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AMVETS Testifies Before House VA Committee on Peer Support in Preventing Domestic Violent Extremism

AMVETS served on panel of experts and fellow veterans as the sole Veteran Service Organization titled Helping Veterans Thrive: The Importance of Peer Support in Preventing Domestic Violent Extremism

AMVETS was honored to speak with House Veteran Affairs committee members and subject matter experts March 31, on how to curb attempts for violent extremists to infiltrate the veteran community.

This community is made up of honorable role models who make positive contributions daily. They are NOT defined by extremists.

It is important to note that access to quality mental healthcare by means of counseling, clinical psychiatry, peer support programs, etc. can play a major role in dissuading veterans from extremism, as well as rehabilitating violent extremists.

VA and Congressional support for peer support-type programs has unfortunately been non-existent over the last few years.

Chenelly also spoke on Veteran Affairs’ approach preparing veterans for life outside our their service & overall wellness:

Below are some video highlights of AMVETS’ Joe Chenelly answering questions from committee members:

Full written testimony can be found here. Full hearing can be found here.

In our first in-person Spring National Executive Committee Meeting since 2019, AMVETS pays tribute to leaders lost over the past two years, honored those represented through D.C. National mall’s war memorials, advocated on Capitol Hill, and delivered updates on AMVETS happenings in their states.

Working with Lawmakers on Capitol Hill

As many Congressional and AMVETS members continue to observe COVID-19 measures, AMVETS and Sons of AMVETS worked diligently to coordinate meetings to convey our support for legislation bettering the live of veterans, their families, caregivers, and the military/veteran community in general.

The same day as AMVETS began their advocacy effort on the hill, AMVETS National Commander Greg Heun also delivered testimony before the House and Senate Veteran Affairs committees. The Commander placed value on the lackluster attempts at suicide prevention put forth over the past several years, the importance of improved mental health within the veteran community and our collective role in it, as well as putting emphasis on the importance of overall wellness.

Later that evening, AMVETS hosted a reception thanking Senators Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Jack Bergman (R-MI) and congressional staffer Essam Attia and Patrick McGuigan for their relentless congressional service of American veterans.

Honoring Leadership No Longer With Us

Each Spring, AMVETS State representatives, Past National Commanders and Presidents, as well as headquarters staff gather at National Headquarters celebrating the lives of former Commanders and Presidents who left us the year before.

We recall stories, pay respects, and most importantly, celebrate their existence and the impact it left on our organizations and our individuals selves. This year we honored the following AMVETS:

Rest in Peace, and thank you for your service to American veterans.

Paying Tribute to Our Past

As is tradition, our Ladies Auxiliary and Sons of AMVETS roam the war memorials located at D.C.’s national mall. We pay tribute to each memorial by laying a wreath. This can be a more solemn event, and serves as a reminder of what we do why we do.

Meeting to Discuss Our Future

To close out the week, AMVETS conducts our national executive committee (NEC) meeting. State representative report on the happenings within their states and vote on old/new business.

All photos from the weekend can be found here.

AMVETS National Commander Greg Heun delivered testimony March 2, 2022, before the House and Senate Veterans committees with a large focus on mental health care, overall wellness, and suicide prevention efforts.

Full testimony can be found here.

During the hearing, AMVETS National Third Vice Commander Paul Shipley and Nimitz Group CEO Justin Brown provided pre and post-testimony hearing on how the hearing was going and how well-received Commander Heun’s testimony was by the committee. Full commentary livestream can be viewed below.

WASHINGTON D.C. (Jan. 19, 2022) – American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) call on the Department of Defense to reject any waiver request spurred by an outrageous, disgusting offer made by a Kentucky judge to a convicted sexual predator. 

Kentucky’s 48th Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas D. Wingate offered an indecent proposal to a male convicted of abusing his authority to sexually assault a female. The judge told the convicted 28-year-old Brandon Scott Price in court that if he re-enlisted within a month, he’d be spared time behind bars. Price is reportedly willing to accept that offer. 

Price was a jail guard in Franklin County, Ky., in 2019 when he sexually assaulted a shackled female inmate. 

The military has its challenges in recruiting, but this is not the answer. The practice of criminal courts making such deals must end now. The men and women in our all-volunteer armed forces are the best of best, putting their lives on the line in defense of freedom at their own will. No judge should attempt to send someone convicted of such a heinous crime into their ranks. 

The Washington Post reports Price’s attorney said Price has already begun the process of attempting to enlist in the U.S. Army. Defense Department policy does not allow for anyone convicted of sexual assault to enlist, reenlist, or be commissioned. National Commanders Heun and Fritz Mihelcic call on the Pentagon to ensure no waiver of that policy be approved in this or any other similar case. 

This is wildly degrading to every man and woman who proudly wears or has worn our nation’s uniform. This suggests to the public that the military is where criminals go, that it is a correctional institute rather than a band of brothers and sisters dedicated to serving their nation.  

It says to service members, ‘In an attempt to correct Mr. Price’s behavior, we will unleash him and his predatory behavior on you. Good luck.’ 

With the goal of converting Mr. Price into a positive contributor to society, we hope that he pays his proper debt to society and receives the counseling and treatment he needs. 

“The opportunity to serve our nation in the military is an honor and a privilege, not an alternative to punishment,” said VFW National Commander Fritz Mihelcic. “While Mr. Price already served his country once, his behavior proved he is no longer worthy of that privilege again. It is ludicrous that a judge in this day and age would even consider that an option for a sexual predator. How out of touch and disrespectful to our service men and women can one ruling be?”

“The notion that an elected judge believes American service members should be subjected to Mr. Price and his behavior is appalling,” Commander Heun said. “Putting service members at the risk of assault in some apparent attempt to somehow reform or punish Mr. Price is unconscionable.” 

There is also legislation that has been filed through the Florida House and Senate would provide the option of serving in the military instead of behind bars. Although there are caveats to this proposed option, legislation like such begins to mold the mission and vision of of military from being a service entrust to protect and defend the United States, led by many of our nation’s finest leaders, to one of a rehabilitation system that serves simply to rewire the moral fiber of troubled individuals. This is another example of an outdated misuse of our military, as well as a disservice to the past and present men and women who wore the uniform.  

One thing that both Judge Wingate and several lawmakers has made clear is that there is an urgent need for better societal education on sexual assault and harassment. AMVETS and VFW condemn sexual assault and will continue to be an ally in efforts to end it. 

About the VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the nation’s largest and oldest major war veterans organization. Founded in 1899, the congressionally chartered VFW is comprised entirely of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. With more than 1.5 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in over 6,000 Posts worldwide, the nonprofit veterans service organization is proud to proclaim “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS” than the VFW, which is dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs. For more information, or to join, visit our website at vfw.org.

AMVETS is a nonpartisan, nonprofit veterans service organization, representing the interests of the more than 19 million American Veterans in the United States. AMVETS was founded in 1944 and has the most inclusive membership criteria among all Congressionally chartered veterans service organizations.

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Contact: Miles Migliara                                                        

Chief Communications Officer                                          

American Veterans                                                                                  

(573) 528-4219 | media@amvets.org                                  

Members of American Veterans, or AMVETS, took part in Kentucky tornado relief this month, engaging in the organization’s primary mission: to serve American veterans, their families, and the communities in which they live.

Over the past few weeks, AMVETS from across several states have come together to collect and distribute resources for those affected by tornadoes that touched down in the midwest area in early December. This past week, many turned their attention to the hard-hit cities and town of Kentucky.

AMVETS National Commander Greg Heun made it his priority to personally visit and assist in relief activities in the Louisville area. A Kentucky native, Heun began making relief and aid preparations the day after tragedy struck his home state.

“There was a horrible pit forming in my stomach while watching breaking news of the tornado damage,” said Heun. “I know these veterans, these families, these communities. I take pride in the community I grew up in. Over the past few days we’ve made huge strides in getting these Kentuckians back on their feet. This has been a tremendous effort from volunteers, our National Guard, and the AMVETS family.”

AMVETS has partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvement as part of the retailer’s million dollar tornado relief pledge, distributing many of the supplies that come as part of that pledge to Kentucky communities near neighboring AMVETS posts. Lowe’s and AMVETS have maintained a partnership over the last few years, providing veterans business grants and scholarships.

“We have an impactful partnership with Lowe’s Home Improvement,” said Heun. “Lowe’s has been key to a major part of what we do as a veteran’s service organization: successfully transitioning veterans to the civilian world after their service and providing them the ability to flourish. They mean a big part to the AMVETS family and I’m personally touched that they’ve considered AMVETS when it comes to getting Kentuckians the resources and tools they need to build back.”

A benefit concert also took place at AMVETS Post 119 (Owensboro, KY) with performances from several local artists including Beyond Blu, Amy Jo Maden, Crooked Eye Tommy, Tommy Stidwell, Kim Grady, Chester Ray, and more.

“Ever since Commander [Sam] Byrd and I decided this was on, our phones have blown up with folks asking when the benefit was and how to send support,” said Kentucky State Commander Bill Adkins. “We can’t thank our fellow AMVETS across the country for their help and we can’t thank these artists enough for donating their time for this benefit.”

AMVETS had been able to donate and deliver trailers-worth of clothes, food, water, blankets, and more. At the time of this article, AMVETS has raised more than $61,900 by way of donations submitted from AMVETS posts nationwide, AMVETS Post 119’s benefit concert, and individual support.

“Kentucky is my state, AMVETS is my family,” said Heun. “We’re here for those devastated by these tornadoes. We’re going to lift you up because we’re a community. AMVETS does much more than just serve veterans. We’re committed to serving veterans, their families, and the communities in which those veterans live.”

Photos from the week can be found here.

Past National Commander Marion Polk died December 6, 2021 in his hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana after a brief illness.

PNC Polk was elected AMVETS National Commander at the 73rd national convention in Norfolk, Virginia, in August 2017. He served as commander of the 250,000-members organization for one year. PNC Polk served in command positions at every AMVETS echelon.

Polk served three terms as Commander of the AMVETS Department of Louisiana prior to taking command of AMVETS National District III, an area that includes Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. He was recognized as both AMVETS Recruiter of the Year and AMVETS Commander of the Year.

PNC Polk retired from the U.S. Coast Guard as a Chief Petty Officer in 1989 after 20 years of service. PNC Polk’s service in the Coast guard included the command of his own unit as well as service as executive officer in four different Coast Guard units. After his military retirement, PNC Polk served as probation officer for Louisiana’s Child Support Enforcement Division, and became a dedicated veterans advocate.

As AMVETS’ national commander, he lead the entire organization through the high-profile #PleaseStand campaign, raising awareness of the importance of patriotism. He testified March 6, 2018 before the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees. His testimony, which still is highly relevant today, can be found here.

PNC Polk was a frequent presence at Post 7-LA, his home post. His leadership and love for the post was well-known among its members.

PNC Polk is survived by his lovely wife Beverly, many other family members, including his AMVETS family at Post 7-LA.

Services for PNC Polk will be held 12 PM on Saturday, December 18, 2021, in the chapel of John Kramer & Son Funeral Home with Rev. Ricky Vines officiating. Interment will follow in Alexandria Memorial Gardens.

Kramer Funeral Home
2905 Masonic Drive
Alexandria, LA 71301

Visitation will be held from 4 until 7 PM on Friday, December 17, 2021, and resume from 10 AM until the time of service on Saturday, December 18, 2021.

AMVETS National Headquarters, September 2, 2021 – American Veterans, or AMVETS, is proud to announce our newly-elected National Commander Greg Heun, Kentucky resident and Navy veteran. He was elected by delegates from across the nation at AMVETS’ 76th national convention, which took place in August 2021 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Commander Heun’s journey with AMVETS started in 2002, where he was widely accepted by fellow AMVETS in his community, as well as at the national level. He has risen through the national ranks over the years, serving as a Post Commander, Department Commander, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st National Vice Commander en route to leading our nation’s most inclusive Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization.

“What an honor it has been to serve you over the years. I cannot wait to continue to do so at our organization’s highest position,” Commander Heun during his Installation Ceremony. “This is the greatest [veteran service organization] in the world. No doubt about it.”

Commander Heun served in the United States Navy from 1984 – 1991 as an Aviation Structural Mechanic Second Class, serving aboard multiple aircraft carriers and airfields. He has also received notable accommodations from multiple naval captains.

“I’ve known and worked with Commander Heun for several years now, as we’ve collaborated to help raise AMVETS to the national prominence it currently sits at,” said outgoing National Commander Jan Brown. “I can’t put into words my excitement for him. Greg is a formidable veteran and friend. This organization will continue to flourish under his leadership.”

AMVETS, which is also known as American Veterans, is the most inclusive Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization open to representing the interests of 20 million veterans and their families. We are veterans serving veterans since 1944. amvets.org

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Contact: Miles Migliara, Chief Communications Officer, AMVETS | media@amvets.org | (573) 528-4219

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In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, VA and AMVETS are partnering for a Facebook Live discussion centered on how VA tools like Annie, Mindfulness Coach, PTSD Coach, Insomnia Coach, VVC, and others help bring care to Veterans wherever they are.

On September 8, join Connected Care and AMVETS for a Facebook Live event discussing these tools and more with VA experts and AMVETS moderator:

Participants can watch the live stream on both Facebook and YouTube.

If you’re a member of a VA care team who is interested in information on improving access to care through VA Technologies, consider attending this event. 

Participating is easy:

This event is part of VA’s mission to increase Veterans’ access to care through virtual care technologies.

WASHINGTON D.C. (August 10, 2021) – AMVETS is proud to honor several first responders and local heroes during the organization’s 76th National Convention in Greensboro, NC, August 20. The award presentation is coordinated by AMVETS’ HEAL Program,  which assists veterans with the medical needs and quality healthcare they’ve earned, at no cost to the veteran.

Those to be honored are Prince George’s County Officer Dominick Gabriel Chambers, Prince Williams County firefighter Victor Angry and State Senator Jeremy McPike, and Veterans Employment Services Manager for Northern Virginia Serena Bermudez, who is also a Navy veteran.

Dominick Gabriel Chambers

Prince George’s County Police Officer


Victor Angry

Prince Williams County firefighter


Serena Bermudez

Veterans Employment Services Manager (Northern VA) & Navy veteran


Jeremy McPike

Virginia State Senator


“Often we celebrate our nation’s first responders as a whole, but rarely as individuals,” AMVETS’ Chief Medical Executive Cherissa Jackson said. “It’s our privilege to honor these incredible professionals on AMVETS’ highest stage this August. These DMV residents embody all that is good in our community.”

The First Responders Award Presentation will take place at the Sheraton Greensboro Four Seasons August 20th at 7:00 PM.

AMVETS is a nonpartisan, nonprofit veterans service organization, representing the interests of the more than 19 million American Veterans in the United States. AMVETS was founded in 1944 and has the most inclusive membership criteria among all Congressionally chartered veterans service organizations. amvets.org

AMVETS HEAL Programs Motto: To ensure the needs of ALL Veterans are met including access to the best quality healthcare (mental health and specialized services) and to help them live longer and healthier lives. These services are free. amvetshealprogram.org

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Contact: Miles Migliara, Chief Communications Officer | media@amvets.org | (573) 528-4219

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AMVETS National Exec. Dir. Joe Chenelly pictured with Past National President Barbara Valley

Oral testimony delivered June 8, 2021 by AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly:


Chairman Takano, Ranking Member Bost, and member of the Committee,

As the most inclusive Congressionally chartered veterans service organization, representing the interests of all of America’s veterans and their families, AMVETS is honored to provide our views of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2022.

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, we hosted our first “Rolling to Remember” demonstration here in Washington, D.C. This is now the nation’s largest veterans’ event, which brought together tens of thousands of veterans advocates from across the United States, riding their motorcycles to highlight critical issues — to demand continued and increased accounting for the 82,000 service members still missing in action, as well as raise awareness of the many veterans dying by suicide each day.

We will never forget our POWs and MIAs, and we won’t stop fighting for real solutions to the suicide crisis. This is a powerful advocacy platform with tremendous reach. We will ride each year until they all come home, and until all who make it home are well.

The budget request lacks vision. When it comes to mental health, there isn’t anything new. It calls for spending a lot more money on the same old same old.

We call for the creation of a presidential taskforce to build a real vision and path forward for VA, departing from the disability-centric model and instituting a system that encourages well-being through new programs that train veterans to be well, the best version of themselves.

Last Congress, legislators bickered for nearly two years over spending 180 million dollars for non-profit programs, yet will likely rubber-stamp the President’s request to increase VA’s general mental health budget by 1.5 billion dollars, up to a record 13.5 billion dollars. It is challenging for us to understand why lawmakers would spend an entire Congress arguing over 180 million but will let 1.5 Billion slide by with minimal discussion on the long-term outcomes or effectiveness of these programs and pharmaceuticals.

In our sustained demand for a fresh, critical look at the suicide epidemic and its causation, we were forced to confront some hard realities. We believe we are failing our nation’s veterans.

We expect our service members to be the strongest, most physically and mentally exceptional individuals they can be until the day they separate from service. Then all of our policies favor veterans being unwell, sick, and disabled – with little vision, path, or messaging to help veterans become the best version of themselves.

How does a very generous system of programs and benefits lead to such bleak outcomes?

VA rightfully compensates for service-connected disabilities. The intent is good, but there is something big missing. If you are well when you leave the military, you are largely left out. If you are “broken,” you have tons of valuable support available through the VA.

The system, as it is now, fails to provide tangible leadership and training for veterans upon their separation from service, failing to articulate and encourage meaningful, positive goals, providing no incentive for physical, mental, and financial wellness.

AMVETS argues that vision is the most important component missing from the President’s proposed budget, and from the national conversation.

The system needs to be reimagined, refocused, a vision laid out to encourage veterans to become the best, strongest person they can be. We need policies, benefits, and VA and VSO employees systemically encouraging that outcome.

We need to stop the victimization conversation. We need to stop telling veterans that they are victims and suicidal. Where is the positive messaging? Where are the billboards of veterans who have overcome great odds and lived incredible lives, served their communities, built businesses, achieved incredible physical feats, and taken care of their families and friends? Why, as veterans, are we being inundated with messaging suggesting we are suicidal? We were Marines for life, Army strong, Forged by the Sea, Aiming High, but now we are Veteran Suicidal? The messaging is wrong. And it matters.

Instead of doing just enough to help veterans survive, VA should be setting a path to help veterans thrive.

The President’s current budget justification reads:The 2022 Budget request for the VA fulfills the President’s sacred promise to care for America’s Veterans, their families, and survivors when they return from harm’s way.”

But what if it read?  The 2022 Budget request for the VA will work to assist veterans and survivors in their efforts to achieve their personal goals, maintain a state of physical and mental wellness, provide service to their communities,
and become their best selves.

Our version may be a little wordy, but it describes the mindset VA needs in planning for FY22 and beyond. Coming up with a productive, modern vision and strategy is worthy of a Presidential Task Force, which we propose in our written testimony.

While the words of President Lincoln were true post-Civil War, this is not the reality for veterans today. Despite our injuries, we can do great things, and we need the VA to help us with that.

We need a VA that incentives veterans to push themselves, to better themselves.

We need to get out of the business of spending billions on ineffective mental health services and pharmaceuticals focused only on treating veterans’ symptoms, and instead fund pro-active programs that train veterans how to live happy, healthy lives, of purpose; with programs and services designed and funded to achieve those goals.

We need our President and we need Congress to form a clear vision, to build a better VA; a VA focused on helping veterans reach their full potential. And that can start here with you, this budget cycle.

Additionally, we owe an incredible debt of gratitude to the VA for their efforts as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our veterans are most grateful for the incredible job the VA did in administering vaccines and treating the tens of thousands of veterans who were infected. Our thoughts are with the families of veterans who died as a result of the virus.

We know that had it not been for the incredible actions of the VA and its staff, many more veterans would have lost their lives. We are grateful.

AMVETS is honored to have this opportunity to present our views to you today. We understand that we are proposing some significant changes in moving toward a VA of the future.

We look forward to working with this committee on these and the many other important issues under your purview. We will always strive to create better policies that lead to better outcomes for the some 19 million veterans we serve.

Full written testimony HERE

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