1. How POWs, MIAs became a national priority
Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. In September 1966, Ann Mills-Griffiths was at the home of her parents in Bakersfield, Calif., when she received the news. Her brother, Navy Lt. James Mills, a radar intercept officer, and his pilot, Navy Lt. Cdr. James Bauder, had been flying an F-4B Phantom over North Vietnam when they disappeared from radar in the dead of night. No flak, missiles or anti-aircraft artillery were in the area. No explosions were seen or heard. Search-and-rescue aircraft saw nothing. Bauder and Mills had vanished.
Thus began Ann’s five-decade search for answers, a crusade initiated during the Vietnam War by many other women just like Ann: sisters, mothers, daughters and wives of missing and captive men in Southeast Asia. They rallied a nation behind their cause with the wildly popular POW/MIA bracelets and the iconic black-and-white flag that now flies at the White House, the Capitol and every U.S. post office. And at the war’s end, these women pressured the Pentagon to create a permanent government agency whose sole task was to resolve the still-lingering issue of missing men from the Vietnam War. Established in 1973, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) went through several name changes before becoming the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which today has an annual budget of $130 million and a staff of 700.
Remembrance continues: American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer recalled the sacrifices of first responders and other heroes as he delivered remembrance remarks Sept. 11 before dozens of American Legion Family members at the Knoxville National Cemetery in Tennessee.
2. A call answered
American Legion Post 14 in Bozeman, Mont., is answering the call to Be the One. The post worked with Montana State University (MSU) Veteran Support Center, MSU School of Art and the MT 988 Project to create and promote suicide prevention-themed challenge coins that aim to increase awareness of suicide and resources available to help those in crisis.
“How can you be a part of (Be the One) in your own way with the messaging and this really fit well,” Post 14 Public Relations Officer Rick Gale.. “With that kind of a background as far as intervention and talking to people on the phone, it was a fit looking at Be the One campaign and the suicide prevention messaging for veterans.” More than 30 challenge coins were created by MSU graphic design students with help from veterans like Gale that feature Montana 988 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number) on one side then 988+1 (Veterans Crisis Line) on the other side.
A Be the One champion: Last Sunday, Alex Palou finished third in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California; he was driving the No. 10 American Legion Honda featuring the Be the One message. That was his 10th podium finish of his championship season, and it’s Palou’s second NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in three years.
3. Stories of triumph
The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast released the final three episodes of its six-part special series on Military Sexual Trauma. The episodes raise awareness about MST, share stories of overcoming the trauma and identify solutions for those seeking help.
Listen to the six episodes:
Part 4: Members of the LGBQT+ community discuss the prevalence of military sexual trauma.Part 5: How the Department of Defense is working to address MST.Part 6: An accredited American Legion service officer and VA MST coordinator discuss options available to those who are seeking assistance.Reminder: The Tango Alpha Lima podcast will return to its regular schedule on Sept. 19.
4. Legion’s impact in August
The following are just a few of the many ways The American Legion broke records and had a positive impact on veterans, their families and children and youth in August. See the full impact here.
- American Legion Riders delivered an all-time high of $1,551,631 to the stage of the 104th National Convention for the Legacy Scholarship Fund.
- The Sons of The American Legion celebrated an all-time high in membership of 375,743 on Aug. 10.
- There was 6,272 mobile-device downloads of the 104th American Legion National Convention app, smashing the 2022 high of downloads by nearly 5,000.
- $4,194 - Amount in American Legion national Temporary Financial Assistance grants awarded to veteran families in August to stabilize homes for six children after unexpected economic hardships.
More impact: There were 42 American Legion service officers accredited in August to serve veterans and their families, free of charge, with their VA and state veterans benefits. If you need help filing a service-connected disability claim, American Legion service officers are available to help veterans and their families free of charge. Locate a service officer near you here.
5. Celebrate your rights
The week of Sept. 17 is Constitution Week to celebrate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The American Legion supports this through its Oratorical Contest, a Constitutional speech contest for high school youth. Since 1938, the program has presented participants with an academic speaking challenge that teaches important leadership qualities, the history of our nation’s laws, the ability to think and speak clearly, and an understanding of the duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges of American citizenship.
There’s more: The American Legion has a variety of youth programs that are available to eligible high school students, such as Legion Baseball, Boys State, Junior Shooting Sports and more. Check the programs out here.