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Since the earliest ceremonies in small American towns following the Civil War, we have gathered on Memorial Day to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. As in those early days of laying wreaths and placing flags, our national day of remembrance is often felt most deeply among the families and communities who have personally lost friends and loved ones. This national holiday may also be the unofficial start of the summer season, but all Americans must take a moment to remember the sacrifice of our valiant military service members, first responders and their families. Memorial Day is a day of both celebration and grief, accounting for the honor of our heroes and reflecting on their tragic loss. “Here at the Capitol, just weeks before the end of the Civil War, a weary President Lincoln pleaded with his fellow citizens, to ’bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’” - Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.)  Civil War soldiers had been mustered from towns and villages across the land. Like today, the loss of each soldier was a profound tragedy for both family and community. Today, we honor service members from all of America’s past wars. But there is immediacy in our sorrow; the wounds of war are new again. As we struggle for ways to heal, Abraham Lincoln’s message of almost 150 years ago can still inspire us. This, then, is the mission of Memorial Day: to reach out in support of all the soldiers and their families who have sacrificed so much for us. Throughout America’s history, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have died bravely serving our country. The number of battle deaths speak to the sacrifices our soldiers and their families have made.   Fatalities from U.S. Wars and Conflicts American Revolution (1775-1783) 4,435 War of 1812 (1812-1815) 2,260 Mexican War (1846-1848) 13,283 Civil War (1861-1865) 620,000 Spanish-American War (1898-1902)  385 World War I (1917-1918) 116,516 World War II (1941-1945) 405,399 Korean War (1950-1953) 36,574 Vietnam War (1964-1975) 58,220 Gulf War (1990-1991) 383 Afghanistan War (2001-present) 2,381 Iraq War (2003-2012) 4,500
Military.com | by Colonel David Dodd Each year, Memorial Day takes on deeper meaning for me. I have come to believe that remembrance carries with it a call to action for every American. As far back as I can recall, my family always celebrated Memorial Day -- the day designated to honor and remember those who lost their lives in military service to their country. But my understanding of the holiday was limited, sort of one dimensional. Now, as a veteran with close to three decades of military service, Memorial Day for me has taken on many faces of sacrifice. Every year it seems more important to me to help make Memorial Day more meaningful to others. I believe it's so important for members of the military and for veterans like me to do our part to educate those civilians who have never served in the military (some 93 percent of the country's population) about the significance of the holiday. How can we do that? Here are five ways I offer for consideration: 1. Mark the day in remembrance. When at all possible, try to spend the day with friends, family, fellow military members and veterans. Share memories, reflect on the sacrifice made by fallen warriors and their families and discover new ways to encourage those who are serving and have served, and their friends and families. Memorial Day is also an opportunity for veterans and their families to reflect on the many sacrifices they made in service to America: the training, deployments, combat and prolonged separations that resulted in missed holidays, sporting events, birthdays, anniversaries, births of children, funerals of loved ones and so many other key life events. The day also marks an opportunity to remember the lifelong friends made in military service and the shared joys and challenges of those times. 2. Start planning for Memorial Day in advance. Leading up to the holiday, work with churches, businesses, schools and other community groups to encourage and organize public Memorial Day gatherings and to identify and reach out to Gold Star Family Members -- those spouses, children, siblings and other family members who have lost loved ones in military service. Though they will always feel their loss every single day, Memorial Day can be especially poignant and painful for these families. 3. Volunteer to speak at schools, civic clubs, Memorial Day celebrations, community gatherings and sporting events. We hold a unique perspective which is important to share. We should do our best to share our experiences in a very positive way to build others' understanding and awareness of Memorial Day, and of the enduring sacrifice of fallen warriors and Gold Star Family Members. Our words can plant the seeds for others and our presence and remembrance be an example of respect and of honor for those who sacrifice in service to our country. 4. Encourage others in your family and community to find unique ways to commemorate Memorial Day and to honor those who have sacrificed. We can lead our family and friends toward deeper understanding of Memorial Day by personally sharing with them some of our experiences in military service. We can teach the importance of honoring those who sacrificed for our freedoms to our children and grandchildren, and other family members and friends. In that way we are creating a lasting and meaningful legacy. We can encourage our circle of loved ones and friends to find ways to celebrate Memorial Day in their homes, churches, schools, workplaces and communities. Even the smallest gestures of remembrance are important. 5. Help arrange official color guard ceremonies for Memorial Day events and year-round for church services, athletic events and school programs. The ceremony of presenting the flags grows patriotism in every heart, instills respect for the American flag and all it stands for and binds us all together in one love of country. My Family's Memorial Day Memories I remember when I was on active duty, how celebrating Memorial Day with friends and families of our unit served to strengthen the bond between all of us that endures to this very day. My family's fondest memories of Memorial Day were during our six years in the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Division began the Memorial Day celebration the Monday before with a week of sports competitions, memorial services and alumni events, culminating on Thursday with a Division Review, and followed by a four-day weekend holiday. On Memorial Day, Fort Bragg celebrated with a concert and a spectacular fireworks display. Throughout my career, and especially following 9/11, I was separated from my family frequently and for extended periods of time. So now, we always celebrate Memorial Day together over a meal while sharing memories of our time in service with some of the most remarkable and selfless people we have ever known. We talk about the deployments, the friends, life on different military bases, the organizational functions, the comradery, the different places we lived, the moves and the lifelong friends who shared our experiences. We thank God for that opportunity to be a small part of something that was so much larger than ourselves. We reflect on the unthinkable sacrifice so many endure through the loss of their fallen warrior and we pray for those Gold Star Family Members. We cherish the memories of celebrating Memorial Day with friends who were serving and sacrificing for this country and our freedoms. My wife and I are so thankful that our daughters' formative years were spent with some of the most remarkable, selfless, dedicated, patriotic and faithful people America has ever known. It is these great Americans and thousands like them that make Memorial Day so special to us. New Traditions We've Made This coming Memorial Day in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization my family supports --- Point 27 --- will team with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to present 2,000 Gold Star Family Members with Shields of Strength necklaces designed just for these family members. The lifetime keepsake necklace pendants are replicas of a folded American flag, similar to those presented during military funerals. The necklaces are physical reminders to Gold Star Family Members of God's Word and meant to give assurance to these families that their loved ones have not been and will not be forgotten. Each necklace is engraved with John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Opportunities like this, to honor fallen soldiers and to encourage Gold Star Family Members, blends with the memories we cherish of celebrating Memorial Day with friends who were serving in the military with us, and builds on the significance of Memorial Day every year for our family. About the Author U.S. Army veteran and retired Colonel David Dodd served more than 27 years in the military, including two deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan. He is a man of deep faith, a husband and father. Currently he serves as the director of operations at Shields of Strength, and on the Board of Directors of Point 27 outreach to veterans, military families, first responders, athletes and the chronically ill.
SELECT SERVICE ARMY MARINES NAVY AIR FORCE NATIONAL GUARD COAST GUARD SPOUSE Member? Login MORE MILITARY APPRECIATION MONTH ARTICLES Saluting Our Military Forces Serving is not for Everyone Showing Appreciation to the Nation's Wounded Warriors 4 Tips for Military Appreciation Military Appreciation Month Holidays Veterans Making a Difference by Reading  MILITARY.COM'S SERVICE PAGES Army Navy Air Force Marine Corps Coast Guard         Play Video National Military Appreciation Month National Military Appreciation Month is observed each May as a way to honor, remember, recognize and appreciate all military personnel. The United States Armed Forces: The Strength of the Red, White, and Blue.   MILITARY HOLIDAYS Air Force Birthday Army Birthday Coast Guard Birthday Flag Day Independence Day Marine Corps Birthday Memorial Day Military Appreciation Month Military Spouse Appreciation Day National Guard Birthday Navy Birthday Veterans Day MILITARY APPRECIATION MONTH Military Appreciation Month Discounts A Sailor greets his wife after returning home aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1) as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (WSP ARG) homecoming from a deployment, Dec. 24, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Schneider) Military.com | by Heather Sweeney Service members and families are being honored during Military Appreciation Month with a variety of discounts. Below are some highlighted offerings. Please check back frequently as the list is updated. Make sure to visit the Military.com Discounts Center for more discounts and articles. And sign up for the Military Deals and Discounts Newsletter to get even more discounts and information in your inbox on how military families can save big. Affinia Hotel Collection Book your summertime stay at any Affinia hotel in NYC and receive up to 25% off. Plus, they will donate $10 for every reservation made to Operation Homefront. *NEW* Birmingham Zoo Active duty, retired military, veterans and their dependents get free admission to the zoo May 27-29. Blue Star Museums Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s military, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. California's Great America All active duty service members and veterans get free regular admission to California's Great America now through May 29 with a valid military ID. Plus, each military guest will be able to bring up to six additional guests at a discounted rate. Carowinds Carowinds offers free park admission to any active, inactive or retired service men and women May 28 and 29. Cincinnati Zoo Active and retired military receive free admission on Memorial Day.  The offer also allows military personnel to purchase up to 6 half-price admission tickets for members of their immediate family. Colonial Williamsburg Colonial Williamsburg offers free admission during Memorial Day weekend to all active-duty military, retired, veterans, reservists, National Guard and their direct dependents. Dell As a special thanks for your sacrifice and service, all military members receive an additional 15% off select Dell and Alienware PCs and electronics. Claim your coupon by 5/31. Redeem by 8/4. *NEW* Direct Energy Direct Energy is lowering their already discounted military rates for a limited time. This Memorial Day Weekend (May 27-29), military families have access to exclusive, employee-only pricing.   Dorney ParkDorney Park in Pennsylvania offers free regular admission to any active or retired military personnel May 27 through 29. Military members can also purchase discount admission tickets for members of their immediate family (maximum of six).  Firebirds Wood Fired Grill Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is honoring active military and veterans by treating them to a free lunch or dinner entrée on Memorial Day, May 29. *NEW* Fogo de Chao Fogo de Chao is offering 50% off a meal for any veteran or active duty personnel on Memorial Day, May 29. Up to three guests per military veteran/personnel will receive 10% off their meals. General Motors All active duty, Reservists, National Guard members, retirees, veterans within one year of discharge date and their spouses can receive $500 purchase bonus cash on eligible Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC vehicles through May 31. *NEW* Grizzly Industrial Grizzly Industrial offers a 5% military discount from May 29 until June 18. *NEW* Hickory Tavern Hickory Tavern is offering a free hamburger to all veterans and active duty military on Monday, May 29 at all locations. Home Depot All veterans are eligible for Home Depot's 10% military discount on Memorial Day with a DoD-issued ID, a DD214 or a Veterans Driver’s License. (This discount is good for veterans on July 4th and Veterans Day as well.) *NEW* Hooters On Monday, May 29, current and former U.S. military members get a free entrée from the Hooters Memorial Day Menu at participating Hooters locations Kings Dominion Kings Dominion is offering free park admission to any active or retired service members May 27-29. Kings Island Kings Island is offering military personnel free admission May 26 through May 29. Knott's Berry Farm Knott's Berry Farm offers active, retired, and veteran military personnel  free admission on May 27 through May 29, as well as up to 6 discounted tickets for $48 each. Lowe's Just in time for Military Appreciation Month, Lowe’s has updated their military discount to include veterans in their year-round 10% discount. McCormick & Schmick’s McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants are offering a complimentary entrée on May 29 to Gold Star honorees (parents and spouse), veterans and active members of the military and National Guard. Michigan's Adventure Michigan's Adventure is offering military personnel a free admission May 28 and 29. Military personnel may also purchase up to six additional tickets for immediate family members at $26 each. Mission BBQ Veterans and active duty military get a free sandwich the week of May 15. (Dates vary by service branch.) Mystic Aquarium Veterans and active duty members who visit Mystic Aquarium May 27 to May 29 will receive free general admission. Dependent family members receive a discounted admission rate of $20.99 per adult, $15.99 per youth (13-17) and $13.99 per child (3-12). Get 10% off at the gift store too! *NEW* Ninety Nine Restaurant and Pub On Monday, May 29, veterans and active military can purchase any meal and enjoy a free entrée from the 9 Real Size Entrées for $9.99 Menu. *NEW* Perfectly Clear Through July 4, get an increased military discount on Perfectly Clear Complete to 50% off. Rack Room Shoes Rack Room Shoes offers their regular year-round Tuesday 10% military discount on Memorial Day. Sears During the week of Memorial Day -- May 26 to June 3 -- military can get 40% off regular price and 10% off sale price tools, work boots, watches, fine jewelry and sporting goods. Silverwood Theme Park Military personnel and veterans get free admission May 27, 28, and 29. Immediate family members also receive a discounted rate when purchasing tickets at Silverwood's front gate. They will also have special rates May 28th - June 9th. Sleep Number From May 15 to June 4, Sleep Number offers an additional $100 savings on all Sleep Number mattress sets, 25% off selected Sleep Number bedding and special financing. (In store only.) Sun Splash Family Waterpark Sun Splash Family Waterpark offers active duty military, Reservists and veterans free admission on Memorial Day, May 29. Sweet Frog All active duty and retired military receive a 15% discount every Monday in May. *NEW* TOMS TOMS offers a 15% discount May 26 through 30 in honor of Memorial Day to all who serve our country. Twin Peaks Twin Peaks is offering veterans and active military personnel a free select meal on May 29. Valleyfair Active duty and veterans will receive a free regular admission ticket into Valleyfair May 26-29. They can also purchase discount admission tickets for members of their immediate family. Virginia Aquarium The Virginia Aquarium offers active duty, dependents and retirees half off general admission on Sunday or Monday during the month of May. *NEW* Worlds of FunActive duty, retired military, veterans and National Guard and Reserve receive complimentary admission to Worlds of Fun on May 29. Military personnel can also purchase discounted tickets for their immediate family.
Thousands of veterans and active military personnel visit Branson, MO every year and they do their best to show gratitude. Branson honors their service with special deals and discounts on all aspects of their trip, standing tributes before the shows, memorials and exhibits, military reunions and renowned national events like Veterans Week in November. Military veterans, active-duty men and women, and military families are held in very high esteem. Here’s a guide to all things they can enjoy in Branson.  Attractions  Whether you’re looking to snap hilarious keepsake photographs at the Hollywood Wax Museum, be wowed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, discover artifacts at the Titanic Museum or experience a one-of-a-kind land and water tour with Ride the Ducks, many of Branson’s top attractions offer $2-$3 discounts on tickets for active and retired military and their families. One of the most popular deals is offered at the must-see Silver Dollar City and White Water amusement parks where you can receive a two-day ticket for the price of a one-day ticket, or $5 off a one-day ticket. Dependent military children age 4-11 receive complimentary two-day tickets when they are accompanied by a parent purchasing a two-day military ticket.   Dining  Enjoy discounts of 10-15% at a number of Branson’s restaurants including Famous Dave’s BBQ, Golden Coral, Chili’s, Olive Garden and Shoney’s. On Veterans Day, many locations also offer free meals to honor our men and women who have served.   Hotels & Lodging  A variety of hotels honor veterans and military personnel with 10-20% off (depending on the season). Enjoy a discounted stay at the luxurious Chateau on the Lake or the family-friendly Clarion Hotel and Grand Country Resort. The new, state-of-the-art Hilton Branson Convention Center features a military and veteran discount, as well as a prime location. It’s walking distance to Branson Landing and downtown. For a unique lodging experience, spend a night in the trees at Branson Treehouse Adventures. Other popular favorites include La Quinta Inn Branson Strip, Marriott’s Willow Ridge Lodge and the Barrington Hotel & Suites. Many of the popular name hotels that offer military discounts nationally have locations in Branson including Best Western, Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Quality Inn and Wyndham.  Shows  Every theater in Branson is a sponsor of the Veterans Task Force. Many of the shows not only kick off with a touching salute to veterans but most offer discounts of 10-20%. The Acrobats of China also feature a special Veteran VIP ticket which is 30% off their usual VIP ticket price. Some other shows with popular discounts include the Baldknobbers Jamboree, Dixie Stampede, SIX and the Texas Tenors.  Shopping  Veterans and active military personnel will enjoy a discount at many of the top name factory stores at the Tanger Outlet including Ann Taylor, Colombia, Eddie Bauer, Dressbarn, Gap, Nike, Old Navy, Ralph Lauren and Under Armour. The outlet mall also offers active Military personnel and their families a free coupon book. Or head over to Bass Pro Shops between the 15th and 22nd of each month when you can receive 10% off select items.  Transportation  All top name car rental facilities, in and around Branson, offer great discounts for veterans and military personnel. At Avis, you can receive a discount of up to 25%, Alamo and National offer up to 20%, and Enterprise, founded by a WWII veteran, features an entire Veterans Advantage Discount program.   Military Reunions in Branson  As the year-round home for America’s veterans, Branson is a popular destination for military reunions. Lodging and meeting venues around town specialize in military reunions and offer planners assistance with arranging the perfect event.  The Branson/Lakes Area Convention & Visitors Bureau  Contact the Branson Chamber for help with planning your next military reunion. Rather than contact dozens of hotels, their complimentary service will help connect you with a venue that is a good fit for meeting your reunion needs.   Dixie Stampede  The Missing Man Table & Honors Ceremony recognizes all branches of service, acknowledges the missing and their absence from the night’s celebration. Dixie Stampede will dedicate the Military Memorial Ceremony free of charge for reunion groups of 15 or more with paid advance reservations to their popular dinner attraction. Military and Veterans Exhibits  Challenge Coin Tables at Shindigs Restaurant   Shindigs would like to turn as many tables in the restaurant as possible into “Challenge Coin” tables. If your reunion is in Branson, visit their tables, share your story, and if you want to be represented, leave them a coin.  Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial   Located at the entrance of College of the Ozarks, the Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial bears the name of more than 1,400 Missourians who served and died in the Vietnam War.  Veterans Memorial Museum  Located on Highway 76, this museum is hard to miss—just look for the P-51 Mustang fighter. The Veterans Memorial Museum is a moving tribute to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces across all branches of service. Exhibits include sculptures, murals and thousands of pieces of military memorabilia. There are also displays throughout the museum with names of the soldiers killed in action since World War II.  Veterans Patch Wall  At Grand Country Inn, discover an exhibit with hundreds of patches from various military branches, units and divisions.  Veterans Reunion Registry  The Veterans Reunion Registry is a free service in Branson giving veterans the opportunity to locate others that served in their unit.  Veterans Homecoming Week   This seven-day event is held every year, November 5-11, as both a tribute and celebration of veterans. Festivities include America’s biggest Veterans Day tribute, a Veteran’s Day Parade (now over 80 years), themed shows, memorial ceremonies and more.   
The situation was looking bleak in 2013 for American Legion Post 202 in Topsham, Maine. Things had gotten bad – not in terms of membership numbers, but in terms of participation. It had gotten to a point where Department of Maine Adjutant Paul L’Heureux was going to pull the post’s charters if it didn’t have anyone willing to step up as officers. Enter Nik Hamlin, then in his mid-30s. After serving in the Army from 2000-11, including in Kuwait from 2002-03, Hamlin was living in nearby Brunswick and “wanted to have some kind of a social life. I wanted to be around other veterans and see what was out there.” Hamlin joined Post 202 and found the going rough. “I think, for the most part, everyone had given up hope,” he said. “I became commander immediately, only because nobody else wanted to. I was the only one willing to because I was so new, and I didn’t know what it really entailed.” But what Hamlin and a few fellow post-9/11 veterans did – through the use of new ideas and relationship-building – was turn things around at Post 202. Now an active member of its community, the post participates in Legion programs, provides scholarships and supports other veteran and youth programs in the area. The post’s evolution brings a smile to L’Heureux’s face. “Obviously they had some fresh ideas,” he said. “We needed to give them a chance to try them out. And obviously it worked.” Instead of walking away when he found the post struggling, Hamlin wound up serving as post commander from 2013-15. “This post does a lot of good for a lot of people and helps a lot of people,” he said. “I was afraid if this post went under, closed its doors, that there would be people out there that couldn’t get help that otherwise could if we were open. I wanted to ensure that this post would be open to ensure that people could continue to receive our help.” The process for Hamlin wasn’t easy, or fast. “It took blending the generations,” he said. “That was really difficult. It took people talking about the post again. I wanted to breathe some life back into this post, both in my generation and in the previous generation. “The more I got people talking about the post, the more people got interested in the post, and then the more things started happening. It was kind of a lead by example. I bust my butt, people watch me do it, and then slowly they start doing it as well.” Hamlin said turning things around took finding the right people for the right positions. One of those was Matt Jabaut, who served in the Army from 1997-2005 and met Hamlin when they served together in Kuwait. Also in his mid-30s at the time, Jabaut was urged by Hamlin to begin hanging out at the post. “The timing was right because I had been out (of the Army) seven, eight years at that point. When I first got out I wanted nothing to do with anything military. I was completely withdrawn. I was just focused on career and other things like that. "When (Hamlin) got involved here, I got involved. That’s what drew me in: the fact that somebody I had served with here was getting involved with the Legion. I had no idea what the rest of the Legion was about. I just knew I was coming to help my former battle buddy.” Within three months, Jabaut had a spot on the post’s executive board. “The more we dug and the more we uncovered stuff, the more difficult it became. But (Hamlin) had a lot of ideas and a lot of visions of what this place could be.” One of the first things Hamlin wanted to do was have members of the executive board take The American Legion Extension Institute to understand the depth of the Legion. Jabaut said that experience was a bit of an awakening. “This is a big organization that does a lot of things and has been around for a long time and is tied into a lot of things that I happen to connect with,” said Jabaut, who attended National Legion College in 2015. “That was kind of the pull for me.” With a team in place around him, Hamlin turned the focus to increasing the post’s visibility. “We started doing stuff in the community, which made people feel good,” Hamlin said. “If people feel like what they’re doing goes to a good cause, they’re going to do more. Keep giving them that, and once you have that, give them ownership. All of the sudden you’re in charge of this. Now you’re going to do that, and you’re going to start recruiting other people to help you. It just keeps branching out.” Jabaut and Hamlin also regularly communicated with Jason Hall, who had gone through a similar successful effort as the adjutant of Post 86 in Gray, Maine, for the past five and a half years. “We had resistance because some of the older veterans wanted to do things the way they’d been done 30-40 years prior,” said Hall, a 2016 National Legion College graduate. “That was the biggest challenge. (Jabaut and Hamlin) helped me as much as I helped them. We bounced off a lot of ideas – new ideas that had never been tried before. They’d come support me and I’d come support them. “Once we did, we’d get two people to do it, and then three and then four. And the next thing you know we have 20-30 people coming over to support (Post 202’s) fundraising, and they did the same for us. We had the same mission statement. Birds of a feather flock together.” Jabaut also formed a friendship with 47-year Legionnaire and Past National Vice Commander William “Chick” Ciciotte, a former member of Post 202 and current member of George T. Files Post 20 in Brunswick. Jabaut calls Ciciotte a mentor, while the elder Legionnaire looks at Jabaut and sees the future of the Legion. "In my opinion, he has a lot of potential for leadership in the state of Maine and nationally,” Ciciotte said. And both Jabaut and Hamlin praised former post commander Adrian Cole, who served in the position from 2015-16, for continuing the progress. “He took over at a very volatile time,” Hamlin said. “It was just another corner to round, but it was a really tough one. He weathered it beautifully.” “He led us through a lot of adversity and (was) kind of the face of being the bad guy in some people’s eyes, when all he was really doing was holding the standard of what our organization is supposed to be,” Jabaut said. Membership has stayed steady over the past few years, but Hamlin said it’s a more active membership. There are 360 members of the Legion – around 50 of those are post-9/11 veterans – and another 240 in the American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of The American Legion. The post also has a Legion Riders chapter. The post also has gone from struggling financially to now being able to keep its head above water. “We used to have to fundraise all year long to pay for the Boy Scout charter,” Hamlin said. “We used to do car washes, raffles and 50-50s. We would beg, borrow and do whatever we had to do to come up with the money so we could pay for their charter so their parents wouldn’t have to have that burden. Now the commander comes up to us and says, ‘Oh, by the way, last night we paid the charter.’ We didn’t have to have a meeting on it or anything. It was just done.” In addition to supporting the Scouts, the post also sponsors Boys State participants and provides scholarships to two local high schools. “I think for us, it’s been a transformation … to what the Legion really should be: focusing on the community,” said Jabaut, who took over the post commander reins in 2016. “Getting back to people understanding and knowing that there are four pillars in The American Legion and what they are. Some of that had been lost over time.” Jabaut said the post also wants to serve as a place where veterans feel they can get support. “They don’t always have a good place to go, and they don’t know about the places to go to get whatever they need, whether it’s support … or just sitting around and having people speak the same language as you,” he said. “It’s taking guys and using our service officers, either our post service officer or our department service officer, and getting them through the (Department of Veterans Affairs) system.” And then there are the non-traditional activities like a softball charity game played in the winter for the third straight year. Hamlin saw an opportunity in 2015 to do something for the state’s homeless veterans and wanted that opportunity to be unique. “I said, ‘We’re going to play in the cold so they don’t have to live in the cold,’” Hamlin said. “I thought it would be a good injection for the post as well, and I needed a charity event that could bring the community – people who weren’t members – in, and they could see us for what we are.” Hamlin said the first year was “phenomenal.” Members of the community helped clear the field out from under five feet of snow and then stayed to support the event. It’s grown every year, and this year $1,100 was raised for the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance. “It’s just not just us,” Hamlin said. “We’re inspiring everybody.” But for Hamlin, the crowning moment was in 2015 when the post was renamed to honor one of Topsham’s own. Army Sgt. Corey Edwin Garver grew up near the post and was killed at age 26 when an IED went off near his patrol in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan in 2013. Corey Edwin Garver Post 202 is the first in Maine to be named in honor of a U.S. servicemember killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. A display designed by Jabaut in the post’s upstairs meeting room honors Garver. “This is what I’m most proud of,” Hamlin said, gesturing to the display. “I pitched it to the membership one night. Standing ovation. There was no discussion.” Garver’s mother, Ellen, came to the dedication ceremony in April 2015. “When she got done speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Hamlin said. Though he got the ball rolling for Post 202’s transformation, Hamlin insists on sharing the credit for its success. “I was only a part,” he said. “The commander doesn’t get a vote. The commander kind of throws out suggestions, and everybody goes where they want to. I had a lot of people helping me. There’s no way I could have done any of this by myself. “To see our post go from where it was to where it is now … I look it at and I see a Legion. And it makes my heart swell.”   By Steve B. Brooks
Servicemembers and families are being honored during Military Appreciation Month with a variety of discounts. Below are some highlighted offerings, via Military.com. Keep an eye on the list for updates. Affinia Hotel Collection. Book your summertime stay at any Affinia hotel in New York City and receive up to 25 percent off. Plus, they will donate $10 for every reservation made to Operation Homefront. Blue Star Museums. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s military from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The list of participating museums is available at arts.gov/bluestarmuseums.  California's Great America. All active-duty servicemembers and veterans get free regular admission to California's Great America through May 29 with a valid military ID. Plus, each military guest will be able to bring up to six additional guests at a discounted rate. Carowinds. Carowinds offers free park admission to any active, inactive or retired servicemember May 28 and 29. Cincinnati Zoo. Active and retired military receive free admission on Memorial Day. The offer also allows military personnel to purchase up to six half-price admission tickets for members of their immediate family. Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg offers free admission during Memorial Day weekend to all active-duty military, retired, veterans, reservists, National Guard and their direct dependents. Dell. As a special thanks for your sacrifice and service, all military members receive an additional 15 percent off select Dell and Alienware PCs and electronics. Claim your coupon by May 31; redeem by Aug. 4. Dorney Park. Dorney Park in Pennsylvania offers free regular admission to any active or retired military personnel May 27-29. Military members can also purchase discount admission tickets for members of their immediate family (maximum of six). General Motors. All active-duty, reservists, National Guard members, retirees, veterans within one year of discharge date and their spouses can receive $500 purchase bonus cash on eligible Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles through May 31. Home Depot. All veterans are eligible for Home Depot's 10 percent military discount on Memorial Day with a DoD-issued ID, a DD-214 or a Veterans Driver’s License. (This discount is good for veterans on July 4 and Veterans Day as well.) Kings Dominion. Kings Dominion is offering free park admission to any active or retired servicemember May 27-29. Kings Island. Kings Island is offering military personnel free admission May 26-29. Knott's Berry Farm. Knott's Berry Farm offers active, retired, and veteran military personnel free admission May 27-29, as well as up to six discounted tickets for $48 each. Lowe's. Just in time for Military Appreciation Month, Lowe’s has updated their military discount to include veterans in their year-round 10 percent discount. Michigan's Adventure. Michigan's Adventure is offering military personnel a free admission May 28-29. Military personnel may also purchase up to six additional tickets for immediate family members at $26 each. Mission BBQ. Veterans and active-duty military get a free sandwich the week of May 15. (Dates vary by service branch.) Mystic Aquarium. Veterans and active-duty members who visit Mystic Aquarium May 27-29 will receive free general admission. Dependent family members receive a discounted admission rate of $20.99 per adult, $15.99 per youth (13-17) and $13.99 per child (3-12). Get 10 percent off at the gift store too! Rack Room Shoes. Rack Room Shoes offers their regular year-round Tuesday 10 percent military discount on Memorial Day. Silverwood Theme Park. Military personnel and veterans get free admission May 27-29. Immediate family members also receive a discounted rate when purchasing tickets at Silverwood's front gate. They will also have special rates May 28-June 9. Sleep Number. From May 15-June 4, Sleep Number offers an additional $100 savings on all Sleep Number mattress sets, 25 percent off selected Sleep Number bedding and special financing. (In store only.) Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is offering veterans and active military personnel a free select meal on May 29. Valleyfair. Active duty and veterans will receive a free regular admission ticket into Valleyfair May 26-29. They can also purchase discount admission tickets for members of their immediate family. Virginia Aquarium. The Virginia Aquarium offers active duty, dependents and retirees half off general admission on Sunday or Monday during the month of May.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The Pentagon has refused a long-standing request to add the names of 74 U.S. sailors who died in a 1969 ship collision to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The USS Frank E. Evans was participating in a nighttime training exercise in the South China Sea when it turned into the path of an Australian aircraft carrier and was split in half. The World War II-era destroyer's stern section stayed afloat while the bow section sank. Survivors and relatives of those killed have been pushing the Department of Defense for years to add the 74 names to the wall because the ship had supported ground operations in Vietnam just weeks earlier and likely would've been sent back to the war zone after the exercise. But Pentagon officials in a decision this month stuck to their position that the Evans victims are precluded from being added to the wall because the accident occurred outside the Vietnam combat zone. It was a decision that angered retired Navy Master Chief Lawrence Reilly Sr., an Evans survivor whose 20-year-old son, also named Lawrence, was among those killed. "I'm not happy with the whole thing," the 92-year-old WWII and Vietnam veteran said from his Syracuse home. "It's a bad deal." Instead of granting an exemption to the war zone rule, the Pentagon has offered to pay tribute to the fallen sailors by listing their names on a memorial plaque to be placed inside the education center to be built near the wall. But with less than half of the $130 million cost of the center raised so far, the offer is being dismissed by some Evans survivors. "They're throwing us a bone," said Steve Kraus, a survivor and vice president of the USS Frank E. Evans Association. "They're thinking, 'OK, maybe this will all go away now.'" Kraus, a 70-year-old retired utility supervisor from Carlsbad, California, said some in the Evans association reluctantly accepted the Pentagon's offer of a separate memorial, while others advocate continuing the fight for inclusion on the wall. Randy Henderson, of Mayville, New York, is among the latter faction. He was 13 when his older brother Randy died on the Evans. "We're still steadfast and moving ahead," he said. The Pentagon's latest rejection came after the Evans survivors pinned their hopes on Navy records that the group said showed the ship had been awarded a Vietnam Service Medal for June 2, 1969, a day before the accident. The medal was only given to ships and sailors who served in the Vietnam combat zone. But the Navy's review of its records last fall determined there was no documentation to support such a claim. The Evans sailors "do not meet the established criteria for the inscription of their names on the wall," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said. "The deputy secretary of defense extensively reviewed information and records to make an informed decision." The Evans veterans say the Pentagon has previously granted exceptions to the eligibility criteria for adding names to the memorial, including for dozens of Marines who were killed when the plane carrying them back to Vietnam from leave in Hong Kong crashed during takeoff. The Evans group's effort has the backing of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who got involved two years ago on behalf of the four sailors from his state who died in the collision. Also killed in the accident were the three Sage brothers - Gary, Gregory and Kelly - of Niobrara, Nebraska. Their mother, Eunice Sage, wanted to see her sons' names placed on the memorial, Kraus said. She died in 2010. "She wanted this so bad," Kraus said. "That's all she would talk about."
The fourth annual Chicago Veterans: Ruck March is May 26, and members of The American Legion Department of Illinois will be volunteering to show their support. More than 1,500 veterans, their families and military supporters are expected to participate in the event, which raises awareness for PTSD and veteran suicide. Participants will wear a 20-pound ruck sack and walk 20 miles through the streets of Chicago to represent the number of veteran suicides daily, and to honor and remember servicemembers lost at home and on the battlefield. The event starts at Veterans Memorial Park in Glencoe at 8 a.m. with lunch at Centennial Memorial Park in Evanston. Legionnaires will have a tent at the lunch stop to pass out bananas, water and poppies in honor of the Legion's National Poppy Day on May 26, as well as have a service officer on hand to answer questions and information on Legion membership and other available veteran resources. Department of Illinois leadership who will be in attendance includes Past National Commander and Department Adjutant Marty Conatser, Assistant Adjutant Gary Jenson and Membership Director Chad Woodburn. To register or volunteer for the Chicago Veterans: Ruck March, click here. The event is organized by Chicago Veterans, a nonprofit launched by Legionnaire Kevin Barszcz that "empowers veterans to take control of their transition throughout life." Learn more at www.chicagovets.org.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of giving classified government materials to WikiLeaks, was released from a Kansas military prison early Wednesday after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence. U.S. Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told The Associated Press that Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth military prison, but that she couldn't provide any further details. Manning tweeted after she was granted clemency that she planned to move to Maryland. The Crescent, Oklahoma, native has an aunt who lives there. Manning, who was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning in prison, was convicted in 2013 of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency in his final days in office in January. Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, has acknowledged leaking the materials, which included battlefield video. She said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn't believe would harm the U.S. Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the nation's most-sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety. Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures. Manning, who was arrested in 2010, filed a transgender rights lawsuit in prison and attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers. Obama's decision to commute Manning's sentence to about seven years, including the time she spent locked up before being convicted, drew strong criticism from members of Congress and others, with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the move "just outrageous." In a statement last week - her first public comments since Obama intervened - Manning thanked that former president and said that letters of support from veterans and fellow transgender people inspired her "to work toward making life better for others." "For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," she said. "I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine." Her attorneys have said Manning was subjected to violence in prison and argued the military mistreated her by requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison, restricting her physical and mental health care and not allowing her to keep a feminine haircut. The Department of Defense has repeatedly declined to discuss Manning's treatment in prison. The Army said Tuesday that Manning would remain on active duty in a special, unpaid status that will legally entitle her to military medical care, along with commissary privileges. An Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, said Manning will be on "excess leave" while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review. --- By JIM SUHR Associated Press
Newswise — Bethesda, Md. – More than 330 uniformed professionals and their guests will receive their long-deserved medical, graduate nursing, dental and biomedical science, public health and clinical psychology degrees on May 20 – Armed Forces Day – at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) 38th commencement exercise at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. This year’s commencement speaker will be Ronald R. Blanck, D.O., chair of USU’s Board of Regents. Dr. Blanck spent 32 years in the military, beginning in 1968 as a medical officer and battalion surgeon in Vietnam.  He held a number of distinguished assignments throughout his career, chief among them as Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at USU and later, as Commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, and culminating as the 39th Surgeon General of the United States Army.  Following his retirement, he served as the President of the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center at Fort Worth.  He is now Chairman and Partner of Martin, Blanck and Associates.  During one of the nation’s most unique graduation ceremonies, USU students will enter DAR Constitution Hall to “Pomp and Circumstance” performed by “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Corps Band. The graduates are a mix of military and civilian students. The uniformed students are active duty officers in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force or Public Health Service and will walk across the stage, wearing their academic regalia. They’ll receive their diplomas, leave the stage, and then change back into their military uniforms. Graduating medical students will return to recite their respective Service commissioning oath, led individually by each Surgeon General or his/her representative, and will then be promoted to their next rank.   Graduates from USU’s F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine include: 159 Doctor of Medicine degrees 34 Masters degrees 15 Doctor of Philosophy degrees 2 Doctor of Public Health degrees      The Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing at USU will confer: 55 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees 3 Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science degrees     The Postgraduate Dental College will confer: 69 Master of Science in Oral Biology Degrees      # # #   About the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, founded by an act of Congress in 1972, is the nation’s federal health sciences university and the academic heart of the Military Health System. USU students are primarily active duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, TBI and PTSD, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, global health, and acute trauma care. A large percentage of the university’s more than 5,800 physician and nearly 1,000 advanced practice nursing alumni are supporting operations around the world, offering their leadership and expertise. USU also has graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health committed to excellence in research, and in oral biology. The University’s research program covers a wide range of clinical and other topics important to both the military and public health. For more information about USU and its programs, visit www.usuhs.edu.