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National American Legion Commander visits Great Bend
American Legion ‘Be The One’ campaign fights veteran suicide
American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, left, is shown with Boe Levingston, commander of the Great Bend American Legion Post 180. Troiola visited the local post on Wednesday. - photo by Susan Thacker

American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola visited Great Bend’s Argonne Post 180 on Wednesday with a message about “Be The One,” the national suicide prevention campaign.

The American Legion launched the campaign to encourage American Legion Family members, veterans, service members and others to take action when they believe a veteran is at risk of suicide. Be The One encourages individuals to:

• Ask veterans in your life how they are doing.

• Listen when a veteran needs to talk.

• Reach out when a veteran is struggling.

The American Legion has also had success rebranding itself with a new logo and sponsoring the American Legion 48 car in the NTT IndyCar Series races across the country since 2020. The new American Legion logo does NOT replace the American Legion seal, Troiola stressed. “That’s not going away.”

Be The One Indy car

On May 29, Tony Kanaan drove the American Legion’s “Be The One” Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing and finished third. Ganassi teammate Jimmie Johnson also drives the No. 48 Carvana-American Legion car.

 On Aug. 31, Ganassi and Johnson were officially inducted into the Sons of the American Legion on the American Legion 103rd National convention stage in Milwaukee. Troiloa was elected as the American Legion’s National Commander at the same convention, on Sept. 1.

Johnson announced at that meeting that he and his wife Chandra are donating $1.5 million to the American Legion’s Veterans & Children Foundation.

With his stop in Great Bend on Wednesday, Troiola finished a tour of western Kansas posts and headed to Texas. He said he is scheduled for 330 days of travel in a year.

“I made it a goal of mine to visit small Legion posts in small communities across the United States, so I can recognize what you do in the community,” Troiola said.

The Be The One Campaign is a priority and the Indy car has helped promote it, he told the audience, which included past post commanders, American Legion family members and a representative from Sen. Jerry Moran’s office.

“We sponsor that car for one purpose and one purpose only, and that’s to bring about suicide awareness for veterans in need,” he said. “The Be The One campaign is plastered all over the car.”

The national exposure has brought in donations and 45,000 members who have signed up at the racetracks, but those are side benefits, he said. “We spent $7 million for two years to sponsor the car but we probably tripled and quadrupled that money in donations.” The Legion has signed a contract for another year.

“The main priority of Be The One is to remove the stigma of a veteran stepping forward and telling us about their problems,” he said.

The 12,000+ Legion posts around the world should become resource centers that veterans can turn to as a safe haven, he said. “We want you to identify every resource in your community that you know of that can help a veteran in need. Whatever that is – it could be a priest, it could be a social worker, it could be a hospital, it could be a corporation, it could be a veteran’s service officer, which you already have in your post.”

He also said he is raising $2 million this year for the Veterans & Children Foundation. “Our goal is $25 million; I can tell you that we’re well on the way there.” The money goes toward training Veterans Services Officers and giving money to veterans and their families who have financial problems due to their mental health problems.

Support from Sen. Moran

On Monday, Senator Moran, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released a statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs Annual Veteran Suicide report:

 “One life lost to suicide is one too many. I am encouraged by the VA’s report; however, the disparity between the numbers of veteran suicides reported by the VA and a recent report released by America’s Warrior Partnership, Operation Deep Dive, is also concerning. We need an honest assessment of the scope of the problem and what factors play the biggest roles. Finding solutions to veteran suicide will require greater collaboration among national and local partners and using the data we have to meet veterans where they are with the life-saving services they need.”  

About National Commander Troiola

Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola (pronounced Tree-Ola) is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 1682 in Rockland County, N.Y. He served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserves from 1969-1974. He completed a tour aboard the USS Nitro, an auxiliary ammunition ship with the Sixth Fleet. He was honorably discharged as a boatswain’s mate third class. He is also a member of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 1682 based on the World War II service of his father.

His theme as national commander is “V.E.T.S. – Veterans, Education, Teamwork and Sponsor.”