Good to Know Information About
the Jackson, Wyoming, American Legion Post 43
and their disregard for veterans, the flag, protocol, and much more.
Their activities in recent years have been
disgraceful to the American Flag, to fellow veterans, to the Constitution &
Bill of Rights, and a few others things that I won't mention even here.
The national office of the Legion when requested to intercede or investigate,
said all such matters were for the state office to review & investigate. When the state
office was contacted, their response was to say they could do nothing and the
issues would have to be addressed at the local Post level. When I finally
tried to do just that, as advised, after one comment, the post commander, or
post dictator, cut me off (he doesn't know anything about Robert's Rules of
Order or any normal means of conducting a meeting) and then abruptly closed the meeting
entirely. The membership at this post is seriously delusional about the
activities I assert and will not even allow discussion - how democratic. The
state and national leadership, if you can call it that, have abrogated any
oversight or responsibility for the actions of their leaders at the local
level. It's all fairly disgraceful to say the least and the meeting (on
7/21/09) where I tried to broach these issues was both insulting and about as
un-American in its conduct as could be imagined. Over the approximately 12
years I was an active member of the post, I did more positive pursuits for
veterans and veterans' issues, especially at the local level, than anyone
currently participating in the post's activities, by far including the current
commander who has been the commander for about 7 or so years now. In order
to keep everything from being too convoluted, I have constructed a timeline of
my activities with/for the post, and a synopsis of the issues I speak about
above. While no one has to like my opinions or views, in our society, they
should nonetheless be respected, as I do those of others I don't agree
with. Therefore, if you don't agree with the information provided below,
that is your right after reviewing it all to have a complete picture. If
you do think improprieties are being engaged, violations of civilized behavior,
violations of the U.S. Flag Code, or that any other conduct is inappropriate, I
encourage you to:
Contact the national office of the American Legion and let them know.
Their number is 317.630.1200 for the National Commander. The current commander is Dave Rehbein.
While I don't think the state office will at all be interested, their number is: 307.634.3035 & the new commander (7/09) is Nels Lofgren.
The below goes back over 10 yrs. and is somewhat lengthy. However, I think you'll find it fairly interesting - your veterans at work.
Here is a link to my complete letter
to the editor in August of 2009.
I join the Legion in early 1998 on the insistence of Tom Lamb. I also start by annually donating a POW/MIA flag to the post for the flagpole, which until that time, they'd never flown.
As I am about the only one in the post with internet experience, I subsequently become the post historian & initiate emails to the media for officer changes and info about any local ceremonies, events, etc. I am also about the only person to assist in one or two flag retirement ceremonies with the then post commander.
Due to the ragtag nature of our ceremonies, in 2001 I initiate an effort to acquire “uniforms” for post members for ceremonial details for those who can no longer wear their military uniform, and subsequently acquire the agreed upon items from FE Warren AFB. I get a local dry cleaners to donate cleaning & take them to him & pick them up after our details for years to follow.
Early on in membership, one of our members is called up to active duty. He & his family suffer some financial hardships relative to his service. I propose (as no one else brings it up) that the post give them some financial assistance and a token gesture is made of several hundred dollars.
Also, I propose a box for persons to be able to turn in their American flags for proper ceremonial destruction as we discussed with the commander when the post votes to place the box. The post vice commander builds the box & it‘s set at our front walk entrance. I also send out press releases prior to Memorial Day each year to remind people in the community of our box so they can replace their worn/tattered flags. However, after several years of build up in the basement from banks, Grand Teton National Park, individuals, businesses, other, I ask the commander repeatedly, when we will have a retirement ceremony as per one I had done years earlier w/the prior commander. He doesn’t schedule anything for any Flag Day ceremony. Eventually, the flags in the basement disappear & new ones start to be collected. (I am later told that the commander conducted his own private ceremony?) Periodically, collected flags disappear & no formal ceremony is ever conducted. I discontinue sending out notices to the public. Since I have left the post, I still have never heard of a proper flag retirement ceremony. The current post website states that if people have, “flags in need of honorable destruction...”, something I haven’t seen in about 10 yrs. It also states, & this is directly quoted:
The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. ( The local American Legion Post 43 [ Jackson, WY ] regularly conducts ceremonies to dispose of torn, worn, soiled, etc. flags and the public is invited to bring them to those ceremonies or to provide them to the Post for disposal. Usually the one particular ceremony being on June 14th, Flag Day. )"
Also, relative to the above, a small committee of myself & a couple of others on a phone tree, would contact local businesses/other, that their flag was flying improperly, or not lighted at night correctly, etc., & request that they correct the problem to allow proper respect for the flag. Obviously as will be seen later, the post is or becomes, hypocritical about this as they don't conform to the U.S. Flag Code themselves. I would apologize to those local entities that I contacted on behalf of the American Legion, as this post doesn't set the example it should & others locally shouldn't be held to a standard that can't or won't be maintained by this post. I would still encourage them to review the Code & fly their flags w/the respect it is intended that they receive.
From at least 2002, we discuss the possibilities of someone replacing our ceremonial rifles w/new ones as the current weapons are unreliable. One or two members say they’ll make it happen, but over the years, it never does. (More later...)
Somewhere around this time, I offer to set up a website for our post & the members agree that jhal.org would be a good name. I register and pay for the website for the next 6 years. I also maintain it, take all the photographs for the post for it, set up pages to honor our former commanders, provide a page for the post rental agreement, show other groups that use the facility, and information about the BR fund.
In 2002 I join the committee to restore our post building w/2 others. I also briefly take charge of renting out the building for events & review of arrangements with others using the building. A short time later, we enter into an arrangement w/a member who needed the work although his background was a little sketchy. We arrange to pay his cellphone bill & he will open/close/maintain the building for local renters. By July 2003, problems are emerging with this member not depositing the funds he collects to the post account. Oct. - I further warn the commander about undeposited funds. He has also disregarded our written rules and allowed one or more organizations to serve alcoholic beverages at these events.
I acquire a very large image of our post under construction in 1926 and arrange for it to be placed in a local grocery store with a number of other locally historic images. There is a small ceremony.
In 2002 & 2003, I am the official fund-raising representative for western Wyoming for the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. I raise several thousand dollars in projects with Bill ? & others in the “Climb the King” event pledges & donations.
2003 - I propose to the post that we provide funds for one of our WWII vets & a companion to go to Wash. D.C. for the upcoming dedication of the WWII memorial in 2004. We agree, I set up the rules for eligibility & we do the drawing in Oct. I get several people to contribute to this so that the post doesn’t have to foot the entire bill. I also go to the dedication in D.C., but on my own dime.
June/July 2003, I rewrite the post building rental contract. For several years during this time frame, I coordinate veterans activities for the Old West Days committee.
11/03 - I arrange a high school class visit to the post to talk to vets about their service, although I am not invited to participate. I do videotape part of the event for the JH Historical Society. I am also invited to accept a plaque from the County Commissioners & the Historic Preservation Board, and another member is invited separately. We both attend for the post.
12/03 - I coordinate a ceremony to place a historical plaque on the front of the Legion building. I also organize a welcome home event for a local troop returning from Iraq & we buy his family dinner at a local restaurant.
Eventually, one of the BRC members works to remove the trees in front of the building as they are a “danger” to the post & our insurance. The trees were planted when the post was built by the founders around 1926-29 & I argued that they were not a danger & are as historic as the post itself. I get the most qualified expert in WY, a arborist with the Forest Service, to submit formal papers that the trees are NOT a threat to the building. Eventually, this person cuts them down anyway.
The post wants to sell magnetic ribbons that state “We Support Our Troops” as a fundraiser for the BRC. I suggest that a portion of those funds raised actually go to some fund of the post’s choice, to actually support our troops. Members are frustrated that I would propose that funds be diverted from the BRC. The post takes a straw vote and says they don’t want to do that.
Shortly after these two events, I resign from the BRC.
Early 04 to approx. 10/04- Post custodian is to be challenged over missing rental funds and for disregarding rental polices by the post commander, although he never reports back to us the results of his talk with this person. At the next meeting of the post, that individual is removed from his position as custodian & as far as is known, no funds are ever reimbursed to the post for the roughly $300. to $800. we determined had not been deposited. (More later...) I take over as post custodian briefly until a new custodian is appointed about a month later & I draw up job description for new custodian.
Early 2004, I propose a notice box for when the flag is lowered to half-staff so people will know why the flag is lowered (who is being honored in death), next to our flagpole. Harry Baxter builds it & I maintain it. If I don’t do it, no one else does it. (Since I stopped actively participating at the post in 2007 I have noted that the box has remained empty. The box is still there but no members are posting names in the box by the flag when it is lowered to half-staff. Honoring our vets?)
I also join the committee to place a memorial on post property, help with logistics/media/guest coordination, the time capsule and other considerations such as photography. I also get a local physician who owns a number of warbirds, to agree to a ceremonial flyover during the event.
July 2004 - In my capacity of employment at the Grand Teton Music Festival, I arrange a salute to vets at the 4th of July Music in the Hole event. I suggest that a local WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War & another vet, be honored, to represent all vets from those eras. Two of those persons, including our commander, are among those honored at the event attended by approx. 10,000 people.
Around this time I propose a “Wall of Honor” where images and military bios of our members would be posted in the hall so that community members, when renting, visiting, or using the hall, would be able to see who in their community has served our country. I also draw up a ceremony where when a member’s photo is placed on the wall, other members will come up & thank him/her for their service. I repeatedly approach members to provide their images/history to me for inclusion. After approx. 30 ceremonies & 3 years later, no one has asked me why my image isn’t on the wall, and even though no ceremony is ever conducted, I quietly place mine on the wall as well. No images are to be removed once posted unless the member resigns their membership or moves away from this post.
April 2004 - I attend the Chance Phelps memorial service in Dubois. No one else from the Jackson post is able or interested in attending. Elsewhere, I am asked by the Teton County Library to coordinate a new flag ceremony for them with the Legion.
Oct. 2004 - I propose that if we are going to sell “We Support Our Troops” magnetic ribbons as part of the building restoration effort, that a percentage of the funds collected actually go to some entity of the post’s choice, that does support our troops. The post conducts a straw vote and chooses not to divert any funds from the BR fund regardless of what the magnetic ribbons say. At the same time, a member of the post literally insults me and other veterans, by saying that if I want to do something for the troops, maybe I should just do it myself. (No matter he doesn’t know whether/if I have been all along.) These sales ultimately raised approx. $4,000., none of which ever went to “support” our troops.
Within weeks, I organize and get 2 supporters to host an annual Christmas dinner for the hundreds of military that come here over the holiday in support of the vice president who had/has a home in Jackson. Over the next 4 years as the military contingent is diminished, the anonymous donor who financially supports the event, allows me to include all of the vice president’s Secret Service detail as well. Another generous donor covers the bar tab. It’s held at Snow King resort, all meals and drinks are paid for, locals are invited to attend at cost - and thank these people for their service to our country, and I solicit Xmas presents from locals that are raffled off to those active duty/Secret Service that attend. This continues until Xmas of 2008 & becomes a major Jackson event. While hundreds of locals attend to support these troops, it is hardly attended by any local Legion members at all. Information/images are posted on my personal website.
5/05 - Post 43 memorial is dedicated. I handle photography, flyover, time-capsule & other misc.
Oct. 2005 - A local woman has organized a loose organization (JH Supports Our Troops) to provide support for military units coming here in support of the vice president’s visits to his home in the area. I agree to help her by proposing to the post that we write her a letter formally endorsing her efforts, which it does.
Oct. 2005 - I write a letter to the local paper informing people that the Legion plans to destroy the two trees in front of our building that are over 75-years-old. This doesn’t go over well.
Nov. 2005 - Another member during a monthly meeting, requested we conduct a flag retirement ceremony & the commander said it would happen next Flag Day. Yet again, it didn’t.
Dec. 2005 - I volunteer to do and accomplish a post inventory in writing & on video, which I do.
March 06 - I propose a rack to be placed on the wall of the Legion post where families can donate the cap of their deceased Post 43 Legion member to be placed in honor at the post. The post likes the idea, the vice commander constructs the rack & we place it on the wall. Shortly after on Memorial Day, someone “borrows” one of these caps for the ceremony at the suggestion of another member, and doesn’t return it until much later. I subsequently remove the 2 caps I had collected from the rack & place them behind locked glass. Since I have left the post, no one has collected any other caps from families. (Why don’t other people get anything done?)
5/26/06 - Memorial Day - David Bentlage, Post Commander, assaults me on a crowded street in downtown Jackson, in front of the Wort Hotel, during the Memorial Day parade, for exercising my constitutional rights in protesting the war in Iraq & our fellow servicemembers being killed w/out justification, which he apparently doesn’t agree with. He certainly didn’t have to agree with me, but he physically assaulted me while in his US Army uniform & wearing his Legion cap. Dennis Lamb doesn’t stop him at first, but when I refuse to fight, Dennis tries to pull him away. Many other witnesses are present on the street. In fact, a small number of other persons were also carrying signs protesting the war in Iraq, but they were not assaulted by the commander. While I had my cap on my person (belt), I am NOT wearing it. The “Commander” is wearing his. Other people carrying signs are not assaulted or even spoken to, although the commander states later he is incensed that another of the protesters was wearing a dress of the American flag. (While it was red/white/blue, stripes & stars, it had no specific flag representation on it. False bravura considering disrespect he shows for the flag as will be detailed later on this page.)
5/27/06 - I contact JPD & while I don’t file formal charges against David which I could have and wanted to, I did have a report put on the record, in deference to him as a “friend.”
6/7/06 - I contact National office about this incident and was advised by national that these matters weren‘t worthy of their concern, that I contact state office via email about what to do regarding this incident. I do, but never get a response.
7/17/06 - I buy David lunch at Teton Steakhouse, yeah, I bought, & explain the purpose of military service & the constitution to him. He realizes his error & apologizes.(?)
Nov. 2006 - The night before Veterans Day, I am photographing the Marine Corps Ball at Spring Creek, and I get Sen. Craig Thomas to speak the next day at Veterans Day ceremonies on the Square.
August 2006 - I am one of 5 organizers for the 10th anniv. memorial event for
the crash of the C-130 aircraft on Sheep Mountain. Families of the 9 crew
attend, a dinner event is held at the post, & the post presents the colors
at the memorial plaque site in the forest near Sheep Mtn. I organize the plans
for the event, post a webpage, arrange a flyover salute, do the photography, and
other aspects of the event.
This year and last, I am the only rep from the post that assists the Marine Corps recruiting unit from Salt Lake City, with their annual training event in JH.
January 2007 - After several individuals said they would get us new rifles for the post over many years, and never did, I checked into the options and was able to get them from the U. S. Army in a few short months, although it was complicated. I inventoried the current armory, provided info to the Army, and new (refurbished) Garands arrived in early 2007 after we returned the remaining 1903s & 1917s. I got the Army to let us keep one of the old rifles for historical display purposes & eventually placed it in a display case at the post after it was demilitarized. Others promise, I deliver.
May 2007 - I organize a welcome home event at the airport for a returning vet from Iraq who is retiring from the Air Force & moving to JH. About 20 people come out to welcome him, I get pictures, but his flight is delayed. When he does arrive several hours later, only about 5 persons remain.
June 2007 - I cease active participation in the Legion post after serving as the flag presenter to the family of a deceased Legion member at his memorial service, as I can no longer support a post that consistently behaves in such a manner as detailed above. I advise the commander that the only thing I wish to continue doing, is performing color guard or funeral ceremonies. Some time later, I realize that I also stop receiving any materials from state or national per my membership dues which I have continued to pay.
Over the last several years, when coming to meetings, I had brought several post members to meetings who were no longer capable of attending without assistance (couldn't drive /dementia, or wheelchair bound), as they loved participating in the meetings & just getting out of their home & rest home. Prior to my initiative of doing this, no one else was assisting these people or others to attend meetings. Since I have left the post, one has died, but the other has not had any assistance attending meetings. Apparently no one else at the post cares about or respects this kind of gesture.
Over the next year, two entities contact me for the post to do color guard or flag presentation ceremonies which I pass on to the commander. However, I am only invited to participate in one of these & am never called for any others as requested.
By Sept. 2007, I start to inquire about why I am not receiving my membership “benefits.” Nothing happens. I also turn over the website to the post adjutant & later images & pages to the new post historian.
Around this time, I also am asked to appear in a political ad by a man running for the U.S. Congress in my capacity as a veteran supporting him & I agree. I do the ad and am wearing my Legion cap. I have seen Legionnaires in caps in other political events, rallys, etc., & figure if I don’t speak representing the Legion, it would be OK simply showing my support as a veteran. The candidate runs 4 variations of the ad in subsequent months.
On Oct. 7, the post adjutant advises me that she’s been asked to ID the member in the ads & advise them that wearing the cap is against Legion regulations. After confirming this, on Oct. 9, I write the candidate asking him to withdraw the ads with me in them as I didn’t know it was improper until now. Within a short period of time, he graciously complies. I also immediately send an email letter to the post commander explaining and apologizing for this action & that I didn’t know it was improper. I am subsequently advised the letter was read at the meeting on 10/17, but upon talking to others present, they advised it was not read. In no prior correspondences, magazines of the Legion, information about Legion regs, had I ever been informed that to simply wear the cap thusly would be inappropriate. I understand that eventually, after notable outrage had been made against me, that my letter was indeed read. So much for timely leadership with an agenda.
Since then I have received a letter from the state, a letter from the post, and another letter from the post commander at which point I got indignant and told him to stop.
Although I didn’t receive any notice of dues expiring, I contact the post treasurer and pay my dues for 2008 in Feb. 2008. Throughout 2008, I periodically inquire about my benefits which I am told on several occasions are being fixed, but they are not. In Sept., I contact national again about my benefits & the CSO Rep advises me that my dues have not been received at national since 2006 and sends an email to state adjutant to correct the situation. In mid-Oct., the state adjutant advises me she recently returned to the position & that the prior adjutant was “not a man of character” & she is working to straighten out state finances. (What was the story there?) When still nothing was accomplished, I again eventually contacted the CSO at national.
Feb. 2008 - I finally get to turn over my historical supplies collection to the new post historian, paper and digital & give him a detailed background on why the only materials over 80 yrs., were in the small amount I had collected since taking over in 2001.
Nov. 2008 - I produce a radio show twice a year that honors vets every Veterans and
Memorial Day on the local community radio station, which includes comments from
local vets on what these holidays mean to them.
Veterans Day ceremonies take place on the 11th on the Town Square & everyone prepares at the Legion Hall, readying rifles, flags, uniforms, etc. I am there & available to be in the detail if desired. However, the former post custodian that had to be dismissed by the post because he didn't turn over collected funds to the post for renting the building, is invited by the post commander to be in the detail. This strikes me as an insult to all veterans, to the citizens attending the ceremony on the Town Square, and to me, a person who has done more for this post in the last 10 years than anyone else, as I am not on the commander's favored list & the post thief is. Leadership at its best. Does anyone else notice or care? No.
Also, in November I believe, two new flags appeared at the front door of the Legion post, which are still there today. While no doubt well-intended, they have the names of firemen who work in NYC & either participated in or gave their lives during rescue efforts at the impact site in NYC on 9/11. However, this is in clear violation of the rules set down in the U.S. Flag Code. However well-intended, it seems to me that an American Legion post would lead by example in how the U.S. flag should be displayed for a community. Apparently, if others display it incorrectly, that's unpatriotic, but if the post does, that's OK. It appears that leadership principles are a bit hypocritical here.
Jan. 2009 - The website address that I turned over to the post adjutant last Sept., has suddenly showed up on the web at the website for Art Hazen Real Estate in Jackson, where our adjutant works. Is her real estate firm sponsoring an American Legion website? (Currently, as of 5/7/09, there is no webpage posted at all.)
Jan. 2009 - Again, I am not advised that my dues are due, so I contact the treasurer and take her my check for $33. in Feb. and hand it to her over her desk in her office. The post treasurer also advises me that 30, that’s 30 other members, have had their renewals never make it to the state office!
When I hear this, I send an email to national asking them to investigate why it’s taking so long to get my membership straightened out & why others don’t have their memberships credited either. Instead, the CSO sends my email back to the state & post treasurers which appears to imply that I am accusing them of impropriety. I simply asked the national office to investigate, but instead now, though not intended, the state & post treasurers think I have accused them specifically. (Not very bright or cooperative people apparently at national.) At no time did I accuse, or mention by name, anyone. I simply asked national to investigate where the memberships of all these people have gone, which apparently they have no interest in doing.
In late Feb. 2009, the state adjutant advises me to just pay dues earlier, which of course, would not have precluded this ongoing problem.
In late Feb., I get an email from the post treasurer that no one has pocketed my dues, that my actions have placed me in a controversial position among certain members and she is not willing to discuss my membership further, something national apparently doesn’t do either. She also suggests I need to pay dues in June, for the following year, like this will fix the problem of my lost membership. Instead of paying during the year they’re due, she wants me to pay 6 mos. early. Many organizations want that of course, none that I know of however, require it to maintain membership. I apologize to the post treasurer if she took my suggestion of funds being misappropriated by someone, to mean her. I just wanted national to investigate where my dues/benefits & those of the 30 others she had mentioned were also lost, had gone. She apologizes that I have trouble comprehending that things like this take time. 1.5 yrs.??? And that the other lost memberships, were not from our post. I can only still presume that no one has investigated what happened to those. What did happen to those people?
3/09 - My wife advises me that my dues check for 2009 has not been cashed. I’m not concerned & figure it must be an oversight & will turn up shortly.
4/21/09 - I go to the post meeting in April. I inquire of the post treasurer/adjutant, that she hasn’t cashed my dues check from Feb. She says she has cashed it. I call the bank the next day and they tell me it has NOT been cashed. If I wrote the check, and it hasn’t been cashed, why doesn’t the Legion have the funds?
In April, I am asked by a post member to arrange a showing of the HBO film "Taking Chance" for the local community. I look into the possibility and get permission from HBO to conduct a showing. I subsequently enlist the aid of a local veterans' non-profit, the local Sheriff, and a local physician & former Navy officer, to assist & subsidize putting on the event at the local Arts Center. I also contact the mother of Chance Phelps for her permission to do the event as a benefit for the local non-profit & her foundation. She agrees.
I send out an email to members of the post asking them if they would like to assist in putting on this event. Within 15 min., the post adjutant sends out another email advising everyone that I have been accused of fraudulently soliciting funds from local churches on behalf of "veterans in need" as a representative for Post 43. (This has absolutely never happened, but effectively sabotages anyone from the post from helping with the movie event, despite my prior reputation for veterans matters at the post.)
At the April Post 43 mtg., an election of officers was accomplished - w/out any advance notice to members or of any advance ballots being sent out for those who could not attend the meeting. Does this constitute a valid election of officers? I speak to the adjutant at the meeting and ask about her accusation email. At first, she doesn't seem to remember who told her this consequential accusation, but then tells me her name and she is associated with St. John's Episcopal Church in Jackson. I don't know the woman, but I do know her new husband. I contact her the next day & she is incredulous as I tell her what is transpiring. She asks for the number of the adjutant to call her before I can finish the story, and tells her unequivocally, that nothing she has said is true. About 2 days later, I contact the adjutant and ask when she is going to send out a retraction of her email about my attempted fraud. She advises that she will not.
She later sends out an email to the post members advising them that she stands by her accusation email, & that I had "told" the woman from the church to call her & say that I hadn't done anything. (Does the word "liar" apply here?)
4/25 - I call the post commander to set up a meeting to talk out this accusation situation. He doesn’t call back for two days. (Everyone says this is what civilized people do to resolve differences.)
4/28/09 - I finally get return call from post commander & I invite him to choose the place/time. He chooses the next day at 10am at the Virginian restaurant. I am also advised that minister of the SJEC will be back in town today & will likely call me tomorrow.
4/29/09 - 10am - Meet with the post commander in a full restaurant & coincidentally, he's sitting next to a table full of police officers when I arrive. I try to reason with him but he quickly becomes agitated, accusatory & belligerent. He tells me I am not to contact any other members of the Legion without talking to him first. I will not be allowed to either bring up issues at the next meeting, or it is implied that I won’t be allowed to even attend the meeting. They will not retract their accusations about my attempted fraud, despite being advised by the person they said told them about my solicitations, that they were totally wrong. David becomes loud & volatile, not civil, & will no longer listen to reason. So much, he stands up & gets in my face at the table in the restaurant & storms off.
After he does, he calls over one of the JPD officers, to apologize to him for creating a disturbance. When the officer returns to the table, I inquire as to their conversation which he tells me about. He suggests that when I go to the next meeting, which if I am a paid up member, that he shouldn’t be able to deny me access to the mtg., & that I can call the JPD to advise them of the altercation so that if anything happens, they will be in the vicinity to respond.
I have not heard today from the SJEC minister, but call & leave another msg. The minister finally calls back & advises that the church will not become involved, as if they weren't already. He advises I will not be allowed to attend or place an item on the agenda for the church board, from which this accusation supposedly came.
The mother of Chance Phelps calls & I laid out plans for the film showing. I mentioned that the Legion here planned to show the film, but she said they couldn’t without her and/or HBO’s permission & requested CC‘s phone number after I told her that I had told CC that it would probably be illegal to show it w/out HBO‘s permission. She thinks our plan to do the film is good & while I suggested Flag Day or 4th of July, she thought Flag Day would be a good time, but wished to confer with former husband John first. We talked about an hour & she thought the way I was being treated was very poor.
I called the JPD officer & requested to file a report about the incident at the Virginian yesterday as it established a pattern by the post commander, that I wanted it on the record, & he advised that one already had been accomplished that included the names of all 4 officers at the next table. We talked about some options to resolve the matter, none of which would be useful at this time.
4/21/09 - Post 43 mtg. where election of officers was accomplished w/out any advance notice to members, or of any advance ballots being sent out for those who could not attend the meeting.
5/1/09 - I call national & ask to speak to an authority about Legion elections at post level. Msg. given to a Sean Sparks (3176301335) & I am told he’ll call me back. He does, doesn’t think the procedure here is correct, & advises me to call the State Dept. Cmdr. &/or the State Judge Advocate. Later: I cannot find them on the Legion website so I call Sparks back who gives me his email & allows that he can’t research it at this time until Monday. National subsequently gives me two names that are not the persons associated with the positions he said they were.
5/7/09 - I contact state office for the adjutant. When I ask where/how to submit a complaint about post actions, she asks me if I really want to do that as I had had the audacity to protest our government while wearing my Legion cap (which I didn‘t), and to wear my Legion cap in a political commercial (which I did). I guess the Constitution of the U.S. says I can’t do the former. Nonetheless, the message was clear, that I’ll not receive a fair hearing with the above information at the state level, but I had to submit it before June 5 to the state adjutant prior to a state officers’ meeting in June.
5/14/09 - I notice now that the Legion’s “website” such as it is, is online. The only thing I required of the post adjutant when I turned over all the materials for the website, is that photographs I took, virtually all of them up to that point, acknowledge they were taken by me. Some have, others have not. Apparently professional courtesy is another virtue lost by the current leadership. Someone might also advise them that the heading for Flag Ettiquette, is misspelled.
5/22/09 - Commander is invited to have the post present the colors at the "Taking Chance" showing, but isn't interested & doesn't call back.
5/23 - I contact the CSO at national to advise that the post treas. has not cashed my check since Jan., but that I do not want my membership cancelled because of the neglect of our treas. The CSO writes me back on the 26th to advise that per “my request” that my membership has been cancelled! I write her back immediately challenging her ability to read an email & tell her my membership had better not be cancelled. She writes back again to advise that she will not cancel it after all!
5/26/09 - While standing on a public street in downtown Jackson, I am suddenly confronted, without any provocation whatsoever, by David Bentlage. He gets in my face, is forcefully & physically intimidating, & won’t leave when I ask him to. Rather than talk to him or take the bait, as he’s no doubt baiting me to physically strike him, I call 911. Police officers come to the scene, disarm him, and eventually tell him not to have any further contact with me. A report has been filed. He’s got 18 yrs. on me and I have a serious heart condition, so I guess he figures I’m a ripe target for his type of abuse & is this yet another example of Legion leadership on a public street by a post commander. BTW, I am not easily, if at all, intimidated.
5/28/09 - Letter sent to WY Cmdr. Rennells detailing above issues & how it reflects on the Legion, with my request that he advise me of any contact with post leadership & my desire for a copy of the State's Constitution & By-Laws.
6/15/09 - We have a contingent from the Marine Corps present the colors at the showing of "Taking Chance" at the Center for the Arts, hosted by Sheriff Whalen, for the benefit of the Chance Phelps Foundation and the Honor Our Veterans local non-profit. Approximately 800 people attend the two showings. Donations are accepted and free copies of the DVD are passed out, courtesy of the physician who is helping to subsidize the event. I believe I saw only one member of the Legion post attending the showings, certainly, no one helped put the event on. Chance's mother and step-father both speak to the audience between showings.
6/30/09 - Letter finally returned from Cmdr. Rennells, superficial saying they do not have any special oversight of any post, even though national said they would. He did not as requested, send a copy of the state/post Constitution or By-Laws. (As it turns out, he did not advise me he had sent my letter to Post 43. (I was not able to attend the June meeting of the Post & it turns out a very one-sided discussion was made about the letter & some consensus was made to not hear my grievances about their actions or the commander's behavior. Indeed, one person I respected & thought was a friend, repeatedly later referred to my accusations as "chicken-shit.")
7/1/09 - I call state office & am told Cmdr. Rennells is no longer in charge & that I must wait for Julie Rust to return on 7/8, or maybe later, to get a copy of the the state Constitution. & By-Laws. The new state Cmdr. is a Nels Lofgren.
7/20 - I call state office & again request a copy of the C&BL, which I am finally sent by email.
7/22 - I attend the regular Legion meeting & under new business, attempt to get the accusation against me retracted. I am ruled out-of-order by the post commander & not allowed to present any further information regarding his or the post's other indiscretions. After I told the commander he should "get off his ass & file charges against me if I was attempting fraud on behalf of the Post," he advised me that I was being disrespectful. He should know. He then said I wouldn't be allowed to speak, so I guess he was right when he'd told me some time ago that I wouldn't be allowed to talk to the post. This is an obvious form of democracy being demonstrated with another obvious disregard for (Robert's) rules of order (and for a 501(c)3?). The meeting is then immediately adjourned. Apparently both national and state tacitly sanction such abuses. While I have been thanked by post members for my past actions, I've earned a right to be heard at these meetings and it was denied and no one at the meeting (15 attending w/several new people that night) chose to say I should be heard. The American Legion should be very proud of its members and actions today. I know my "friends" are pretty small people right now.
8/09 - For several months now, the post has been flying the flag on the flagpole outside the post on N. Cache St., with no lighting on it, nor does anyone take down the flag at night. Yet another piece of disregard for the flag & the flag code instructions that the flag should be lighted or taken down each night. Most businesses & governmental agencies around Jackson do a much better job of flag respect than the post does. Instead of setting the example, their leadership is non-existent. I attended the post meeting on 8/18/09. The post "commander" attempted to intimidate me in front of the whole post again, but I didn't rise to the bait. Also, the flag is still not lighted & it was not brought up at the meeting as to fixing it so it can be displayed respectfully. The light at the flag pole was finally repaired by the Oct. meeting. The light had been off for at least 5 months.
In addition, when Sen. Kennedy died, the Governor's office sent out an email
that included a proclamation by President Obama, that all flags should be
lowered to half-staff from that time until the evening of his interment on Aug.
29, 2009. I got this message, and so did the commander, as I had asked him
years ago if he wanted to be on the Governor's email list, and he said he did,
so I provided them with his email for all future notifications. Was the
flag lowered per the directive of the President & the Governor?
No. While private flag owners around the community did not know about the
directive, those that did such as government entities, lowered their flags
accordingly such as: WG&F, USFWS, Town of Jackson, Teton County, GTNP, local
schools, etc. The Jackson, WY American Legion Post 43 commander, deliberately
ignored the directive.
AND, on 9/10/09, the Governor's office sent down the proclamation from the President to lower flags to half-staff on 9/11/09 in honor of 9/11/01. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Presidential-Proclamation-Patriot-Day-and-National-Day-of-Remembrance-and-Service/
The flag at the Legion post was lowered. So, that clearly means the commander is getting his emails from the governor & is selectively and descriminantly, making his own decision as to which directives to follow. Hardly the leadership qualities of a good Legion post commander.
AND, at no time was anything placed in the box at the base of the flagpole to notify passersby as to why the flag is at half-staff. This hasn't occurred at all since I stopped assisting with this procedure several years ago. Nobody else, including the commander, is capable of continuing this tradition I established of honoring our fallen?
AND, on 11/23/09, the Governor's office sent out a notice (see below) to lower flags on behalf of a Wyoming soldier killed in Iraq. Again, other flags around Jackson were lowered per the request, except the flag at the Legion post, indicating a distinct lack of respect for Sgt. Zorn's sacrifice. The leadership at this post is abysmal.
"Governor Dave Freudenthal requests that flags be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 in honor and in memory of Staff Sgt. Ryan Zorn. Staff Sgt. Zorn was killed in northern Iraq on November 16. A memorial service will be held Tuesday at the Wright Baptist Church.
11/20/09 - The national office sends me a renewal dues notice which I fill
out, write a check, & send to the local post via the pre-addressed return
slip & envelope provided, for 2010 dues. I even include a note for the
local treasurer, Courtney Campbell, to cash the check in a timely manner this
time. Turns out, she apparently can't read very well.
1/2010 - In late Jan., I get a dunning notice from national that I haven't renewed my membership. This is the third screwup by the local treasurer, or someone, regarding my membership. I contact national by email to advise them I have sent in my dues, to find out why I'm not being credited, & not to remove my current status. This initiates an email back-and-forth, with the upshot being, logically of course, that she states she never got my dues check, in the pre-addressed envelope, along with a quantity of other specious complaints & that I should join another post. Maybe, I should send renewal dues w/a postal requirement for her to sign for the envelope. Maybe I should pay to cancel my previous check & write another. But, why should I have to spend extra funds to renew my Legion membership because the local treasurer is incompetent or has a grudge against me alongside her boyfriend commander, & is giving me a hassle? Plus, the national office says they're don't have any oversight or authority over local posts, again. What kind of national organization, that sends out dues notices, won't oversee or audit, local treasurers who obviously can't, or deliberately won't, maintain their fiscal responsibilities. After all, I'm not the only one she's lost, but, I guess national doesn't care.
2/15 - Adjutant sends out an email to members that meeting less than 24 hrs. away was cancelled. No explanation, just call the commander for more info. I wonder if those w/out email got at least a notice on the door if they showed up? At any rate, I found out today that the commander chose to go to a school event with his daughter. Commendable, but not reason to cancel a meeting. We've held meetings in the past when he's missed, even if we don't vote on motions. Most guys get together for the camaraderie anyway, so a commander is of little import. Supposedly the vice-commander was indisposed, but, that's what a post elects a v-c to do, is be there when the commander isn't. Others have keys to the building, but nonetheless, the meeting was cancelled & I'm sure, members without email weren't advised.
3/16 - Meeting tonight. Nothing consequential, except a last moment
notice that elections will be held at the next meeting. I'm sure as was
the case last year, that no ballots will be mailed to members without email, or
notice that elections are to be conducted, & that incompetence will prevail
over intellect when those elections are held.
4/8 - I send out email advising members of valid reasons not to reelect the commander & adjutant.
4/20 - Post meeting, election. No Constitution or By-Laws on record, adjutant says we fall under their Const., but their Const. says our Const. & By-Laws must be on file with them for our post to be valid. No discussion of flag issues, accounting issues, etc. Adjutant sends out email next day to ask if everyone agrees w/election results - I reply I do not. Nothing more is heard.
5/2010 - I begin organizing a celebration of the life & service of Jim VanNostrand on behalf of Nick Di Benedetto & publish a webpage about it for all his friends to attend in late June. (None of the members of the post came to visit Jim at the hospital's Living Center after Memorial Day ceremonies.)
6/02 - I send letter to the newspaper about missing flags, no ceremony for the public as had been promised, & advise people to retire flags themselves rather than bringing them to the Legion post where they are not respected. I get several calls from locals thanking me for the info, & several rather uncomplimentary emails from post members.
10/19 - Went to post meeting to give dues check & showed to one other at meeting, so she couldn't say she didn't get it. But, if she doesn't cash it or throws it away again or whatever, apparently no one will care locally, at Dept., or at National. We'll see how long it takes this time, if at all.
5/2011 - Yet another year w/the same leadership. I guess the membership
doesn't believe in having legitimate elections under even the Legion's own
rules, much less that they continue to elect individuals that oppose allowing
their members the rights under the Constitution & Bill of Rights, they
served to protect. While my membership has never been severed, I have not
received ANY emails or correspondence from the post now in about 2 yrs., as I
guess continued valid membership doesn't entitle me to such correspondence as it
does to others.
There was another incident at the post many years ago by a former officer, who committed a felony during the meetings on at least 4 different occasions. No one said anything about this. Being somewhat new, I held my tongue, but finally, I invited this person to lunch and advised him if he did it again, I would call the authorities. He realized his actions were in error and apologized, promised never to do this again, & I advised him I would never report it if he complied. As far as I know, he has kept his promise & I will keep mine & to this day, we are still friends although we see each other infrequently. I only mention this here, to further point out a history of un-patriotic & inappropriate behavior by members of this post. There are even more issues that could be discussed here, such as accusations by members against other members that weren't true & only I interceded to set the record straight. Very little collective backbone in this post. We'll see how they respond to this webpage and to the abbreviated letter I'll be writing shortly to the newspaper about this ongoing pattern of stupidity. Result: post members are pissed at me for bringing it up at all, not for the issues I raised.
I wish I had money, more money, to support veterans’ issues, but what I do have are time, and my name, which has come to be with JH locals, the go to person to get something done when it’s time to honor veterans. I will not allow my name to be disparaged regarding this area & I EXPECT a retraction of the email accusing me specifically of attempting to engage in fraud of churches on behalf of the Legion post. It never happened, I proved it, and I will not allow it to stand.
Assault by Legion post cmdr. OK? Assault while in uniform, wearing cap, on a crowded street, OK?
Engaging in my constitutional rights, not OK?
Recent election OK?
NOT supporting troops OK?
Baseless fraud charge OK?
What are the other churches that I have supposedly/fraudulently solicited?
Charge me with fraud or retract/apologize.
Allowing a person who has stolen (embezzled?) money from our post & not repaid it, to be in a color guard, OK?
Hundreds of flags donated by locals at our request, not honorably destroyed, OK? Presidential half-staff directives ignored? Flying flags in violation of the U.S. Flag Code?
Why wasn’t my dues check cashed as I was told it was, in a timely fashion? (5+ mos. later after handing it to the treasurer in person in 2009?) Why weren't dues for 2010, sent in a pre-addressed envelope, received & cashed? (Was it because they were received & deliberately not cashed for the controversy value?)
What happened to the other 30 vets who’s membership was “lost?” Why shouldn't national care?
Why is the post commander stalking me & physically trying to intimidate me on a public street & even at an open Legion meeting?
This individual has apparent anger management issues, or authoritarian or power issues, or whatever else is applicable.
Is all the above the history of a patriotic Legion post or of leadership by Legion officers & in some cases, of members?
Why doesn't the national office or the state office, consider these matters of importance?
Why does the national office disclaim any ability to oversee local post operations or money/dues collections?
Capt, USAF Ret.
Legion Member since 1997
Email: Click Here