Top 5: a welcome home, gear up to ‘Be the One’, a day of honor

Top 5: a welcome home, gear up to ‘Be the One’, a day of honor

1. World War II veteran home after 80 years

U.S. Army Air Force 2nd Lt. Pharis E. Weekley, 21, went missing after his plane was shot down Aug. 1, 1943, by enemy anti-aircraft during Operation Tidal Wave, the bombing of oil refineries around Ploiesti, Romania. For 80 years his remains went unaccounted for until he was identified and finally brought home. Four generations of Weekley’s family welcomed him home to Florida, including his 94-year-old sister Marva Turner, as well as his brothers and sisters in arms, The American Legion. “We learned so quickly that The American Legion is our extended family,” said Cathy Albritton, niece of Weekley. “That they are there for us; for anything we need. They are the most wonderful, caring people. They have taught me this is how we treat our own. He’s our brother, and we do not leave him behind … 80 years later, he is not left behind.”

Go deeper: The American Legion is committed to achieving a full accounting of all prisoners of war and missing in action. The Legion continues to support and urge the president and Congress to fully fund the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Office (DPAA) for its current and future mission of ensuring the accountability of U.S. servicemembers. “If it wasn’t for the efforts of the DPAA,” Weekley would have never been brought home, said Albritton. 

2. A day of honor

“The third Saturday in May is set aside not just to honor those who served in war, but the men and women who comprise the greatest military on the planet. Armed Forces Day is the time to honor our military, whether members are on the battlefield or in bootcamp,” said National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola. “The American Legion has always recognized that a strong national defense is vital to the prevention of war. It is why the founders of The American Legion included defense as one of our organization’s four pillars. You cannot have true security without an outstanding Armed Forces. In this capacity, the United States is truly blessed. Let’s remember that on May 20.”

Remember the fallen: On Memorial Day, the American Legion Family will honor the more than 1 million men and women who have lost their lives defending America since the Revolutionary War. An American Legion Memorial Day speech for 2023 is available for departments, districts and posts to use.

3. Wear “Be the One” to show support

The National Executive Committee passed Resolution 13: Be the One Days, during Spring Meetings last week. The resolution urges American Legion Family members and American Legion posts to – on the first of each month, starting this June – set aside that day as an opportunity to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Legion Family members are urged to wear a “Be the One” item to signal their commitment to the initiative.

Purchase your gear: Visit American Legion Emblem Sales and check out the Be the One shirts and tack

4. Military children receive big higher learning boost

For nearly 20 years, The American Legion Legacy Scholarship has provided more than 500 military children of fallen and disabled post-9/11 veterans over $3.5 million in aid for higher learning. The 2023 scholarship application opened in January and closed April 1 with 321 eligible applicants receiving $1,479,113 in aid – the highest amount awarded since the first grants in 2004. Children of veterans who died on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, or children of post-9/11 veterans who have a combined Department of Veterans Affairs disability rating of 50 percent or higher, are eligible for the Legacy Scholarship. The 2024 Legacy Scholarship application will open Jan. 1, 2024. 

Ride for the children: Registration is now open for the 2023 American Legion Legacy Run which raises funds for the Legacy Scholarship Fund. The five-day, 1,100-mile ride will leave American Legion Post 6 in Kokomo, Ind., on Aug. 20 and travel through Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee before the final stop at the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, N.C., on Aug. 24.

5. New three-year membership opportunity

Current Legionnaires and prospective members will have the opportunity to sign up for a three-year membership under a pilot program approved May 10. Resolution 1 passed at the Spring Meetings by the National Executive Committee states that it will be a five-year pilot program that offers the purchase of three consecutive, 12-month “member terms at the then current dues rate.” 

Join The American Legion: If you have served at least one day of active military duty since Dec. 7, 1941 and were honorably discharged or you are still serving active military duty honorably, you are eligible for membership with The American Legion. Join today!