It’s Wednesday….Blue Star Banners, Rallies and Debates, Oh my!

Today the citizens of the American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State program who had immediate family members serving in the military were honored with blue star banners that were made by American Legion Auxiliary junior members.

The Blue Star Service Banner was designed and patented in 1917 by World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry. Queisser’s two sons served on the front line. His banner quickly became the unofficial symbol for parents with a child in active military service.

On Sept. 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read the following into the Congressional Record: “The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother: their children.” Blue Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers organizations were established during World War I and remain active today.

During World War II, the Department of War issued specifications on manufacture of the flag, as well as guidelines indicating when the service flag could be flown and by whom. Restrictions were also passed on who can wear the service lapel. The Department of Defense authorized the service flag and service lapel on Dec. 1, 1967, with DoD Directive 1348.1, which implemented an act of Congress (U.S. Code 179-182). The Blue Star Service Banner is an 8.5-by-14-inch white field with one or more blue stars sewn onto a red banner. The size varies but should be in proportion to the U.S. flag. Today, families display these banners when they have a loved one serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The blue star represents one family member serving, and a banner can have up to five stars. If the individual is killed or dies, a smaller golden star is placed over it. Gold stars are placed above the blue stars or to the top right of the flag, in the event a flag represents multiple servicemembers.

Blue Star Service Banners were widely used during both world wars, but were not embraced during the Korean or Vietnam wars with the same enthusiasm. The American Legion rekindled that spirit of pride in our military men and women following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by providing banners to military families across the nation.

Rally , Rally Raaaaaaalllly, Rally!

Time to support the top 4 candidates in each party. We began with a parade! Then a rally and followed by Town Hall Debates! Citizens submitted questions to ask the candidates ahead of time!

Poppy Making

After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle following the publication of the wartime poem “In Flanders Fields.” The poem was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. while serving on the front lines.

On September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion.

Led by the American Legion Auxiliary, each year members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower make a donation to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families with medical and financial needs.

Poppy Day is celebrated in countries around the world. The American Legion brought National Poppy Day® to the United States by asking Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day, as National Poppy Day.

Veterans make poppies to earn income, many of them disabled. Today citizens took their own try at making a poppy.

36 Speeches + 2 Platforms = 1 Busy Day at ALA EGS

Guest Speakers

Our Tuesday started with a guest speaker from the Army! SFC Denise Puskar started her career with the ARMY RESERVE in 1987 as a Senior in Kensington High school where she went to Basic Training at Fort Dix, NJ. She held 3 military occupational skills Administrative Logistics and Instructor. She then decided to become an Active Guard Reserve 2007. She has been stationed in Buffalo Columbus , Cleveland Ohio and Erie PA. She has trained and traveled all over the country. She is the first Woman Commander of the Fredonia Memorial Post 59 in 103 years. Today she inspired the attendees to remember to work hard, and prioritize what is important vs what is urgent. She also reminded citizen’s that democracy is about the great good and as woman we need to step up and take leadership roles that women deserve to be in.

American Flag Retirement

Pocket Flags

The Pocket Flag Project was conceived in October 2001 when LuWanda Ford visited with fellow Boy Scout leaders who were veterans of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Both Scout leaders carried small, folded flags in their left shirt pockets and shared how important these flags were, and are, to them.

Inspired, Ford adapted the idea into a project for her Cub Scouts to develop patriotism and pride for our country while supporting our military troops. After folding and packaging 100 flags, the Scouts presented them to local Naval Reserve representatives. Her 9-year old son  told an attending reporter that the flags were going “to all the soldiers in the war”. The Pocket Flag Project has since grown into an international non-profit project.

In addition to learning about the U.S. flag and the sacrifices of our military, volunteers fold and package flags to send to our front line and deployed troops. Included with each flag is a card that says: “A flag for your pocket so you can always carry a little piece of home. We are praying for you and we are proud of you. Thank you for defending our country and our freedom.” There is room on each card for volunteer groups to include a personal message or return address for thank you notes.

This year ALA Empire Girls State Citizens learned about this program and folded their own pocket flags that they can use to provide veterans or military members they meet.

Writing Bills…Bills…Bills.

The political instructors worked to interview candidates for the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly!

And the Nominees are….

In the party caucuses on Tuesday night 36 girls set out with hopes of securing their party’s nomination for Attorney General, Comptroller, Lt. Governor, or Governor. Each candidate was given two minutes to speak in front of their party Caucus (half of the young ladies that attend the program) and by the end of the night we are down to 4 federalist nominees and 4 nationalist nominees who will square off in town hall debates.

Prioritize the Important over the Urgent…

ALA EGS is Important

Happy Tuesday from American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State (ALA EGS)! 

To many of the returning staff, the familiarity of the crazy ALA EGS schedule has really made us reflect on the last couple of years. Of course the whole world had to adjust to an unprecedented pandemic and try to maintain essential services. Those who have not experienced this program may not have considered ALA Girls State to be essential, but the dedicated ALA EGS staff decided that it was. We knew that those girls who joined us for the virtual sessions deserved to develop leadership skills and life long friendships just like every other high school junior has had for decades. We did what we had to do and we’re glad we had the chance.  And while the virtual program gave us all the feels, we like so many of you during than pandemic missed the in person camaraderie that just couldn’t happen in a virtual zoom or google classroom session.

Nonetheless being back feels amazing! Of course we’re all staying healthy and protecting each other so that we can continue to enjoy the week, but for the most part it’s just another wonderful year at Girls State.

The staff is goofy.

That girls are passionate.

and the laughs are plentiful.

Our guest speaker today talked about prioritizing the important over the urgent. And ALA Empire Girls State is very important! For the staff, this is our chosen family. We hope that the girls leave here with the same sense of pride and inclusion that we all have been able to enjoy over the many years of successful Girls State programs. By the looks of it so far, I’m willing to bet they will!

With EGS Love,

Claire Herrman
ALA EGS Class of 2011
Guest Blogger

ALA EGS is off and Running (For office) and Riding (the pony)!

Monday was a busy day filled with committee meetings, county meetings, and party caucuses and some where in the middle of all the work something magical starts to happen-The citizens make new friends and a love for all things ALA EGS is born. Take a look at some of Monday’s activity highlights!

POW/MIA Ceremony

Representatives from each county participated in our POW/MIA ceremony lead by the ALA EGS Americanism Chairman Maureen Morgan. The POW/MIA table will remain in place throughout our week at ALA EGS.

Committee Meetings

Each county sends representatives to a committee to represent their interests as they work to write two pieces of legislation. This years committees focused on topics such as :
-Criminal Justice
-Educational Technology
-Environmental Conservation
-Homeland Security

Each Committee worked to elect a Chair and a Vice Chairman before getting to work!

Party Caucuses Night 1

Today was also our first day in Party Caucus! At the Party Caucus the first order of business is to establish the majority party by a count and then appoint a Secretary. This is done by the Party Advisors. The 2022 Party Advisors are Terri Wallace (Nationalists) and Lucille Mozzillo (Federalists). Nominations for Party secretary were received via a written self nomination process. Following this 9 citizens gave speeches in hopes of becoming their Party Leader for the entire Party. This position will run Tuesday night’s party caucus as we work to elect the party nominees for Attorney General, Comptroller, Lt. Governor and Governor. Congratulations to the 2022 ALA EGS Winners!

Pony Riding 101

A tradition dating back more than 20 years at ALA EGS has been to fill some downtime while waiting for the flag ceremonies to start with a fun game called ride the pony. This year, the counselors provided pony riding lessons on day 1 and off the girls rode into a circle of laughter and fun. Take a peak at one of the pony riding sessions that we have already had this week!

ALA Girls State is Back…Back again. Yes we’re back!

After 2 years of pivoting to a remote session for American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State (ALA EGS) , we are so excited to be back in person at SUNY Brockport! On July 3, 2022 29 staff members and 260 rising seniors from all across New York State traveled to SUNY Brockport by planes, trains, buses and automobiles to embark on the awesome and sometimes nerve wracking unknown journey that is ALA Empire Girls State!

Participants are living learning together in a county. The ALA EGS citizens will begin their work at the county level. They live in fictional counties named after influential women leaders. This year’s counties include:

  1. Albright
  2. Angelou
  3. Anthony
  4. Earhart
  5. Ginsburg
  6. Keller
  7. Parks
  8. Ride
  9. Tubman

Once settled into their rooms the participants got to know the other citizens that will make up the county.

Sunday night was filled with get to know yous, and reading up on the profile of their county. This is an important step of the ALA EGS puzzle as it is the foundation in which the citizens will use to craft the bills and represent their county’s interests in the committees.

And finally, It was time for opening ceremonies and taking our ALA Empire Girls State Pledge!

What is ALA Empire Girls State without a little cheering?