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The American Legion In the Southern Minnesota city of Austin, American Legion Post 91 is known as the place to drop off U.S. flags for disposal. Six-time Post Commander Roland Hanson estimates that 2,000 flags are disposed of properly during ceremonies conducted by the post on Veterans Day at nearby VFW Post 1216 and on Flag Day at Post 91. During the most recent disposal ceremony, Hanson came across a special flag – one that allowed him to give a history lesson to the Boy and Girl Scouts who annually assist with the ceremony. While prepping the flags for disposal – some already folded and ready to burn by the Scouts – Hanson noticed a flag that was a little different than the rest of the inventory. But it was one he was well familiar with, having said the Pledge of Allegiance to it many times in high school. “As soon as I picked it up out of the box and held it up, I said ‘oh boy,’” said Hanson, a Vietnam War Army veteran. “I saw six stars going down and eight stars across. I knew this was something that I had pledged to for many, many years myself.” The flag was the symbol of the United States from 1912 – after New Mexico and Arizona were granted statehood – until 1959 with the addition of Alaska. It had the second-longest life of any version of the U.S. flag; the current 50-star version has been in place since Hawaii was granted statehood on Aug. 21, 1959. “I held it up and I asked (the Scouts), ‘What do you think is wrong with this flag?’” Hanson said. “They said ‘wow, that’s in pretty good condition. Why would we want to retire that?’ I said, ‘Well, we do have to retire it because there’s only 48 stars on this flag.’ They were all in awe. They’d never seen one before.” That provided Hanson the opportunity to teach the Scouts a bit more about the flag. “I wanted to do a little bit of education,” he said. “It was probably one of the greatest moments in my (American Legion) career. I like to teach our youth what Americanism is all about. And obviously taking care of our American flag is one of them that’s top of the list in my book.” Hanson said the flag was still attached to part of a staff and that he’d like to try to locate the rest of the staff. After that, he’s going to donate the flag to the Mower County Historical Society in Austin. Properly disposing of U.S. flags is a responsibility Post 91 takes seriously. Hanson said a local car club built flag disposal bins for the post that he said “look like post office boxes. Sometimes we have to empty our bin four or five times and put them in boxes in storage until either Flag Day or Veterans Day.” Conducting two ceremonies a year allows the post to “retire our flags with dignity,” Hanson said, “so that we don’t find them in ditches and garbage cans … to disgrace our flag.”
Thirteen seniors celebrate June 4, 2019 after graduating from Ansbach High School at the Army garrison in Germany. Servicemembers with more than 16 years of service were given an additional six months to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to family members. Children must be high school graduates or 18 to receive the benefits.  AMY STORK/U.S. ARMY   Military personnel with more than 16 years of service will have an additional six months to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to family members, while Congress decides whether to remove the restriction on transfers. A new Defense Department rule was set to take effect on July 12, limiting the benefit transfers to troops with at least six years of service but no more than 16 years. The Pentagon extended the deadline until Jan. 12, 2020 for troops who have more than 16 years of service to give Congress time to discuss the House Armed Services Committee’s proposal to change the rule. Troops still must have served at least six years and be able to reenlist for four more years. “This is a welcome decision by the department to slow down implementation of a policy that will unfairly affect some of our most seasoned servicemembers,” Armed Services committee member Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said in a statement. Courtney proposed repealing the 16-year limit and received the committee’s unanimous support. He sent a letter on June 24 to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper requesting that the Pentagon delay imposing the restriction. The Pentagon announced plans for the limit in July 2018. Previously, there were no restrictions on when servicemembers could transfer education benefits to family members after they’d served six years. Servicemembers wounded in combat who have received Purple Heart medals are exempted from the rule. When veterans advocates criticized the restriction, military officials said the transfers were intended as a retention tool and not as a benefit to career servicemembers. In his letter to Esper, Courtney said efforts to retain good servicemembers shouldn’t stop at 16 years. “Ultimately, we hope that you will reconsider implementing this new limitation entirely and look forward to working with you as we consider policies to attract and retain our country’s best and the brightest,” Courtney said.
'Now is still a great time to help solidify our government’s relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away' WASHINGTON – In advance of this weekend’s start of the 120th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States in Orlando, Fla., the VFW national commander is asking all Vietnam veterans to search through their closets and footlockers for documents that might help Vietnam to determine the fate of an estimated 300,000 missing Vietnamese, and personal effects that might help bring comfort to their families. “It is important for the Vietnam generation to recognize that the personal connection they have with their memorabilia will not transfer to their descendants, which means such items will either be donated or simply trashed,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “And even though it’s been over a half-century for most Vietnam veterans, now is still a great time to help solidify our government’s relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away.” Lawrence said VFW senior leaders have traveled back to Vietnam every year since 1991 to help U.S. government efforts to account for missing and unaccounted-for servicemen and civilians, a number that currently totals 1,588 Americans (1,246 in Vietnam, 287 in Laos, 48 in Cambodia, and 7 in Chinese territorial waters). He said it is important for the VFW to maintain a “vet-to-vet” relationship with these countries from a non-bureaucrat, nonpolitician perspective, and he said it was critical for the VFW and military family organizations – specifically the National League of POW/MIA Families – to continue to put a human face on a humanitarian mission that transcends politics. “This call to action is the result of numerous requests for assistance from Vietnamese veterans organizations,” he stressed. “Being requested are personal effects, such as wallets, family photos and personal letters, as well as detailed battle maps or burial locations, anything that might help Vietnam to recover its own missing. No weapons, please!” Vietnam veterans can hand deliver their memorabilia to representatives from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency who will be attending the VFW National Convention in Orlando. They will turn over the artifacts to appropriate Vietnamese officials. Vietnam veterans can also share personal battlefield accounts with the DPAA representatives. Such firsthand information has led U.S. investigation and recovery teams to successfully search in locations not previously recorded by military after-action reports. Vietnam veterans unable to attend the convention can mail their memorabilia to:VFW Washington OfficeAttention: Public Affairs200 Maryland Avenue, NEWashington, DC 20002 Items collected by the VFW Washington Office will be turned over to DPAA.
WASHINGTON – More than 600 military Veterans from across the country, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are in Louisville, Kentucky this week to compete in the 39th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (Wheelchair Games) being held July 11-16.   The Wheelchair Games, co-presented each year by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), is a multi-event sports rehabilitation program. The games are open to U.S. military Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological disorders, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers. “The Wheelchair Games showcase the athletic ability and competitive spirit of our nation’s Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Competition through sports and recreation plays an important role in the rehabilitation journey and these games exemplify VA’s commitment to supporting Veterans who are  navigating recovery and rehabilitation to achieve active, independent lives.” VA research and clinical experience have shown that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding recovery and improving overall quality of life.  For many injured Veterans, the Wheelchair Games provides their first exposure to wheelchair athletics. Veterans have the opportunity to compete in 20 different events throughout the week including archery, billiards, bowling, cycling, track, field, quad rugby, wheelchair basketball and more.  “Every year, our members look forward to this event for the adaptive sports competition and the chance to reconnect with peers,” said David Zurfluh, a disabled Air Force Veteran and national president of PVA, who himself will compete this week. “The PVA mission is to ensure Veterans with disabilities have the same life experiences as everyone else, and co-hosting this event certainly delivers on that mission.” The opening ceremonies were held on Thursday at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) – the venue for many of the week’s competitive events. The annual Kids Day event for local children with disabilities will take place at 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, at KICC. All events are free and open to the public - no tickets are required.   For a complete schedule of events and additional information about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games visit wheelchairgames.org.  People can follow #NVWG on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for videos and photos from the event.
Few living people can remember a world prior to The American Legion. Anthony Mancinelli is one of them. A Legionnaire from Post 1796 in New Windsor, N.Y., Mancinelli celebrated his eighth birthday almost two weeks before the organization’s initial caucus more than a century ago. Born on March 2, 1911, near Naples, Italy, Mancinelli lived in Europe during the duration of World War I. He moved to the United States in 1919. Today, the 108-year-old is not only remarkably healthy, he continues to work fulltime as a barber at Fantastic Cuts in New Windsor. He is currently recognized as the “world’s oldest working barber” by Guinness World Records. He most likely is the world’s most experienced as well, giving his first haircut when Warren G. Harding lived in the White House, 97 years ago. “I first cut hair when I was 11. By 12, I was a full-fledged barber,” he said. During World War II, Mancinelli was tasked as a company barber and supply technician. “The Army drafted me in 1944 and stationed me at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was ready to go overseas, my name was called out and they said, ‘You’re not going with us, you’re the only married person and you have two children,'” recalls Mancinelli, who was 33 at the time. “In `45, the war was over and they sent me home.” When he owned his own barbershop in Newburgh, N.Y., he built a loyal customer base that continues to seek his services. “He gave the best haircut,” said Ed Schlobohm, who has been a customer of Mancinelli for 40 years. “He does it the right way. He talks to you and makes you feel comfortable while you’re getting a haircut. In a short period of time, you’re finished and you’re out the door.” Mancinelli’s son knows a 75-year-old who would regularly receive haircuts from Anthony since he was a young boy. “He doesn’t do it now because he doesn’t have any hair,” said Bobby Mancinelli, 82. The younger Mancinelli has been driving his father to his daily shifts at the salon since he stopped driving in December at age 107. “He said, ‘My license is still good until 2021.’ I said, ‘Whose car you going to drive? You don’t have insurance. You don’t have a car!'” he recalled, half admiringly and half incredulous. The older Mancinelli attributes his longevity to “clean living” and his work ethic. “I never thought I’d reach this age to tell you the truth…People say, ‘You’re 108 and you still work?’ I like to work. If I stayed home, I’d get old fast.” Post 1796 Commander Tracey Lanthier recognizes the significance of having the world’s oldest barber in his post. The post held an official celebration for Mancinelli’s 108th birthday party and featured him as the grand marshal for the community’s Memorial Day parade. Mancinelli, however, is not the only World War II veteran belonging to the post, according to Lanthier. “I have one World War II veteran who is 96 and one who’s 93. They’re the young ones!” Son Bobby, who served as the Post 1796 commander nine times, believes his father’s slender build has contributed to his long life. “My father jokes and says he stays thin because he eats thin spaghetti,” Bobby said. “My mother passed away 15 years ago and I figured he was going to be gone. He said, ‘I have to be working. I can’t just sit around.' And he’s been doing it ever since.” “He just loves his job,” added Jeannie Nagrinelli, a receptionist at the salon. “He’s amazing. Everybody loves him.” After being recognized by Guinness, media interest and international attention about New York’s most famous barber grew exponentially. Bobby believes the world is finally seeing the father that he has known and admired his entire life. “He’s a great man but he’s tough. And stubborn. And independent. He never took a pill in his entire life.” As far as Mancinelli’s Army superiors who kept him stateside during the war, Mancinelli can no longer ask them if his advanced age at the time played a factor. They have been dead for years.
(Stars & Stripes) U.S. Special Operations Command is not launching an all-out assault on carbs in a war of nutrition. Word that the Pentagon was set to mandate a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet for servicemembers spread like spilled avocado oil across the internet last week, with some respected outlets repeating the claim. From the Pizza Hut in Bagram, Afghanistan, to the Subway at Eielson Air Force Base in North Pole, Alaska, no facility would be safe — if the premise of the reports was true. It was not, Army Maj. Tony Mayne, a spokesman for the command, told Stars and Stripes via email. “USSOCOM does not envision a scenario that would mandate adherence to a particular diet for its operators,” Mayne said. The basis for the now disputed story was a May speech by SOCOM’s science and technology director, Lisa Sanders, in which she touted the potential benefits the diet would hold for the military, such as allowing divers to stay underwater longer. The stories drew inaccurate conclusions from Sanders’ comments, Mayne said in response to a Stars and Stripes query. Sanders had said that the Defense Department can’t require troops to eat a certain way, even if a dietary change could increase their performance. Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, right, speaks with recruits during pizza night for graduating divisions at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., May 30, 2019. U.S. Special Operations Command has denied a recent report that said there were plans to ban foods like pizza and mandate a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet for servicemembers.AMANDA S. KITCHNER/U.S. NAVY “I don’t have the authority to tell people — swimmers, submariners, etc ... — that they’re going to get themselves in ketosis so they can stay in the water longer,” Sanders told the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Fla., in the May speech, according to the Washington Times. The diet must also be tailored to each individual, E. Paul Zehr, a neuroscientist and professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, told Business Insider, which accurately reported on Sanders’ speech in June. Crafting diets for the armed forces’ 1.3 million active duty troops and some 800,000 in the selected reserve would be an obstacle to across-the-board implementation. How the diet works By depriving the body of the carbohydrates it normally uses to fuel cell activity, a ketogenic diet aims to put the body in a metabolic state that taps fat stores for energy. When only fat is available to the body, it’s converted into fatty acids and then into compounds called ketones, which can be used as fuel. The diet, developed to reduce epileptic seizures in children, has gained wide popularity in recent years for an entirely different reason: its promise of rapid weight loss without giving up fatty foods like bacon. But the diet has reputed downsides, including some that would likely affect troop morale. For instance, in addition to depriving troops of the sugary and starchy foods many of them love, the diet has been reported to cause bad breath and other smelly nuisances. Nutritionists caution that not only is weight loss on the keto diet often short-lived, but achieving ketosis requires sticking to severe restrictions on carbohydrates. Eating just two medium-sized apples in a day could bust the limit. Too much protein can also hamper efforts to reach the desired ketogenic state and even minor dietary lapses can cause setbacks.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service in June celebrated a decade of the VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) Program, which supports service members, Veterans and eligible dependents as they complete their education and obtain viable careers. The VSOC program, which provides dedicated vocational rehabilitation counselors on VSOC school locations to support eligible students, began as a pilot initiative at the University of South Florida in 2009, and, since then, has expanded to support 104 schools across the country. “VA is committed to ensuring eligible beneficiaries have the opportunity to achieve their career objectives,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The VSOC program is a great example of how VA is delivering on that commitment.” VSOC assists participants by helping to guide their career paths, reach educational and career targets and access their VA benefits. Last year, the VSOC program assisted over 44,000 participants in pursuit of their educational goals through on-campus benefits assistance and counseling. For more information on the VSOC program, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/vsoc.asp.
July 4 marks the celebration of America’s beginning   KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As Americans celebrate Independence Day with their families, friends and communities, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is encouraging everyone to take time and remember all of the Americans who have helped preserve our freedom and given us reason to defend that freedom for all future generations.  The America we know today was born from great leaders – brave men and women who despite the dangers took up the fight for a better way of life. And after eight long years with more than 4,400 lost, and nearly 6,200 injured, that way of life – the American way – was realized. Today, 243 years later the United States’ most dedicated patriots continue to pay the cost of our independence.  The VFW honors all of the brave men and women of the armed forces who have sacrificed greatly to secure our freedom. Their service and sacrifice has allowed us the very opportunity to celebrate today. To each of America’s service members and veterans, we thank you for your service. 
On June 26, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a Senate resolution honoring The American Legion’s 100th anniversary of serving veterans, their families and communities. Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced a resolution designating August 23-29 as "American Legion Week" to coincide with the Legion's 100th anniversary convention in its home city of Indianapolis. In a press release, Braun said, “The American Legion has been a cornerstone of American life from the local to the federal level since the beginning, and serves as a constant reminder of the enormous contributions America’s armed service members have made to enrich our nation during and after their military service. Indiana is proud to be home for the American Legion, and I'm proud to congratulate them on 100 years of service." Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also praised the organization. “For generations the American Legion has played an undeniable role in strengthening the veteran community,” he said. “Since its inception, The American Legion has provided support to veterans and their families in Montana and across the country by helping them navigate the VA system to get the care and benefits they earned. During American Legion Week, we celebrate their accomplishments, honor their 100 years of service, and thank them for their continued advocacy.” Praise also was offered by Brown. “Throughout the decades, The American Legion has remained dedicated to veterans and their families who have served and sacrificed so much for our country,” he said. “I’m proud to honor The American Legion on their 100 year anniversary of serving veterans of the armed forces, their families and our communities.” Young, lead sponsor of The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, said, “For 100 years, the American Legion has advocated for our veterans. As an American Legion member myself, I can attest to the important work the Legion does to improve the lives of veterans across America. That’s why I was proud to help create The American Legion 100th Anniversary commemorative coin, and it’s why I’m proud to help introduce a resolution celebrating this milestone.” U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who represents Indianapolis, is expected to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives. “The strong civic spirit found in Indianapolis is largely thanks to the enduring presence of the American Legion, which is headquartered here,” Carson said in a press release. “For 100 years, it has set an example of patriotism and service that has strengthened our community and many more across the nation. I’m pleased to congratulate the American Legion on its centennial, and honored to lead the resolution celebrating this milestone in the House of Representatives.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently revised its directives permitting religious literature, symbols and displays at VA facilities to protect religious liberty for Veterans and families while ensuring inclusivity and nondiscrimination. The move aims to simplify and clarify the department’s policies governing religious symbols, and spiritual and pastoral care, which have been interpreted inconsistently at various VA facilities in recent years, resulting in unfortunate incidents that interrupted certain displays. Effective July 3, these changes will help ensure that patrons within VA have access to religious literature and symbols at chapels as requested and protect representations of faith in publicly accessible displays at facilities throughout the department. “We want to make sure that all of our Veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the U.S.Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”  The new policies will:  Allow the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities. Allow patients and their guests to request and be provided religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during visits to VA chapels and during their treatment at VA. Allow VA to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans and its consistency with Constitutional principles. This includes the following values: a display that follows in the longstanding tradition of monuments, symbols and practices; respect and tolerance of differing views; and endeavors to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination.