Anthrax shot resolution passed at department convention

By Tim Engstrom
Past 7th District Commander David “Chip” Manson asks a question about a resolution on July 14.

Convention business is important for serving veterans statewide

REDWOOD FALLS — A resolution approved at the 104th Department of Minnesota Convention in mid-July directs the VA to investigate the findings and effects of the experimental anthrax vaccination that was given to deploying Persian Gulf War veterans.

Past National Vice Commander Al Davis addresses the Department Executive Committee.
Past National Vice Commander Al Davis addresses the Department Executive Committee.

The resolution stems directly from research at the University of Minnesota Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. The Minnesota American Legion and Auxiliary helped to create the research center with their Brian Sciences Foundation.

At a meeting with the researchers in April, Dr. Brian Engdahl told Legion and Auxiliary members how the Brain Sciences Center found a direct connection between the anthrax shot and Gulf War illness.

He said the findings never made it into VA policy.

Legionnaires at the meeting felt the research indicates that anyone who received the shot should automatically qualify for VA healthcare.

Engdahl said some of the issues found, compared to the general population, were brain atrophy, respiration issues and bowel dysfunction.

Outgoing 1st District Commander Mary Hanson seconds a motion at the American Legion Department of Minnesota Convention.
Outgoing 1st District Commander Mary Hanson seconds a motion at the convention.

The resolution at the convention was written by Department Service Officer Ray Kane and Assistant Department Service Officer Janet Lorenzo.

Part of the resolution states, “Resolved, that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and The Veterans Affairs Health Care shall initiate a thorough and independent investigation to evaluate the effects of anthrax vaccinations on veterans, and be it further resolved, that the investigation shall aim to assess the short-term and long-term health outcomes associated with the anthrax vaccine in veterans, including any potential side effects or adverse reactions.”

It goes on to call for the federal government to take necessary steps to provide medical care and guidance for veterans affected by the anthrax vaccination.

The resolution now heads to the 104th National American Legion Convention in Charlotte, N.C., for approval.

A resolution from Kane and Lorenzo, along with VA&R Committee Chairwoman Marissa LaCourt, called for the Department of Minnesota to ask the federal government to preserve housing benefits for student veterans pursuing online education via the G.I. Bill. The resolution was sent to committee for a quick edit, then approved and then passed by the convention. It will go to the National Convention.

Past National Commander Dan Ludwig addresses the Department Executive Committee.
Past National Commander Dan Ludwig addresses the Department Executive Committee.

A resolution authored by the DEC to move supervision of the VA&R staff to the department adjutant and away from the VA&R Committee went to Constitution & By-Laws Committee. It passed the committee and was approved by members on the floor of the convention.

A resolution stemming from the April class of Minnesota Legion College was approved. It says American Legion Flag & Emblem Sales should offer female sizes and uniforms for all apparel “so that female veterans have uniforms that fit their needs and preferences.” For example, the honor guard uniforms for sale all are men’s sizes.

Several other resolutions were sent back by the convention committee. One called for the creation of a Technology & Innovation Committee. Another would create a Grants, Funding & Nonprofit Services Committee. Another called for the creation of an online version of Minnesota Legion College.

One resolution out of Litchfield Post 104 called for chairs of committees under the Americanism pillar of the Legion’s Four Pillars always be Legionnaires. Presently, there is no requirement that they or their committee members be Legion members. For instance, the directors of Minnesota American Legion Baseball and Fastpitch Softball are both Sons of The American Legion members.

Department Judge Advocate Greg Colby addresses the convention body on Thursday, July 13.
Department Judge Advocate Greg Colby addresses the convention body on Thursday, July 13.

In many cases, district baseball directors also are SAL, Auxiliary or even not members at all. Several department programs have non-members in key positions, such as Boys State counselors and Oratorical Contest judges. The new director of the Minnesota American Legion Riders is an Auxiliary member.

The Americanism Convention Committee ruled the resolution out of order for vagueness.

Another resolution to give the districts and departments greater options for addressing serious issues at posts was sent back for a rewrite.

Past 7th District Commander David “Chip” Manson said districts and the department need a viable path to help ailing posts. Quibbling over words won’t fix anything, he said.

Adjutant Mike Maxa said Department HQ is working on a book of discipline, which spells out available actions, and he said he hopes to have it ready for DEC meeting in St. Cloud on Oct. 26. Manson was satisfied to hear that.

The convention approved a resolution to be sent on to the National Convention in Charlotte that calls for Congress to pass a bill requiring active-duty servicemembers who are retiring or ending their time in service to be given paperwork during out-processing about The American Legion and what it does for veterans. This resolution comes from Lewiston Post 90 and the 1st District.

A resolution was approved that calls for financial considerations for VA loans to include nonmarried partners who share a residence for at least one year “to give a more accurate assessment of the finances.”

A resolution to add correctional officers to the department’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award was amended to make correctional officer a separate award. The amendment and resolution were approved.

National Executive Committeeman Bill Barbknecht addresses the convention.
National Executive Committeeman Bill Barbknecht addresses the convention.

A resolution wanted to allow district committee chairs for National Security & Foreign Relations participate in the selection and voting for the Outstanding Enlisted awards. This was sent back to the standing committee for review.

Finally, the convention approved a resolution from the Ad Hoc Internal Affairs Committee that cleans up but doesn’t majorly change language in the Department Constitution and By-Laws. To be official, however, the convention-goers, on the first day, had to sit through Department Judge Advocate Greg Colby reading seven rather-boring pages of the Constitution.

However, members survived the extensive reading with grace and aplomb. The changes were accepted.

The Department Executive Committee, on July 12, approved a resolution that creates a standing Internal Affairs Committee of four members, each with four-year terms. It also approved a resolution that allows the Department of Minnesota to print its Constitution and By-Laws electronically. Presently, they are printed in booklets sized for a coat pocket.

The committee also reviewed several resolutions and sent them to the floor for approval. They went to the DEC first because that’s how the resolutions were written.

Mugshot of Jennifer Kelley
Jennifer Kelley

Past National Commander Dan Ludwig asked resolution writers to please draft the resolved clause in a manner that sends the resolution straight to the convention for approval. He said the resolutions only need to go to the DEC if A. the issue at hand is strictly administrative or B. the matter is urgent and the convention won’t be available until next year.

“The convention floor is the ultimate authority of this organization,” Ludwig said, “not the Department Executive Committee.”

Sending any resolution to both the DEC and state convention wastes time, he added.

The DEC members gave a round of applause to Program Coordinator Jennifer Kelley for her 30 years working for The American Legion Department of Minnesota.

NECman Bill Barbknecht thanked everyone for coming: “There is no other organization like The American Legion.”