American Legion News
The American Legion's Be the One mission encourages American Legion Family members, veterans, servicemembers and others to act when they believe a veteran is at risk of suicide. It's a mission to help destigmatize the need to ask for help. It's a mission to save the lives of veterans.
The following are seven ways you can Be the One during the month of March.
- Wear a Be the One item on March 1 – and the first of every month – to show your commitment to reducing the stigma around mental health issues among veterans and servicemembers. And to start a conversation about what Be the One is and how to save the life of a veteran. Need Be the One gear? You can purchase a Be the One shirt or other merchandise through American Legion Emblem Sales.
- Read the new Be the One newsletter that kicks off March 1 and share it with others. The Be the One e-newsletter will be distributed to those subscribed to the Online Update. Need to sign up? You can easily do so by visiting legion.org/newsletters and click on Online Update to subscribe.
- Download and listen to the next Be the One podcast episode, out March 1. You also can listen to past episodes at betheone.org. Don't miss when this episode drops, and all future Be the One podcast episodes, by subscribing to the American Legion's Tango Alpha newsletter at legion.org/newsletters.
- Create a Be the One event at your post, perhaps timed with the Legion's 105th birthday on March 15, and invite the community. There are many resources available to promote Be the One at this web page. These resources include Be the One posters, customizable brochures, a banner, wallet cards and more.
- Conduct VA S.A.V.E. suicide prevention training at your post for Legion Family and community members. Download this information sheet to help you get started.
- Host an INDYCAR watch party at your post March 10 – the first race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla., where INDYCAR rookie Linus Lundqvist is behind the wheel of the No. 8 American Legion Honda, which will prominently feature The American Legion and Be the One branding on its livery. Visit betheone.org/resources for tips to hosting a watch party.
- Share your Be the One post activities and stories, including your support for Be the One on the first of every month, on Legiontown under the Be the One category.
With the exposure that Be the One has received through The American Legion's sponsorship of Chip Ganassi Racing's American Legion Honda, the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES is a perfect opportunity to bring Be the One into your post – and your community – by hosting an INDYCAR watch party.
This season, INDYCAR rookie Linus Lundqvist is behind the wheel of the No. 8 Honda – which prominently features The American Legion and Be the One branding on its livery – for most of the 2024 season. And defending INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou also will carry American Legion branding on his No. 10 DHL Honda, so there will be plenty of opportunities to invite fellow American Legion Family members and other racing enthusiasts to the post and cheer on the American Legion drivers.
Once there, they can relax and enjoy watching the race – while also learning more about Be the One. It's an opportunity to share information about the Legion's veteran suicide prevention mission in a relaxed social setting.
We've put together some tips for hosting an INDYCAR watch party at your post, including choosing a race from the 2024 INDYCAR SERIES, links to resources and a sample press release to promote the event, and some suggested talking points about why the Be the One mission is so important.
And remember, we've created additional resources to assist your post's American Legion Family efforts to promote be the one. You can find those here.
Whatever the format of your Be the One event, we want to know about it. Please share your stories and photos at www.legiontown.org under the Be the One category.
With the exception of the years encompassed within the coronavirus pandemic, American Legion Post 49 in Smithfield, Va., has hosted an annual luncheon for patients and staff from the Hampton VA Medical Center.
The luncheon resumed for the first time since the pandemic earlier this month, when the post's Legion Family hosted 33 patients, staff and volunteers on Feb. 11 to kick off National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week.
"A lot of us have been in the hospital before, and we know how it is," Post 49 Commander Jerry Starling said. "It's just not the prettiest and most beautiful place to be. So, we figured if we could get them out a day … it can brighten things up for them. They really thank us for having the day, the good food, getting them out of the hospital. A lot of them enjoy the food, and a lot of them enjoy just getting out."
This year's luncheon included fried chicken, ham and side dishes. Buses transport the patients and staff to the post, with an escort of either cars and trucks or motorcycles, weather permitting, from Legion Family members and other organizations.
Auxiliary Unit 49 members provide the patients with what Starling calls "goody bags" with toiletries, knickknacks and other items. The post and its Auxiliary unit working in tandem to put on the luncheon is one of the highlights for Starling.
"That's one of the good things about it: the camaraderie not just with the people from the hospital, but the people from the post," he said. "Getting together and enjoying having that time together. We have a good time also."
In addition to the meal, the post offers music and dancing to their guests. "And at the end, if they want to stand up and say something, they can," Starling said. "They talk about the day they had or anything they want to talk about. They get to laughing and get to joking. They go home happy."
Starling said the annual luncheon is a chance to thank the veterans for their service, as well show their support for the efforts of the VA staff and volunteers.
"That is what The American Legion is about: supporting our veterans, supporting their families, supporting those in need," he said. "What we get out of it is the pride in knowing that we have helped them.
"As long as the good Lord will let us, we'll keep getting them out there. It costs us a couple of bucks, but you don't count that when you're helping people."
A U.S. sailor assigned to a warship based here has been charged with espionage and communicating classified information to an unidentified foreign national.
Chief Petty Officer Bryce Steven Pedicini, a fire controlman aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, is accused of handing off classified national defense information to a foreign national at least seven times between November 2022 and February 2023, according to a charge sheet obtained by Stars and Stripes.
Pedicini, of Tennessee, is "suspected of mishandling classified documents and information," according to Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for Naval Surface Forces Pacific. The Navy alleges Pedicini handed documents to a foreign national first at Hampton Roads, Va., and later attempted to pass information at Yokosuka in May, according to the charge sheet.
He is also charged with failure to report contact with a foreign national. Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia is home to major military installations and commands, including Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Langley Air Force Base.
Pedicini had reason to believe that those documents "would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation," according to the charge sheet.
"The incident remains under investigation and legal proceedings continue," Abrahamson told Stars and Stripes in an email Wednesday. USNI News first reported the charges against Pedicini on Wednesday in the United States. The charge sheet refers to the classified information only as documents such as "Article 1112" or "1223 Updates," but they contained information related to national defense.
Authorities allege Pedicini also attempted to hand over photographs of a computer screen connected to the Defense Department's network used to transmit classified information. The document identifies the alleged recipient or recipients only as a "citizen and employee of a foreign government."
The charge sheet lists seven specific allegations of espionage and one of attempted espionage, seven for communicating defense information, two for failure to obey a lawful order and two for violating a lawful general order.
The document indicates that Pedicini has been in pre-trial confinement since May 19. He was still confined in San Diego as of Wednesday, Abrahamson wrote. On Jan. 18, the case was referred for a general court-martial under the authority of Naval Surface Forces Pacific, according to the charge sheet.
A motions hearing for Pedicini was scheduled Wednesday in San Diego, according to the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps trial docket.
As a fire controlman, Pedicini would have worked with "everything from radars, fire control systems and computer systems to the Navy's most advanced missile system, Aegis," which is used aboard guided-missile destroyers and cruisers, according to the Navy's description of the job.
Pedicini enlisted in January 2008 and served aboard the guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur and USS McFaul, according to a biography provided by Abrahamson. His awards and decorations include three Good Conduct Medals, two Navy "E" Ribbons, two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin.
In the early 2000s, Stephen C. Ludlam American Legion Post 331 in Stone Harbor, N.J., faced a crisis. It needed to fix a failing roof and remove asbestos from siding on its building, but the post didn't have a large reserve or annual revenues to cover the anticipated expenses.
Consideration was given to selling the building, a former U.S. Life-Saving Service station built in 1895. But then-Post 331 Commander Bill Keenan had a vision of connecting the 21st-century service mission of the post to the mission of Life-Saving Service surfmen from the 19th century, who rescued people and cargo from wrecks in the turbulent Atlantic.
The journey to discover the building's history has enlivened the post as an important cultural and historic asset to the communities of Stone Harbor and neighboring Avalon. Today, Post Commander Tom McCullough refers to the building as "the jewel of Seven Mile Island" and of the Legion's Department of New Jersey.
Created in 1849, the Life-Saving Service was initially an all-volunteer agency working out of small boathouses. In 1871, the Treasury Department persuaded Congress to increase spending to hire full-time staff and build new stations that could accommodate larger boats, more equipment, staff lodging and rooms for rescued people who needed a place a stay before continuing their journeys. In the 1890s, the government paid $600 to the Seven Mile Beach Company to lease the land to build the station that would become Post 331.
By the turn of the century, hundreds of Life-Saving Service buildings dotted the East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes. From 1871 to 1914, the service aided 28,121 vessels and rescued or aided 178,741 people. Its unofficial motto: "Remember, you have to go out, but nothing says you have to come back."
In 1915, the service was merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to create the U.S. Coast Guard, which over time had little use for stations such as Stone Harbor, blocks from the beach with no direct bay or river access for motorized boats. In 1948, the U.S. government abandoned the station and, per the lease, returned ownership to the Seven Mile Beach Company. In turn, the surviving board member sold the property to the recently formed Post 331. The price was $1 for land that 50 years later would become prime real estate in an affluent beach community.
For many years when Stone Harbor was a sleepy beach town, Post 331 was its social center, especially on Saturday nights, according to post historian Dick Pike.
Putting aside thoughts of selling the building, Keenan worked with post members Pike, Bill Lehman, Kevin Coyle and Jon Ready to uncover the history of the surfmen of Stone Harbor. "In 2006, we invited the mayor and writers to come see the building," Pike said. "That's when we came up with the idea of the building being one of Stone Harbor's treasures." To raise funds, the post leadership sold more than 2,000 hats, 700 pavers and promoted 50/50 raffles, with all the proceeds going to repairs. From Cape May County, they applied for and received historic and art grants to collect artifacts and pay for murals painted on the rebuilt frontage. With the state's help, the building was listed on the New Jersey and national registers of historic places.
The dig into history was revealing for everyone, Pike said. "The biggest connection between the post and its history as a Life-Saving Service Station has been that we have a lot of respect for (them) and the things they had to do to save people. They got paid only $50 a month during the winter months; if you're going out on a mission to give up your life, a couple of dollars is not a lot to have."
Today, when the boat doors are open, murals painted by post member J.J. Thompson depict men racing out to the ocean in harsh weather to save lives with surfboats, and a beach cart with lines and life-saving apparatus.
Another post historian, Art Faint, recounted a fascinating connection that bridges centuries of service. Richard C. Holmes, from nearby Cape May, was appointed in 1876 as keeper of the Tatham Life-Saving Service station on Seven Mile Beach, a predecessor to the current building. Holmes' daughter married Frank Ebelhare, who served in World War I. Ebelhare became the interim commander of Post 331 while local veterans were petitioning for a charter.
Frank's daughter, Emma Ebelhare Kemly, later became commander – the first female post commander in New Jersey. Sons of The American Legion Squadron 331 claims her late son, Ronald, a New York City firefighter. His son, Ronald Jr., followed in his footsteps; both were called to serve when the towers fell on 9/11.
There was much to be done with rebuilding, Pike said, and to help, "the local people gave a lot of money. From each borough we received $100,000. We had a lot of support once they saw we were trying to make this into a historic place people could come and see."
This has allowed the post to concentrate on giving to veterans' causes and the community. "I am proud to say that in each of the last five years we have given $50,000 to $70,000 to veterans less fortunate than we are, and to youth Americanism projects and programs," McCullough said.
Free tours are available throughout the week during the busy beach season, between Flag Day and Labor Day. Even though the building is not considered a lighthouse, it attracts about 3,000 tourists during a fall weekend for the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey.
Even so, on an island with only about 2,000 permanent residents, post members are concerned about the building's future. Coyle, another past post commander, said, "I think (it) will become a multicultural center – a senior citizen center, a museum, a place for Civil War re-enactors and (the) post."
"We'd never want the building to be torn down," Ready added. "We have full commitment from the boroughs of Stone Harbor and Avalon not to let that happen."
R.C. Staab is an author and travel writer based in New York, New Jersey and Florida. He writes extensively about the Jersey Shore, from Cape May to Sandy Hook.
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.