American Legion Daily News Clips 3.23.20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, March 23, 2020 which is Cuddly Kitten Day, Near Miss Day, World Meteorological Day and National Puppy Day.

Today in Legion History:

  • March 23, 1929: When the Emory River floods the town of Harriman, Tenn., power is knocked out, freight trains and factories are washed away, dozens drown, and a concrete bridge collapses. An 8-foot wall of water blasts through Harriman, and members of Newman-Davis American Legion Post 53 are sworn in as police officers, patrol the town and area, search for survivors, create a relief shelter, feed refugees and work with the Red Cross for 11 straight days and nights.
  • March 23, 2014: Led by the American Legion Auxiliary, hundreds of American Legion Family members gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for a “flash mob” social media performance of “It’s a Grand Old Flag” in honor of the U.S. Armed Forces. Within hours more than 37,000 see smartphone videos and photos of the performance on YouTube.

Today in History:

  • On March 23, 1839, the initials “O.K.” are first published in The Boston Morning Post. Meant as an abbreviation for “oll korrect,” a popular slang misspelling of “all correct” at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans.
  • 1775: During a speech before the second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry responds to the increasingly oppressive British rule over the American colonies by declaring, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Following the signing of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Patrick Henry was appointed governor of Virginia by the Continental Congress.


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Military Times: Trump orders National Guard into federalized status in three states; they keep control, federal government foots bill as COVID-19 cases rise

Howard Altman and Leo Shane III
10 hours ago
As the number of coronavirus cases increases in the U.S., President Donald Trump Sunday night ordered National Guard troops in three states to operate under a status that allows them to be managed by state governors, but be paid by the federal government.
“We want to win this war with as few deaths as possible,” Trump said Sunday afternoon. “Today, I am announcing action to help New York, California, and Washington, to ensure that the National Guard can effectively respond. The National Guard, these are tremendous people. Fully on alert. It has been activated.”
The move will make it easier for states, already facing increasing costs as a result of the pandemic, to call in the National Guard if needed to help deal with the problems caused by COVID-19.
There have been more than 30,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S., with at least 400 deaths, CNN reports.
Trump’s initial order called for National Guard troops in the three-hardest hit states — New York, California, and Washington — to operate under what is called Title 32. Under this federalized status, Guard troops still report to the governor, but the government picks up the cost. Normally, it is a 75-25 split, with states picking up the smaller portion, but Trump waived that split and the federal government will absorb the entire cost.
More states are expected to seek Title 32 status as the need arises, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Sunday night.
As of this morning, governors across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington D.C. have each mobilized components of their Army and Air National Guard to assist in their state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters via a telephone conference, Lengyel again tamped down rumors that the Guard troops will be used to enforce martial law.
“There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.”
The move is important, said Lengyel, because “governors and adjutant generals know the best use of what’s needed in their states,. This will help with unity of effort and speed of responses.”
Though Guard troops won’t be used to enforce shelter in place or quarantine, they can be used to assist in law enforcement efforts, Lengyel said, something routine during other national disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and large fires.
Lengyel said governors had been vocal in seeking the federal status.
“One reason is that it speeds response,” he said. "States are not used to disaster that last this long. This will last for a while.”
States that may have been reluctant to mobilize additional troops, because they were on the hook for the bill, may be less reticent now, said Lengyel. He estimated it costs about $8 million to $9 million a month to mobilize 1,000 troops, depending on what they are doing.
There is also a great benefit to troops as well, said Lengyel. Under Title 32 authority, they receive essentially the same benefits as active duty troops, including Tricare health insurance, points toward retirement and full GI Bill benefits.
Lengyel said that no troops will be asked to go into dangerous areas without full protective gear, and that he does not believe the response will be slowed by access to such gear.
“Nobody will be asked to do anything without proper equipment,” he said. “Like the rest of the country, we are concerned about the total quantities of masks.”
He added that federal or state agencies tasking Guard troops with coronavirus duties will “help provide us some of the equipment.”
Some of the special units, like Civil Support Teams and other specialty teams, have such equipment, said Lengyel. But the concern is how long supplies will last.
“We are concerned with the duration of the oncoming onslaught,” he said. “This is an history event. It requires an history response.”
Lengyel said that, at the moment, there are no guidelines about troops coming in contact with coronavirus patients. Currently, some Guard troops are helping out with testing at drive-through sites.
There is no expectation of providing direct medical support, Lengyel said.
A lot of the work will be helping maintain transportation and logistics, for instance helping ensure grocery stores are able to get what they need.
The more than 7,300 Guard troops already deployed are working on several missions, including, but are not limited to:
*Delivering food in hard-hit communities;
*Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice;
*Providing critical Personal Protective Equipment training and sample collection to first responders and hospital personnel;
*Supporting local emergency management agencies with response planning and execution;
*Providing support to testing facilities;
*Serving as response liaisons and support to state Emergency Operations Centers;
*Proving transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers;
*Assisting with disinfecting/cleaning of common public spaces;
*Collecting and delivering samples.

Army Times: That Army equipment moving by rail? Not a sign of looming martial law

Kyle Rempfer
20 hours ago
It’s not a sign of pending martial law, folks.
Army vehicles moving by rail across the country is a normal part of training operations and equipment deliveries, but in times of national crises, the hyper-aware American public notices those movements more often and sometimes speculates as to its purpose.
A Twitter post shared Friday of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles moving by rail through a Chicago suburb garnered 2,000 retweets and more than 4,000 likes. The post said the vehicles were heading further east and asked if they were “coming soon?”
It was one of a number of Tweets showing military equipment on the move around the country.
By Saturday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman confirmed what others pointed out already.
The trucks were new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles being transported by Army Materiel Command from a factory in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“These deliveries by train to our bases nationwide are not infrequent and have nothing to do [with] COVID-19,” Hoffman said.
The Army regularly moves equipment by rail, including when its units are heading to combat training center rotations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Rail is one of the most efficient ways to move heavy equipment over long distances.
The Army recently moved hundreds of pieces of equipment by rail to several U.S. seaports in order to prepare for a European exercise this spring called Defender 2020. That exercise was reduced in scope amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It was also announced in mid-February that Army Contracting Command placed an order for more than 1,200 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles from Oshkosh Corporation — the defense firm that also makes the M-ATVs commonly used by the U.S. military.
National Guard Bureau chief Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said Thursday that more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states have been activated to support coronavirus response by governors.
That number is expected to double by the weekend and eventually reach the tens of thousands, Lengyel said, meaning the American public will likely see increased movements of military equipment and Guard personnel in the coming weeks to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Military Times: VA suspends funeral honors, large gatherings at cemeteries due to coronavirus

Leo Shane III
2 days ago
All large funeral services and military burial honors will cease at veterans cemeteries nationwide starting next week as part of federal efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Veterans Affairs officials made the announcement Friday afternoon, with the new policies effective on March 23. That means that funeral services scheduled for this weekend at veterans cemeteries will continue as planned.
But starting Monday, “committal services and the rendering of military funeral honors will discontinue until further notice,” according to the department notice.
In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the move was necessary for the sake of public health.
“We are committed to the safety of our veterans, their families and employees, and (we) have implemented an aggressive public health response to COVID-19,” he said. “At the same time, we continue to take steps to provide flexibility to veterans and their loved ones, where possible.”
More than 130 veteran cases have been confirmed in patients at 38 different VA medical centers across the country. The New Orleans VA Medical Center has the most, with at least 42 cases so far.
Two deaths have also been attributed to coronavirus in veterans under the department’s care: One in Vermont and one in Oregon.
Nationwide, more than 15,000 cases of the illness have been confirmed, and more than 200 deaths connected to the fast-spreading virus.
In response, several states have called for residents to limit their public movements and avoid mass gatherings. Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump said that for the next few weeks, Americans should avoid any events or interaction with groups of more than 10 people.
VA officials have already put in place limitations on visitors to VA medical centers and other facilities, and encouraged individuals showing symptoms of the virus to call ahead to doctors before visiting any hospitals.
The new cemeteries notice said that even with the new restrictions, immediate family members will be allowed to witness the burial of their loved ones at veterans cemeteries. However, those groups will be limited to no more than 10 people.
Families wishing to postpone a funeral service scheduled for after March 23 can contact local officials to make other arrangements. Individuals can also call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117 or access the office online to see their options.
“Although VA national cemeteries remain open to visitors, guests are strongly urged to obey local travel restrictions and avoid unnecessary travel,” the VA announcement said. “Certain portions of a cemetery typically open to the public, such as public information centers or chapels, may be closed to the public.”
VA handles burial services for more than 130,000 veterans and eligible family members annually, according to department records.
Military Times: Second VA patient dies from coronavirus; department preparing deployment of 3,000 medical staff and additional mobile medical units

Leo Shane III
2 days ago
Veterans Affairs officials announced their second coronavirus-related death on Friday as the number of cases related to the outbreak in their health system topped 100 for the first time.
The death of an unidentified patient at the White River Junction VA Medical Center in Vermont overnight follows just days after a coronavirus death on the other side of the country in Portland, Ore.
No further information on the death was released.
More than 130 veteran cases have been confirmed in 38 different locations. The New Orleans VA Medical Center has the most, with at least 42 cases so far.
VA officials said nearly 1,200 patients have been tested for the virus so far, a jump of nearly 40 percent from Thursday’s figures. Nationwide, more than 10,400 cases and 150 deaths have been attributed to the fast-spreading virus.
In an interview with Politico on Thursday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said his department is preparing to deploy 3,000 medical staff and additional mobile medical units to bolster the national health response to the coronavirus.
The department, which provides medical care for more than 9 million veterans a year, is designated as the country’s emergency health system. Both Wilkie and President Donald Trump have referenced the role in recent days, but no formal activation of that fourth mission for VA has yet happened.
Wilkie said the quick-response teams are finalizing work for when that happens.
"They know that they can be deployed anywhere in the country,” he said. “Just like the reserves, their physicals are up to date, their shots are up to date. That prepares them to launch when called upon."
On Thursday, as part of the public health response to the virus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order in an effort to limit contact between state residents.
The state has the largest veterans population in America — about 1.8 million, nearly 10 percent of the U.S. total — as well as more than 125,000 active-duty troops at various military locations.
VA officials have said that any veteran showing symptoms of infection — such as fever, cough or shortness of breath — should immediately contact their local VA facility but not travel there directly. “At this time, VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to please postpone their visits to VA facilities” until directed otherwise by medical professionals. US Defense Department Announces 1st Coronavirus Death

22 Mar 2020 | By Hope Hodge Seck
A U.S. military contractor has died after contracting the novel coronavirus, officials with the Defense Department announced Sunday.
A Crystal City, Virginia-based contractor who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency died March 21, according to a DoD release. DSCA provides assistance and resources to U.S. allies; its headquarters is inside the Pentagon.
"The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital," officials said. "Our condolences go out to his family, friends and co-workers and we thank the medical professionals who worked to save his life in the face of this virus."
The contractor, who was not identified, was receiving hospital treatment at the time of his death.
According to the release, the spaces where the deceased contractor worked were cleaned in keeping with guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when he first tested positive for coronavirus, also called COVID-19.
"The person’s co-workers have been teleworking," officials said.
The tragic announcement comes a day after the Air Force confirmed that two personnel who had spent time in the Pentagon, an active-duty airman and a contractor, had both tested positive for the fast-spreading virus. The airman, who worked for the Defense Health Agency, had last been in the building March 16, officials said; the contractor had not been in since March 2, and had been self-quarantining since March 7.
On Sunday, the U.S. reported roughly 30,000 COVID-19 cases, though testing shortages mean the number is likely higher. To date, 377 people have died.
The Pentagon has also released updates every weekday on the number of military and DoD-connected personnel cases.
On Friday, there were 67 troops, 15 military civilians, 26 dependents and 16 DoD contractors with the virus. Five individuals have recovered, and eight cases have required hospitalization.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct where the Air Force personnel who tested positive for the virus worked.