American Legion News
Members of American Legion Post 221 in Massillon, Ohio, recently took the opportunity to recognize teachers and share the Legion's Be the One suicide prevention mission.
In celebration of Valentine's Day last week, Post 221 visited 18 elementary schools and delivered teachers a tumbler with hearts, American flags, Be the One stickers and thank you cards.
"I thought it would be a good idea to say how much we love our teachers, and it would be good to go visit them and share about Be the One," said Post 221 Commander Larry Stottsberry.
Stickers of The American Legion emblem were placed on the back of the tumblers "so when they use the cup they see that we care for them," Stottsberry said. The American flags were for the teachers to use however they like, with many of them telling post members it would go on their home's front porch. "It was really good that we could do that for them." And the homemade thank you cards had a photo of Post 221 members that was placed in each teacher's lounge.
As Stottsberry handed out Be the One stickers, he shared with teachers and principals how they could visit betheone.org to learn more about the Legion's suicide prevention mission and the resources available.
"The teachers have access to listening to the students, they notice everything that goes on at home and if a student doesn't want to talk to their parents, the next best thing is a teacher," Stottsberry said. "If the teachers hear about a student or even a parent (in crisis), then they would know how to help with Be the One."
Stottsberry said that "it felt really good" for he and the other post members – Pat Patterson, Howard Marrotto, Barrett Scott and Rich Mortland – to recognize the teachers. "They don't get recognized enough for all they do." And the post plans to visit high schools this spring and provide the same recognition and education on Be the One.
Does Medicare cover weight-loss treatments for retirees?
Traditional Medicare covers some weight-loss treatments, such as counseling and certain types of surgery for beneficiaries. Unfortunately, it does not cover weight-loss programs or medications. Here is what you should know.
Who is Eligible? To be eligible for Medicare-covered weight-loss treatments, the patient's body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on the individual's height and weight, must be 30 or higher. This score increases the risk for many health conditions such as certain cancers, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and sleep apnea. To calculate BMI, the National Institutes of Health has a free calculator accessible online.
What is Covered? For individuals with a BMI of 30 or higher, Medicare Part B will cover up to 12 months of weight-loss counseling conducted by a medical professional in a primary-care setting such as a doctor's office. Most counseling sessions entail an initial screening, a dietary assessment, and behavioral therapy designed to help you lose weight by focusing on diet and exercise.
Medicare also covers bariatric and metabolic surgery for beneficiaries with a BMI of 35 or above who also have at least one underlying health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. To be eligible, a patient must demonstrate prior (unsuccessful) efforts to lose weight through dieting or exercise. These procedures involve making alterations to the digestive system to help lose weight and improve metabolic health.
One common bariatric surgical procedure covered by Medicare is Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, which reduces the stomach to a small pouch that induces the feeling of fullness even after eating small meals. Another procedure that may be covered is a laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, which inserts an inflatable band that creates a gastric pouch encircling the top of the stomach, similarly inducing a feeling of fullness.
What is Not Covered? Medicare does not cover weight-loss programs such as fitness or gym memberships, meal delivery services or weight-loss programs. Additionally, it does not cover any weight-loss medications, but does cover FDA-approved medications to treat diabetes, which in some cases have been found to help with weight loss. Medicare Part D covers Ozempic and Mounjaro for diabetes only, not for weight loss. Medicare does not cover Wegovy or Zepbound, because they are approved only for weight loss.
Do not start a weight-loss prescription without first consulting your primary-care physician to determine the benefits and potential risks. Without insurance these medications are expensive, often costing $1,000 to $1,300 per month. To help curb costs, try reputable prescription discount websites or, if your income is limited, patient assistance programs through pharmaceutical companies.
Medicare Advantage Individuals enrolled in a private Medicare Advantage plan may have coverage for gym memberships and some weight-loss and healthy-food-delivery programs. These are considered expanded supplemental benefits and have gradually been added to some plans to provide coverage for nutrition, health and wellness. Contact your plan provider to see what is covered.
"Savvy Living" is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to NBC's "Today Show." The column, and others like it, is available to read via The American Legion's Planned Giving program, a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.
In Matt Chastain's experience through 25 years in the communications industry, the best way to communicate with someone is to tell a story.
So when he was asked to figure out a way to help grow membership in the Sons of The American Legion, it was the story of how he became an SAL member that he drew upon.
The result: videos depicting how Chastain came to join Squadron 123 at James T. Rayle Post 123 in Lexington, Ga. Those videos can be used by squadrons, posts and others to highlight the SAL and what it means to be a member.
Chastain credits George Gray, the former squadron adjutant and Detachment of Georgia commander, for selling him on the SAL.
"George is exactly who he is depicted to be in the video and more. If every community, every post, every squadron just had a few Georges, the world would be a better place!" Chastain said. "When George believes in something as much as he does the mission of the SAL, he gives it everything he has. So he's always recruiting."
The video depicts Gray first talking with Chastain at a cookout. While Chastain accepted the membership application Gray gave him, he admits he forgot about it.
A few months later, Chastain's friend Jesse invites him to karaoke at Post 123. This time, Chastain signs up.
For reenacting that part of the story for the video, Jesse wasn't available. "So another buddy of mine played the role of Jesse. He was only there for maybe two hours but before he left, George had recruited him to join the SAL!
"All this to say that George never stops recruiting and when I was asked to come up with an idea for a recruitment video, I thought that there's no more effective communication tool than storytelling, so why not just tell a true story?"
In talking about why membership in the SAL is important, Chastain brought up another story.
"Back before Christmas, I had the honor of participating in a Flags Across America event put on by our local American Legion and SAL in conjunction with my son's Trail Life USA troop. Of course it was amazing to hear from a handful of local veterans and family members of fallen heroes. It was also rewarding for Legion/SAL members and Trail Life boys to work together laying wreaths.
"But at the end of the event, I got into a conversation with a young veteran who had lost eight of his fellow veterans to suicide. Hearing his story of how difficult life can be — especially disabled vets like him — gave me such a better perspective on why organizations like The Legion and SAL do what they do. America's heritage must be preserved if our country is to be preserved. There's no better way to preserve our heritage than to serve the men and women who fought to protect it."
Three versions of Chastain's story — a fullscreen version, a square version for social media and a short "elevator pitch" — are available to download at https://vimeo.com/showcase/5594123.
Legionnaires from across the nation and abroad will head to Washington, D.C., this weekend to hear from American Legion leadership, subject matter experts and U.S. government officials during the organization's 2024 Washington Conference, which will take place Feb. 25-27.
The conference will kick off Feb. 25 when the Legion's TBI/PTSD/Suicide Prevention Committee meets. The following day, various American Legion commissions and committees will meet, hearing from staff from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and other organizations and agencies.
Also, on Feb. 26 during the Commander's Call, conference attendees will receive briefings from members of Congress, VA staff, the military and Legion leadership. The Commander's Call begins at 3 p.m. ET and can be streamed here.
During the conference, American Legion Family members will head to Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives and senators, sharing the Legion's legislative agenda and other issues of importance to the Legion this year for Congress.
View a complete Washington Conference schedule, along with other information, here.
The February virtual Training Tuesday, hosted by The American Legion Internal Affairs & Membership Division, will be on how to conduct a successful post meeting. The training will be presented by retired Army Sgt. Maj. Gina Owens, commander of American Legion Post 230 in Trafalgar, Ind.
Join the training on Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 7-8 p.m. Eastern. Register here.
Owens will share best practices to running an effective post meeting, and provide tips to enhance your post meeting procedures.
Missed a Training Tuesday? All recorded training sessions can be found online at legion.org/training/training-tuesdays.
With 11 returning players from his 2023 American Legion World Series championship team, League City (Tex.) Post 554 coach Ronnie Oliver has high hopes for the 2024 season.
"We know to just get there two years in a row is tough," Oliver said of his team that became Texas' first ALWS champions last season. "We know we've got a big target on our back and we've got our work cut out for us to get back there again. But we've got some returning players who know what it takes to get there and what it takes to win, so our goal is to get back to the World Series."
League City has a chance to join select company as they pursue a third straight ALWS appearance.
Only nine teams have reached the ALWS three or more consecutive years:
· Billings, Mont. (1960-62);
· Rio Piedras, P.R. (1972-74);
· Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1974-76);
· Santa Monica, Calif. (1976-78);
· Boyertown, Pa. (1986-88);
· Brooklawn, N.J. (1998-2001 and 2011-15);
· Waipahu, Hawaii (2013-15);
· Randolph County, N.C. (2017-19);
· Idaho Falls, Idaho (2019, 2021, 2022; the 2020 ALWS was canceled due to the pandemic.)
"We've got some holes to fill but I'm optimistic about the ones coming back," Oliver said. "If we fill some gaps, we'll have a team to compete for it."
Of the 11 returning players, five started in last year's 1-0 championship game victory over Lincoln, Neb.: catcher Tyler Robinson, first baseman Brice Smith, third baseman Jackson Higgins, left fielder Erik Anchondo and designated hitter Scott Martinez.
Other returning players are Tyler Austin, Alec Beversdorf, Braden Castle, Alex Kudler, Logan Sanders and James Shuttlesworth. Higgins (.387 in national competition last season), Smith (.310) and Martinez (.280) are the top returning hitters and Austin, Beversdorf, Castle and Shuttlesworth all got starts in the ALWS with Austin, Beversdorf, Castle, Martinez and Smith logging innings on the mound. Higgins also was the 2023 ALWS all-tournament third baseman.
"Hopefully, some of these kids coming back that were backups will have maybe a year of college in them and will be improved," Oliver said of his team. "I saw them at Christmas when we had a banquet and some of them have put on some muscle.
"I know we've got big holes to fill but they could fill some of them."
George W. Rulon American Legion Baseball Player of the Year Jacob Cyr, the left-handed pitcher who threw two shutouts — including a no-hitter in the 2023 ALWS opener — is among the departed players. Also gone will be 2023 All-ALWS outfielder Kyeler Thompson, who scored the lone run in the title game.
Oliver knows he can't control whether or not fortune shines favorably on his team this season.
"For me to watch what was going on last year was a blessing," Oliver said. "It was something really great because I've had teams they were even better or equal who didn't make the right plays at the right time and get the right hits at the right time.
"That team was special. They played the game the right way. And, you know, everything bounced our way from state to regionals and then the World Series. It just seemed that everything clicked."
Among the perks of winning the ALWS is a trip to the Major League World Series. League City were special guests at Game 2 last October in Arlington, Texas.
For Oliver and his team, seeing the game was special but their off-field interactions may have meant more, including volunteering at a Play Ball clinic at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy.
"All the boys had a great time," Oliver said. "I think they enjoyed the camp they got to work more than the actual game. They enjoyed the game, but they had a blast doing the camp."
And for Oliver, he got to renew a longtime personal relationship as he's known Diamondbacks' bench coach Jeff Banister for more than 40 years.
"His dad (Bob) coached me (at La Marque, Tex., High School) and I know the whole family," Oliver said. "So it's pretty cool to see somebody from your high school sitting on the bench in the World Series."
Marine Corps veteran, "The Hangover" actor and comedian Rob Riggle talks about his service, work as an entertainer and more on this week's episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast. And you don't want to miss the "involuntary balloon raise."
Riggle, a retired lieutenant colonel, served for 23 years and earned more than 20 medals and ribbons. His deployments include Albania, Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan.
"I wouldn't trade a thing. I would take all the pain, all the mistakes, all the blunders, all the foolish things I may or may not have done," said Riggle, a member of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, Calif. "I wouldn't trade it because that is how you grow. I don't know anyone who was born perfect."
In addition to "The Hangover," his movie credits include "Dumb and Dumber To," "The Other Guys," "Let's Be Cops," and "Step Brothers." He has served as a correspondent on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" (2006-08) and as a key player on "Saturday Night Live" (2004-05).
Riggle recalls a time when he was about to depart for a "Daily Show" gig as part of a USO tour to the Forward Operating Bases around Iraq and Kuwait. "We were out there in the tip of the spear, which I think was kind of fun because those soldiers and Marines don't generally get USO shows," he said.
Before they departed, Jon Stewart pulled Riggle aside to ask what his plans were. Riggle explained that he planned to do his stand-up act and some comedy sketches, to which Stewart offered some advice.
"Talk to them about their life. That's what they want to hear about."
Riggle set the advice aside and stuck to his original plan for the first show in Kuwait. "It wasn't like a bomb but I don't think it rocked," he remembered. "So I went back and sat down and wrote out 15 things about their life. I did it the next night and it just killed. You just have to talk to them about what matters to them. It made a huge difference. That's the best advice I ever got."
In addition to restarting his own podcast, Riggle recently completed shooting two movies. He is also a co-commentator on ABC's extreme mini-golf series "Holey Moley."
"We all need a purpose and mine is acting and comedy," he said. "I feel like I contribute that way."
Additionally, co-hosts Ashley Gutermuth and Stacy Pearsall also:
• Correct a misconception about younger veterans and whether they are a fit with The American Legion.
• Discuss what common foods were invented by the military.
• Riff on why ants don't have lungs.
• Reveal which branch was the most common among the 31 presidents with military service.
Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 220 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.
1. U.S. maritime forces on Saturday conducted five self-defense strikes targeting Iranian-backed Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, U.S. Central Command announced Sunday. CENTCOM successfully conducted strikes against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one unmanned underwater vessel (UUV) and one unmanned surface vessel (USV). It was the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in Oct. 23, according to CENTCOM.
2. Two young citizen-soldiers who became close friends after enlisting in the Army Reserve were remembered at funerals in southeast Georgia on Saturday, nearly three weeks after they died in a drone attack while deployed to the Middle East. A service for 24-year-old Sgt. Kennedy Sanders was held in the packed 1,200-seat auditorium of Ware County Middle School in Waycross. A similar welcome marked the final homecoming for Sgt. Breonna Moffett, 23, in Savannah. Moffett's funeral at a Baptist church was scheduled for the same time Saturday as Sanders' service 100 miles (161 kilometers) away.
3. The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday was denied access to a morgue where his body was believed to be kept after his death in an Arctic penal colony, and Navalny's allies accused authorities of trying to hide evidence. Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said that the Investigative Committee, the country's top criminal investigation agency, informed Lyudmila Navalnaya that the cause of her son's death remained unknown and that the official probe had been extended. "They lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it," Yarmysh posted on X, formerly Twitter.
4. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday brushed off growing calls to halt the military offensive in Gaza, vowing to "finish the job" as a member of his War Cabinet threatened to invade the southern city of Rafah if remaining Israeli hostages are not freed by the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israel's government has not publicly discussed a timeline for a ground offensive on Rafah, where more than half the enclave's 2.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge. Retired general Benny Gantz, part of Netanyahu's three-member War Cabinet, represents an influential voice but not the final word on what might lie ahead.
5. Every day a lone bugler stands at the World War I Memorial across the plaza from a statue of Army Gen. John Pershing. The bugler salutes the American flag, lifts a simple brass instrument without valves or keys, and sounds the 24 distinctive notes of taps — the universal call sounded at dusk at U.S. military installations across the world. To commemorate Presidents Day on Monday, the nonprofit Doughboy Foundation will recognize the 1,000th time that taps is performed since the memorial opened three years ago at 1400 Pennsylvania Ave. across from the White House visitor center.
Fortunately for those participating in the Freezing for a Reason event outside American Legion Trier-Puddy Post 75 in Fond du Lac, Wis., the weather on the evening of Feb. 10 wasn't as bad as it could have been.
But the 20-degree weather was a reminder of just how difficult it can be for homeless veterans who must sleep outside on a nightly basis.
Freezing for a Reason "was carried out with the purpose of raising awareness of the veterans' homelessness crisis as well as raising funds to support homeless and at-risk veterans in our community," said Shawn McCrary, commander of SAL Squadron 75 and one of the event organizers.
Over 20 Legionnaires, Sons and Auxiliary members, as well as members of other veterans groups, spent the night of Feb. 10 in cardboard boxes and tents. That was part of a weekend of events aimed at raising awareness and donations to the cause.
Also on Saturday night, the post served a spaghetti dinner before the Fond du Lac Bears amateur hockey game, where the post's honor guard presented the colors. That was followed Sunday morning by a pancake breakfast.
In addition to those braving the cold Saturday night, hundreds attended the weekend activities. Freezing for a Reason raised nearly $11,000 to help homeless veterans; McCrary said more pledges were on the way.
Before the event, Mark Nesbitt, an Army veteran and one of the organizers, told Spectrum News this would be a way to help the homeless veterans in Wisconsin.
"We can't pay everything, but at least we can give them help that they need," Nesbitt said.
Stephani Williamson was in a bad place in 2023.
Her mother had passed away, and she went through a divorce. But at a point where she said she'd become emotionally numb, she met a group of American Legion Riders at Chapter 149 in Escondido, Calif., who changed her life. Literally.
Williamson, currently in her 17th year serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve, shared her experience with the riders in the American Legion Friends Facebook group when she was taking part in the group's Be the One chat. It came in the form of a few simple sentences, but it captured exactly how Williamson felt:
"The Riders changed my life! I got to ride along with them and become part of that family. It really pulled me out of my depression and start to find myself. I don't think I'd be here today if it wasn't for them."
One of the page's administrators, Whitney Smith McIntosh, was in the chat and reached out to Williamson, asking if she could share the message on other Facebook pages.
McIntosh – the Department of Iowa chaplain, adjutant at American Legion Post 682 in Altoona and secretary for Baldwin-Patterson American Legion Riders Chapter 274 in Des Moines – wanted to make fellow Legion Riders aware of the impact they have on others.
"I wanted to show, ‘Hey, look guys, this is what we're doing,'" McIntosh said. "I love the Legion. They're my family. But I love the Riders. If there's anything I can do to further the Riders, I'll do it."
Williamson is in the process of joining American Legion Post 93 in Camp Verde, Ariz., and said she'd recently moved to the state when she connected with Chapter 149 while attending a dinner at the post with her son.
Because of lower back injuries that have caused nerve damage, Williamson cannot ride on her own, and while talking with the Riders she remarked how much she'd still like to be able to get on a bike.
That's when the Riders invited her on their next ride. At first, she rode on the back of a friend's trike, but on later rides she rode as a passenger of different Legion Riders.
"They're all my big brothers," Williamson said of the group. "They let me come on rides with them. I've done poker runs with them. All but one of my kids have gone on rides. They've even given each of my kids nicknames."
Williamson said meeting the Riders helped her turn her life around. "They were just a godsend to me," she said. "I was going through my mother's passing and pretty much just became a shell. The antidepressants I was on, they made me feel nothing.
"Riding was so much more than just riding to me. You're not on your phone, you're not multi-tasking. You're not doing anything but sitting there and taking in the scenery and maybe listening to music. It would take the first 10-20 minutes of the ride to calm me, and then … there were times when I literally could imagine my mom flying right there beside us."
But Chapter 149 provided Williamson with more than time on the road. "These guys helped me when I finally decided to leave my husband," she said. "They are the ones that through a trailer on the back of one of their trucks and came over to help me load everything up. They literally just became family."
Eventually, Williamson got connected with the American Legion Friends Facebook group. McIntosh said the group's Be the One chat was set up as a forum for members of the group to ask questions about Be the One and receive mentoring. It also serves as a way to get members who might be approaching crisis mode to get local assistance.
"Let's say if I ran into someone who needed immediate help but they're in Arizona," McIntosh said. "I would hop on the chat and say, ‘Hey, who here is from Arizona? I have somebody who needs you.' And we would kind of branch out like that."
But McIntosh said the chat now has evolved into a "share your stories chat." And that's where Williamson shared hers.
"I saw everyone was talking about suicide prevention. And it reminded me of (the experiences with Chapter 149)," Williamson said. "When I was at my very lowest, these guys and gals, they pulled me out of that. They gave me a family I could count on and a purpose. It kind of woke me up and feel like I wanted to be a part of the Legion and be a part of programs like that.
"From there, it was just a trickle of events that have completely altered the course of my life to being the amazing life I have now. And it all started with being outside talking to two motorcycle riders."