American Legion News Clips

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, November 30, 2020 which is Rosa Parks Day, Civil Air Patrol Day, National Christmas Lights Day and National Pie Day.
This Day in Legion History (for the next two weeks):

  • Dec. 1, 1929: American Legion posts nationwide begin sponsoring soup kitchens to feed the hungry during the Depression. Post 81 in New Jersey serves more than 14,000 meals in less than 15 months. Posts in Memphis, Tenn., provide food, fuel and clothing to more than 12,000 needy residents. Hundreds more posts provide necessities for needy members of their communities in the years to come.
  • Dec. 4-10, 1921: The American Legion and the National Education Association collaborate to address widespread illiteracy, advance the teaching of citizenship and conduct the first American Education Week to improve public schools.
  • Dec. 7, 1941: Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, brings the United States into World War II. Soon, more than 150,000 members of The American Legion (World War I veterans and career officers) return to wartime service. In addition, nearly 400,000 Legionnaires serve as air-raid wardens, 300,000 as volunteer police officers and 50,000 as volunteer firefighters to fill wartime needs in their communities.

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the British issued orders to its naval river patrol boats to surrender. The Japanese Imperial Army moved into the international community in Shanghai to secure the area and the foreign nationals who might organize an underground resistance including Past China Post 1 Commander Frank Delacy Mortimer.
Many of those captured were American Legion Post 1 members, prominent citizens within the expat community. Individuals who because of their connections in the financial, political, and information spheres, had the potential to cause trouble for the Japanese. Arrested were business leaders, retired US Navy, Army and Marine personnel, and people who had been working in intelligence community. Considered POWs with the rank of sergeant by the Japanese, 382 internees found themselves in the former barracks of the US Marine Fourth Regiment, Second battalion, at 372 Haiphong Road.
One year earlier in 1940, with uncommon foresight and anticipation of the inevitable Japanese occupation of Shanghai, and in an effort to protect the China Post’s records, then Adjutant Frank Mortimer had the records bound into volumes and hid them in a camouflaged area in the attic of his company warehouse. Unfortunately, during this period, the Japanese quartered troops in his former warehouse. Had they discovered the Post records, Frank would have certainly been executed.
During their internment, Post members led by Frank D. Mortimer and Otis Fritz kept the post alive with the distribution of Red Cross supplies and secreting mail in and out of the facility. His efforts resulted in Frank being elected as the Camp representative three consecutive years. Following the end of hostilities with the assistance of General Claire Lee Chennault, Frank D Mortimer and Otis Fitz reconstituted the post and resumed normal Post operations including clothing and feeding expats and orphaned children in the Shanghai area. General Chennault became the Executive Director, Otis Fitz was elected Commander and Frank Mortimer resumed his duties as China Post 1 Adjutant.
The contributions and sacrifices of these giants in American Legion China Post 1 History cannot be overstated.

  • Dec. 9, 1919: Founding American Legion member Eric Fisher Wood is listed as the inventor and receives the official U.S. patent for an “emblem-button” design that remains in use today as The American Legion emblem. Prior to receipt of the patent, Wood wrote a letter, witnessed by two others and notarized, transferring all rights to the emblem to The American Legion.
  • Dec. 12, 1995: Following a June vote of 312-120 in the House – 22 votes more than necessary for a supermajority – the Senate fails by just three votes of hitting the two-thirds mark necessary to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag from intentional physical desecration. The measure is introduced in every subsequent Congress from that point forward, spurred by The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Defense News: Lawmakers, former officials surge support for Flournoy to be Biden’s defense secretary
Military.com: Veterans Tuned Into a ‘Live’ Town Hall with VA Secretary Wilkie. It Was Prerecorded
AP: Inside the case against ISIS militants suspected in the deaths of Western hostages
McClatchy: Can states fire employees who leave for military duty? U.S. Supreme Court may decide
Military Times: Time running out on one veteran’s push for VA reforms

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Defense News: Lawmakers, former officials surge support for Flournoy to be Biden’s defense secretary

By: Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta   4 days ago
16
WASHINGTON — With President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for defense secretary still in flux, a new surge of support for Michèle Flournoy has emerged. Key House Armed Services Committee Democrats, a former defense secretary and a host of other supporters were publicly stumping for her Wednesday to become the first woman to run the Pentagon.
For months, Biden was widely expected to select Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy and founder of the Center for a New American Security think tank. But Biden announced the core of his national security team Monday without naming his nominee for defense secretary.
In a joint statement Wednesday, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chair Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Chair Jim Langevin, D-R.I., highlighted Flournoy’s experience, and said, “breaking this glass ceiling is long overdue.”
“As senior members of Congress, we sincerely appreciate that Ms. Flournoy is held in the highest regard as a preeminent defense policy expert who has worked tirelessly to develop effective bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems,” they said.
“She is trusted and empowered by those she works with and those who work for her. Following the tumultuous past four years, Ms. Flournoy’s steady leadership, future vision, and firm grasp of strategy, personnel policy, and the next generation of defense technologies is exactly what we need.”
The new round of support for Flournoy came amid reports that Biden was not entirely sold on Flournoy, though she was still a strong contender. Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama’s second secretary of homeland security, is another top candidate ― and he would be the first Black defense secretary.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., and a close Biden ally, expressed disappointment Wednesday that African Americans — a voting bloc crucial to Biden’s presidential victory — have not featured more prominently among the early picks to fill out senior administration posts next year.
“From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration. But there is only one Black woman so far,” Clyburn said in an interview with Juan Williams, a columnist for The Hill. Clyburn was referring to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Flournoy has faced headwinds from the left, as Biden came under pressure over Flournoy’s defense industry ties and relatively hawkish views. Flournoy joined Booz Allen Hamilton’s board and co-founded defense consulting firm WestExec Advisors in 2018.
On Sunday, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., sent a tweet questioning whether Flournoy would “commit to a full withdrawal from Afghanistan & a ban on arms sales to the Saudis to end the Yemen war?” Then on Wednesday, Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and House Armed Services Committee, sent another tweet that read, “The people that work in an industry shouldn’t then be nominated to regulate that industry. We need to set the standard of not perpetuating the revolving door.”
Despite the criticism, other progressive advocates credit Biden’s team for engaging with them on foreign policy and said their goal has not been to derail any Biden nominee, but to keep progressive issues and foreign policy concerns on the table.
Two left-leaning HASC members, Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., came to Flournoy’s defense on Wednesday, as Gallego nodded to Flournoy’s experience and history-making potential and highlighted her work “for years to raise the alarm on a variety of new threats like climate change and pandemic disease.”
“Lastly, it’s hard not to notice that some of the objections raised against [Flournoy] could equally apply to other high-level national security appointments over the years. She should be subject to the highest ethical standards and a transparent vetting process,” Gallego, vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a Twitter thread.
Moulton, the co-leader of HASC’s bipartisan Future of Defense Task Force, also offered support for Flournoy as experienced and forward looking.
“Michèle Flournoy has a deep understanding of the existing DOD bureaucracy and the future of our defense. That’s a rare combination. I would love to see her nominated for Secretary of Defense,” he said in a tweet.
Support beyond Congress
A push for public support of Flournoy’s candidacy flooded defense circles Wednesday, when a number of notable women in national security circles began posting testimonials online in support of Flournoy’s experience and leadership. Adding their voices to the debate Wednesday night were 29 nuclear experts, including most notably William Perry, who served as defense secretary from 1994 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton.
“We have known and worked with Michèle Flournoy, in some cases for decades,” the authors wrioe. “She has a deep understanding of nuclear weapons policy and budgets, and is highly qualified to lead the Department of Defense on the complex and critical issues of nuclear weapons procurement, deterrence policy, and nuclear risk and arms reduction.”
“She is best poised to ensure the Department of Defense does not, through momentum and inertia, over-invest in unnecessary or dangerous legacy systems — including nuclear weapons systems — ill-suited to addressing the pressing dangers of today and tomorrow,” they conclude. “We believe Michèle Flournoy is the best candidate for the job.”
Among the other signatories of the letter are former Obama-era officials Rose Gottemoeller, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security; Andrew Weber, former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical & biological defense programs; Jon Wolfsthal, who served as special assistant to Obama and as senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council; and Laura S.H. Holgate, a former NSC official who was ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Already, a group of 11 military and veteran support organizations endorsed Flournoy over the weekend, praising her “undisputed expertise” and calling for a swift confirmation, should she be nominated.
And the No Exceptions initiative, which pushed to open all combat positions to women, activated its email network to urgently gather signatures for an open letter to support Flournoy as a historic choice.

Military.com: Veterans Tuned Into a ‘Live’ Town Hall with VA Secretary Wilkie. It Was Prerecorded

30 Nov 2020
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
Most — if not all — of a community town hall touted as a ‘Veterans Experience Live’ event with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie Monday on Facebook was prerecorded — a staging that disappointed veterans who tuned in hoping the secretary would respond to a few of their questions.
The virtual event, for veterans, families, caregivers, survivors and others interested in the veterans community, featured the VA Secretary responding to prescreened, prerecorded questions on topics ranging from suicide, community care and military spouse employment.
As with similar events presented in the past year by the Defense Department, the questions came from pre-selected individuals and were prerecorded.
But it appeared that the preceding discussion and Q&A between Lynda Davis, VA’s chief veterans experience officer, and Wilkie, was also prerecorded, which became obvious when Wilkie wished veterans and their families a "peaceful and joyful Thanksgiving" four days after the holiday.
The only "live" portion appeared in the Facebook comments section, where VA employees sought to respond to questions rolling in from participants.
"VA staff is working on answering all questions," Department of Veterans Affairs officials wrote as the questions and comments — nearly 800 in all — came in.
For some veterans, however, the format was unsatisfactory.
"A town hall gives those in attendance a chance to participate by asking questions," wrote AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly. "That wasn’t this."
"This was a paid political ad," wrote Brian Fleming, a retired Air Force explosive ordnance technician. "They hand scripted questions and offered zero relief/information to the vets listening … what a bunch of bull—-."
Wilkie was in western New York Monday morning dedicating a veterans cemetery in Pembroke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-N.Y., and other dignitaries.
VA spokeswoman Christina Noel did not respond to a question asking her to confirm whether the event was entirely prerecorded, nor offer an explanation for the staging.
DoD has held at least three virtual town halls this year featuring screened, prerecorded questions on topics varying from COVID-19 and household moves to diversity, inclusion and readiness.
Unlike the VA event, however, the dozens of answers during the DoD town halls were live, delivered by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, then Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón "CZ" Colón-López.
Not everyone was unhappy about the Facebook event. James Metrando, a veterans service officer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., wrote "Thank you for the Town Hall."
And Jeff McClintock, whose Facebook page sports the patch of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, attributed improvements in his life to VA.
"Without the help of the VA when I became sick, I would have lost everything. Now I am at the point I can start to maybe stabilize. I’m not sorry this isn’t everyone’s experience [sic]."
VA officials responding to the comments section referred veterans to the White House VA Hotline, 1-855-948-2311, to the VA Welcome Kit available on its website and to a new number they are calling the MyVA411 information line at 1-800-698-2411.
Wilkie said he has traveled to all 50 states since his time in office touring VA facilities and said the department has experienced a "renaissance in terms of customer service and how we have served America’s almost 10 million veterans."
"With this town hall, which has been expanding in size .. this is my third one, it shows that people want to be with us, they want to find out what is going on and this is an important way of doing it," Wilkie said.