The 94th Annual National Convention of the American Legion was called to order by National Commander Fang A. Wong on Tuesday, August 28, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Jose Rene “JR” Martinez was Master of Ceremonies for part of the morning session.

“JR” enlisted in the US Army in 2002 because his mother could not afford to send him to college. He was deployed to Iraq in March 2003. On April 5, 2003, he was driving a Humvee back from a completed mission and the left front tire hit a land mine. He was trapped inside the vehicle, and had burns over 34% of his body, but fortunately he was pulled out of the burning Humvee by a fellow soldier. He was taken to a field hospital and eventually flown to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for treatment and later to a hospital in Texas that specializes in burns treatment.


During his recovery, a nurse asked him to visit a fellow soldier who, after seeing his burns, became withdrawn.

After talking to this soldier, “JR” decided to use this experience to help others in need. He has become a motivational speaker, traveling the country to spread his message of resilience, optimism, and the importance

of making the most of every


After leaving the Army he was offered an actor’s role on ABC-TV’s soap opera “All My Children.” He played for three years an Iraq war veteran who was hired as a police officer. Some of you may remember “JR” Martinez and his dancing partner Karina Smirnoff, on ABC-TV’s “Dancing With The Stars” competition in December 2011, which they won.

The American Legion Youth Champions were honored for their achievements during 2011-2012.

The 2012 Boys Nation President is Jonathan Hess, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2012 Eagle Scout of the Year is Jason Dreyzehner from Abington, Virginia, 2012 Junior Shooting Sports Precision Champion is Colt  Gross from North Augusta, SC, 2012 Junior Shooting Sports Sporter Champion is Cody Sanchez, from Los Luna, New Mexico, and 2012 National High School Oratorical Scholarship Program, “A Constitutional Speech Contest,” first place winner is Rebecca Frazier, Morgantown, Indiana, a homeschooled student. Black Schmit, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is 2011 Baseball Player of the Year.

An active duty US Army soldier, a U.S. Navy Seaman, A US Air Force Airman, A US Marine Corps Sergeant and a U.S. Coast Guardsman were presented the “Spirit of Service” Award for their after-duty hours contributions to the community where they are currently stationed.

American Legion Auxiliary National President Mrs. Kris Nelson brought greetings from the organization.

Fang A. Wong, American Legion National Commander gave his report to the delegates at the convention.

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs gave his report on veteran’s benefits and explained budget he submitted to Congress for 2013.

Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter, U.S. Army (Ret.) Dept. of Defense Director of Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Organization explained that Pres. Barack Obama had signed a proclamation of Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War on 25 May 2012, stating that the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War will begin on 28 May 2012 and last through 11 Nov. 2025.

The American Legion announced that Paul J. Doucette, Jr. is the 2012 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, who is Chief of Police in Bennington, Vermont.

The American Legion announced that Thomas M. Chastensen is the 2012 National Firefighter of the Year from Waukegan, Illinois.

Wednesday afternoon, Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney addressed the delegates at the American Legion National Convention.

He stated that he was asked why he would leave the Republican Convention in Florida to visit Indianapolis. His answer was, “When our nation called, you answered. I consider any opportunity to address our nation’s veterans a privilege not to be missed.”

Mr. Romney’s speech was designed to contrast his plans for military and veteran’s spending with pending Pentagon budget cuts.

Mr. Romney also mentioned that the VA has a shortage of mental health care professionals. And he would try to hire more. Anytime a veteran is unable to receive timely healthcare from the VA system, he or she should be allowed to see a tricare provider at the VA’s expense.

Mr. Romney also stated his criticisms of the military cuts that will take place at end of this year unless Congress acts to avert them.

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Mike Scruggs