Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rep. Virginia Brown-Waite [R-FL] introduced a Bill To expand retroactive eligibility of the Army Combat Action Badge


1st Session

H. R. 2267

To expand retroactive eligibility of the Army Combat Action Badge to include members of the Army who participated in combat during which they personally engaged, or were personally engaged by, the enemy at any time on or after December 7, 1941.


May 10, 2007

Ms. GINNY BROWN-WAITE of Florida introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Armed Services


To expand retroactive eligibility of the Army Combat Action Badge to include members of the Army who participated in combat during which they personally engaged, or were personally engaged by, the enemy at any time on or after December 7, 1941.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) Authority To Award- The Secretary of the Army may award the Army Combat Action Badge (established by order of the Secretary of the Army through Headquarters, Department of the Army Letter 600-05-1, dated June 3, 2005) to a person who, while a member of the Army, participated in combat during which the person personally engaged, or was personally engaged by, the enemy at any time during the period beginning on December 7, 1941, and ending on September 18, 2001 (the date of the otherwise applicable limitation on retroactivity for the award of such decoration), if the Secretary determines that the person has not been previously recognized in an appropriate manner for such participation.

(b) Procurement of Badge- The Secretary of the Army may make arrangements with suppliers of the Army Combat Action Badge so that eligible recipients of the Army Combat Action Badge pursuant to subsection (a) may procure the badge directly from suppliers, thereby eliminating or at least substantially reducing administrative costs for the Army to carry out this section.

Friday, May 30, 2008

VA Begins Next Phase of Combat Vet Outreach

Calls to Ill or Injured Veterans Completed

WASHINGTON (May 30, 2008) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
announced today it has completed making calls to veterans potentially
identified as being ill or injured from Operation Enduring Freedom and
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF-OIF), and will immediately begin targeting
over 500,000 OEF-OIF veterans who have been discharged from active duty
but have not contacted VA for health care.

"We promised to reach out to every OEF and OIF veteran to let them know
we are here for them -- and we are making real progress in doing so,"
said Dr. James B. Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

A contractor-operated "Combat Veteran Call Center" is making the initial
calls on behalf of VA. All potentially sick or injured veterans on VA's
list received an offer to appoint a care manager to work with them if
they do not have one already. VA care managers ensure veterans receive
appropriate care and know about their VA benefits.

In the new phase, beginning today, veterans who have not accessed health
care from VA will be called and informed of the benefits and services
available to them. Additionally, military personnel received
information about VA benefits when they left active duty, and the
Department had sent every veteran a letter with this information after
their discharge.

For five years after their discharge from the military, these combat
veterans have special access to VA health care, including screening for
signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. VA
personnel have been deployed to the military's major medical centers to
assist wounded service members and their families during the transition
to civilian lives.

"VA is focused on getting these veterans the help they need and
deserve," said Secretary Peake. "I expect these calls to make a real
difference in many veterans' lives."

Thursday, May 29, 2008


State of New York | Executive Chamber
David A. Paterson | Governor

For Immediate Release: May 26, 2008
Contact: Errol Cockfield | | 212.681.4640 | 518.474.8418


Eligible Veterans Will Receive Tuition Awards for Study at State University of New York or Other Schools

Program Designed to Fill Federal Tuition Gap
Governor David A. Paterson chose the Memorial Day weekend to remind New York’s combat veterans to take advantage of the State’s newly increased tuition benefits program. The program doubles the amount of money veterans can receive to attend an approved college or vocational school, and in many cases will approach the full cost of tuition at a State University of New York (SUNY) institution.

The program, enacted as part of the New York State budget for fiscal year 2008-09, which the Governor recently signed, will double the amount of money veterans can receive from the previous veterans tuition award of $1,000 per semester.

“It is because of veterans and the men and women who are currently serving – those who have fought, suffered and often paid the ultimate price – that we have a free society. We want all of our soldiers to know how much we support you,” said Governor Paterson. “We’re expanding these valuable education benefits at a time when many of our returning veterans are finding that their federal benefits fall far short of their needs. By providing a more substantial educational incentive to our State’s combat veterans, we hope to retain many of these intelligent and highly motivated individuals in our workforce. We recognize the value of their service to our country, the sacrifices they have made and those they continue to make.”

The value of the award will be no more than the amount of undergraduate tuition SUNY charges to New York State residents, and for 2008-09 will amount to 98 percent of such tuition. Tuition awards will be available for study at both private and public institutions in New York State.

Veterans who served in Indochina in the Vietnam War, or who served in the hostilities in the Persian Gulf or Afghanistan, and were discharged under honorable conditions are eligible under this new program. Additionally, individuals who served in the Armed Forces of the United States in hostilities that occurred after Feb. 28, 1961, as evidenced by their receipt of an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal, or Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, and were discharged under honorable conditions, may also be eligible.

Jim McDonough, Director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs, said: “In light of the reduced value of today's federal education benefits within the Montgomery GI Bill, our enhanced Veterans Tuition Award places New York among the best states in the country when it comes to its education benefits for returning veterans.”

James C. Ross, President of the State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), said: “Our veterans have served this state with honor and distinction, and we are proud to help them pursue their education. It is a privilege for us at HESC to help these dedicated and selfless New Yorkers who have put their personal and professional lives on hold to protect our country.”

More details of the expanded veterans’ tuition program can be found at the State Veterans’ Affairs Web site at or on HESC’s Web site’s special military page, Military Corner, at

Information about several other veterans’ scholarship programs can also be found on HESC’s special military page.

For additional information please contact:

Casey Lumbra, Assistant Director for Communications, NYS Division of Veterans’ Affairs, at (518)-486-5251, (518)-708-4444 or via e-mail at

Ronald S. Kermani, HESC’s Senior Vice President for Communications, can be reached at (518)-473-1264, or via e-mail at
### Additional news available at
High resolution images available at | password: paterson
New York State | Executive Chamber | | 212.681.4640 | 518.474.8418

Details here

Tennessee Cold War Victory Day

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Thank you to Dorsey Horne for his work on this.
Buffalo Veteran's Court

Thanks to Joe Bello of NY Metro vets for sending this along. This is a program that should be adopted nation wide. It is very much needed. These guys fall through the cracks too often I hope this will help. If the City courts can funnel these guys to VA for treatment of drug and alcohol and PTSD problems it is better than sending them to overcrowded jails. The Buffalo VARO is notoriously inefficient and at times incompetent. Right now they have a backlog of 2000 pension cases alone. Lets hope the VA does the job when they get into the VA hospital for treatment.

Buffalo Veteran's Court, Only One In U.S.

Posted by: Josh Boose, Reporter

There's a new program in Buffalo aimed at helping local veterans.

It's called Veteran's Court. It's a program designed by the Buffalo City Court to keep non-violent offenders, who are veterans, out of jail.

2 On Your Side's Josh Boose asked Judge Robert Russell, 'Did you see veterans locally here, falling through the cracks in a sense?'

'We seemed to notice, here locally, we may have been working with veterans in a drug treatment court, we worked with a number of veterans in a mental health treatment track; however, when one veteran was working with one veteran, peer to peer, it appeared to increase our probability of success with that population,' said Russell.

After a year of planning, Veteran's Court kicked-off in January.

Here's what happens: If a veteran is arrested for a non-violent offense, they can ask to enter Veteran's Court where they can get proper treatment, mentors who can help them and assistance with any military benefits from the Veteran's Hospital.

'It's a group that many may not have the same degree or understanding or appreciation for,' said Russell.

There are some strict rules, if you're in the program you must remain sober, lead a law abiding life and find a stable job or schooling.

Judge Russell says there are no additional costs. The court expenses already exist and there are some volunteers.

'So there's no out of pocket expenses for the city or something like that,' Boose asked Russell.

'No,' the judge replied.

So far, Buffalo is the only city in the country to focus in on the needs of veterans like this.

Russell and Buffalo City Court Projects Director Hank Pirowski say it's something other cities are taking note of.

'Where do you see this a year from now,' Boose asked Pirowski.

'One hundred vets without a problem in the next twelve to eighteen months and I hope to see 15, 20, 25 other veteran's courts open across the country,' he replied.

Right now about 35 veterans are in the program. They are right in the middle of it now. Those who complete the program will graduate at the beginning of next year.

Veterans who need some help but are not violating the law in anyway can go through the program too. For more information about Veteran’s Court, call 716-845-2697.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Frank McDonald says his Cold War experiences should merit full benefits
Frank McDonald says his Cold War experiences should merit full benefits
The unofficial Cold War medal, not recognized by the Defense Department
The unofficial Cold War medal, not recognized by the Defense Department
The Cold War certificate, available to all veterans who served between 1945 and 1991
The Cold War certificate, available to all veterans who served between 1945 and 1991

Moline, QUAD CITIES -- This may sound surprising to you on a Memorial Day but not every veteran is equal. Budget concerns have sliced millions of U.S. military veterans from getting the same benefits that their comrades are getting.

And other veterans, those who served during the tense peace time period known as the Cold War, say they're not even recognized for serving during America's longest war.

Frank McDonald of Moline is like a lot of veterans: he has plenty of stories to share.

"We boarded helicopters and helicopters took off and we'd come back and we never knew where we were going," said McDonald.

But Frank isn't like other veterans. He's part of a generation of soldiers who fought to keep the peace that avoided war.

The "Greatest Generation", from World War II, got one set of benefits as did the veterans from wars in Korea and Vietnam. An estimated 22-million military men and women served in the Cold War from 1945 through 1991 did not.

Veterans like Frank McDonald, called to duty, not knowing if their mission was on the verge of war or peace.

"Because I'm a peace time veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs won't give me that type of compensation right away."

Frank was 22 years old when he joined the Marines in 1976. He stayed in the military for 22 months before being honorably discharged.

Now, at age 54, he walks a bit slower and suffers from blocked arteries requiring blood thinning medicines and says he's still trying to get disability benefits.

"If I was a war veteran I'd have no problem getting this awarded to me right now."

For the past ten years, Cold War veterans have been eligible to get a paper certificate of service. But what some veterans really want is a Cold War medal, already designed but not allowed officially by the U.S. Military. You can buy it on-line for under 25-dollars but the Pentagon forbids it to be used on uniforms.

Cold war veterans says their service is slighted.

"They do feel they're second class citizens among the Veterans Administration because that's the way the V.A. treats them," said Illinois Quad City Democratic Congressman Phil Hare.

Hare, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, says America should treat every veteran the same.

"Service to your country is service to your country," he said.

Hare says he's been pushing for all veterans to get equal access to veterans benefits.

"It's the price of war. It's the price of keeping this nation safe," said Rep. Hare.

"What price tag are you putting on that?"

For Frank McDonald the price has been too high.

"Excuse me, I'm a citizen of the United States and I don't get into trouble and you're still telling me I'm not a war veteran."

Cold War veterans point out there were 325 combat deaths attributed to their years of service. Plus, cold war veterans say other service members were either shot down in spy planes or faced death while facing communists. They were heroes, too.

Senator Hillary Clinton has re-introduced a bill to award a Cold War veterans medal. It hasn't ever gotten out of the Armed Services committee. The Pentagon opposes it saying the medal would lessen the significance of other decorations awarded during the Cold War years.

Hagel Letter to

Dear Supporter,

Yesterday, Senator Chuck Hagel sent a note to us, thanking us for our work to pass the Webb-Hagel GI Bill. I wanted to share it with you, because whatever has accomplished, it was only because of your hard work and support. So, this note is for you:

Dear Jon and Friends,

As you know, the Webb-Hagel GI Bill passed both Houses of Congress with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The Senate's vote last week (75-22) was a big win for us. We could not have made this progress without your organization's strong support.

Thank you for your commitment and leadership in ensuring that we get this legislation passed and signed into law.

This effort is not over. I will continue to do all I can to see the Webb-Hagel GI Bill become a reality for America's deserving veterans. Thanks again to you and your colleagues for all your help. We're getting close!

Best wishes.

Chuck Hagel

I think we all thank Senator Hagel back, for his leadership and commitment to speaking for our service members. It's something he wrote about very poignantly in his new book (which, incidentally, my mother just bought me for my birthday - it's a great gift!).

In "America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers," Senator Hagel writes, "In my mind, patriotism is about asking the tough questions, not avoiding them. It is unpatriotic not to question a government's policies before the first life is lost. Of course I want our country to "win," but we must ask precisely what does "winning" mean and we need to ask that question before the first shot is fired. You can question and criticize my judgment-or any elected representative's judgment."

The name of the chapter that passage is from is "Who Speaks Up For The Rifleman?"

Thankfully, for us, Senator Hagel speaks up for the rifleman, and is one of the best friends that troops and veterans have ever had in Congress. And you all, for your hard work on the GI Bill and other issues, are some of the greatest friends and supporters that the troops and veterans have ever had in the American public.

Thanks for all of your support.


Jon Soltz
Iraq War Veteran

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not every vet receives a Hollywood salute

By Steve Bennish and Alexandra Barlow

Staff Writers

Sunday, May 25, 2008

They are no less veterans, and no less important for having served a grateful nation.

Nevertheless, vets who served during peacetime and those who fought the century's smaller conflicts say they can feel left out amid overwhelming popular focus on the biggest wars the United States has waged. The History Channel doesn't focus heavily on them, and there are few big budget Hollywood spectacles about peace time soldiers.

"I feel 'left out' because I did serve during the latter days of the Army Air Corps, having been drafted in February 1946, after the end of the big war," he said.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Jackson, 61, of Tipp City served on a Florida military base during the Cold War, an era of high tension between the United States, the Soviet Union, and others over the threat of worldwide nuclear war.

He now is president of the American Veterans' Institute, which works to ensure soldiers coming home feel welcomed with open arms.

"We would like people to remember that throughout the years, American troops and others did their duty year in and year out at high risk to themselves, sometimes at the cost of their lives and some, their liberty," Jackson said.

How to help

To volunteer at Operation Welcome Home, visit or to add to the Cold War Narratives, visit

How to get help

The Dayton VA Medical Center Opportunities

Cold War vet keeps secrets

By JOE GORMAN Tribune Chronicle

YOUNGSTOWN — What happens at Cheyenne Mountain stays at Cheyenne Mountain.

At least it does for Liberty native and former U.S. Air Force military policeman Chuck Swanson.

A detective sergeant for the Youngstown Police Department, Swanson was stationed at Cheyenne from 1979-83. The mountain is part of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., and part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

Barely out of Liberty High School, Swanson wanted to travel the world and said so when he filled out forms when he enlisted. Instead, the Air Force needed security specialists at the mountain — which tracks every object in the sky — and tabbed him to work there.

‘‘They put you where they need you and they decided they needed me at NORAD,’’ Swanson said.

One of the perks of being on duty inside the massive mountain — if it could be called a perk — was that Swanson and others would be allowed to stay inside in case of a nuclear attack, which the mountain was built to sustain. But when asked what contingency measures he was told would take place if an attack happened, he shook his head and smiled.

‘‘I can’t tell you that,’’ he said.

What Swanson can talk about, however, is the reason he joined the Air Force.

He said he wanted to be a police officer, but in Ohio, he could not join a department until he was 21. He said the Air Force offered him the chance to begin training for a career in law enforcement when he was just 18.

‘‘I had three years to kill, so I said I might as well get some training for my career field,’’ Swanson said.

When he was selected for duty at Cheyenne Mountain, Swanson had to undergo a psychological test and a top secret security background check. Investigators interviewed his neighbors, teachers from his grade school and the principal.

‘‘They make sure you’re not nuts,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m officially not crazy.’’

Inside the mountain, there was a series of buildings that Swanson said was like a small city mounted on springs, which were designed to help cushion the blow from the vibrations of a nuclear explosion. Even as a security specialist, though, he was limited to where he could go.

‘‘It was on a need to know basis,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘Most of it was top secret, even then.’’

In case of an attack, the mountain could be sealed off from the outside by a set of mammoth steel doors, which Swanson said were opened and closed every day for practice.

‘‘It took less than a minute,’’ Swanson said.

There were provisions for the staff inside to live on for three months in case of a nuclear strike, Swanson said. Despite the precautions, he said he was never worried about an atomic bomb. Even though the Cold War was still a reality, he said relations between the United States and Soviet Union were mostly good during his time there.

Although he never got to travel, which was one of his biggest desires for joining the service, Swanson said he enjoyed his time at the mountain immensely.

‘‘I have no regrets,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘It was just a different job than I ever experienced before, being a young kid out of high school.’’

Swanson, who was also an officer with the Weathersfield Police Department before joining Youngstown, said he would recommend the military to anyone who is just finishing high school who is unsure about what they want to do.

‘‘It helps you grow up,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘It helps you learn teamwork.’’

Monday, May 26, 2008

National Memorial Day Parade a National Disgrace

Last Thursday I was going through my email inbox and wading through the spam when I came to a email from a old Army buddy Anthony Teolis asking for help. Tony and I served in a artillery unit together during Desert Storm and have kept in touch now some 18 years after.

When I read the contents of the email I was very upset at his and fellow Veterans for Peace Chapter 16 members plight. On April 15th VFP received a letter from American Veterans Center admitting them into the 2008 National Memorial Day Parade. Inexplicably one week later the AVC reversed themselves and are now forbidding VFP participation in the event.

How could this be? veterans denying veterans the right they have earned to march in a National Parade.

I sat reading the text in disbelief this must be a mistake how can a 501c 3 non profit that is using public grounds and police forces discriminate against these veterans.

Is it possible the main sponsors Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, The Ross Perot Foundation and the US Army put pressure on the AVC to exclude VFP because of political differences?

Memorial Day is a solemn event to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country it is not to be politicized. It belongs to all Americans not people of one political ilk over another.

Not allowing VFP to march on Memorial day with the thousands of other Veterans across this country is a national disgrace in my opinion.

These men have earned the right to march on Memorial day. They fought to protect your rights now lets protect theirs. Next Year let them march!

Sean Eagan

Museum Ships and Submarine Memorials

This is a nice compilation from

One thing I have been planning to do for a while is compile a list of all the ship memorials you can visit in the United States. While a lot of this information is culled from the Wikipedia article on Museum Ships, that article lists ships all over the world, and I, with a few exceptions (those I have visited, some interesting submarines), wanted to limit this to the United States, where I, and most of you, will probably limit our travels. If you're looking for ships overseas, the Wikipedia entry was updated 5/12/2008, so it's up-to-date, and I recommend it.

What it doesn't list, and will take me some time to improve on, is all the submarine memorials and museums that do not include ships. I expect that list will take quite some time to compile and I look to all of you for help adding a particular submarine (or naval) museum, no matter how small. If you have one I don't have, pass me the name, location, and a link to their "official" web site, if you have it. If not, something decent is good enough!

Of these, I can say I have visited many of them; USS Arizona (will add Missouri in two weeks!), USS Wisconsin, USS North Carolina, the ships at Patriot's Point (but not since the Cold War Memorial was erected, but I did visit the SS Savannah when she was still there!), USS Massachusetts, USS Lionfish, USS Joseph P Kennedy, USS Fall River, USS Alabama, USS Drum, USS Nautilus, HMS Belfast, Mystic Seaport, USS Barry, USS Constellation, USS Constitution. But, I am saddened by some I have been close to and missed (in San Diego, Buffalo, Long Beach).

USS Albacore, SS-569, Portsmouth NH
R/V Aluminaut, Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond, VA
B-39 (Soviet Foxtrot), Maritime Museum of San Diego, San Diego, CA
B-427 (Soviet Foxtrot), alongside the Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA
USS Batfish, SS-310, Muscogee, OK
USS Becuna, SS-319, Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA
USS Blueback, SS-581, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, OR
USS Bowfin, SS-287, Balao Class, Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Cavalla, SS-244, Gato Class, Seawolf Park, Galveston, TX
USS Clamagore, SS-343, Balao Class, Patriot's Point, Mt. Pleasant, SC
USS Cobia, SS-245, Gato Class, Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc, WI
USS Cod, SS-224, Gato Class, Cleveland, OH
USS Croaker, SS-246, Gato Class, Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, Buffalo, NY
USS Drum, SS-228, Gato Class, Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, AL
Fenian Ram, Holland Designed Submarine, Paterson Museum, Paterson, NJ
HA-19, Japanese Midget Sub, Ko-hyoteki Class, National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredricksburg, TX
USS Marlin, SST-2, T-1 Class, Freedom Park, Omaha, NE
USS Lionfish, SS-298, Balao Class, Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA
K-77, Soviet Juliett Class, Collier Point Park, Providence, RI (note closed as the sub sunk at the pier during a storm)
HMS Holland I, Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, UK
USS Ling, SS-297, Balao Class, The New Jersey Naval Museum, Hackensack, NJ (note, apparently the museum is in danger of losing the Ling).
USS Nautilus, SSN-571, US Navy Submarine Force Museum, Groton, CT
USS Pampanito, SS-383, Balao Class, San Francisco Maritime National Park Ass., Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
USS Razorback, SS-394, Balao Class, Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, Little Rock, AR
USS Silversides, SS-236, Gato Class, Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum, Muskegon, MI
USS Torsk, SS-423, Tench Class, Baltimore Maritime Museum, Baltimore, MD
Trieste, Bathyscape, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC
Trieste II, DSV-1, Naval Undersea Museum, Silverdale, WA
U-505, Type IX-C, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL

Submarine Museums and Memorials:
St. Mary's Bay Submarine Museum, St. Mary's GA
Cold War Memorial, Patriot's Point, Mt. Pleasant SC
USS Snook (SS-279) Memorial, Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, Little Rock,AR
Naval Undersea Museum, Silverside, WA, includes sail from USS Sturgeon (SSN-637) and control room from USS Greenling, SSN-614

USS North Carolina, BB-55, North Carolina Class, Wilmington NC
USS Alabama, BB-60, South Dakota class, Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile AL
USS Massachusetts, BB-59, South Dakota Class, Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA
USS Texas, BB-35, New York Class, La Porte, TX
USS Missouri, BB-63, Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Arizona, BB-39, Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Wisconsin, BB-64, Iowa Class, Nauticus, Norfolk, VA
USS New Jersey, BB-62, Iowa Class, Camden, NJ

USS Yorktown, CV-10, Essex Class, Patriot's Point, Mount Pleasant (Charleston) SC
USS Midway, CV-41, San Diego CA
USS Lexington, CV-16, Essex Class, Corpus Christi, TX
USS Hornet, CV-12, Essex Class, Alameda, CA
USS Intrepid, CV-11, Essex Class, Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York, NY (being refitted until 11/2008)
USS Saratoga, CV-60, Forrestal Class, Air Land & Sea Heritage and Technology Park, North Kingstown, RI (acquisition still in progress)

USS Barry, DD-933, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC
USS Olympia, C-6, Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA
SS American Victory, Liberty Ship, Tampa, FL
SS Jeremiah O'Brien, Liberty Ship, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
SS Lane Victory, Liberty Ship, San Pedro, CA
USS Cairo, Union Ironclad, Vicksburg, MS
USS Cassin Young, DD-793, Fletcher Class, Boston Navy Yard, Boston, MA
USS Laffey, DD-724, Sumner Class, Patriot's Point, Mt. Pleasant, SC
USS Ingham, WHEC-25, Patriot's Point, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Cold War Memorial, Replica of Franklin Class SSBN, Patriot's Point, Mt. Pleasant, SC
USS Constellation, 1850's Corvette, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD
USS Constitution, 1797 Frigate, Boston, MA
USS Little Rock, CL-92, Cleveland Class, Buffalo&Erie County Naval & Military Park, Buffalo, NYUSS The Sullivans, DD-537, Fletcher Class, Buffalo&Erie County Naval & Military Park, Buffalo, NY
USS Edson, DD-946, Sherman (Hull) Class, Wisconsin Naval Ship Association, Sheboygan, WI (Planned)
USS Hazard, AM-240, Admirable Class, Freedom Park, Omaha, NE
Hiddensee, Soviet Corvette, Taruntel I Class, Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA
USS Joseph P. Kennedy, DD-850, Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA
USS Fall River, CA-131, Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA (Bow only preserved)
PT-796, Higgins Class PT Boat, PT-617, ELCO Class PT Boat, Battleship Cove, Fall River MA
USS Kidd, DD-661, Fletcher Class, Louisiana Veterans Memorial, Baton Rouge, LA
USS Potomac, AG-25, Presidential Yacht, Oakland, CA
USS Salem, CA-139, Des Moines Class, U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum, Quincy, MA
USCGS McLane, Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum, Muskegon, MI
USS Slater, DE-766, Cannon Class, Albany, NY
USS Stewart, DE-238, Edsall Class, Seawolf Park, Galveston, TX
USCGS Sundew, WLB-404, Iris Class, Great Lakes Floating Maritime Museum, Duluth, MN
USCGC Taney, WHEC-37, Treasury Class, Baltimore Maritime Museum, Baltimore, MD

Honorable Mention (visited by me):
HMS Belfast, C-35, Imperial War Museum, London, UK
Churchill's War Rooms, London, UK
Charles W. Morgan, Whaler, Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
Emma C. Berry, Sloop, Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
Joseph Conrad, Sailing Ship, Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
Sabino, Coal Steamer, Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
L.A. Dunton, Schooner, Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spying on the A-12 OXCART


FACT: Today’s Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News has a great elegy for a pilot who died forty years ago: “Jack Weeks, University of Alabama graduate and Birmingham native, died in service to his country [on June 4, 1968]. Reports from his most famous mission wound up on the president’s desk during one of the flashpoints of the Cold War. His widow accepted his medal for valor shortly after his death. But for 40 years, nobody knew what he’d done. Only his wife knew he was a hero…. Weeks was a pilot in the Central Intelligence Agency flying the super-secret A-12 high-level surveillance aircraft from 1963 until his death in 1968. A couple of weeks before his death, he became the pilot who located the USS Pueblo, the American intelligence-gathering ship, after it was captured by North Korean patrol boats…. Next month, Weeks will finally get the public recognition he was denied for so long. Battleship Park, home of the USS Alabama, will commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death on June 4 with a ceremony that will include an Alabama Air National Guard fly-over.”

ANALYSIS: Friday I was over at CIA headquarters at Langley meeting with a friend, and once inside the compound I parked by the Agency’s newest historical exhibit. Situated on a new traffic island between two parking lots behind the original headquarters building, looming over rows of parked cars, is a massive, gorgeous, sleek black aircraft perched on shiny steel struts as if in flight, twenty feet off the ground.

Official CIA photo via US News & World ReportIt is an A-12 Blackbird, from the CIA’s once highly-classified OXCART program, the forerunner of the SR-71. I have an amateur interest in that category of aircraft, or spacecraft if you want to get all sexy, partly because my brother flew the legendary Stealth Fighter (F-117) for years in the Air Force; all three planes were built in Lockheed’s heralded Skunk Works program and tested at Area 51. (By the way, I just saw the new Indiana Jones movie and there’s a funny scene at Area 51, all fictional of course). My wife the Air Force brat and I have visited the SR-71 on display over at the Udvar-Hazy wing of the National Air & Space Museum by Dulles Airport. These are the coolest dragsters of all planes, to my mind (the lovely bride disagrees, having a warm place in her heart for the T-38 hotrod).

So there in the CIA parking lot, I thought to myself, “I’d like to snap a photo of the legendary A-12 for my brother when I get back from my meeting.” The meeting went long, and I wound up staying for lunch, and then dawdling in the CIA gift shop. Turns out they’re selling A-12 OXCART t-shirts, so I bought a couple.

Unfortunately, it’s not legal to take photos anywhere on the CIA headquarters compound, so I wasn’t able to take photographs myself back in the parking lot - shame, since it was a beautiful day. As I drove back out the gates, I thought to myself, “Given the tight security here at Langley, I’m sure they didn’t have a civilian-friendly ceremony when the A-12 was installed, and didn’t invite reporters and non-Agency employees to attend, and certainly didn’t allow any photos of it in place - that would be against the tight security policy. But I’ll do a Live Search on the web just in case…”

Sure enough, from several months ago, here’s the official CIA public account of just such a ceremony, recounting the OXCART program in detail; here’s a US News story about the ceremony with a nice photograph (used above - taken before the plane was hoisted onto its memorial stand); and here’s an Agence France Presse story, “CIA Unveils Cold War Spy Plane” - they even let foreign media in. Photo from looky to the left: a photo from the dedication ceremony, with the Agency’s director standing in front of the very plane. More photos can be seen here - and goodness gracious there’s even a CNN news video here showing the plane during the ceremony.

The photo at left (and CNN video) are from a great website dedicated to information about the A-12 and its sister spy planes. The website has an exhaustive set of information about the A-12 program and history.

The Agency itself has declassified voluminous papers about OXCART and put them on a special website for public access. But for goodness sakes, don’t let anyone take a photo of the declassified plane out there in the parking lot, where God and Google Earth can see it….
Memorial Day 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

County News/Thom Caya

Bill Johnson, Jeremiah Miller, Mike Felske and Ted Westling were sworn in as officers of Waseca VFW post 1642 Monday night. Miller, Felske and Westling are Iraq war vets.

Young vets are last hope for VFW, Legion clubs

News Editor

There was a changing of the guard in Waseca Monday night.

In a ceremony at Waseca VFW Post 1642, three Iraq war veterans were among new officers sworn in.

Mike Felske, Jeremiah Miller and Ted Westling returned to Waseca less than a year ago after serving in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.

As new veterans of a foreign war, they received a one-year paid membership to the local VFW Sweet Sommers Post. One of the first things they realized was that they would have to "step up" to help the post because the people doing the work were getting tired.

And step up, they did.

Felske, 31, received the gavel from outgoing post commander Jerry Hanson, 83.

Miller, 30, is the new quartermaster; and Westling, 39, became senior vice commander.

Other new officers are Bill Johnson, junior vice commander; Terry Ziemke, adjutant; and Rodney Southwick, service officer.

World War II vet, 84-year-old Max Hopkins, said these new vets will save the post.

While Post 1642 lists 491 members, 475 of them are life members who are scattered across the country.

Only about 20 members are active in monthly post affairs and volunteerism, according Johnson, a Vietnam War vet.

"We're holding our own," he said about the Waseca post.

But Johnson said six posts a year are "passing away" in Minnesota.

Losing posts

The Veterans News Bureau reported the February closing of the last VFW hall in St. Paul, where there were once 15; one hall remains in Minneapolis, where 13 once thrived.

World War II veterans, once the backbone of VFWs and American Legions, are dying at a rate of 1,500 a day, according to the bureau.

The names of 45 Waseca County veterans who died in the past year will be read during Monday's Memorial Day program in Waseca. Twenty-two of them served in World War II.

"Mike's our lifesaver; there was no one to take over. Now these young guys should give it a new life," Johnson said. "It's the new medicine that we need."

"No matter the war, there's a brotherhood once you've gone through basic training; you can never take that away," he said. Veterans understand other veterans, which is hard for non vets to understand, Johnson said.

But there is a membership gap because of the tens of thousands who served during the Cold War, who were not eligible for VFW membership and a generation of Vietnam vets like him who did not feel welcome at their posts and who were never welcomed home by the nation. He said that was also true for Korean War vets because it was an undeclared war.

As a Vietnam vet, Johnson stayed away until very recently.

"For 30 years, they wouldn't go in to a VFW hall; now, one by one they are starting to come back."

It is because of how the Vietnam vets felt when they returned, that they want to make sure returning American veterans are never treated like they were, he said.

Johnson remembers being spit on in San Francisco when he returned. He said many of the new vets raced to restrooms to shed their uniforms, but some had only their uniforms left to wear home.

Westling has a very different memory of returning to the U.S.

"We intentionally wore our uniforms because we got free drinks on the airplane," he said. "Guys walked up to me and handed me money for a meal."

The Iraqi vets were met by 30 people with gifts when they landed in Bangor, Maine.

At Applebee's in Owatonna, a stranger paid for Miller's dinner because he was in uniform.

It is because of people like Johnson, he said, that Iraqi vets are treated so well.


"We're proud to be a vet," Felske said. "We're going to do everything in our power to make it succeed," he said about the Sweet Sommers post.

The new officers have a plan to share the responsibilities of post commander so that Felske does not carry it alone.

They have plans to re-energize the post, starting with pancake breakfasts the second Saturday of every month to raise funds for its operation.

They want to keep the traditions going but make it new through more community involvement, youth groups, a men's auxiliary to open membership to more people, joint efforts with the American Legion, and more involvement of families and children.

While the hall will always be a place for veterans to find comradeship and to give service, they hope to make it a lively place for all veterans and their families.

"Just you wait," Miller said. "We have millions of new ideas; we have to make them happen."

Across town, officers were also sworn in at American Legion Post 228 on Monday night when Cliff Jes took over as post commander.

"Knock on wood, we're holding our own," said post adjutant Gary Bohm.

At the same time, he said, they have recycled their officers to different positions over the years and most of the members are now in their 50s and 60s.

"We hope we have some life left in us," Bohm said.

The Waseca post gained 13 new members and 12 transfer members in the past year, he said, bringing post membership to 420. But they usually lose about a dozen members a year through death, especially their WWII veterans.

Fenske, Miller and Westling have also joined the Legion and hope to get involved there too, Bohm said.

"We could also use a shot of fresh blood and new energy," he said.

Ruth Ann Hager is at 507- 837-5446 or

Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 2008
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

On Memorial Day, we honor the heroes who have laid down their lives in the cause of freedom, resolve that they will forever be remembered by a grateful Nation, and pray that our country may always prove worthy of the sacrifices they have made.

Throughout our Nation's history, our course has been secured by brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. These courageous and selfless warriors have stepped forward to protect the Nation they love, fight for America's highest ideals, and show millions that a future of liberty is possible. Freedoms come at great costs, yet the world has been transformed in unimaginable ways because of the noble service and devotion to duty of these brave individuals. Our country honors the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives to spread the blessings of liberty and lay the foundations of peace, and we mourn their loss.

Today, our service men and women continue to inspire and strengthen our Nation, going above and beyond the call of duty as part of the greatest military the world has ever known. Americans are grateful to all those who have put on our Nation's uniform and to their families, and we will always remember their service and sacrifice for our freedoms.

On this solemn day our country unites to pay tribute to the fallen, who demonstrated the strength of their convictions and paid the cost of freedom. We pray for the members of our Armed Forces and their families, and we ask for God's continued guidance of our country.

In respect for their devotion to America, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved on May 11, 1950, as amended (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated the minute beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 26, 2008, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day. I encourage the media to participate in these observances. I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States, and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control. I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.


To show their pride in military service, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson urged veterans wear their military medals on civilian clothes on national patriotic holidays.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a link below to see the correct order of precedence for each military service's awards.


Marine Corps


Air Force

Coast Guard

Click on an image, below, for enlarged view

miniature medals
large medals
large medals, device and unit awards

(455 KB PDF)
(582 KB PDF)

2-sided trifold

PDF Documents - To read PDF documents, you need a PDF viewer. A free PDF Reader is available here.

Veterans' burials nonstop at national cemeteries

National cemeteries average more than 100 burials a day for veterans; construction booming

AP News

May 24, 2008 14:05 EST

The cracking of rifle fire silenced the twittering blue jays, blackbirds and killdeer.

As members of the color guard lowered their rifles, the smell of bitter smoke drifted over the family and friends of former Army Sgt. Ellis Hale, a Vietnam War veteran who died of prostate cancer at age 59. Sniffles and gentle sobs accompanied a recording of taps.

Moments after the final note, Sherry Hale walked down a curved brick walkway past the saluting line of representatives of the country's past wars. Head bowed, she clutched to her chest the American flag that covered her husband's casket.

The scene at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery is repeated nationwide more than 100 times a day. Military veterans are being buried at such a rapid rate that national cemeteries use heavy equipment to make room.

"We're still in growth mode right now," said Bill Tuerk, under secretary for memorial affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "We're in a very high demand time period and we're trying to respond to it."

An average of 1,800 veterans die each day, and 10 percent of them are buried in the country's 125 national cemeteries, which are expected to set a record with 107,000 interments, including dependents, this year. And more national cemeteries are being built.

The peak year for veterans' deaths will be either 2007 or 2008, Tuerk said. An estimated 686,000 veterans died in 2007. While many World War II veterans are dying, so are an increased number of Korean War and Vietnam veterans.

Ohio Western Reserve, a 273-acre expanse south of Cleveland, opened in 2000 and has about 11,000 veterans and dependents buried there. It has enough land to keep it open 92 more years and accommodate a total of 106,000 burials.

Thirty-four veterans groups volunteer for services. Every seventh Thursday members of American Legion Post 548 from Louisville, Ohio, dressed in black coats, ties and pants with white belts, gloves and shoulder cords, come to pay tribute to fellow veterans.

One crisp spring morning, dozens of mourners for Hale more than filled the benches inside a stone open-air shelter tucked into a wooded corner.

Several jumped as the seven members of Post 548 fire the first of three volleys. The shell casings faintly ping and clatter as they landed on the brick walkway.

"Every time I fire, I say 'This is for you,'" says Navy veteran Dave Scanlon, choking up while referring to his father, "Skip," a World War II veteran who died in 1999.

Ohio Western Reserve averages 7 1/2 burials a day. The busiest national cemetery is Riverside National Cemetery, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. It averages about 30 burials, followed by Florida National Cemetery, 50 miles north of Tampa.

Third busiest is Calverton National Cemetery, about 50 miles east of Manhattan, although it has handled as many as 55 burials in a day, said Michael Picerno, director of Calverton National Cemetery in New York.

To accommodate so many burials, hundreds of crypts are preplaced at Calverton, then covered with dirt and grass. When it comes time for a burial, the sod is cut away, the crypt opened and the casket lowered in.

Six new national cemeteries are under construction under a fiscal year 2008 budget of $167.4 million, triple the previous year. It's the largest number of cemeteries constructed at one time.

Despite handling burials at an assembly-line pace, the National Cemetery Administration has the highest customer satisfaction score of any federal government agency and any private sector company, according to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index. It tops companies such as Heinz,, and Hershey's.

"We are ever-conscious of the fact that with each family we get one chance to get it right," Tuerk said.

Part of streamlining the process involved holding services at committal shelters — open-air, gazebo-like structures — instead of graveside. Calverton has seven shelters; Western Reserve has two.

After taps, two uniformed members of an Army honor guard, wearing white gloves, perform the third and final ritual — the folding of the flag. They make each of the traditional 13 folds with precision as mourners look on in silence.

The flag was presented to Hale's wife of 36 years. She was seated on a bench in the front row.

"I feel so blessed to be an American and that America has furnished something like this for our soldiers. It gives you such a wonderful feeling," she said. "I feel proud."

A cemetery employee politely asked the mourners to leave the shelter so the next service could begin.

Men and women in dark suits and dresses, some holding hands or with arms around one another for comfort, climbed into their Fords and Buicks and slowly drove away.


On the Net:

Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery:

Calverton National Cemetery:

Source: AP News

Friday, May 23, 2008

A site to check out on Memorial Day

CRANSTON Pat Cortellessa’s 1953 Dodge M37 Army truck is a rolling memorial to Sgt. Lewis Clark Walton, of Cranston, a Green Beret with the 5th Special Forces who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1971.

CRANSTON Pat Cortellessa’s 1953 Dodge M37 Army truck is a rolling memorial to Sgt. Lewis Clark Walton, of Cranston, a Green Beret with the 5th Special Forces who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1971.

But how Cortellessa ended up celebrating this Rhode Island son, and his involvement in solving the painful puzzle of Walton’s death, goes back to the early 1970s, when he was still in high school.

“I was in a history class in Central High School [Providence] in 1971 or 1972 and an Army officer came by to talk to us,” he said in a recent interview in his house opposite the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, on Oaklawn Avenue. “And you could buy bracelets with the name of soldiers missing in action for $2.”

Cortellessa bought one with the name of “Capt. John G. Dunn, U.S. Army, 18 March 1968” — the date he went missing.

Fast forward to a cold February day in 2005 when Cortellessa was in the basement of his house going through some old boxes and “stumbled across the bracelet.”

“Suddenly I wanted to find out what happened to him,” he said.

This interest in Dunn’s fate combined with Cortellessa’s interest in military history. Although he has never served, he had an uncle who served in Vietnam and he has read widely and visited a number of war memorials, including various sites in Germany from World War II and Civil War sites in the United States.

And, in addition to the M37, Cortellessa, 52, who is married and has three children, has a 1951 GMC Troop Carrier parked beside his garage.

Working through the Internet, Cortellessa discovered that Dunn did not die in Vietnam; he was a prisoner of war who survived the war.

“Dunn was released in 1973 as part of a general release,” he said.

Cortellessa contacted Dunn, who had retired from the Army with the rank of colonel, through Dunn’s 85-year-old mother in Miami. He said he wanted to return the bracelet.

Dunn was delighted to hear from him. “That’s great, wonderful,” Dunn said, adding that Cortellessa could keep the bracelet. They got to talking and when Dunn realized Cortellessa was from Rhode Island, he said that when he had been captured there was a soldier from Rhode Island along with his group.

“Guess what? When I was captured on patrol, they ambushed me and three others and one was from Rhode Island,” he said. “James Ray from Woonsocket.”

“That got me interested in Rhode Islanders who were missing in action,” Cortellessa said.

But while Ray was one of eight Rhode Islanders listed as missing in action in the Vietnam War on, Cortellessa learned from declassified government documents that he was killed trying to escape from a POW camp in Cambodia.

Of the remaining seven Rhode Islanders listed by, one was Staff Sgt. Lewis Clark Walton, from Potter Street, in Cranston.

Cortellessa said he learned from declassified government documents that Walton had served in the Korean War in the early 1950s and had reenlisted at age 37 to fight in the Vietnam War. At the time of his disappearance, he was a member of the Military Advisor Command Vietnam/Studies and Observation Group (MACV/SOG), which operated behind enemy lines gathering intelligence, according to Cortellessa.

On May 3, 1971, Walton was helicoptered into western Quang Nam Province, which is about 12 miles west of Laos, as part of a long-range reconnaissance team. He was accompanied by Staff Sgt. Klaus Bingham and Staff Sgt. James Luttrell.

The three were never heard from again. After several attempts to locate the team by radio and flyovers, they were listed as missing in action. (There are currently 1,948 American personnel listed as missing in action in the Vietnam War, according to

Cortellessa began to research Walton’s fate around March 2005 and one source he called was the MIA-POW Department of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. An official, Rick Flanagan, told him of human remains being found in the vicinity of the disappearance of the three men. Cortellessa said Flanagan had been part of the recovery team.

“It was a miracle, a million-to-one shot,” he said. “To make a 2 a.m. phone call from Rhode Island to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and to have him come on the telephone.”

Cortellessa then called the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Oahu, Hawaii, where the remains had been sent for analysis. The laboratory portion of JPAC, the Central Identification Laboratory, is the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world.

Cortellessa talked to an official, Dick Hites, and he confirmed that the remains had been analyzed and that JPAC was certain they were those of Walton. He said Hites asked him to contact the family and to ask them about a number of objects, including a parachute wings medal and a St. Christopher medallion.

Cortellessa contacted Walton’s daughter, Jackie, and son, Lewis Jr., who was a member of the Rhode Island National Guard and has served two tours in Iraq.

“I have information about your dad, his remains have been found,” he said he told them, adding that the remains were now in Maryland awaiting final DNA testing.

“Oh my God, is it really true?” he said Jackie responded.

The remains subsequently proved to be those of Walton and they were buried at a funeral service conducted at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery, in Exeter, last May.

Cortellessa, who owns PCRL Realty, a commercial real estate company in Providence, and ran for mayor against Buddy Cianci in 1978 following an altercation over an adult entertainment club he owned, along with an open-air café, said he bought the M37 truck from the Massachusetts National Guard for $1,200 in 2002.

The Dodge M37 was a three-quarter-ton four-wheel-drive truck that saw major service during the Korean War. While based on the WC series Dodge vehicles from WWII, it was updated and production began in 1951. About 115,000 M37s were produced between 1951 and 1968. They were used in Vietnam before being replaced by the M715 series of military trucks in the late 1970s.

Cortellessa said his M37 needed both an engine and body work. He took it to Westminister Auto Body, in Providence, which took it apart and “sandblasted the whole thing.” The engine, gas tank and electrical was worked on at Cima’s Garage, in Cranston, he said.

He keeps it garaged and said it needs constant tinkering, given that it’s 60 years old. And he has dressed it up in some of the insignia of Walton’s Green Beret unit, with the MACV/SOG badge on the side.

In the front window, there is a picture of Walton, along with the story of his service and disappearance, and the recovery of his remains.

“I really admire these guys, their service to the country and the general public,” Cortellessa said. “The more you read up on these fellows in military history books and what they accomplished in Vietnam, you have to tip your hat to them.”

For more information, check out:

Auto Biography tells an interesting story about a car and its driver. If you think you have a newsworthy story to tell about your car, write to Auto Biography, Features Department, The Providence Journal, 75 Fountain St. Providence RI 02902 or e-mail Be sure to put “Auto Biography” in the subject field.

The car doesn’t have to be a classic or expensive, but it should be somehow unique. The driver must be willing to be interviewed by a reporter about what makes this car special and to be photographed with the car.

America Recognizes Military Sacrifices on Memorial Day
Veterans Urged to Wear Medals with Pride

WASHINGTON (May 23, 2008) - From concerts to somber ceremonies and a
moment of silence, Americans from coast to coast will recall the
sacrifices of military members who paid the ultimate price for freedom
on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26.

"This is our nation's day to remember its debt to those whose sacrifice
in blood and battle secured a legacy of liberty for future generations,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.

He reminded veterans to wear their military medals on Memorial Day, a
practice called the Veterans Pride Initiative launched by the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2006.

The personal exhibition of service medals on patriotic holidays is one
way for veterans to show their support of the U.S. military and
particularly those serving in the Global War on Terror, and to inspire
conversation about military heritage with young people.

Information for veterans about the wearing of medals and how to replace
lost medals is available at

A tradition dating to the 19th Century after the Civil War and
originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is marked at VA
facilities across the country, especially VA's national cemeteries,
whose commemorative events honor about 1 million American men and women
who died in service during wartime periods, including more than 651,000
battle deaths.

This year, more than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at
VA's national cemeteries, with color guards, ceremonies honoring
decorated veterans, and band and choir performances.

Some national cemeteries will feature an "Avenue of Flags" flanking both
sides of the curb line, usually along the main entrance road, sometimes
consisting of burial flags donated by the next of kin of veterans who
are buried in these national shrines. Other national cemeteries may
place individual flags at gravesites.

VA's 125 national cemeteries include 10 opened in the past nine years.
Another six cemeteries are under development. VA currently maintains
17,000 acres where 2.8 million gravesites are located. By 2010,
veterans burial space is expected to be available to 90 percent of
veterans within 75 miles of where they live.

Directions to VA's national cemeteries and a guide to their Memorial Day
activities are available at General information
about Memorial Day, including its history, a commemorative poster and
activities links, may be found at

VA is a cosponsor with the White House Commission on Remembrance of an
annual Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Eastern time, nationwide on
Memorial Day, a time to pause and reflect on the valor of the fallen and
the bond of freedoms that unite Americans. Many institutions will pause
their activities -- from sporting events to announcements in public
facilities -- to call the nation together to share its common bond in

Memorial Day Sacrifices

Our D.C. office recently sent out an update highlighting movement of the new GI Bill and VFW-backed legislation in Congress. Also included was a summary of the sacrifces made by our military taken from a Military Times editorial.

Memorial Day 2008: The following is a recently published Military Times editorial, entitled, "Remember the fallen." The United States is almost 232 years old, the world's greatest and oldest experiment in freedom and democracy. In that short history, Americans have paid for that freedom — and increasingly over the past century, for the freedom of untold others — in the blood and noble sacrifice of those who heard the call to service and gave their lives to the cause.

Some 4,435 died for their new country in the American Revolution.

2,260 in the War of 1812.

13,283 in the Mexican War.

529,511 — probably more, but records are incomplete — in the American Civil War.

2,446 in the Spanish-American War.

116,516 in World War I.

405,399 in World War II.

36,574 in the Korean War.

58,209 in the Vietnam War.

19 in Grenada for Operation Urgent Fury.

383 in the Persian Gulf War.

23 in Panama for Operation Just Cause.

43 in Somalia for Operation Restore Hope.

496 in Operation Enduring Freedom and 4,069 in Operation Iraqi Freedom — and counting.

That's 1,173,666 in all. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more have died in service to our country on virtually every continent on the globe in conflicts we either don't recall or won't acknowledge. This Memorial Day, take a moment to remember them.