Don’t Miss the Paul Revere American Legion 623 Community’s 2nd Annual Spaghetti Dinner

The Paul Revere American Legion 623 Community will be holding its 2nd Annual Spaghetti Dinner at the Forest Park American Legion Post 414 Hall located at 500 Circle Avenue in Forest Park.  This fundraiser will be held on Saturday, November 10, 2012 from 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm.  All you can eat spaghetti, meatballs and sausage, garlic bread, salad, and drinks for great low prices!  Adults $10, Seniors $8, Children 4-12 $5, and Children under 3 eat free!

To buy tickets in advance contact Paul Knudtson at 773-398-3802 or Byron Watson at 815-353-0213.  You can also email or Tickets will also be available at the door.

All proceeds will go to support your local American League Baseball Team!  Click here to learn more about Paul Revere American Legion Baseball.


Federal Vouchers Will Help 100 Homeless Cook County Veterans

By Dennis Rodkin

About six months from now, 100 homeless military veterans in Cook County will have a place to live, thanks to a $760,872 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those 100 vets represent a 55 percent increase in the number of Cook County veterans helped into housing through HUD’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (VASH).

It’s the biggest local increase yet in the program, according to Richard Monochio, the executive director of the Housing Authority of Cook County. “[The program] is doing what it’s supposed to do,” he says. “[It’s] giving these veterans a stable place to help them become self-sufficient.”

The grants provide low-income vets up to 70 percent of the rent for a preapproved private rental (not public housing). But, Monochio adds, help with the rent is just one part of a comprehensive package that includes counseling, job training, and placement. The housing authority partners with Hines Veterans Hospital for those services.

“This program works because it doesn’t just give somebody a voucher and say, ‘Good luck,’” Monochio says. “It gets them in a home and then helps them use their skills to take the next steps.” Until the new round of funding, Cook County had vouchers for 180 veterans; those vets, says Monochio, have been in their homes for two years and have not returned to the streets. “We know it works,” he insists, explaining that, though there is no time limit on the use of vouchers, “we’ve already seen a few veterans graduate out of the program” by landing steady jobs.

Alan Harrell, a Chicagoan who served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1981 and later became homeless, has been using a HUD-VASH voucher to defray the cost of his one-bedroom rental for about two years. “It’s just the fact that it brings you in, gets you off the streets,” he says. “It does a good thing for you.”

When it announced the release nationwide of $72.6 million in VASH grants last week, HUD reported that homelessness among military veterans has dropped by about 12 percent—or 8,834 people—in the past two years. About 76,000 veterans are homeless across the country, the Los Angeles Times reported last fall, while also noting that vets make up 8 percent of the nation’s population but 16 percent of its homeless populace.

“It’s a national disgrace,” Monochio says, though he adds that getting veterans housed has become “a national priority”—as evidenced by the boost in HUD-VASH funds at a time when most other federal housing programs are being reduced. Part of the impetus, he says, is that “there are more and more veterans coming back every day.”

Monochio’s agency got official notification of the grant on March 26. “We’re putting the money in play as quickly as we can,” he says. “Our goal is to have all 100 of the new vouchers [for] veterans who are living in apartments within six months.”

Each night, about 14,000 people are homeless in Illinois, and a large proportion of them are in Chicago and Cook County. Using HUD’s 16 percent estimate, that would mean that there are about 2,240 homeless veterans in Illinois. The VASH vouchers are “certainly not enough to meet the need,” Monochio points out, but it’s a start.

Harrell, too, applauds the increased funding. “It’s a no-brainer to give this to veterans,” he says. “You owe them a lot more than you give them.”

Originally published by Chicago Magazine on April 4, 2012.

Veterans help 1,000 veterans at Chicago job fair


Brad Watson (left) helps Anthony Pacelli of Elmhurst with his job interview skills at a job fair for vets at the Conrad Hilton. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Alma Nick is well aware of what it’s like to work in a war zone. Today the 29-year-old Iraq War veteran is facing a new challenge — finding employment in civilian life at a time when the jobless rate remains high for many.

But it’s a challenge she and fellow military veterans are equipped to successfully tackle, contends Nick who was among roughly 1,000 veterans who participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s veterans’ job fair at the Hilton Chicago Wednesday.

The chamber last year launched the Hiring Our Heroes program, which held more than 120 hiring fairs nationally, helping roughly 9,000 veterans and their spouses find jobs by connecting them with employers and assisting them in improving their resumes and interviewing skills.

This year, as tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seek to transition into civilian jobs, the chamber will host 400 such fairs across the country. The chamber in partnership with Capital One has a goal of helping 500,000 veterans find jobs this year.

Hainesville resident Nick, who held personnel management and training positions during her 11-year stint in the Navy, is hoping to land a job in human resources. She holds a B.S. in workforce education from Southern Illinois University.

“The majority of us have leadership skills and we’re responsible,” Nick said in citing veterans’ assets, which she said employers should desire.

Thirty-year-old Robby Ragos, a representative of Lisle-based Navistar International Corp., one of 135 employers who participated in the job fair Wednesday, echoed Nick’s sentiment.

Ragos gave Nick and other veterans input on their resumes and engaged in mock interviews with job fair attendees. Last year he was in their shoes, seeking work after having served in Afghanistan as a section leader for an infantry platoon.

“I tried to get a job and couldn’t find anything,” said Ragos, who serves in the Illinois Army National Guard, holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and applied for 40 to 50 positions.

He was hired by Navistar after meeting representatives at a Hiring Our Heroes job fair last year and now works as a government property administrator at the company.

At Navistar, which makes commercial and military vehicles and engines, roughly 10 percent of its roughly 15,000 workforce is comprised of veterans, said recruiter Pam Walsh.

IT solutions provider CDW has made veteran hiring a priority and boosted its number of veteran hires by 46 percent last year, according to Jen Mahone, inclusion practice specialist at the company who spoke with scores of veterans at the job fair.

“We specifically target the veteran community because we want to make sure that we’re the employer of choice for them,” she said. “We have a culture that embraces our military veterans.

“Veterans have so many different transferrable skill sets that they can bring back to an organization, team building, they are very results driven,” she said. “They’re committed to whatever they do. That’s important to any organization.”

Still, returning veterans face unique challenges. The jobless rate for Gulf-War-era II veterans averaged 12.1 percent last year, compared to 8.7 percent for nonveterans. For all veterans, it was 8.3 percent.

“I think the biggest challenge is how to transition your skill set from the military to the civilian side,” Ragos said. “A lot of people don’t really know how to put that in resumes or how to say that in an interview.”

Navistar program manager and Afghanistan veteran Brad Watson, who counseled veterans at the job fair agreed. He added some employers have misperceptions about veterans’ skill sets, “particularly for combat arms military specialties, infantry, tanks, artillery,” he said. “Sometimes the perception is that those skills don’t translate well to industry when in fact they actually do. The parallels between what you do as a combat arms service member and what you do in business are strong.

Watson cited small unit leadership as one example.

“There’s not enough of it in American industry today,” he said. “The military is better than any other organization in developing small unit leaders. Another one any organization can benefit from is the strength of character you find in a veteran. There’s no better catalyst for strength of character than combat. The ability to persevere despite adversity and to take initiative despite uncertainty; these are all qualities you’ll find in veterans.”

Originally published by the Chicago Sun-Times on March 28, 2012. (

Pearl Harbor survivors share stories of attack

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks.  The American Legion Family honors those who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941.  Honor Their Service by spending a few moments remembering and reflecting on the sacrifices made to protect us and ensure our freedom.


World War II Navy veteran Clarence Pfundheller poses Nov. 29, 2011, at his Greenfield, Iowa, apartment with a photo of himself taken during basic training in 1939. / AP Photo / Charlie Neibergall

HONOLULU — Clarence Pfundheller was standing in front of his locker on the USS Maryland when a fellow sailor told him they were being bombed by Japanese planes.

“We never did call him a liar but he could stretch the truth pretty good,” Pfundheller said. “But once you seen him, you knew he wasn’t lying.” Continue reading

Remember our Troops this Holiday Season

Send a care package to a service man or woman this holiday season!

As most of you know, our Post 623 Community has been supporting the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Zabul through our Adopt-A-GI Program.  Specifically, we support a 14-member Unit consisting of a mix of all branches of service.  This is an ongoing project, as the unit is replaced approximately every 9 months, giving us the opportunity to reach out to a whole new group of service men and women at least once a year. Continue reading

Chicago artist wants dead Vietnam veterans to be memorialized in pictures

Scottie Kersta- Wilson holds a photo of her father Gail Francis Wilson who was killed in 1967 in Vietnam. She attended a ceremony to support a campaign to locate the remaining 35,000 photos of the 58,272 service members memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The event was at Chicago's Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Chicago River Walk. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Scottie Kersta-Wilson will never forget the one-armed Western Union man bearing terrible news who rang her doorbell in the middle of the night on September 3, 1967.

More than 40 years later, the 58-year-old Chicago artist is still trying to make sense of her father Lt. Col. Gail Francis Wilson’s death in Vietnam.

“I have so many questions that I didn’t even know to ask back then,” she says. Continue reading

Thanksgiving, from the vet and soldier’s perspective

By Brian Bresnahan
Here are a few simple things to be thankful for this holiday season:

Empty boots.  Be thankful if you don’t have to dump your boots in the morning to make sure there are no spiders, scorpions, or snakes in them.

A shower or bath. Fourteen days of funk smells, well, funky. 

If you’ve not had to endure the smell of yourself and your buddies for any longer than a basketball game, be thankful.

Real toilets.  Cat holes, port-a-lets and the honey sucker truck get old, fast.

Your holiday meals. Be thankful for whatever you have to eat, especially if you get the full Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas ham.  Continue reading