Wednesday, December 19, 2012


'A domino effect'

 American Legion Past National Commander Ronald F. Conley holds the ribbon as VAPHS Director/CEO Terry Gerigk Wolf and Fisher House Foundation CEO Ken Fisher cut it for the dedication of the new Pittsburgh Fisher House. (Photo by Scott Goldsmith)

 On Dec. 4, during a ribbon cutting ceremony, the Fisher House Foundation dedicated its 58th home to the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS). And a few veterans’ families are already enjoying the comfort of the new home.

"It’s just so beautiful; I feel like a princess in a castle," said Rhonda Jarrells of Jerusalem, Ohio, whose husband is in the intensive care unit. "I am so very thankful to be here, and my husband can concentrate on getting better since I am safe and being taken care of."

Construction of the 9,500 square foot Pittsburgh Fisher House was supported by many organizations, but the largest contributor was The American Legion Department of Pennsylvania with a $225,000 donation.

"The house wouldn’t have been possible without the support of The American Legion," said Ken Fisher, Fisher House Foundation chairman and CEO. "For The American Legion to play such a big role for this house was really the catalyst behind the groundbreaking and completion of it."

The Department of Pennsylvania, as well as VAPHS, saw the dire need for a Fisher House as veterans from across the nation come to the hospital for its world-renowned liver and transplant program and specialty research programs. "The American Legion works really closely with the VA Pittsburgh; we have a great relationship," said Terry Gerigk Wolf, VAPHS director and CEO. "So we knew if we raised enough money for a Fisher House, that hopefully the foundation would take notice."

In 2008, the two organizations, as well as the Sons of The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, began their fundraising efforts to see the first Pennsylvania Fisher House come to fruition.

"We went out and talked about it (Fisher House), preached about it and made connections with people," said Past National Commander Ronald F. Conley, currently manager of Allegheny County Veterans Affairs (ACVA). "And those people made connections with someone else. It’s a domino effect, and people want to be a part of the common good — supporting our nation’s veterans."

Between the department and ACVA, press releases were created and sent to Pittsburgh newspapers for publishing and all 800 Pennsylvania Legion posts received Fisher House flyers. Additionally, those who lost a loved one were asked in lieu of flowers to contribute to the Pittsburgh Fisher House, which raised thousands of dollars.

"There are no words that can express my gratitude for seeing a Fisher House built here," Conley said. "It gives an opportunity to families to connect with their loved ones during a critical time of their rehabilitation."

And through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), VAPHS employees have raised more than $325,000 for the Pittsburgh Fisher House by having deductions taken from their paychecks throughout the past four years. The CFC is the only authorized solicitor of employees in the federal workplace on behalf of charitable organizations.

"VA Pittsburgh employees are so enthused about the mission, which to me there is no greater mission than taking care of what I call America’s heroes," Wolf said. "What I love about the Fisher House and the whole concept is that it’s dependent upon the community and its volunteers. The community is what really makes a Fisher House work and be sustainable. It’s one thing to build a beautiful house; it’s another to perpetuate it."

The Pittsburgh Fisher House features 10 suites, each with a private bathroom. Common areas include a fully equipped kitchen, living, dining and family rooms, a library and a patio that overlooks the city. It also has a security system requiring a key card for access inside and into the individual suites. For a family to stay at the house free of charge, they must have a family member — veteran or active-duty servicemember — receiving inpatient care at VAPHS and reside 50 miles or more from the hospital.

"We have an obligation to our nation’s veterans to take care of them, and that’s what the Fisher House has helped us do," said Cindy Campbell, Fisher House Foundation vice president for community relations and media affairs. "I hope our partnership with The American Legion continues into other states because as a Legionnaire, we are the voice for our nation’s veterans. That’s what The American Legion does — they advocate, they tell our story, and they remind the American people that we’re here, we are veterans."

The Fisher House Foundation hosted a dinner on Dec. 3 for the completion of the Pittsburgh Fisher House, and Conley accepted an award on behalf of the Department of Pennsylvania for being the largest contributor.

"With 40-plus years of serving veterans, this is probably one of the most humbling acknowledgements that has been given to The American Legion and to myself for fundraising," he said to the dinner guests. "No greater pride do we have as an organization than to serve our veterans."

Stay tuned for the March 2013 issue of The American Legion Magazine for a more detailed story about the Pittsburgh Fisher House.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Senator Inouye

Legion Statement on Senator Inouye
INDIANAPOLIS (December 18, 2012) –  National Commander of The American Legion James E. Koutz issued the following statement on the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye:
“America lost a true hero and veterans lost a staunch advocate with the passing of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye. His love of country was never more evident than when he earned the Medal of Honor and incurred serious wounds while leading his men in battle at San Terenzo, Italy. His lifetime passion for veterans, our military and our national security led The American Legion to present him with our prestigious Good Guy Award in 2005. Sen. Inouye was a proud Legionnaire and a great patriot.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Part of every company's identity is its tagline.  What company do you think of when you read: “Semper Fidelis”; "Where's The Beef?"; "Don't Leave Home Without It";  "No One Does More For Veterans" (yes, even VFW has a tagline); "We've Got Your Back"; or "The UnCola"?  Click on this link above and you will be able to read the "100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948."

During the next few years, and thereafter, as part of The American Legion's strategy for continuous growth we will have to concentrate much more on marketing our name and what we do than we've ever had to in the past.  Thousands of "veterans service organizations" have popped up all across the country.  All are competing for the membership of veterans and the donations to help support their good works.  Some do great things in a niche market.  Some raise millions of dollars to support their programs.  Some may actually do very little. 

None do as much for active-duty military, veterans, military retirees and their families as does The American Legion.  And, yet, we have no consistent tagline that readily tells people who we are, what we do, or who we do it for.  Each national commander has a slogan and they are well thought out and well themed, but they don't lend a permanent identity to the Legion.

Through the years we have had many slogans such as "Marching Together Again"; "Veterans Serving Veterans"; "Every Day is Veterans Day"; "Still Serving America"; "For God and Country" which will never go away but doesn't serve as an effective tagline.

The Membership and Post Activities Committee will meet in January to draft a strategic plan for growing membership year after year; for inculcating into our corporate culture the idea that "growth is a prerequisite to everything we do." 

Another of the committee's tasks is to suggest a corporate tagline, which after approval by the NEC, will be used for the foreseeable future in all of our advertisements, letterheads, publications, press releases, and so forth as a description of who we are and what we do.

The goal is to adopt a tagline which is so significant that all of the public will recognize it, associate it with The American Legion, and know what is our "reason for being."  Even though it must be short and pithy, it must be filled with content and phrased in a memorable and catchy way. 

You can help us craft an American Legion tagline by submitting your ideas by email to  Submissions may be submitted by individuals (membership is not required), posts, districts, counties or departments; there is no limit to the number that may submitted but each submission must be contained in a single email.  We encourage Departments and Posts to give this information the widest dissemination, as we will do in your national publications.  All submissions must be received no later than April 19, 2013, in order to be considered.

The Internal Affairs Commission will be the final reviewer of submissions, and will draft a resolution recommending a permanent tagline.  The decision of the National Executive Committee is final.

If your tagline is the one recommended to the NEC, and adopted exactly as submitted, you will receive a $500 check, and a Certificate of Appreciation plaque signed by the National Commander in recognition of your winning entry.  The winning entry will be posted on after the NEC meets in mid-May 2013.  In the event of duplicate winning entries, the earliest received will be declared the winner.

Remember: April 19, 2013,  is the deadline, and the email address is:   Please include your name and phone number on each entry.   Only one entry per email submission.  All entries will be acknowledged by a return email.  Save that return receipt as proof of your submission. 

Daniel S. Wheeler
National Adjutant

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



The 5th District American Legion met on Sunday December 9th at Beaver River Post 1663 located at Croghan, NY. Oswego County was well represented by County Commander Fred Waters as well as past county commanders James Ellis, David Potter, Thomas Brown, David Walker and Delos Rowlee. 

 Mark Bero is presented certificate by 5th District
Commander William Park

In addition to the presentation of the certificate in honor of Allen Bero, department vice commander Dale Dingman introduced a motion to make a donation from the 5th District American Legion to Operation Comfort Warriors (the department commander's project) in Allen Bero's name  to honor him. The presentation is to be made at the National Commander's visitation next April 10th at the Beeches in Rome, NY. 

Each post should have their packet of information on the national commander's visitation next April. They were passed out at this meeting and Commander Waters will distribute them to each post. Please make use of this information, send boosters (PRINTED PLEASE!) for the visitation. Plan to attend the dinner on Wednesday April 10th, 2013 at the Beeches to show our support for the national commander.

Watch the Oswego County Newsletter for more information as it is available. Although the dinner seems far away, time flies and it takes time to get all the planning and programs set up. Each post should at least send their commander to this dinner to greet and meet our national leader. 

The next 5th District meeting will be held in Onondaga County on Sunday February 10, 2013 at James H. Spire Post #787, American Legion Drive, Cicero, NY. 

MIDWINTER CONFERENCE is coming right up at Albany, NY January 25-27, 2013. Get your reservations in early. Now is the time to do it! 


The Way To Happiness

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Syracuse's Creative Arts

Local 2013 Competition program


All veterans entering the 2013 creative arts show in art, music, dance, drama and creative writing need to be enrolled in VA Healthcare.

  • This year's show will be held at the Everson museum in Syracuse. NY.

  • Veterans will be bringing their art work to the VA on Sunday February 24th and Monday February 25th. All paperwork will need to be completed at this time. There will be additional paper work available if the veteran artist does not have all paperwork completed.

  • At this trime we will ask the veteran if we can take their picture with one of their art pieces and maybe use this to create a button for the "Meet the Artist" night in March.  

The veterans art work will be displayed at the Everson Museum from March 5th to March 28th with an evening reception on March 21st (meet the veteran artists).

Thank you,
Suzanne Hawes-Lead Recreation Therapist
Any questions call or e-mail: 315-425-4400-52589  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Remembering Pearl Harbor
If I said the words, "September 11," I imagine most people in North America would be able to associate that date almost automatically with the horrific terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania in 2001.

At one time there was a similar, almost automatic association of December 7 to another surprise attack on America -- the Japanese military raid on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941.

More than 2,300 American servicemen lost their lives that day. The Pacific fleet was dealt a crippling blow. "Remember Pearl Harbor!" would become the mantra for whipping up patriotic fervor during the war that followed that "day of infamy."

Many heroes emerged from the crucible of that awful day as well. One man, a chief aviation ordnance man at the small Naval air base at Kaneohe Bay, was one of those unlikely heroes. When he died in 2010 at the age of 100, he was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, recognized for his courageous actions that day 71 years ago.

 Admiral Chester Nimitz (right) congratulates
Lt. John W. Finn after Finn received the Medal of Honor.

 His name was John William Finn. As we approach the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day this Friday, here is John Finn's story.

Chief Finn was sleeping in that Sunday morning, looking forward to spending a little extra time with his wife, Alice. Being the chief ordnance officer at the Kaneohe Bay base, he was a little puzzled by noise that sounded like .50-caliber machine-gun fire coming from the nearby airfield. No practices or exercises were scheduled.

There was a knock at the door, and a neighbor told Finn that he was needed at the hangar.

Accompanied by two other Navy servicemen, Finn was driving his 1938 Ford along the idyllic Hawaiian roadway when a small airplane came in low. He knew immediately that the engine sound was not from one of the PBY reconnaissance aircraft assigned to the base. As the plane's wing tipped as it began a run at the base, Finn saw the telltale Japanese Zero insignia and realized that Kaneohe Bay was under attack.

 PBY reconnaissance aircraft

Kaneohe Bay is about five minutes’ air time from Pearl Harbor, so many consider the attack there the first official American action of World War II.

Arriving at the airfield, Finn was immediately immersed in the battle. First he went to the armory and broke out machine guns and ammunition to mount some kind of resistance to the Japanese onslaught. Then he set up a .50-caliber machine gun in a very vulnerable position and began to return fire against the strafing Zeroes. One plane was shot down and some attributed the "kill" to Finn and his brazen defense of the airfield.

Asked about his bold attempt to defend his turf, Finn said he was simply outraged at the audacious attack: "I was so mad. I guess I didn't have the sense to be frightened." Hit by shrapnel over a dozen times, Finn refused to leave his gun post until he was under direct orders. Then he helped set up makeshift defenses for the base before finally seeking medical attention early Monday morning, nearly 18 hours after the attack began.

Finn was hospitalized and wasn't released until Christmas Eve.

Nine months later, the newly promoted Lieutenant Finn traveled to Pearl Harbor with his wife. There he boarded the USS Enterprise and was awarded the Medal of Honor by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Like most heroes, John Finn never saw his actions as heroic. He humbly described himself as a "good ol' Navy man doing my job."

After his retirement from the Navy in 1956, John and Alice returned to their native Southern California. Alice died in 1998, but John pushed on, still fervently patriotic and still a hero to all who ever knew him or heard his story from that first Pearl Harbor Day -- Dec. 7, 1941.

Here is Lt. John Finn's Medal of Honor citation:

For extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Territory of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machine gun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy's fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first-aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.



Each year on the first week in December, The American Legion Auxiliary presents a "Gift Shop" for Syracuse VA Medical Center patients in the auditorium. This is a completely volunteer project and there is no cost to the patients.

One day is spent loading gifts on carts and taking them from room to room so the veteran patients can shop for themselves and their families. The next day is when veterans can visit the auditorium and "shop" for their gifts for themselves. The third day, patients at the community care center are brought to the auditorium to shop. All gifts are wrapped in Christmas paper, labeled and shipped by the United States Postal Service to the veteran's family. There is never a charge to the veteran or his family for this Christmas "gift."

Gifts range from clothing and toys to kitchen appliances to lava lamps, etc. All these are bought and paid for by donations from the American Legion Auxiliary, The American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion.

The American Legion's motto is "Still Serving America."

Volunteers include: back row - Don Daly, Jayne Fust, Andy Messer,
John Hudzina, Dave Walker, Dave Rowlee, Gino Scaia, Dave Keegan
Front row - Le Carlisle, Heidi Heidenreich, Bev Martin,
Linda Houmiel, Sandy Crain, Betty Rowlee

Friday, November 30, 2012


November 30, 2012

Family Support Network
The American Legion’s Family Support Network stands ready to assist those military families affected by activation and deployments. Families and military personnel can contact the
Family Support Network in one of two ways: the toll-free national hotline 1-800-504-4098 or by completing the electronic application located at The National Headquarters of The American Legion has received over 1,400 requests during 2012.

 All departments and posts are encouraged to share their Family Support Network success stories with National Headquarters by using the “Family Support Feedback” tool that is available on the Legion website at

Hattie K. Tedrow Memorial Fund
The Hattie K. Tedrow Memorial Fund annual report was mailed to 17 American Legion posts of southwest North Dakota that are eligible to receive and redistribute funds. The fund provides grants to assist with youth programs and aid to veterans of those designated 17 posts of southwest North Dakota, as well as educational scholarship eligibility to all high school students residing in North Dakota.

Need A Lift?

After a great deal of discussion and assessment by those serving on the National Americanism and National Finance Commissions during the 2012 Fall Meetings of The American Legion, the
decision was made for The American Legion to discontinue all production of the Need A Lift? financial aid guide. While Need A Lift? was an extremely valuable resource in the past, it is now possible for individuals to easily search the Internet on their own for available scholarships and college information. 

On November 26, 2012, an official letter was mailed to McGlinn
and Associates of Nokesville, Virginia, who have assisted The American Legion in producing Need A Lift? for several years, informing them of the decision made by the Commissions and expressing appreciation for the longstanding dedication and professional expertise they provided during that time. Need A Lift? will be available online at until January 1, 2013.