Each year hundreds of VFW leaders converge on the Hill, taking the voice of America’s veterans directly to congressional dignitaries and lawmakers during the VFW Legislative Conference.

Armed with the VFW’s Legislative Priority Goals for 2013, VFW advocates plan to visit with every congressional office, explaining in detail the VFW’s stance on a variety of veterans’ issues like access to VA benefits, military quality-of-life programs, economic opportunity and health care.

The week culminates with the testimony of VFW Commander-in-Chief John Hamilton before a special joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on March 5, where Hamilton will lay out the VFW’s legislative agenda for the year.

VFW’s live stream of the conference will begin on March 3 at 6:00 p.m. (EST) with the annual Voice of Democracy Parade of Winners, followed by streaming video of VFW Commander-in-Chief John Hamilton’s testimony on the afternoon of March 5.

Visit http://www.vfw.org/vfwconference to access the stream directly.  If you miss the live feed, you can catch the excitement through the “on-demand” feature at your leisure.

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A war memorial cross that once stood on a rocky hilltop in a national park before being deemed unconstitutional and ordered removed was resurrected on Veterans Day at the stunningly stark Mojave desert site, capping a landmark case for veterans fighting similar battles on public lands.

Henry Sandoz, who cared for the original 1930s cross as part of a promise to a dying World War I veteran, rededicated a new, 7-foot steel cross on the same hilltop before more than 100 people. The site is now in private hands as part of a land swap with the National Park Service that ended the longstanding legal dispute, which had become entangled in the thorny issues of patriotism and religion.

“Judges and lawyers may have played their roles, but it was the veterans who earned this memorial, and it is for them it rises once more,” said attorney Hiram Sasser of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, which represented veterans in the legal fight.

The settlement approved by a federal judge in April permitted the Park Service to turn over the acre of land known as Sunrise Rock to a Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Barstow and the Veterans Home of California-Barstow in exchange for five acres of donated property elsewhere in the 1.6 million acre preserve, about a four hour-drive east of Los Angeles.

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(Photo via Liberty Institute Press Release)

More than 20 wounded warriors will converge on CrossFit Rubicon in Vienna, Va., this Saturday for the first-ever Working Wounded Games. Hosted in conjunction CrossFit Walter Reed and volunteers from other metro area CrossFit affiliates, the Working Wounded Games will allow veterans with combat-related disabilities to compete in an open-style competition that will benefit two new wounded warrior charities. The VFW is proud to serve as an inaugural sponsor for the event, which coincides with the 237th birthday of the Marine Corps and Veterans Day.

“I know first-hand the physical challenges our heroes face when they return home,” said VFW National Commander John E. Hamilton, a triple Purple Heart recipient from Vietnam. “The VFW is proud to support the games and the wounded athletes competing this Saturday, and the new programs that will help wounded warriors discover new ways to stay fit, while reclaiming their independence and a sense of accomplishment.”

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Reno, Nevada, July 25, 2012America’s largest organization of combat veterans has elected a Vietnam War veteran to head the 1.5 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

John E. Hamilton, a resident of St. Augustine, Fla., was elected VFW Commander-in-Chief on July 25, 2012, during the 113th VFW National Convention, held July 21 – July 25, in Reno, Nev.

In his acceptance speech, Hamilton, who served in the Marine Corps from 1968-1970, reminded the mostly Vietnam-era audience that VFW must remain vigilant in its efforts to care for war veterans, especially in these tough economic times as our country’s wars wind down.

“What we have accomplished over the past 113 years on Capitol Hill and in cities and towns everywhere is legendary, but our future existence is 100 percent dependent on what we do tomorrow … the reason our voice needs to be heard is because all wars end … Iraq last year and Afghanistan by 2014.  That means veterans’ issues could once again take a back seat to whatever new national priority becomes the flavor of the day,” stated Hamilton.

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Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at the 113 National VFW Convention on Tuesday. Video below begins around the 10:00 mark. A text copy of Romney’s remarks can be found here.

President Barack Obama addressed about 3,500 attendees at today’s Joint Opening Session in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. He discussed various issues of importance to veterans, including: new employment and transition assistance for returning vets, VA health care, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Afghanistan War and creation of a medals database.

Obama announced that earlier in the morning he had signed into law the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act (H.R. 4155), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). The law will make it easier for veterans to find jobs using skills acquired in the military by streamlining the certification process. “Veterans need to be licensed and credentialed when they get home,” he said.  Obama also told attendees that he hopes that Congress will pass the Veterans Job Corps Act (H.R. 5683), which would offer unemployed veterans or their widows or widowers jobs in forestry, for example, on public lands.

In order to prepare veterans for civilian life, Obama introduced a major interagency overhaul of the military’s transition assistance program called Transition GPS. “We’re going to set up a reverse boot camp” to enhance “career readiness,” he said. It would extend sessions up to seven days, to include financial planning, an employment workshop and a planning session in which troops can explore career options and talk to experts. The redesigned program should be complete by the end of 2013.

Obama covered several matters regarding VA health care, including the idea of vouchers. “Some have argued for [vouchers], but I could not disagree more,” Obama said to applause. “You don’t need vouchers, you need the VA care you have earned.” He vowed to continue to make veterans health care a priority.

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The presumptive Republican candidate for this fall’s presidential election has accepted an invitation to speak before the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., which begins July 21 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. The event is closed to the public.

“We are most appreciative to Governor Mitt Romney for again taking time to address America’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization,” said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass. The governor spoke at the VFW’s 112th National Convention in San Antonio last August.

Governor Romney is scheduled to speak on July 24, one day after President Obama, which continues a long standing VFW tradition to provide a platform for those seeking the nation’s highest office to address issues of importance directly to veterans, military service members and their families. DeNoyer said this is especially important during a time of war and instability abroad, and economic belt tightening at home.

“We hope to hear how both candidates will take the fight to our enemies and keep America safe through strong national defense and homeland security programs,” he said. “We also want to know how they will create, enhance and protect veteran and military healthcare programs and Quality of Life initiatives, to include educational benefits and military retirement programs, as well as how they will improve veterans’ job training and employment opportunities, and eliminate veterans’ homelessness. We would also greatly appreciate hearing their commitment to returning our fallen from their battlefields.”

Up to 12,000 VFW and Ladies Auxiliary delegates are expected to represent the organization’s total membership of 2 million at the weeklong convention. Their mission is to approve new national priorities to guide the VFW as it lobbies Congress on issues important to the nation’s veterans, service members and their families. Convention delegates will also elect a new VFW national commander and recognize prominent individuals and organizations for their support of veterans, the military and the nation.

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The president has accepted an invitation to speak before the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., which begins July 21 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. The event is closed to the public.

“We are very grateful to President Obama for choosing to address America’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization,” said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass.

The president’s appearance continues a long standing VFW tradition that provides a platform for those seeking the nation’s highest office to address issues of importance to veterans, military service members and their families. DeNoyer said this is especially important during a time of war and instability abroad, and economic belt tightening at home.

“What we hope to hear is how he will continue to take the fight to our enemies, while keeping America safe through strong national defense and homeland security programs,” he said. “We also want to know how he will create, enhance and protect veteran and military healthcare programs and Quality of Life initiatives, such as educational benefits and better job training and employment programs. We would also greatly appreciate hearing a renewed White House commitment to return our fallen from their battlefields.”

President Obama is scheduled to speak on July 23. He last spoke at the 110th VFW National Convention in Phoenix, and prior to then as a presidential candidate in 2007 and 2008.
Up to 12,000 VFW and Ladies Auxiliary delegates are expected to represent the organization’s total membership of 2 million at the weeklong convention. Their mission will be to approve new national priorities to guide the VFW as it lobbies Congress on issues important to the nation’s veterans, service members and their families. Convention delegates will also elect a new VFW national commander and recognize prominent individuals and organizations for their support of veterans and military personnel.

Awards presented will be the VFW Gold Medal of Merit to the Montford Point Marine Association; the VFW Armed Services Award to the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany; the VFW Americanism Award to correspondent and author Joe Galloway; VFW Teacher of the Year awards to Debra Rose Howell (Monte Cristo Elementary School, Granite Falls, Wash.) and George “Bud” Zorman (Mountain Home High School, Ark.); the VFW Dwight D. Eisenhower Award to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno; the VFW Citizenship Award to “Kids Thank a Veteran” director Cherie Reid; and the VFW Aerospace Award to women’s aviation and space pioneer Wally Funk.

Also addressing the delegates will be Elizabeth Scannell of Goose Creek, S.C., the $30,000 scholarship winner of VFW’s annual Voice of Democracy program; Veterans Affairs Commission Deputy Minister Hsiao-hui Chin from the Republic of China on Taiwan; Ekaterina Priyezzheva, Russian co-chair of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs; U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki; and Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Tom, commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, among many others.

The 113th VFW National Convention is closed to the general public, but everyone can watch it streaming live online at www.vfw.org beginning at 8 a.m. PDT, July 23.
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