Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cold War Soviet Missile Tracker Sunk for Artificial Reef

By Michael Haskins May 28, 2009 12:00am

SHROUDED by smoke from detonated explosives, a former World War Two US
troop ship was sunk off the Florida Keys to become a massive
artificial reef that authorities hope can revive the local economy and
environment. After the controlled explosive charges were set off, it
took only three minutes for the rust-streaked 523-foot (159 metre),
17,000-ton gray bulk of the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg to slip below
the surface. It sank 140 feet (43 meters) to settle on the sandy
bottom, seven miles off Key West on the southern tip of Florida.

The sinking turned the wartime relic, which also was used by the U.S.
Air Force to track Soviet missile launches during the Cold War and
still carried its big tracking dish, into one of the world's biggest
intentionally sunk artificial reefs.

Local officials and businessmen are hoping that in its new resting
place the Vandenberg will provide a boon to both the marine
environment and the local economy, which has felt the squeeze of the
global economic recession.

They expected the wreck would be an immediate underwater draw for
divers, while at the same time attracting fish, corals and other sea
creatures and so relieving the pressure on Key West's natural reefs
caused by diving, boating and fishing. "Divers like wrecks, fish like
wrecks. The Vandenberg will have a great profile underwater," said
Sheri Lohr, a retired dive shop owner involved in the Vandenberg
sinking project. "The economy's going to benefit ... We expect dive
shops to be out here within a few days," she said. Before it was
sunk, the Vandenberg was cleansed of contaminants, such as asbestos,
wiring, paint and other potentially toxic substances and debris, to
prevent it from damaging the ecology of the ocean floor in its new

Supporters of the artificial reef project hope the new underwater
attraction can generate up to $8 million annually in tourism-related
sales for Key West, as the wreck lures divers of all ages and skills
to explore its hulk and infrastructure. "The sinking of the
Vandenberg is the best thing to happen in Key West in years ... it
will definitely be a big help for the businesses on Duval Street (the
city's main tourist boulevard)," Key West City Commissioner and local
businessman Mark Rossi said. Reefmakers, the Moorestown, New Jersey,
company involved in the sinking has said most of the funding for the
$6 million project is coming from Florida Keys government sources,
including the region's tourism council.

The US Maritime Administration also is making a contribution. In
2006, the US Navy sunk the retired aircraft carrier Oriskany, an
888-foot (271-metre), 32,000-ton combat veteran of the Korean and
Vietnam wars, off Pensacola in the Gulf of Mexico to make the world's
largest intentionally created artificial reef.

Sent from my mobile device

VA Web Site Helps College Counselors Aid Veterans

VA Web Site Helps College Counselors Aid Veterans

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
launched a new Web site to strengthen the connection between college and
university mental health professionals and the Veterans of the Iraq and
Afghanistan conflicts now studying on their campuses.

"Many of our newest Veterans are beginning their post-service lives by
furthering their educations," said Dr. Gerald M. Cross, VA's acting
under secretary for health. "This initiative is designed to ensure that
colleges and universities are able to assist with any special mental
health needs they may have."

The Web site,, features recommended
training for college and university counselors, with online modules
including "Operation SAVE" for suicide prevention, "PTSD 101" and
"Helping Students Who Drink Too Much." It also will feature a resource
list that will be updated regularly.

Although the Web site is designed primarily for counselors, it also
serves as a resource for Veteran-students who wish to learn more about
the challenges they may face in adjusting to their lives after leaving
the military.

"We hope counselors and our returning Veterans find this site helpful
and easy to use," Cross said. "As the site grows, we expect it will
become an increasingly valuable resource."

The new site is one of several Web-based tools VA has developed to
assist Veterans in dealing with mental health issues. Others include a
guide for families of military members returning from deployment and
information about a suicide prevention hotline for Veterans.

Sent from my mobile device

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Renews Vow to Improve Veterans Treatment

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
U.S. Senator from New York
Posted: May 25, 2009 01:03 PM

Read More: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Honoring Veterans, Kirsten
Gillibrand, Memorial Day, Pro-Vets, Veterans, Veterans Administration,
Politics News

​ Today, as we honor America's fallen soldiers, I ask you to join
me in renewing our commitment to the men and women who have served our
nation in the Armed Forces.

When I ran for Congress, I was clear about my opposition to the War in
Iraq. But while I did not agree with President Bush 's policies, I
worked hard in Congress to provide our servicemembers and returning
veterans with the health care and educational opportunities they

Now I am renewing those efforts in the U.S. Senate. Last week I
introduced legislation called PRO-VETS, to require the Veterans
Administration to seek out and provide our returning heroes with
information on the benefits they have earned. It will eliminate
red-tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks, and require timely responses
from the VA to all those who inquire about the benefits for which they
are eligible. I was shocked to find out the following statistics from
my home state of New York: •

While there are 237,302 veterans in New York City ,

181,360 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 121,183 veterans in Western New York ,

87,217 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 85,401 veterans in Central New York ,

61,220 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 54,360 veterans in the Southern Tier ,

39,277 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 92,549 veterans in the Capital Region ,

71,571 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 46,762 veterans in the North Country ,

35,085 are not receiving VA health care benefits.

My legislation would close the gap between what our veterans are
eligible for and what they are receiving.

As I say in the news piece below, this is about shifting the focus of
the VA to become pro-active, not reactive.

While the US government provides our veterans with many benefits, I
believe there is much more still to be done to fulfill our promise to
those who risk their lives for our country. •

We need to expand health benefits to include treatment of autism for
children of retired and active duty servicemembers. •

We need to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell to allow our soldiers to serve
openly and honestly, regardless of sexual orientation. •

We need to expand access to healthcare for veterans and their
families, including universal pre-natal care. •

We need to provide incentives to businesses in order to expand the
opportunities available to our veterans upon their return to civilian
life. In the meantime, it is my hope that my PRO-VETS bill, once
passed and signed into law, will at least help veterans take advantage
of the benefits that do exist.

For me, this bill is my small way of saying thanks to our brave
veterans for their service to our country.

I encourage you all to join me in honoring our veterans and service
personnel, not just today but every day.

They and their families have earned our thanks and our support.

Sent from my mobile device

VA Studies Advanced Prosthetic Arm

VA Studies Advanced Prosthetic Arm

New Mobility for Veterans, Service Members, Other Americans


WASHINGTON (May 27, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
announced a three-year study of an advanced artificial arm that easily
allows those with severe limb loss to pick up a key or hold a pencil.


"This arm is a high-tech example of how VA researchers are continually
modernizing the materials, design, and clinical use of artificial limbs
to meet Veterans' lifestyle and medical needs," says Dr. Joel
Kupersmith, VA's Chief Research and Development Officer.


In collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA), the study marks the first large-scale testing of the arm, which
allows those who have lost a limb up to their shoulder joint to perform
movements while reaching over their head, a previously impossible
maneuver for people with a prosthetic arm.


The study is under the direction of Dr. Linda Resnik at the Providence,
R.I., VA Medical Center.  Veterans fitted with the arm will provide
feedback to guide engineers in refining the prototype, before it is
commercialized and also made available through the VA health care


A unique feature of the advanced arm is its control system, which works
almost like a foot-operated joystick.  An array of sensors embedded in a
shoe allows users to maneuver the arm by putting pressure on different
parts of the foot.  The current version uses wires to relay the signals
to the arm, but future versions will be wireless.


The arm can also be adapted to work with other control systems,
including myoelectric switches, which are wired to residual nerves and
muscles in the upper body and respond to movement impulses from the
brain, shoulder joysticks or other conventional inputs.


Frederick Downs Jr., director of VA's Prosthetic and Sensory Aids
Service who lost his left arm during combat in Vietnam, said he was
"brought to tears" recently when the prosthetic arm allowed him to
smoothly bring a water bottle to his mouth and drink.  "Learning to use
the controls is not difficult," he said, due in part to a sensor in the
artificial hand that sends a vibration signal that tells how strong the
grip is.  A stronger grip causes more vibration.


VA prosthetics research also includes vision and hearing aids,
wheelchairs and propulsion aids, devices to help people with brain
injuries to become mobile, and adaptive equipment for automobiles and
homes -- "everything that's necessary to help Veterans regain their
mobility and independence," said Downs.

Thanks to the Soldiers Who Served During Vietnam

VFW received the following letter from SFC Stewart, sent May 23, 2009

I would just like to say thank you so very much to all the organizations that have supported this program with your contributions. It means so much that so many go out of their way daily to show us, the Soldiers, how much they appreciate the sacrifice that we give daily for our nation.

I'm so glad to be a part of this generation to see how our country has truly changed from the Vietnam era. I can't even begin to imagine how it was for those Soldiers and how they were treated after going through some of the things that they had to endure.

So often I've been in uniform and many who've served during the Vietnam era have come up to me and said thanks for serving. I take my hat off to them and say thanks to them for all they've done to pave the way. I believe because of what they endured, I'm blessed and able to receive so many blessings like a free phone call, today.

By no means do I take it for granted when the recorded tells me this call is free, thanks to whatever organization that contributed during that time. I think it's a great program that SPAWAR has set up and I'm truly grateful for it. Again for what it's worth, I owe my gratitude to the Soldiers of the Vietnam era for all the benefits I'm able to receive today. Thanks to all of you for all you've done, do, and all you continue to do.

God Bless You

SFC Stewart

(Deployed to Iraq)
American Cold War Veterans on the Today Show NBC Vietnam Wall Memorial Day

ACWV Dr Bob Kamansky and Scot L'Ecuyer wash the wall ( See them in Video at end Saluting the Wall in Reflection)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Space Command official tweets on GPS

Space Command official tweets on GPS

An Air Force Space Command official hosted a tweet forum on the Global
Positioning System from 2 to 3 p.m., May 20.Col. Dave Buckman, AFSPC
command lead for position, navigation and timing, responded to fellow
tweeter's questions on GPS and clarified some points that came out of
the recent Government Accountability Office's report on potential
challenges the GPS system faces in the future.The session was the
first time AFSPC officials have used their Twitter page,, for a scheduled two-way forum. The site
launched in April. more..

Support the Blue Star/Gold Star Flag Act of 2009 (H.R. 2546)

Support the Blue Star/Gold Star Flag Act of 2009 (H.R. 2546)

Dear Sean ,Today is Memorial Day, and for those of us who served, and
the families of those who were lost in war, it is a solemn day.We
honor those who gave their lives in defense of the United States.
While is primarily made up of veterans from 21st century
service, we're immensely respectful of those who served with honor and
made the ultimate sacrifice in generations past, and remember we owe
our lives to them and their heroism.And, while we honor those who lost
their lives, it is also a time to remember that the families of the
fallen are still alive, with a unique set of challenges that only
those who lost someone in war could ever know.  And, there are
families who have a loved one serving, who worry for them every day.

Congressman  John Boccieri, an Iraq war veteran who PAC
supported in his election, has introduced legislation guaranteeing
that Blue Star Families and Gold Star Families (those who lost a loved
one) can put a service flag in their windows in any residential
property, without limitation.  This bill just makes common sense.

We're supporting his Blue Star/Gold Star Flag Act of 2009 (H.R. 2546)
and are asking you to take today to join us in our petition to
Congress to immediately pass the bill.


Let's  use this Memorial Day to make sure that as we honor those who
gave their lives, we also make a commitment allow all military
families to properly honor their loved ones, too.

Sincerely,Jon Soltz
Iraq War Veteran
And Brandon, Peter, Brian and the entire team

Friday, May 22, 2009

WASHINGTON (May 22, 2009) - From parades to somber ceremonies and a
moment of silence, Americans will recall the sacrifices of military
members who paid the ultimate price for freedom on Memorial Day, Monday,
May 25.

"From May 23 to May 30, commemorative events at VA national cemeteries
will present a sacred responsibility for employees and volunteers to
honor these greatest of American heroes," said Steve Muro, VA's acting
under secretary for memorial affairs. "Since the birth of Memorial Day
in 1866, national cemeteries have been the most visible expression of
our country's gratitude for their service."

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will continue its annual
tradition of hosting services at most of its national cemeteries and
many other facilities nationwide. The programs, which are the focus of
Memorial Day events in many communities, honor the service of deceased
Veterans and people who die on active duty.

For the dates and times of Memorial Day programs at VA national
cemeteries, visit .

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at VA's
national cemeteries, with color guards, readings, bands and choir
performances. The events will honor about one million men and women who
died in wartime periods, including about 655,000 battle deaths.

Some national cemetery observances are unique. At VA's most active
cemetery, in Riverside, Calif., volunteers have been reading aloud --
since Armed Forces Day, May 17 -- the names of more than 150,000
Veterans buried there, and are expected to continue at least until the
Memorial Day program. In one-hour shifts around the clock, 500
volunteers - two to four at a time -- alternate reading the names.

The Dayton, Ohio, National Cemetery will host members of Veterans
organizations on the weekend before Memorial Day who will display 400
donated burial flags along the main road. The cemetery also expects
2,000 children and youths, many from Scout troops, to decorate more than
40,000 graves on the weekend in two hours.

VA's 128 national cemeteries include 13 that opened in the last 10
years. Another 3 cemeteries are under development. VA currently
maintains 18,000 acres where 2.9 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.

Information about Memorial Day, including its history, can 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 sacrifice of America's
fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite Americans. Many
institutions will announce a pause in their activities -- from sporting
events to public facilities -- to call the nation together in a common
bond of silence.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day when the tradition of
decorating Civil War graves began. It still brings loved ones to the
graves of the deceased, often with flowers as grave decorations.
Decorations honoring Veterans buried in national cemeteries are American
flags -- either individual small ones on each grave, usually placed by
volunteers, or "avenues of flags" flanking both sides of the cemetery
main entrance road. Often these flags are the burial flags donated by
next of kin of Veterans buried in the cemetery.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Secretary Shinseki Announces $215 Million in Projects for Rural Veterans

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hasprovided $215 million in competitive funding to improve servicesspecifically designed for Veterans in rural and highly rural areas.

"This funding signals a substantial expansion of services addressing thehealth care needs of our rural Veterans," Secretary of Veterans AffairsEric Shinseki said. "These funds will allow VA to establish newoutpatient clinics, expand collaborations with federal and communitypartners, accelerate the use of telemedicine deployment, exploreinnovative uses of technology, and fund pilot programs."

The selection process was competitive and transparent. VeteransIntegrated Service Networks (VISNs), VA's regional health care networks,and Veterans Health Administration program offices were allowed tosubmit up to eight proposed projects each. These proposals wereprioritized and then sent to the Office of Rural Health (ORH), wherethey were evaluated based on, methodology, feasibility and intendedimpact on rural Veterans.

After careful review, ORH selected 74 programs, many of which wereeither national in scope or affected multiple states. Program officesvalidated these proposals to ensure that projects and programs wereconsistent with the VA mission, strategic direction, program standards,and did not duplicate existing efforts.

The new funding is part of an ambitious VA program to improve access andquality of health care -- both physical and mental -- for Veterans ingeographically rural areas, with an emphasis on the use of the latesttechnologies, recruitment and retention of a well-educated and trainedhealth care workforce, and collaborations with non-VA rural healthcommunity partners.

To address the unique issues facing rural Veterans, the Departmentcreated an Office of Rural Health in February 2007. In the past twoyears, VA formed a 16-member national committee to advise on issuesaffecting rural veterans, opened three Veterans Rural Health ResourceCenters to study rural Veteran issues, rolled out four new mobile healthclinics to serve 24 predominately rural counties, announced 10 new ruraloutreach clinics to be opened in 2009.

As I talk to some of my peers that are either still on active duty or recently separated from the Army and tell them I am volunteering at the VFW, they commonly respond by asking, “So what are you doing? Sitting around drinking beer?”

This is still a common misconception that many young veterans who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan have of the organization. I was also one of them until I became an active member. At one point in the VFW’s history, it was one of the few places where veterans could go and talk to other veterans about some of the experiences they had in Europe, the Pacific, Korea, Vietnam and a host of other countries scattered throughout the world. There weren’t any clinics, doctors or other official support networks established that focused on the mental trauma experienced by veterans.

The VFW is much more than a place for fellowship with other veterans or to connect with previous generations that have answered our Nation’s call to duty. Many veterans and members of the armed services don’t know how active and supportive the VFW is for those of us who have served or are serving our country overseas.

I’ve learned that the VFW was the main veteran’s service organization that ensured the passage of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. This new GI Bill will benefit us veterans and our families for years to come. Veterans can now return from fighting in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the ability to go back to school full-time, even with a family, and then re-enter the work force. I never knew about the tremendous amount of work and commitment it took the VFW to get the bill passed in Congress.
One of the most important components of the VFW is that it assists wounded and disabled veterans in receiving the VA benefits they deserve. I had no idea about the complexities involved when determining the category of a wounded or disabled veteran. I quickly learned that the VFW has an entire department dedicated to assisting veterans navigating the VA bureaucratic process, which might otherwise overwhelm a young returning soldier or even a hardened NCO. The VFW has Field Representatives throughout the country and scattered around the world specifically to assist veterans once they leave the military.

When I put one of the NCOs whom I used to work with in touch with one of the Field Representatives, he was shocked that the VFW had programs like this. I must admit, so was I.
The VFW makes sure that the veteran is never taken for granted and provides the assistance needed when he or she does not know where to turn.

Of course none of this would be possible without the grassroots membership of individual veterans that join their local VFW post. Many young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are reluctant to join the VFW for various reasons. I say to them, “Go and join!” There are many local posts that are active in their local communities and do a variety of community service and sponsor programs that promote further service to our Nation. Where else will you find a group of individuals welcoming you at 2 o’clock in the morning when your plane arrives at the airport in the States for R&R or as you are coming home from deployment?

If only older veterans compose the VFW, then who will change and evolve the VFW to meet the needs of our generation or future challenges? Who will greet the next generation when they come home from serving the United States overseas? We must take the torch from the older veterans and bear the responsibility to take care of our fellow veterans and continue community service.

By Dave Rowland

Dave Rowland is a volunteer at the VFW National Headquarters Legislative Branch in Washington D.C. He is an active duty infantry officer with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dave is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University.
Sepúlveda Sworn in as VA Assistant Secretary for Human Resources

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2009) - John U. Sepúlveda, a former executive with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, took the oath of office yesterday as the Assistant Secretary for Human Resources for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"I am grateful to again have the opportunity to serve my country as a member of the Obama Administration," Sepúlveda said. "I am also honored to be on Secretary Shinseki's team focused on how to better serve those who have sacrificed so much for us: our Veterans and their families."

With more than 25 years of experience leading public- and private-sector organizations, Sepúlveda will oversee programs and services affecting nearly 280,000 VA employees in the second largest federal agency.

As former deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Sepúlveda was instrumental in promoting greater diversity throughout the U.S. government. He served on the White House Interagency Task Force on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, the President's Council for Y2K Conversion, and the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.

Before joining OPM, Sepúlveda successfully managed a $5 billion portfolio of federally insured hospital mortgages as a director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

His federal career in Washington was preceded by various local and state executive and appointed positions in Connecticut.

Sepúlveda has taught political science at Hunter College and Yale University. A native of New York City, he earned two master's degrees from Yale University and a bachelor's degree from Hunter College.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GI Radio

Duckworth Takes Charge of VA's Public Affairs and Outreach Programs

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2009) - Tammy Duckworth returned Wednesday to Walter
Reed Army Medical Center, a key site in her long recovery from wounds
suffered in Iraq, to take the oath of office as the chief spokesperson
for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"I am so honored to serve the Obama administration by helping to care
for our Veterans," Assistant Secretary Duckworth said. "They are our
nation's greatest treasure and deserve the best care available. I fully
support Secretary Shinseki as we work to provide that care."

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki presided over the
swearing in ceremony as Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National
Guard, became VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental
affairs. Shinseki stated that "Tammy has traveled a unique path to be
here today, a journey far from over with many, many contributions yet to
be made."

As assistant secretary, Duckworth will direct VA's public affairs
programs and its intergovernmental efforts. She also will oversee
programs for homeless Veterans and consumer affairs.

Duckworth was an Army helicopter pilot flying combat missions in Iraq in
2004 when she suffered grave injuries when her helicopter was struck by
a rocket-propelled grenade, and she lost both legs and partial use of
one arm. She spent 13 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Although Walter Reed is not part of the VA's extensive network of
medical facilities, Duckworth chose the Army site for her swearing in to
recognize the facility's role in her recovery and to encourage other
disabled service members and Veterans.

"Walter Reed is where I first saw how effective the DoD-VA partnership
in caring for our Veterans can be," she said. "My VA coordinator had an
office at Walter Reed, and I saw her on a weekly basis even before I was
discharged to VA care."

Duckworth comes to VA from Illinois state government, where she had been
director of the state Veterans office in Illinois since 2006.

Her previous managerial experience includes coordinating the Center for
Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and managing
clubs and districts for Rotary International's Asia-Pacific region from
2002 to 2003.

She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii and a
master's degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Born in Thailand, she is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who fought in
Vietnam. She is married to Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran and National
Guard officer, Major Bryan Bowlsbey.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rieckhoff Comments anger Vietnam and Cold War Era Veterans


IAVA chief claims remark was about who fragged the most and not meant
as disrespect.
by Larry Scott, VA Watchdog dot Org

Sometimes I wish people would just do the simple and correct thing
when they open their mouth to change feet:  Apologize for an un-smart
comment and move on. But, no ... Most people have to explain and
explain ... and explain some more in an attempt to make it appear that
what they said really was correct and really wasn't meant to be
offensive ... thus trying to put the onus back on the person(s) they
offended. Such is the case of Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Yesterday we
reported that Rieckhoff, in response to a soldier killing five fellow
troops in Iraq, said, in part: "Unlike during the Vietnam War, today's
military is a professional, all-volunteer force." This remark greatly
offended me ... as it did Veterans' Advocate Jim Strickland ... and,
we let our feelings be known.  It also offended many other veterans as
noted by the angry comments at the bottom of the article. Instead of
just saying, "I'm sorry.  It was an insensitive remark and doesn't
reflect my true feelings.  I apologize," Rieckhoff tried to explain
his way out of it. His PR person sent me this email saying that the
statement was from Rieckhoff: "IAVA has never prioritized one
generation of veterans over another. Every year, we have joined dozens
of veterans' service organizations in supporting the Independent
Budget, presenting a united front to Congress in our recommendations
for VA funding. Our top legislative recommendation this year is
advance appropriations, the priority of every leading veterans'
organization. To say that we intentionally disparaged or disrespected
Vietnam veterans is completely untrue. Vietnam veterans have served as
role models to this generation of veterans, and to this organization.
Our statement merely pointed out the fact that 'fragging' has been
exceedingly rare in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to Vietnam. There
have been only a handful of incidents of intentional homicide in Iraq,
while the AP reports at least 600 incidents of fragging in Vietnam
between 1969 and 1971. Military historians link this dramatic change
to the creation of the all-volunteer military. IAVA will continue to
work hard to advocate on behalf of veterans of all generations."
OOPS!  We have some problems.  The first sentence is completely false.
Just look at the name of the group.  Of course they've prioritized
the "new veterans."  Then, why go into the fragging explanation?  It
makes no sense.  Rieckhoff is saying, "My new guys don't frag as much
as you old guys did."  What does that mean?  Why say it at all?  His
original statement should have leaned on the problems our GIs are
having getting adequate mental health care, not a frag count. When Jim
Strickland read this, he emailed me: Not true. The comparisons made
have not been apples to apples. To compare Iraq to Vietnam is to
compare a swimming pool to the Pacific.That dog don't hunt. But, to
make things even worse, Rieckhoff kept over-explaining, trying to dig
his way out of his blunder.  He posted a statement on the IAVA web
site much like the one above ... but, with more and more and more
explaining.  He just had to cover more bases: IAVA Honors and Supports
All Generations of VeteransIAVA has never prioritized one generation
of veterans over another. Every year, we have joined dozens of
veterans' service organizations in supporting the Independent Budget,
presenting a united front to Congress in our recommendations for VA
funding. Our top legislative recommendation this year is advance
appropriations, the priority of every leading veterans' organization
and a step that will benefit generations of veterans. We are working
with the leading veterans organizations including, Vietnam Veterans of
America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans, on
this and all other actions that will benefit veterans and their
families.IAVA has never intentionally disparaged or disrespected
veterans of any generation. Vietnam veterans have served as role
models to this generation of veterans, and to this organization. Our
statement merely pointed out the fact that "fragging" has been
exceedingly rare in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to Vietnam. There
have been only a handful of incidents of intentional homicide in Iraq,
while the AP reports at least 600 incidents of fragging in Vietnam
between 1969 and 1971. Military historians link this dramatic change
to the creation of the all-volunteer military. In drawing this
comparison, our intent was to illustrate that incidents of fragging
have been rare and do not characterize veterans as a whole. IAVA has
always been committed to pushing back on negative stereotypes for all
veterans.Drafted, volunteer, or otherwise we respect the service of
all veterans. IAVA will continue to work hard to advocate on behalf of
veterans of all generations. Mr. Rieckhoff, your non-apology is not
accepted. And, to the staff at IAVA:  Keep Paul Rieckhoff away from
all computers.  He's the only person I know who can dig a hole with a

TOPICS: veterans, veterans' benefits, VA, Department of Veterans'
Affairs, IAVA, Paul Rieckhoff, Vietnam veterans, draftees, fragged,

IAVA Founder Apologizes to VFW

I wanted to reach out to you personally ASAP regarding the
currentcontroversy surrounding our statement on the Camp Liberty
tragedy.By now, I know you have seen some of the emails going around
saying thatI and/or IAVA are trying to disrespect Vietnam vets.I hope
you knowthat this is totally untrue. We have tremendous respect for
allgenerations of vets--especially Vietnam vets--and would never want
todiss any other veteran, generation of veterans or veterans
group.Itwas not our intent to offend anyone or disparage anyone. If we
did, we sincerely apologize.We can only imagine what you guys went
throughcoming home, and would never attack you--and anyone else who
served inVietnam. We view Vietnam vets as our brothers--and true
mentors. Andthe Chairman of our Board is himself a Vietnam veteran.
Pat Campbell,Todd Bowers, me and our entire team at IAVA have always
been honoredto work alongside Bob Wallace, Eric Hilleman and the
entire DC VFWteam. We also work closely with the Vietnam vets at the
Legion, VVA,DAV and all our other brothers and sisters in the larger
VSO/MSOcommunity.These folks know us well. And know that we have
nothing butrespect for your service--and that of all those in your
generation. Webelieve it, and we say it anytime we have the chance.The
GI Billvictory last year and our recent meetings with the President on
theridiculous third-party billing scheme showed what we can do if we
allstick together. I hope we can keep that level of unity
goingforward--especially in the fight for Advanced Funding--which
benefitsus all.I also hope that this week we can all focus on the
largerissues surrounding the Camp Liberty tragedy, address the mental
healthurgency, and use this as a wake-up call to better serve our
fellow vets. Any in-fighting between our groups will only distract
from moreimportant issues that confront our nation in this critical
time.Iwould be happy to talk to you, or anyone else at the VFW who is
free today or later this week to discuss this further. If you have
anyother thoughts or suggestions about this issue, please send them
myway. We would appreciate your guidance.Again, we are very sorry.And
Ihope we can all work together as our nation deals with this
terribletragedy at Camp Liberty.Thank you very much.


--Sent from my mobile device

Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Veterans to take part in Berlin Airlift observances

An area man and veteran of the epic 1948-'49 confrontation with the former Soviet Union when it blockaded the German city of Berlin, will visit that city and take part in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

Lewis Dale Whipple of Benton will visit Berlin May 9-16 and will be there for the May 12 anniversary of the end of the blockade. The Soviets abandoned it when free world efforts, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, managed not only to supply the beleaguered city with the food and fuel it needed, but also with luxury items and other goods. This convinced Communist leaders they could not win that loggerhead with the West.

"This is a very important date for the Berliners," said Whipple, who is vice president of the international Berlin Airlift Veterans Association. "There are scheduled ceremonies at the Berlin Airlift Memorial located in font of the old Templehof Airport on May 12, lasting all day. On May 13 there will a program at the Allied Museum with a symposium made up of three American and three British Airlift veterans at the Museum."

Whipple took part in official ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the start of the successful effort. Those were held in June.

At this observance of the close of the airlift, there will be 50 airmen from Ramstein Air Base attending most of the ceremonies, for which 35 U.S Airlift veterans and 40 family members will be making the trip along with British and French veterans.

"There are three scheduled meetings with local school children during our visit," Whipple added.

The Berlin Blockade and the resulting airlift, June 1948 through May 1949, saw Western air services making more than 200,000 flights that provided 13,000 tons of food daily for close to a year. By the time the Soviets conceded and reopened land corridors back into the city that then was deep in a country divided by politics and armies, the flights were delivering more goods a day than had been delivered by rail and truck.

The blockade's failure was humiliating to the Soviets and led to a legacy in Berlin, three world-class airports in each of the former western zones of the city.

It is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Berlin airlift and veterans are in the German city to mark the event. Tim Marshall reports on the story behind it.

Major Crisp Jones (r), in charge of airfield organisation at Wunstorf Airfield

The Berlin Airlift was an 11-month statement of intent by the USA and the UK to the Soviet Union: "This far and no further".

Its success was a crucial moment in the Cold War; strategic thinking at the time was that failure to sustain West Berlin would have been seen by Moscow as the green light to roll on into Western Europe.

In the post-war era, West Berlin was a Western outpost surrounded by Soviet-controlled East Germany.

If Berlin falls, Germany will be next. If we intend to defend Europe against communism, we should not budge.

Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary at the time of the airlift

Three years after the end of the Second World War, the Soviet bloc and the Western countries were now glaring at each other across the Iron Curtain.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had decided to cut all routes into West Berlin in order to gain control of the whole city.

The Western powers knew that forcing their way through on the ground would quickly lead to a shooting match and, possibly, World War III.

Instead, they risked flying through three existing air corridors, gambling that the Soviets would not shoot down their planes.

The Americans and British had decided that this was a moment to make a stand.

The Berlin Wall finally fell in 1989

The then British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin said: "If Berlin falls, Germany will be next. If we intend to defend Europe against communism, we should not budge."

Between June 24, 1948 and May 12, 1949, the US and British air forces - supported by the French and others - flew more than 200,000 missions into West Berlin.

The city, with a population of two million people, needed 13,000 tonnes of food a day as well as medicines and other supplies.

The siege and the airlift went on month after month until Stalin blinked first and lifted the blockade.

It had cost a fortune, it had been risky, and dozens of people were killed in the 12 crashes which occurred over the 11 months.

Today, the RAF and veteran pilots will be represented at ceremonies in Berlin and at Duxford in Cambridgeshire to remember the monumental effort and the sacrifice of 39 British servicemen and civilians who lost their lives during the campaign.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Russian veterans endure hardships in quest for proper compensation

War veterans endure hardship after their sacrifices for nation.

They get flowers on Victory Day and endure misery the rest of the year. This is what life has become for Ukraine’s dwindling number of World War II veterans, part of the heroic forces who saved the world from the monumental 20th century threat of Nazi fascism.

“In Ukraine, it is scary to get old, sick and to be a disabled veteran. If you are unlucky enough to combine all three, you are in trouble,” said Maria Skalozub, an 86-year-old disabled World War II military nurse from Luhansk Oblast, one of an estimated 350,000 surviving Ukrainian veterans of the conflict.

Government support is meager for Oleksiy Semishan, an 84-year-old veteran still suffering from war wounds in the Battle of Berlin. Semishan receives an Hr 2,140 ($267) monthly pension, but considers himself privileged since other veterans receive Hr 1,000. “The whole world thanks us for breaking the spine of German fascism,” Semishan said. “Haven’t we all deserved to have at least a 2,000 hryvnia pension?”

The Soviet Union lost 20 million lives during World War II, which the Soviet veterans still call The Great Patriotic War. Ukrainians suffered the worst, becoming the battleground in a scorched-earth battle between Nazi and Soviet forces.

An estimated eight million Ukrainians, civilians and soldiers, lost their lives in the war; another two million were forced into exile or imprisoned – a quarter of the population was lost.

Now, many of the aging survivors are sentenced to carry on with abysmal medical care and a couple hundred dollars a month, while Verkhovna Rada deputies retire on at least Hr 15,000, or nearly $2,000, monthly. Younger veterans of other wars, such as the 1979-1989 Soviet one in Afghanistan, endure similar hardships.

Kyivans are not surprised to see a veteran, maybe one missing a limb or two, begging for spare change in metro underpasses. They are living reminders of how far Ukraine still needs to advance to join civilized society.

“Legislation is not fulfilled. If it were, all veterans would have at least Hr 2,000 pensions,” said Semishan, who is also deputy head of the All-Ukrainian Public Organization of the War and Military Forces Veterans. The annual bonus payment on Victory Day for World War II veterans is far short of what the law promises, he said.

“I am a disabled veteran of the first group [the highest level of disability],” Semishan said. “This year I’ve received an Hr 540 payment for Victory Day, when it should be several thousand.”

In 1944, Semishan stepped into the war at the age of 18, when the tide had already started to turn against Nazi Germany in favor of the allied forces which included the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain.

“For the nation, native land and parents” he crossed Europe and made it to Berlin. Only a week before the Nazi German surrender, “a fascist grenade got our tank,” Semishan said. He was seriously wounded in the stomach and chest. He spent two years recuperating. Again, he said, he was lucky. Many did not get the chance to make it to a hospital.

Now, he said, he struggles to get the free prescriptions and free annual trip to a sanatorium that he and other veterans are entitled to by law. “The last free prescription I got was six months ago,” he said. “As to the state-guaranteed trip to a sanatorium, some veterans have been on the waiting lists for years.”

Semishan said the high price of prescription drugs and other medicines is a critical issue for the elderly. “Veterans have started to come and beg us [the veteran organization] to do something, to influence higher authorities, so that guaranteed free drug prescriptions are given out,” he said.

His organization has complained to numerous authorities, including the president, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada. “The president has never replied,” Semishan said. “Mostly, everybody alleges crisis and lack of budget resources.”

Veterans of the Soviet-Afghanistan war face similar hardships.

Serhiy Chervonopyskiy, leader of the Ukrainian Union of Afghanistan War Soldiers, said the nation lacks much-needed psychological care centers. In the single American state of Texas, 74 rehabilitation centers are in operation for Vietnam War veterans, he said, while Ukraine has only such center for the whole nation.

“It’s a rough example. But I do remember my 19-year-old soldiers gathering parts of the bodies of their mates, not knowing to whom they belong,” Chervonopyskiy said, emphasizing the need for psychological care. “It’s not the same 19-year old who went to the university, got happily married and is more or less content with his life.”

“In the United States they talk about ‘Vietnam syndrome.’ Do you think there isn’t such a thing as ‘Afghanistan syndrome’ among Ukrainian soldiers?” said Iryna Kostyleva, whose husband saw combat in Afghanistan at the age of 20. “Nobody talks about it. Nobody cares.”

Chervonopyskiy said corruption also robs veterans of their meager benefits. “For example, they buy the cheapest Taiwan wheelchairs, which cost $200 maximum, and put $2,000 for the purchasing price. They get the money and the veterans suffer from the poor quality.”

When asked why government comes up so short in helping veterans with promised assistance, Oleksiy Chumak, spokesman of the State Committee on the Matters of Ukrainian Veterans, had a simple reply: “There is not enough money.”

Financial hardships aside, some veterans also say they are upset with anti-Soviet Ukrainian nationalists and their attempts to minimize the Soviet victory, such as by removing monuments, particularly in western Ukraine. “If we only knew back then in the cold, hungry winter of 1943 that nobody would need our victory now,” said veteran Maria Skalozub. “It’s such a humiliation.”

Semishan said it was a mistake to think many soldiers fought for Stalin.

“Soviet soldiers did not fight for communism,” Semishan said. “We fought for our motherland, proudly, patriotically and selflessly. It’s such a purposeful blindness to mix these two notions. When such an evil force as the Nazis rapidly capture the world and no one can resist, the only thing you think about is how to save your life, family and nation.”

At the same time, he recalls the Holodomor, the “death by hunger” on Stalin’s orders that claimed millions of lives in 1932-1933 and other Stalin-era repressions. History, he said, should be taught and learned – completely and honestly.

“Good things should be told, bad things condemned,” Semishan said. “You don’t just cross out the part of history you don’t like. You don’t rewrite it, adjusting to the desires of some political group,” Semishan said.

With dismay, Semishan noted that he’s already noticed historical ignorance on the part of his grandchildren. “We don’t blame them for the ignorance,” he said. “It couldn’t be any other way, when political [forces] demand this state of affairs. Their perception of the world will not be complete and that’s what concerns us the most.”

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Assistant Secretary Duckworth Honored at Women to Watch Awards

WASHINGTON (May 6, 2009) - Yesterday, the Department of Veterans AffairsAssistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, L. TammyDuckworth, was honored by Running Start at their annual Women to WatchAwards in Washington, DC. She spoke to a crowd of 300 young women at aceremony at the National Press Club.

"We make our Nation stronger by supporting the 200,000 women currentlyserving in the armed forces and the approximately 1.7 million womenVeterans in our country that need our help," Assistant Secretary L.Tammy Duckworth said. "It's time to stop being surprised that America'sdaughters are fully capable of doing their jobs and fighting for ourfreedoms. I recognize that I am here today because I stand on theshoulders of the men and women who opened the doors for women to serve."

Running Start is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring youngwomen to run for political office. It offers high school and collegewomen the unique opportunity to hear from today's leaders. By educatingyoung women about the importance of politics and giving them the skillsthey need to become leaders, they give them the running start they needto reach their aspirations.

Assistant Secretary Duckworth was introduced by State RepresentativeLinda Chapa LaVia from the state of Illinois. She was recognized as a"Woman to Watch" by Running Start along with Erin Issabelle Burnett,CNBC Television Anchor; Betsy Fischer, Executive Producer of Meet thePress; Julie Gilbert, Founder and CEO of Wolf Means Business; and MonaSutphen, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Obama Administration.

Harry Truman (left), and General Douglas MacArthur. truman125

Friday, May 01, 2009

British Nuclear Test Vets

Please take a minute or two to read this. It is not a chain or spam but a
genuine call for your help.

Were you or was your Father, Grandfather a participant in the British
Nuclear Testing Programme between 1952 and 1967? Or do you know someone
falling in to this category?

If this does not apply could you please help us by forwarding this email to
everyone you know. This is a genuine initiative more details are
available on our website .

If the answer is yes then you need to know that the British Government has
just announced:

Children and grandchildren of servicemen involved in Britain's nuclear bomb
tests are to get medical help for the first time.

The families - who have 10 times the normal rate of birth defects - are to
take part in a landmark £500,000 study, it was announced last week.

On 20th April 2009 Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said there will be a
wide-ranging medical assessment of the families - which is expected to
lead to new research and therapies to help them.

He told Parliament money had already been put aside and that the work would
begin within weeks.

More than 20,000 servicemen were ordered to stand and watch as Britain
exploded hundreds of nuclear devices in Australia and the South Pacific
between 1952 and 1967.

Many of their children were born with twisted limbs, deformed bones, eye,
heart and teeth defects or blood and brain disorders.

Work has already begun to contact the families. The results of the study
are expected to be announced next year.

The British Nuclear Test Veterans Association has been the driving force in
getting this study launched and will continue to play a major role.

If you are a veteran or descendant please let us know – simply send an
email to giving your contact details* (if you are
an existing member of the BNTVA please quote your membership number). If
you wish to join the BNTVA please put ‘JOIN’ in the subject line of your

As a conservative estimate there should be at least 30,000 descendants out
there and we need to find them.

More information is available on Please visit this

The BNTVA website can be viewed on

Thank you for your time, please pass this email on.

*All information given in strictest confidence and will not be passed to
any other organisation or used for any marketing purpose, we will not send
unsolicited emails to any address you supply, Full Data Protection
Statement available at please see the two web
links to find more about this Contact Initiative and the wider work of the
British Nuclear Test Veterans Association.