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Minnesota Legionnaires to march, discuss flag issues

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By Joshua Lynch

jlynch@postbulletin.com

About 1,200 Legionnaires will gather this weekend at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester to discuss veterans' issues and America's renewed patriotism.

Al Zdon, Legion communications director, said patriotic ideas are nothing new to Minnesota's American Legion members. But because this weekend's convention is the first since the Sept. 11 attacks, such thoughts are at the forefront.

"With the American Legion, the patriotism is geared up pretty good anyway," he said. "But this year, you'll probably see more than usual."

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Zdon said dozens of topics, from the Flag Protection Amendment to routine finances, will be addressed in 47 annual reports. The convention begins Friday and ends Sunday.

Terry Nelson, the Legion's Americanism committee chair, said members have worked to foster patriotism since Sept. 11.

"This year, members of the Legion family were invited to participate in schools throughout the state," Nelson said, "teaching flag etiquette, encouraging the Pledge of Allegiance be recited and distributing thousands of flag etiquette brochures."

Other reports mention last year's attacks. Chaplain Lloyd Osborn said he was glad to be the Legion's religious leader during a time of war. Public relations chairman Norm Nelson said the attacks helped Legionnaires build new bonds with their communities.

Ray Waters, chairman of the Legion's Citizens Flag Alliance, said now is the time for members to push Congress to vote on the Flag Protection Amendment, a Constitutional amendment that would ban flag-burning.

"Over 80 percent of the American people favor passage," he said. "It's past time for the Senate to listen to the wishes of their electorate."

The American Legion Auxiliary will also have its annual convention at the Kahler Grand Hotel in Rochester beginning today.

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