert E. Lee, Jimmy Doolittle and Ulysses S. Grant.

Making it into the top 25 were film star Jimmy Stewart, World War I air ace Eddie Rickenbacker, Navy SEALs Chris Kyle and Michael Murphy, Pearl Harbor hero Dorie Miller, NFL player Pat Tillman, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, John Paul Jones, John F. Kennedy, Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall and legendary Marine Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

Several pop culture heroes finished in the top 100, including Bill Cosby, Mickey Rooney, Charles Schulz, Gene Roddenberry, Rod Serling and Buster Keaton.

For the full list and more information on each of the veterans selected, please visit

Legion welcomes overdue change to PTSD discharge guidelines
The new guidelines will help veterans who left the military with undiagnosed PTSD

The Department of Defense issued supplemental guidelines on Sept. 3 that will help its review boards when considering petitions for discharge upgrades from veterans claiming they had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of separation.

The guidelines, issued in a memo from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, will be used by DoD’s Military Department Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records. They will help in considering whether servicemembers suffered from PTSD while on active duty, and if that condition may have contributed to their discharges under other-than-honorable conditions.

American Legion National Commander Michael D. Helm welcomed DoD’s announcement. “As the only veterans service organization that automatically helps veterans with discharge petitions, The American Legion knows that many veterans are going to get the break they have deserved for several decades.”

Helm said the Legion’s office in Washington handles many petitions from veterans to have their discharges upgraded to the “honorable” or “general” categories. “Many of those veterans getting our help served in Vietnam, and many of them came home with undiagnosed PTSD and a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge they never should have received.”

The Legion’s Washington office participated in conference call on Sept. 4 with DoD experts, who clarified the meaning and effect of the new guideline and answered questions.

In 2013, The American Legion handled 211 discharge petitions and appeared at 85 military board hearings; of 193 petitions decided on, 60 of them received upgrades.PTSDbrain1

vermont_teddy_bear_logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Vermont Teddy Bear Launches New Line of Bears to Help American Legion Programs

Sales of The American Legion bear to support veterans, service members and their communities
INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 5, 2014) – The Vermont Teddy Bear Company, the nation’s largest producer of handcrafted teddy bears, is showing its patriotic colors with the introduction of a new line of limited edition bears to support The American Legion.

Wearing a white T-shirt and uniform cap, both featuring The American Legion emblem, the loveable handmade bear makes a thoughtful gift for a veteran, child or grandchild, or a meaningful keepsake for any Legion member or supporter. The bear’s cap can be personalized with a city, state, district, American Legion post or name of choice.

In addition, Vermont Teddy Bear has designed a line of military inspired bears from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as a camouflage bear, also with proceeds to benefit The American Legion.

“We are proud to support The American Legion with our specially designed, one-of-a-kind, military themed bears,” said Bill Shouldice, CEO of Vermont Teddy Bear Company. “Our bears have been handmade right here in the USA for more than 30 years, and now we are honored to partner with the nation’s largest veterans organization focused on service to veterans, service members and communities.”

Twenty percent of proceeds from sales of the bears will be donated to The American Legion to help the organization fulfill its commitment to assist those who have served, and those who are currently serving, in the U.S. Armed Forces, and to promote patriotic values in communities everywhere.

“The American Legion has a broad range of programs for America’s children, veterans and military families, and we welcome the support of Vermont Teddy Bear,” American Legion National Commander Mike Helm said. “Each purchase of these wonderfully crafted bears directly supports American Legion programs, providing the necessary resources to continue our devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.”

These specially designed bears are only available through Dec. 24, 2015. They can be ordered online by visiting www.VermontTeddyBear.com/Legion or by calling toll-free at 1-800-829-BEAR (2327).

About Vermont Teddy Bear Company
Vermont Teddy Bear, the largest handcrafter of Teddy Bears in North America, lovingly designs, stuffs and stitches every Bear in Vermont. For a one-of-a-kind gift that’s just as unique as the recipient, every Vermont Teddy Bear can be customized to fit a special life event, occasion or holiday. Orders can be placed by phone at 1.800.829.BEAR, where a friendly Bear Counselor(r) will assist with selection and personalization, online at www.VermontTeddyBear.com or via mail order catalog.

THANKSGIVING PRAYER FOR OUR TROOPS

Today we gather around the dinner table with family and friends to share good food, warm laughter, and the happy memories of Thanksgivings past. But for many families, whose loved ones serve in the Armed Forces, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration will not be complete.

A familiar voice will not be heard and a chair at the table will remain empty because, they have someone far from home serving our country.
Today also, members of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coastguard (men and women, Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard alike) will gather in mess halls or tents across the globe as friends and comrades to enjoy the tradition of this special day. Pray for those on the front lines, for safety and protection.

So, as those of us who are blessed to be with our families celebrate and give thanks, let us remember in our prayers the homes that have an empty chair at the table and also offer a special prayer of thanksgiving and ask God’s Blessings for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, whose service and sacrifice will, we further pray, make the world a better and safer place. And a very special prayer dear God, for those homes that have an empty chair that will forever remain vacant and for those servicemen and women who have come back to us, may their sacrifice not have been in vain.

Author UnknownAfghanistan US Troops Thanksgiving

THE AMERICAN LEGION & AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY
DEPARTMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA

DEPARTMENT COMMANDER & PRESIDENT
HOLIDAY HOSPITAL TOUR
DECEMBER 5 – 11, 2014
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2014
Depart Department HQ 8:00 AM
Southwest State Veterans Home 12:00 PM
Oakland VAMC 3:00 PM
Overnight Comfort Inn

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2014
H.J. Heinz III Progressive Care Center 9:00 AM
Butler VAMC 12:30 PM
Overnight Erie Comfort Inn

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2014
Pennsylvania Soldiers & Sailors Home 10:30 AM
Erie VAMC 1:00 PM
Overnight Altoona Grand Hotel

MONDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2014
*Altoona VAMC 10:00 AM
* Hollidaysburg State Veterans Home 2:00 PM
Overnight Quality Inn Wilkes-Barre

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2014
Wilkes-Barre VAMC 8:00 AM
Gino J. Merli State Veterans Home 10:00 AM
Lebanon VAMC 2:30 PM
Overnight Quality Inn Wormleysburg

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2014
Philadelphia VAMC 10:30 AM
Delaware Valley Veterans Home 2:00 PM
Overnight Radisson North Philadelphia

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2014
Southeast State Veterans Home 10:00 AM
Coatesville VAMC 1:30 PM
Return to Department HQ

As of 11/07/14 – subject to change
* Please note the time change from last copy distributed – these are updated times

Click Here for a printable version of the tour

flagThis 48 star flag was presented to the Oscar M. Hykes American Legion Post 223 on March 9, 1920 by Charles A. Wolfe of Los Angeles, California, who was living in Pittsburgh, PA. This flag was placed on the railroad just east of Pittsburgh on September 18, 1901 as the funeral train of President William McKinley passed. The train was on its way to Canton, Ohio, where the President was buried on September 19, 1901. The wheel marks of the train are still present on the flag and this flag is still the property of the American Legion Post 223. The American Flag is kept in a climate controlled safe. More photos of Post 223 can be viewed on the American Legion Centennial website.

sonMyles Eckert proudly wears his SAL cap and his father’s dog tags. Photo by Lucas Carter

Myles Eckert found a $20 bill in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel, wrapped it in a note and handed it to an Air National Guardsman dining with his family inside. The note read, in part, “My dad was a soldier. He’s in heaven now. We like to pay it forward in my family. It’s your lucky day! Thank you for your service.”

Paying it forward to servicemembers makes the 9-year-old Gold Star son from Waterville, Ohio, “happy, happy, happy,” he says, “because it reminds me of my dad.”

His heart-tugging story aired on CBS Evening News and whipped up a wave of social media buzz.

Army Sgt. Gary Eckert was killed in Iraq in 2005, when Myles was four weeks old. The boy says he feels “like the spirit of my dad is in me” when he wears his father’s dog tags and wedding ring around his neck, which he did May 16 when the American Legion Family of Ohio honored him alongside his mother Tiffany and 10-year-old sister Marlee during the 51st Sons of The American Legion Detachment of Ohio Convention.

“In one instant, a young man personified everything our organization is about: paying it forward to veterans,” said Jason Graven, the Department of Ohio’s internal affairs director.

Myles received an honorary lifetime SAL membership to Squadron 587 in Toledo, Ohio, and a $5,000 donation was made in his name to the Folds of Honor Foundation. He also received other gifts, including a plaque from American Legion National Commander Dan Dellinger.
“They say integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is looking,” SAL National Commander Joe Gladden said when recognizing Myles. “That’s what you did that day.”

As for the boy, the sight of a soldier always brings his dad to mind. “You should respect soldiers every day,” he said.

On Aug. 24, during the 43rd Sons of The American Legion national convention in Charlotte, N.C., Mike Moss was elected the SAL’s national commander for the 2014-2015 membership year.

Moss lives in Colorado and has been and still is very active in the Colorado Detachment. He has served on the national level as the Mid-West national vice commander and is a past chairman of the National Children & Youth Commission.

Moss’ eligibility for SAL membership is through his father, a Korean War Air Force veteran who flew B-29s and a 54-year member of The American Legion. One of Moss’ earliest memories of The American Legion was when he was 8 years old and going to the local grocery store with his mother, also a 54-year member of the Legion Auxiliary, to sell poppies to raise money.

Moss’ motto is “Building Bridges To The Future.” He knows that our future lies with our young people, and he would like membership to be at 100 percent by May 1, 2015 and have the renewal rate of or over 90 percent.

Moss’ goals for this year include raising:

• SAL membership to 370,000 members,
• $50,000 in donations for the Legion’s National Emergency Fund,
• $400,000 in donations for The Legion Child Welfare Fund, and
• $90,000 in donations for the Legion’s National Endowment Fund.

Other elected SAL officers include National Vice Commander’s Greg “Doc” Gibbs (East), Jeff Evans (South), Ron Wyatt (Central), Charles Keith )Mid-West), and David Swafford (West). And National Membership Chairman George Lasinski, National Adjutant Brian O’ Hearne, National Chaplain Harl Ray, National Commander’s Aide Ken Yanke, National Historian Mark Klilstrom, and National Liaison John Kerestan.