By Marge Christianson
Special to the Independent
Army Veteran Dana Ramsey earned Arizona’s American Legion Auxiliary ‘Member of the Year’ honors at the 2019 Arizona American Legion Auxiliary Convention in Chandler. Ms. Ramsey lives the Auxiliary’s motto of “Service Not Self” through her leadership role in Unit 62’s one-year-old HEAL HER Art program. The HEAL HER Art program provides monthly, no-cost, creative art wellness painting sessions for struggling women Veterans.
Ms. Ramsey understands the issues facing women Veterans: she served in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2013. She spent one year in Korea and another year in Afghanistan as an All Source Analyst — providing military leaders at all levels with information about enemy deployments, capabilities and potential courses of action.
As Member of the Year, Ms. Ramsey will be honored at a special lunch at the American Legion Auxiliary National Convention held in Indianapolis this August. Arizona’s HEAL HER Art program will also be featured at the convention where thousands of members from across the country attend.
“We are excited that Dana — and the program she leads — will be representing Arizona at the convention of the world’s largest patriotic organization for women,” Sun City Grand resident and past department president Jan Cushing said.
HEAL HER Art uses the popular paint party model where participants follow step by step instructions to create their own work of art. Ms. Ramsey creates all the original artwork used in each of the sessions and develops the step-by-step instructions for completing the art.
Over the last year, 12 HEAL HER Art sessions (two with children) have been held — averaging 25 attendees at each session and increasing. The sessions are held at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Care Facility in Phoenix. The first sessions were quiet and tentative. Today there is chatter and willingness to learn and grow.
“The program is having exactly the effect we hoped for,” Sun City resident and Auxiliary Unit 62 president Doris Theiss said. “Women veterans from all walks of life come together in a safe environment and forget about their struggles for a few hours — and make new friends.”
The American Legion 62 Family was also the recipient of the Richard H. Bieri Memorial Award — a prestigious state-level award presented to the American Legion Family that demonstrates excellence in cooperatively delivering against the organization’s mission to support Veterans, military, family and community. Receiving the award this year marks the fourth consecutive year that the Peoria group has been recognized.
Also awarded to Auxiliary Unit 62 were individual program awards for Education, Veteran Rehabilitation and Affairs, National Security, Children and Youth, Legislative, Community Service, ALA Girls State and Public Relations. Junior member Alexis Johnson (age 14) was awarded the Ethel M. Jarvis Service to Veterans award for her work with “Flags for Fort Snelling”– an organization that annually places U.S. Flags on the 200,000 Veteran gravesites in the Minnesota National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Arizona has 85 Auxiliary Units across the state with nearly 15,000 Auxiliary members. In addition to the work done by the individual units, together they support the three VA Care Facilities and Veterans Homes in Phoenix, Prescott and Tucson. Through thousands of volunteer hours and monetary contributions, they set up Christmas Shops where Veterans, who are receiving care in the VA system, can shop for themselves and loved ones at no cost. They sponsor a Creative Arts Festival where Veteran artwork is displayed and eligible to win awards at the local and national level. Together, they sponsor nearly 300 girls into Arizona’s ALA Girls State program. The program provides young women of high school age the opportunity to come together to study state government. The hands-on program provides them the opportunity to live together under their own government, which is executed entirely by them, and to deal with problems as they arise.
At a national level, American Legion Auxiliary members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military, and their families both here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value averaging $2 billion each year. As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, ALA volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with the ALA Girls Nation program, expanding the state-level government program to national government in Washington D.C.
For more information about volunteering, donating or joining the American Legion Auxiliary or to learn more about its programs, contact the John J. Morris American Legion Auxiliary at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Editor’s note: Marge Christianson is the public relations volunteer for the American Legion Auxiliary John J Morris Unit 62 in Peoria.
IF YOU GO
What: Auxiliary general meeting
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16
Where: American Legion Auxiliary John J Morris Unit 62, 9847 W. Desert Cove Ave., Peoria
More Information: azpost62.com