Veterans, representatives of The American Legion and other veteran service organizations and a staffer from the Department of Veterans Affairs had an opportunity to get together this week via Zoom to discuss how they were doing, how the coronavirus is impacting VA care, and generally just get a chance to hang out and relax.
The Military Veterans Social Distancing Coffee Chat Room came courtesy of a collaboration between a Pennsylvania Legionnaire, the Chapel of Four Chaplains and the nonprofit Thank-A-Vet. The Zoom meetings started on April 7 and will go until at least May 19, Legionnaire Louis Cavaliere said.
A member of Benjamin Franklin Post 405 in Philadelphia and vice chairman of the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation board of directors, Cavaliere said the chat room is a continuation of a previous collaboration between Thank-A-Vet and the Chapel of Four Chaplains.
Based in Philadelphia, Thank-A-Vet has provided more than 11,000 pairs of new socks, 40,000 thank-you cards, 25,000 wheelchairs and scooters and 5,500 coats to veterans. The nonprofit also has created several coffee clubs throughout the Philadelphia area for veterans to gather and had set up one at the Chapel of Four Chaplains.
“When we went to the quarantine and social distancing, that obviously went by the wayside,” Cavaliere said. “We sort of came up with the idea ‘Why don’t we just do it using Zoom. It’s the same thing. That’s basically how it happened.
“I found that once a week just talking to people like this is helpful. Nothing planned – just sharing what’s going on in life.”
More than a dozen chatters regularly show up for the meetings, including veterans, caregivers and members of other VSOs. American Legion Past National Chaplain and current Department of North Carolina Adjutant Randy Cash also sits on the Four Chaplains board and regularly attends the virtual meetings.
The sessions are not recorded in order for those participating to feel at ease. Cavaliere said it’s an opportunity for veterans to share their pre-coronavirus camaraderie they had meeting up in person.
“There were several veterans on (a recent chat) who are Vietnam vets who are dealing with issues like post-traumatic stress,” he said. “There’s a lot of anxiety during this state of all of this social distancing that we’re having. It helps to express that when you’re in a chat with other veterans. The benefit I get out of this is just talking to these guys, making sure they’re all right … and giving them an outlet to tell us how they’re doing.”
Junior Sons Member Leading The Way. At just nine years old, John C Clark Sr. Sons of The American Legion Squadron 420 member Dominic Baker already has made a huge impact on his community. Worried that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to area residents going hungry, Baker organized a food drive in Steelton and Swatara Township in Pennsylvania.
His effort on April 25 resulted in 100 pounds of food being donated that will go to individuals and families in need through the Swatara Township Police Department.
Barber is a third grader at St. Catherine's Laboure School and has membership in the SAL through his grandfather, American Legion Post 988 Richard Szekeres.
"I think it’s absolutely amazing that he did this … that’s what we are all about, what we try to push at the Legion with our junior members,” Unit 420 President Lisa Iskric told Penn Live. “When they are out there doing this, we try to teach them their philanthropy does a lot for the community, the veteran’s community. It’s a good stepping stone to see in a future leader.”
Hard At Work In New Mexico. American National Executive Committeeman Paul Espinoza shared via email how the American Legion Family at Post 49 in Albuquerque has been making protective masks for four weeks for local businesses, hospitals, a children’s home, schools and individuals needing them. More than 200 masks have been provided so far; Post 49’s Legion Family plans on continuing to make them as long as there is a need.
The post also is making Buddy Checks on all 1,600 members, and cooking and offering curbside pickup or delivery meals for those in need.
More American Legion Family efforts to assist others during the coronavirus pandemic are happening throughout the nation, as has been the case since the outbreak started.
Area American Legion Riders were among those who took part in a vehicle parade in Tucson in honor of World War II veteran Manuel Cady's 95th birthday. Cady's family couldn't host a birthday party because of social distancing and instead chose to have the well-attended vehicle parade.
• American Legion Post 23 in Sanger assisted with the funding for materials for Career Technical Education Charter (CTEC) School to 3D print 500 VA-approved masks with face shields to the VA Central California Health Care System in Fresno. Post 23 Commander James Bennett came up with the idea for the partnership and took it to CTEC Director John Delano. “When (Bennett) came to me with the idea, I was all for it,” Delano said in a VA press release. “American Legion Post 23 assisted with the funding for the materials, and our supplier was able to deliver. And the staff were all for it. It was a perfect match and a great way for our new high school to support our community.”
• American Legion Post 760 in Oceanside paired up with the Veterans Association of North County and the San Diego Food Bank to provide a drive-thru no-contact food distribution April 10 for area servicemembers and veterans. In heavy rain, volunteers from the three entities provided food, including fresh vegetables and fruit, for more than 1,040 veterans and active-duty military, and distributed 5,300 diapers. Around 75 percent of the recipients were active duty. Another distribution is scheduled for May 8.
Estes Park American Legion Post 119 and the Estes Park Nonprofit Resource Center have teamed up to provide to-go meals every Tuesday and Thursday for those in need. Each meal feeds up to two persons. Funding from the Town’s Community Relief Fund supports the Community Hot Meals program, which has served more than 2,000 meals so far.
• American Legion Post 90 in Cape Coral has been busy making Buddy Checks on local veterans, using the calls to make the veterans aware the post is there to assist veterans and their families. Post 90 Adjutant Brian "Taz" Gehling turned to the post’s Marketing Committee to make the calls. “Given the coronavirus pandemic is affecting us all, the Buddy Check program is more important now than ever before,” Post 90 Marketing Committee Chairman Ted Clark told the Cape Coral Daily Breeze. “The idea is to connect with veterans who may need assistance but don't know where to go or who to ask. For example, if we learn of someone in need, we can offer them a ride or deliver groceries and in short, be there for them." The team has called over 120 veterans so far.
• In Port Charlotte, former Post 110 and District 13 Commander Chuck Weinberg was honored by his community during a drive-by parade on April 25. Weinberg passed away April 20; members of the community lined up at Post 110, and the procession traveled to the home of June Haber, who was Weinberg’s girlfriend. American flags were placed on Haber’s lawn. “Chuck’s been here a lot of years, and his impact was pretty clear as far as the brotherhood went and the Legion went,” Post 110 Commander Michael Schwartz told Wink News. “He reached out and touched a lot of people all over our area.”
American Legion Post 32 in Springfield is having a “Thank You Springfield" dinner on April 30. Teaming up with the post restaurant and Sysco Foods, the post will provide a free two-piece chicken lunch to the first 300 people that visit the drive-thru meal.
Via Twitter, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate praised Iowa American Legion Auxiliary units “for stepping up to provide masks & supplies for the Iowa Veterans Home. Post 37 in Ames & Post 492 in Woodbury County are sending these supplies this week. Great to see Iowans helping Iowans during #COVID19 pandemic.”
Members of Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt American Legion Post 1 drove four pick-up trucks of food from the Maine Department of Agriculture building in Augusta to the Area Interfaith Outreach food pantry in Rockland on April 23. The delivery kept the pantry stocked.
Post 1 member Russell Wolfertz Jr. coordinated the effort. “This is a like a combat mission,” Wolfertz told Village Soup. “We got the job done.”
Area Legionnaires didn’t want 100-year-old veteran Gerald Greenfield to miss celebrating his birthday. So the Legionnaires presented the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veteran with an American Legion pin and played “The Army Song” for him while his friends and family drove by his house to wish him a happy birthday.
In a little more than three weeks, members of Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 in Northborough have assembled and distributed 400 face shields for health-care workers and first responders. The post is using plastic donated by FLEXcon Manufacturing. Many other companies and residents have donated to the effort.
In St. Peter, Auxiliary Unit 37 members Nancy Vogel and Amber Palmquist are heading a project to supply face masks and hand sanitizer to aging veterans and others. In the first six days of the project around 140 orders had been placed.
The masks are free to veterans and $8 for others, creating a fundraising opportunity for Post 37, which had to close because of the coronavirus. The masks are being made per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other members of Unit 37, as well as additional volunteers, are assisting with the project. In addition to individuals, orders have been placed from a VA facility and the Blue Earth County Justice Center.
“We just kept thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to us and the community and all the businesses in town,'” Vogel told the Mankato Free Press. “’We can’t just sit here and not do anything.’”
On March 28, members of Broadwater Post 42 in Townsend followed social distancing rules while placing flags along Main Street. The post usually puts up the flag around Memorial Day, but business owners along the street asked if the post would do it earlier. The flags were put up “to show unity, patriotism and help emphasize Montana strong,” said Post 42 Commander Jen Dalrymple.
In Ocean City, Morvay-Miley American Legion Post 524’s Legion Family has continued its service to the community, providing lunches to health-care workers and first responders, as well as delivered snacks to staff and residents at the United Methodist Communities.
The post also will provide lunches for 30 people through the OCNJ Care organization and supply material to local residents sewing face masks for the elderly.
Legion Family members also are reaching out to other members through Buddy Checks. “Just because we are at home doesn’t mean we can’t reach out to one another,” Unit 524 President Ann Marie Maikner told OCNJ Daily. “Our goal is to bring optimism into everyone’s life right now.”
• Through its Front Lines Project, members of Charles N. Bajart American Legion Post 1122 Legion Family in Yonkers have been delivering ready-to-eat foods to health-care workers. They recently delivered food to three area hospitals for the workers battling COVID-19. The post also delivers food to homebound veterans. Members of the post’s Legion Family shop for the food and do much of the preparation and cooking from their homes, while other food comes from area restaurants. Small delivery teams distribute the food. “Veterans know about what is needed in a time of crisis,” Post 1122 member Jack Hannon told the Irish Echo. “The doctors and nurses and health care workers simply don’t have the time to organize meals for themselves and that’s where we come in. As long as they keep fighting, we’ll support them.”
• American Legion Post 488 and Sons of the American Legion Squadron 488 in Monroe provide monthly lunches to Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation veterans but had to temporarily stop because of the pandemic. So instead, the Legionnaires and Sons made a freshly prepared lunch for the nursing home’s activities staff. “The support and love Mark La Bruna and his activities staff show all residents is second to none,” said Post 488 Lunch Committee Chairman Marty Currid told The Photo News. “They create an environment which brings smiles to the residents and reinforces how much they matter. We saw this every time we brought lunch to our veteran nursing home colleagues. This time, we wanted to demonstrate our appreciation to the activities staff and let them know how much they matter, because they really do.”
• In Lowville, American Legion Post 162’s Legion Family started by providing lunches to truck drivers and first responders and has since expanded the effort to local supermarket workers. The latest effort provided hot dogs and hamburgers to workers at Tops Supermarket. Future efforts are planned for the AMF Bowling manufacturer in Lowville and at the intersection of Routes 177 and 12. “What’s really nice about this community, we’re getting donations mailed to us. We’re not asking for anything,” Auxiliary Unit 162 President Kathy Hinkleman told WWNY. “People are very grateful that we’re doing this.”
• In Luzerne County, Harveys Lake Sons of the American Legion Squadron 967 conducted a “Stuff the Bus” for a food pantry in Noxen. Rain didn’t slow the effort, as the community stepped up to provide enough food items to fill dozens of rows of the school bus. “It’s been a tremendous turnout. Everybody that was able to show up and donate what they did, it’s incredible,” Squadron 967 member Dave Delaney told WBRE.
• In Smethport and Crosby, members of the American Legion Family at Bucktail American Legion Post 138 and John Berg Memorial Post 976 are teaming up with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2497 on the Mask From Vets Project. The project is creating protective masks for those in the community wishing to wear them when they go out in public. The American Legion is providing the funding, volunteers will sew and assemble the masks, and Legionnaires, Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Riders will deliver them.
• In Milesburg, more than 200 protective masks have been sewn and shipped already from the Mumpher-Shawley American Legion Post 893 Auxiliary members. The unit is sending 500 masks to those stationed aboard the USNS Mercy hospital ship
• In Montoursville, American Legion Post 104 gave $5,000 to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to provide meals for those financially impacted by the coronavirus.
• The Camo Quilt Project, which includes several members of the American Legion Family, has made more than 2,000 protective masks that have been distributed to the community, veterans, and active-duty troops. American Legion Past National Commander Denise Rohan and her husband Mike recently picked up 214 masks to give to activated Wisconsin National Guardsmen. The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs also has asked Camo Quilts to provide masks for the state’s three veterans homes. Around 1,000 residents of the homes in King, Chippewa Falls and Union Grove will receive masks.
• In Wausau, American Legion Post 10 and Bunkers at Tribute Golf Course have continued to provide meals every Wednesday to area veterans. The partnership has resulted in nearly 100 meals being delivered weekly.