Friday, April 24, 2015

Social Media Spotlight: Pinterest - Your Virtual Bulletin Board

Megan Zinn-Sanchez
Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator

Before computers revolutionized the way we do everything, when you wanted new ideas for crafts, décor, fashion, fundraising or recipes, you probably looked through magazines or newspapers and clipped ideas that appealed to you. You may have even organized them in binders or put them on a bulletin board and referred to them when you started a project or planned an event.
Pinterest utilizes that concept and puts it in a virtual space. It’s a free visual discovery, collection, sharing, and storage tool; it allows you to discover and save ideas you can refer back to in a virtual format.

Boards – Think of these as virtual, topic-specific bulletin boards. For example, you might create a “Patriotic Holidays” board, “Patriotic Food” board or “Hospital Volunteering” board and save or “pin” images related to each topic to their respective boards. How general or specific you want your boards is up to you.
Pin or Pinning – Think of this as cutting out a photo from a magazine and saving it in a specific binder, i.e. “Welcome Home Events” or “Fundraising Ideas.” The point of Pinterest is to save or “pin” images to your various boards. You can find images to pin by searching the Pinterest site, or by pinning ideas you find on other websites.
We encourage you to visit the National Organization’s Pinterest page. There are 25 boards and more than 1,400 pins (ideas) we want to share with you, our members! You can find images related to patriotic crafts and décor, patriotic clothing, patriotic crafts for kids, hospital door decorating ideas, hospital tray decorating ideas and many holiday-specific ideas. Take a look around and get your creative juices flowing!
Tip: You DO NOT need a Pinterest account to view the National Organization’s Pinterest page. You may see all of the ideas we’ve pinned for you by:

However, if you go to, you WILL need to create an account to view the National Organization’s Pinterest page.

Please contact Megan Zinn-Sanchez at if you have any questions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bataan Memorial Death March: Joyce Bilyeu's Personal Journey

Joyce Bilyeu
2014-2015 Americanism Ambassador

The Bataan Death March:
After the April 9, 1942, U.S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese during World War II (1939-45), the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. The marchers made the trek in intense heat and were subjected to harsh treatment by Japanese guards. Thousands perished in what became known as the Bataan Death March.

Joyce Bilyeu, Ladies Auxiliary VFW 2014-2015 National Americanism Ambassador, recently walked the most challenging and rewarding route she’s ever taken. She honored her late father, Dick Bilyeu, by trekking 14.2 miles in this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico.

Dick, who retired from the U.S. Army in 1963 as a Chief Warrant Officer 2, survived the Bataan Death March of 1942 and a subsequent three and a half years of slave labor at a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Below is Joyce’s account of her experience walking the Honorary March for her dad.

“I truly believe my dad was with me on this journey.”

My father served 20 years in the United States Army, retiring in 1963. He was married to my mother, Hattie, for 49 years until his passing in December 1993 at the young age of 72 from medical issues that stemmed from his military service. 

When my father enlisted in the Army he was a typical young man (19 years old), who was unprepared for the horrors of war, and thrust into a maturity beyond his years. In his book, “Lost in Action,” he shares a firsthand account of the atrocities he endured at the hands of Japanese soldiers in the Philippines during World War II aboard relocation ships, most of which were literally sunk beneath him, and the horrors of the Bataan Death March, and then finally his account of being interred as a prisoner. Lost in action, a term used to account for soldiers last seen in combat but not identified as killed or captured, described my dad for years following his capture by Japanese in the Philippines after the fall of Bataan. The three and a half years after capture were a time of torture and slave labor. At war's end, dad weighed 95 pounds, down from his normal 160. He spent a year in military hospitals before he was fit to return to normal activities.

When asked what it was that he had inside of him that helped him survive, he shared it was “hope and faith.” Hope that America would come through and not leave them behind, and faith that God and Americans would rescue him from such inhumane treatment.

He credits the final action that saved his life to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, one of which he witnessed from his final prison camp location in Japan.

A Greater Appreciation:

Battling Bastards of Bataan: No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam. These words have greater meaning to me now more than ever. I will never think the same about the sacrifices made by soldiers, both past and present, as I did after participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March.

One can only imagine what my father and others were thinking and/or feeling on that march. I am certain that once the march started everything just sort of froze in his mind; that he was numb the whole time. I am sure he didn’t think or feel, and was much like a robot and just kept moving. I could imagine that other than daylight or darkness, he lost all track of time; that in order to survive, he had to blank everything out and focus straight ahead and live day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute. One thing I am sure of is that he kept faith that the Lord would get him through each day and Americans would come for him.

Dick Bilyeu's prison camp number.
My father’s prison camp number was 2158. My mother has held on to this for the past 70 years. Before I left for the memorial march in New Mexico, she gave me his camp number to carry with me as I participated. I cannot express the feelings I had every time I touched or looked at his number. Having his number with me meant so much to me. I truly believe my dad was with me on this journey and the inner strength he had resonated in me.   
In addition, this experience reminded me how fortunate I am to live in this free country, in large part because of all who have gone before us to protect the freedoms that we so often take for granted. No one can possibly comprehend what these brave men and women, both in the armed services and civilians, have been through - experiencing the utter horrors of war firsthand and having their liberty suspended by physical and mental force: some for years, some forever.

Teamwork and Inspiration:

Joyce shakes a survivor's hand at the end of the march.

Crossing the finish line was most inspiring and emotional part of the march for me. It made me feel
so patriotic and honored to be a part of an event that honored the real Bataan Death March. There were several Bataan Death March survivors there waiting to thank us and shake our hands. This act of gratitude was very moving. The survivors are the ones who made the sacrifice so I could even participate is the event and they were there thanking me? This was very humbling. I truly do not feel I did anything that could even compare to their experience.  However, this act of gratitude is the same behavior I observed many times throughout my life from my father and other POWs.

I am so very proud and honored to be a member of and associated with organizations such as the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), who sponsored this event. I will forever be grateful to these groups for this experience.  Had it not been for the encouragement and support from National President Ann Panteleakos and VFW Commander-in-Chief John Stroud; Ladies Auxiliary VFW Headquarters staff Cara Day and Megan Zinn-Sanchez and all the members of the Ladies Auxiliary and VFW who were there to support us and cheer us on, I am not sure I could have made it to the finish line.

Joyce Bilyeu and Cara Day, Director of Programs & Communications,
participate in the 26th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March.
I will be forever grateful to all the volunteers  who made this event so successful; who provided water, fruit, medical assistance and encouragement all along the way. The incredible fellowship of all the marchers was amazing; there were no strangers along the route. As challenging as the march was, it was nothing compared to what the real survivors endured. It brings home, with brutal clarity, a small part of the sacrifice that those great servicemen went through. It made me feel some of the hardships that the soldiers felt in the original march. However, I had a choice. They did not. 
In addition, meeting other descendants of Bataan Death March survivors reinforced a common bond that will forever remain unbroken. They, like myself, have been forever impacted by the experience of our fathers, grandfathers and family who were held hostage and treated so inhumanely by their barbaric captors. Meeting them was a spiritual uplifting. It was so moving participating in an event that honored our loved ones who suffered so much for our freedom.

We can never comprehend how the survivors’ experiences changed the rest of their lives. We can only glean insight about how the human heart responds when it is threatened or starved or alone. What we CAN do is pass on these truths of history to coming generations. Perhaps, in some distant future, man will achieve true and lasting peace. But for now, being prepared for war and avoiding the trivialities that might pull us into war needlessly are all that we have. I thank the Lord for men like my father and others who have endured these experiences and have had the courage to share them with the world. This experience gave me a greater understanding the horror of war and what "Man's inhumanity towards man" really is.

As a descendant of a POW/Bataan Death March survivor, I can say this experience forever changed me. I am grateful to the men for the courage and the perseverance that it took to survive such a horrific experience. For me personally, this event makes me even prouder of my family’s contributions to the United States not only in war, but many other ways. My mother is the one who encouraged me to become a member of the Ladies Auxiliary. If it had not been for her, I wouldn’t have been asked to participate in the memorial march and would have not had the opportunity to honor my dad this way.

Read more about the Bataan Memorial Death March in the upcoming July 2015 issue of Ladies Auxiliary VFW Magazine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What Do Gold Star, Blue Star and Silver Star Banners Mean?

Joyce Bilyeu
2014-2015 Americanism Ambassador

What Do Gold Star, Blue Star and Silver Star Banners Mean?

There have been questions regarding the meaning of the Service Flags/Banners. Therefore, please share this information with others. In addition, consider things that your Auxiliary can do to honor these families.

*Note: All flags are displayed facing out in a front window.

Gold Star Banner

The gold star represents a family member killed during active duty and stands for sacrifice made for honor and freedom. Banners, also called service flags, containing two gold stars indicates two service members from that particular family were killed in combat. For families who've made the ultimate sacrifice, displaying the banners year-round is a solemn way to honor and pay tribute to their loved one(s). 

Blue Star Banner

During World War I, Army Captain Robert L. Queisser sought a way to honor his sons’ military service. Other families soon adopted his blue-star flag to indicate active duty service in the war. Sadly, many also displayed gold stars on those flags, symbolizing the death of the service member. The Department of Defense eventually authorized the display of the flags during times when the country is engaged in hostilities or war.

Flying blue-star flags is limited to specific family members (the spouse; parents, including adoptive or stepparents; siblings; and children, whether natural-born, adopted, foster children or stepchildren, are entitled to display the window flags). The white field, edged with red, can hold up to five blue stars. The blue of those stars symbolizes hope and pride for the service of a family member. 

Silver Star Banner

The silver star indicates a family member wounded or injured in a war zone.