Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Posted on August 24, 2009 by dsnurse

By John Yaukey
WASHINGTON — Charles Clark knew something was wrong when he started losing his teeth at age 37. "They just fell out — no blood," the Hawai'i resident said. He is virtually certain it had something to do with his Navy service in the Pacific during World War II, when he was exposed to atomic bomb radiation.

On Sept. 23, 1945, the 17-year-old sailor entered Nagasaki, Japan, where six weeks earlier the world's second nuclear weapons attack had killed 80,000 people. Some died due to massive doses of radiation. Clark remained in Nagasaki for five days, setting up ship-to-shore communications. It would forever change his life. Since then, "I've had more than 180 skin cancers removed from my face," he said in a recent interview. "Even today, the cancer keeps recurring. It never stops." Clark is among a group called the "Atomic Vets" — American military veterans exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons.

Between 1945 and 1962, half a million U.S. troops participated in more than 250 atmospheric and underwater atomic bomb tests, most in the Pacific and Nevada. Many of these veterans have since suffered a panoply of illnesses commonly associated with radiation exposure, but many have had trouble getting the care they need.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, has introduced legislation that would streamline the process and add transparency. "These veterans are dying every day from diseases caused, at least in part, by their service in atomic tests and other nuclear weapon-related activities," the 11-term congressman said. The treatment process is run through the Department of Veterans Affairs using data from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Typically, the process entails a veteran approaching the VA with a claim. At that point, the agency sends the information to the DTRA, which decides whether the veteran's service record indicates past exposure to high doses of radiation. This process, known as "dose reconstruction," can take months and occurs behind closed doors, critics say. It can be cumbersome and mysterious, especially for someone already dealing with a life-threatening illness.

The DTRA and the VA recognize 22 types of cancer that qualify as caused by radiation exposure. Some cancers must occur within a particular time frame, such as 20 years from exposure, to qualify. More than 90 percent of the veterans who apply for benefits outside the set parameters are denied, according to research Abercrombie's staff has done.

Abercrombie's legislation, the Atomic Veterans Relief Act, would add transparency by opening up DTRA's analysis methods. There is no companion bill yet in the Senate. Abercrombie introduced his legislation around Memorial Day. He hopes it will pick up momentum as stories like Clark's circulate, and as lawmakers gain appreciation for the sacrifices of war through the prism of two ongoing conflicts. "We're trying to get some certainty in the process," said Abercrombie, who is running for governor in a state with a large retired military population.
DTRA spokeswoman Kate Hooten said the agency has well-established protocols for determining radiation exposure, and she noted that over the decades, many veterans have scattered across the globe and are out of touch with government health care networks. "This is an important issue," she said. "We're always interested in finding out how we can reach out to the public."
Vets rememberTo make the case for his reform legislation, Abercrombie has collected the narratives of some veterans who worked around nuclear tests and are suffering multiple cancers and other ailments.

Edward Blas, who lives on Guam, was stationed in the Marshall Islands during the cleanup on Eniwetok Atoll after 43 nuclear tests there. "The evidence was overwhelming that we were exposed to high levels of ionizing radiation while we lived on ground zero," he wrote. Despite the fact that he has never smoked, Blas is anemic and diabetic and weighs half the 220 pounds he did in the service. But his medical claim was denied on the grounds that veterans who served there after the nuclear tests were not considered "atomic vets."

But those were different times. Not much was known about radiation exposure. In the early days of the nation's nuclear program, Cold War imperatives overrode most other concerns.
"I've talked to people who were pretty casual about radiation in the early going," said Richard Rhodes, author of the 900-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Making of the Atomic Bomb." "We were at war and we had to take some risks," Rhodes said in an interview this week.
For Clark, the risks went further than his own body. His daughter lost both breasts, while his granddaughter suffers from skin ailments, all of which he is convinced can be traced back to Nagasaki. "We just never understood what we were getting into back then," Clark said. "We were young kids."

LEARN MORE:Defense Threat Reduction Agency: www.dtra.mil

Department of Veterans Affairs: www.va.gov

Veterans' Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction: www.vbdr.org Liked this story? Get top stories in your inbox each week from Veterans Today ! Sign up now !


Monday, August 24, 2009

Shinseki Moves to Simplify PTSD Compensation Rules

Secretary Shinseki Moves to Simplify PTSD Compensation Rules

WASHINGTON (Aug. 24, 2009) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking
steps to assist Veterans seeking compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD).

"The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and
comprehensively by this administration as we move VA forward in its
transformation to the 21st century," said Secretary Shinseki.

The VA is publishing a proposed regulation today in the Federal Register
to make it easier for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by
reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed by a Veteran is
related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. Comments on
the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days. A final
regulation will be published after consideration of all comments

Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor
related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA
psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience
recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the
Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.

Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a
non-combat Veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile
military activity. This rule would simplify the development that is
required for these cases.

PTSD is a recognized anxiety disorder that can follow seeing or
experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or
serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear,
helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon in war.

Feelings of fear, confusion or anger often subside, but if the feelings
don't go away or get worse, a Veteran may have PTSD.

VA is bolstering its mental health capacity to serve combat Veterans,
adding thousands of new professionals to its rolls in the last four
years. The Department also has established a suicide prevention
helpline (1-800-273-TALK) and Web site available for online chat in the
evenings at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans
<http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/> .

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

By Judith Snyderman
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 – Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey -- a Vietnam veteran, film actor and TV host -- shared observations about modern military technology and his visits with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable today.

“They’re just as ready to eat their own guts out today as they ever were back in my time,” he said. “The only difference is we’ve got better equipment, better gear, better toys, and I spend as much time as I can with them.”

Ermey said he’s surprised by the enduring popularity of his 1987 acting role as a quintessential drill sergeant in the film “Full Metal Jacket.”

“When I go to the military bases and make an appearance, I just go hang out with the guys and give them a good talking-to and tell them my corny jokes, and then I’ll sit down and sign autographs,” he said. “And every time, thousands of copies of “Full Metal Jacket” pop up from somewhere – they’re still selling these damned things.”

Though Ermey retired from the military in 1971, he’s continued to work with fighting forces as a member of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor’s Association. He also appears in films, and is widely known as the exuberant host of cable television’s ‘Lock N Load,’ a documentary about robotic equipment, and the former host of ‘Mail Call.’

“I have some of these future weapons on the show ‘Lock N Load,’” he said. “We just did a non-line-of-sight canon; it’s a 155 mm howitzer, and you can push a button and 27 miles away an enemy tank disappears,” Ermey said.

Another show features a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle that has the potential to stop pirates operating off the coast of Somalia. “We highlight this helicopter, and we talk about the fact that it doesn’t require a pilot to put his life on the line and take risks,” he said. “It can go out 100 miles from a ship and land on a bow of a ship.”

But so far, technology hasn’t made war casualty-free, Ermey acknowledged. “It’s always going to be dangerous; there’s no question about it,” he said. “But the objective is to make it as safe as we possibly can for the young people.”

Ermey said his television shows aim to build public appreciation for the military.

“It kind of wakes people up as to who the military is,” he said. “They are very honorable, upstanding young American citizens out there, doing the dirty job that nobody else seems like they want to do in America.”

The actor adopted his drill sergeant-style movie persona to make another point. “People need to wake up, pull their heads out of their posteriors and get with the program!” he barked. “Support the troops!”

Ermey has been to Iraq four times and to Afghanistan twice, and said he plans to return to Afghanistan in December. His television program, “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Ermey,” airs on the History Channel.

(Judith Snyderman works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

Related Sites:
"DoDLive" Bloggers Roundtable

Friday, August 21, 2009

WASHINGTON – Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.

The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.

The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.

Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost $37,000.

The details on the alleged improprieties were in two IG reports issued this week. VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the agency was extremely concerned about the IG's findings and would pursue a thorough review.

"VA does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate correction action for those who violate VA policy," Roberts said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

On Friday, Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said if the allegations are found to be true, individuals involved should lose their jobs, and legal action should be taken.

"America's veterans served their nation honorably and with no expectations of reward," Davis said in an e-mail. "It should not be too much to ask for that same level of commitment from government employees, too."

And Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the top Republican on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said Congress should investigate.

The number of claims the VA needs to process has escalated, and the Information and Technology Office has a critical role in improving the technological infrastructure to handle the increase. President Barack Obama has said creating a seamless transition for records between the Pentagon and the VA could help eliminate a backlog that has left some veterans waiting months for a disability check.

Much of the IG's focus was on Duncan, the former executive assistant to the ex-assistant secretary for information and technology, Robert Howard.

In one situation, a part-time intern with connections to Duncan was allowed to convert to a full-time paid position even though the individual was working a part-time schedule 500 miles away at college, the IG said.

"We have never known of any other new VA employee provided such favorable treatment," the IG said.

The individual's name and relationship to Duncan was blacked out, as were many other names in the reports.

Investigators recommended that the employees who received the college money pay it back. The largest amount awarded was $33,000.

In addition to Duncan, three other high-level employees received $73,000, $58,000 and $59,000 in bonuses in 2007 and 2008, the IG said. In 2007 alone, 4,700 employees were awarded bonuses, on average $2,500 each.

Some employees were given cash awards for services that were supposedly provided before the employees started working at VA, the IG said.

A man who answered the phone at Duncan's residence in Rehoboth Beach, Del., said she was not available, and he said not to call back.

The IG also found that Katherine Adair Martinez, deputy assistant secretary for information protection and risk management in the Office of Information and Technology, misused her position, abused her authority and engaged in prohibited personnel practices when she influenced a VA contractor and later VA subordinates to employ a friend.

The IG also said Martinez "took advantage of an inappropriate personal relationship" with Howard to transfer her job to Florida. In the nine months after she moved, the IG said Martinez traveled to Washington 22 times "to accomplish tasks that she could easily do from Florida."

The relationship between Martinez and Howard started in April 2007 and continued several months after Howard left the VA in January of this year, the IG said.

Roberts' e-mail did not address a request from the AP to speak with Martinez. Howard could not be immediately located for comment.

Indiana Rep. Steve Buyer, top Republican on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, urged quick action to fix the problems. "VA must appoint honorable individuals to these critical positions," he said.

The VA has faced criticism before in its awarding of bonuses. In 2007, the AP reported that the then-VA secretary had approved a generous package of more than $3.8 million in bonus payments in 2006, citing a need to retain longtime VA executives.


On the Net:

Reports from VA Inspector General:



Thursday, August 20, 2009

VA Annouces Funding for Cemetery

Secretary Shinseki Announces $8.8 Million for Washington Cemetery

Facility Would Be First of its Kind in State

WASHINGTON (Aug. 20, 2009) - Ensuring that military Veterans living in
eastern Washington have a final resting place that honors their service
to the nation, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced
the award of $8.8 million to establish the Washington State Veterans
Cemetery in Medical Lake.

"This is our first opportunity to partner with the state's Department of
Veterans Affairs to establish a state Veterans cemetery," Secretary
Shinseki said. "We are proud to work with them to commemorate the
service and sacrifice of Washington's Veterans."

The project will provide construction of the main entrance, a committal
shelter, pre-placed crypts, standard burial areas, columbarium,
in-ground cremains burial areas, roads, a maintenance facility, an
assembly area and supporting infrastructure. Interment areas and
facilities will include 1,280 standard burial plots; 2,000 pre-placed
crypts; 1,370 in-ground cremain sites and 2,240 columbarium niches.

The cemetery will serve approximately 90,000 Washington Veterans and
their families. The nearest national cemetery is VA's Tahoma National
Cemetery in Kent, Wash., approximately 250 miles away.

The 80-acre site is located northwest of Medical Lake just off West
Espanola Road and about 15 miles southwest of Spokane. The first phase
of the project will develop approximately 15-20 acres.

VA's State Cemetery Grants Program is designed to complement VA's 130
national cemeteries across the country. Since 1980, the program has
awarded grants totaling more than $349 million to establish, expand or
improve 74 Veterans cemeteries in 38 states or territories including
Guam and Saipan. These state cemeteries provided nearly 25,000 burials
in 2008.

Residents of Washington who are Veterans with a discharge issued under
conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent
children can be buried in the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in
Medical Lake.

For more information about the Washington state Veterans cemetery at
Medical Lake, visit the Web site at
www.dva.wa.gov/eastern_wa_vet_cemetery.html or call (509) 496-0796.

Information about VA burial benefits can be obtained from national
cemetery offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov
<http://www.cem.va.gov/> or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at

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Dwight D. Eisenhower exit speech on Jan.17,1961. Warning us of the military industrial complex.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

News about friends BG Bert Mizusawa and Col David Griifith (who became a member of ACWV at our 2008 DC meeting)

BG Bert Mizusawa is taking a run at Congress and Col Griffith just spoke at VFW convention.
Below note I recieved from the General and link to the VFW Blog with story about Col Griffith :


I hope this finds you well. Just wanted to let you know I am looking at a run for Congress in Virginia's second district (Va Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Eastern Shore), which is the most military district in the Nation.
Best wishes, Bert
Col. Griffith Army FTS-VFW Story

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For weeks now, health care reform has taken center stage in Washington, on every news program, and in contentious town halls across the country. Not even the Army's troubling suicide numbers, the fate of the American POW being held by the Taliban, or the elections being held this week in Afghanistan have been able to break through this non-stop media circus.

After the new GI Bill went into effect earlier this month, it looked like August might actually be a slow time for vets' issues. I was prepared to spend hours watching pre-season football and America's Best Dance Crew. But then veterans joined doctors, the British and everybody's Grandma as the latest group to be thrust into the national health care fight. And maybe it's about time. The "health care reform will destroy the VA" rumors were starting to pop up at town halls almost as frequently as protesters with handguns.

So this week, we got a brief respite from the "public options" and the "death panels" to hear from the Administration about the implications of the proposed health care reform on the nation's largest health care provider, the VA. Hundreds of veterans were in attendance to hear President Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki address this issue firsthand at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention and two town halls in Pennsylvania. They promised America's veterans that despite the rumors, VA health care will be protected.

There are still many unknowns about the direction the country will take with health care reform. But one thing is certain: any national health care plan must ensure that all veterans can continue to take full advantage of VA health care - without added penalty or cost. Veterans groups have been united in voicing this position loud and clear. The VA may not be perfect, but it is a critical part of the sacred covenant that exists between the American public and its veterans.

Despite its well-publicized challenges in recent years, the VA health care system delivers the highest quality services to millions of veterans. With more than 170 hospitals, hundreds of clinics, and Vet Centers, the VA is seen as a leader in the health care industry for its medical research, electronic health records, and patient satisfaction scores. Experts widely agree that VA health care is "equivalent to, or better than, care in any private or public health care system." And while improvements must be made with regards to access to care, the veterans' health care system must be protected.

But we can't stop there. We must also find ways to improve the VA, a health care system that serves 8 million veterans. In the coming months, politicians on both sides of the aisle must work together to improve mental health care, expand rural access to the VA, and improve services for female veterans. With the country now focused on health care, there is no better time to address the unique health care challenges facing veterans.

Yesterday, President Obama pledged, "One thing that reform won't change is veterans' health care. No one is going to take away your benefits. That's the truth." When Congress returns to work in September, IAVA and veterans of all generations will be there to ensure this promise is kept.

Crossposted at www.IAVA.org

Monday, August 17, 2009

VFW Convention



Attached is a flyer from Yeshiva University School of Social Work. The
flyer contains a link to a survey for OEF / OIF veterans transitioning
home from tours abroad. As we all realize approximately 80% of
veterans do not utilize VA health care services. We are partnering
with private health care providers to ensure our warriors receive the
best care possible. To that end the attached "strictly confidential"
survey will help those private health care providers to better
understand the needs of our returning warriors, as well as guide them
in the appropriate delivery of services.

The survey only takes a few minutes to complete, but the data compiled
just might save lives. Please help us to help them. Your assistance in
completing, and/or distributing the attachment is greatly appreciated.
Should you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact
me directly, or Dr. Beder (contact information on flyer). Thanking you
in advance.

 Donald D. Overton, Jr.
Executive Director
Veterans of Modern Warfare
#33107 PO Box 96503Washington, DC 20090-6503




Please consider participating in a research study about your reentry
after serving in the OEF/OIF initiatives.

WHO: If you are a Service Member who served in Afghanistan or Iraq,
you are eligible. All information is strictly confidential……..There
is no way that anyone will know who you are or where you are from.

WHAT is involved: A survey that you can fill out on your computer.
Just click on this link and answer the questions, should take about 15

WHERE: In your home, you do the survey on your computer.

WHEN: As soon as possible……

WHY: So your experience can help others who will be returning home.

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS: Contact Dr. Joan Beder at beder@yu.edu

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pres. Obama to speak Monday Watch the VFW 110th National Convention LIVE from Phoenix, Arizona!


VFW-TV- livestreaming video powered by Livestream

Shared via AddThis

Watch the VFW 110th National Convention LIVE from Phoenix, Arizona!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Every Veteran Should read this The 2009 Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors

2009 Edition

Introduction and Acronyms

Chapter 1: VA Health Care

Chapter 2: Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities

Chapter 3: VA Pensions

Chapter 4: Education and Training

Chapter 5: Home Loan Guaranty

Chapter 6: VA Life Insurance

Chapter 7: Burial and Memorial Benefits

Chapter 8: Reserve and National Guard

Chapter 9: Special Groups of Veterans

Chapter 10: Transition Assistance

Chapter 11: Dependents and Survivors

Chapter 12: VA Claims Decisions Appeals

Chapter 13: Military Medals and Records

Chapter 14: Other Federal Benefits VA Facilities

VA Facilities

Phone Numbers and Web Sites

PDF Version

La versión 2009 del folleto "Beneficios Federales para los Veteranos y sus Dependientes" esta en el processo de traducion. Va estar disponible en esta pagina de web cuando esta traducido en Español. La versión 2008

To view PDF documents, you need a PDF viewer.

Expansion of Counseling for Combat Veterans

Secretary Shinseki Announces Expansion of Counseling for Combat Veterans

Additional 28 New Community Vet Centers

WASHINGTON (August 14, 2009) - Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric
K. Shinseki announced that combat Veterans will receive readjustment
counseling and other assistance in 28 additional communities across the
country where the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will establish Vet
Centers in 2010.

"VA is committed to providing high-quality outreach and readjustment
counseling to all combat Veterans," Secretary Shinseki said. "These 28
new Vet Centers will address the growing need for those services."

The community-based Vet Centers -- already in all 50 states -- are a key
component of VA's mental health program, providing Veterans with mental
health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counseling.

The existing 232 centers conduct community outreach to offer counseling
on employment, family issues and education to combat Veterans and family
members, as well as bereavement counseling for families of
servicemembers killed on active duty and counseling for Veterans who
were sexually harassed on active duty.

Vet Center services are earned through service in a combat zone or area
of hostility and are provided at no cost to Veterans or their families.
They are staffed by small multi-disciplinary teams, which may include
social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master's-level
counselors and outreach specialists. Over 70 percent of Vet Center
employees are Veterans themselves, a majority of whom served in combat

The Vet Center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing
that many Vietnam Veterans were still having readjustment problems. In
2008, the Vet Center program provided over 1.1 million visits to over
167,000 Veterans, including over 53,000 visits by more than 14,500
Veteran families. More information about Vet Centers can be found at

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Saturday, August 08, 2009


Almost one million Cold War veterans will now be eligible to receive real property tax exemptions, thanks to a new bill sponsored by state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and signed into law by Gov. David Paterson Tuesday.

The legislation will make it possible for municipalities to offer increased property tax exemptions to Cold War vets, who are defined as those servicemen and servicewomen who served in active duty in the United States armed forces between Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 26, 1991. The time period encompasses World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Persian Gulf Conflict.

is an honor to demonstrate and recognize the respect that is owed to our veterans and to acknowledge their courageous acts and accomplishments,” Addabbo said.
Benefits of the bill include facilitating the procedure by excluding the requirement of a municipality to submit a “home rule” bill, which was previously needed in determining a real property tax exemption. Towns and cities can now legally offer higher property tax exemptions to Cold War veterans and, additionally, cooperative and tenant-stock holders who reside in co-ops can apply for property tax exemptions on their dwellings.
For more information on the new exemptions for Cold War veterans, call Addabbo’s office at (718) 738-1111.
— Lisa Fogarty

The Cold War plane painstakingly restored in Bruntingthorpe is expected to take to the skies for Cosby Victory Show on September 5 and 6.

Organisers of the event had hoped the plane would appear at the event in 2008 – but heavy rains put paid to the weekend, leaving thousands of enthusiasts disappointed.
If the Vulcan XH558 is cleared for take off it will be the first time it has flown a display in Leicestershire since before it was retired in 1993.

Since then it has had a £7m restoration at Bruntingthorpe before it moved to its temporary home at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, in June.

Victory show organiser Steve Pepper said: "It will be a great crowd puller and we are hopeful it will be able to fly on the day.

"We are lucky to get it and I am sure if it appears it will touch a lot of people's hearts."
The Vulcan is expected to recreate the bombing run over Stanley Airfield – during the Falklands War in 1982 – in front of an anticipated crowd of 10,000.
Richard Clarke, from the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said: "It will be a fantastic occasion.

"Her home has been in Leicestershire since 1993 and the people of the county have supported her restoration.
"To be able to see her at a proper display would be fitting reward.
"She has proved this year she is able to fly and we are hoping that will be the case on the day."

Cosby Victory Show was first organised in 2005, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE Day.

The size of the site used has more than doubled in its five-year history as it has expanded.

Other attractions this year include displays by Spitfire, Hurricane and Mustang aircraft.

On the ground, a series of battle reenactments will be performed by 35 groups and there will be displays of wartime vehicles and memorabilia.
Tickets for the show cost £10 for adults, £5 for children. Second World War veterans and under-fives get in free.
For more, call 0116 284 9899 or 07551 658 371.

Friday, August 07, 2009

How West Point Tops the Ivy League

How West Point beats the Ivy League.

America's Best Colleges

College senior Raymond Vetter gets up at dawn to fit in a run or a workout. Then, hair shorn neatly and pants pressed, he marches into breakfast, where he sits in an assigned seat. After six hours of instruction in such subjects as Japanese literature and systems engineering, two hours of intramural sports and another family-style meal with underclassmen, Vetter rushes to return to his room by the 11:30 p.m. curfew.

Most college students, we think, do not march to meals. A goodly number of them drink into the wee hours, duck morning classes and fail to hit the gym with any regularity. But Vetter, 21, is a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where college life is a bit different.

According to students, alumni, faculty and higher education experts, the undergraduate experience at West Point and the other service academies is defined by an intense work ethic and a drive to succeed on all fronts. "We face challenges and obstacles that not every college student has to face, but we are able to be competitive in all the different areas, from sports to academics," Vetter says.

No alcohol is allowed in the dorms and freshmen are given only one weekend leave per semester. That rigor, combined with the virtue of a free education, has made West Point tops in FORBES' list of the best colleges in the country, up from sixth place last year. The rankings are compiled in conjunction with Ohio University economist Richard Vedder and his Center for College Affordability & Productivity.

In Pictures: America's 50 Best Colleges

See the full list: America's Best Colleges

West Point excels in most measures. It graduates 80% of its students in four years. It is fourth in winners of Rhodes scholarships since 1923 (ahead of Stanford), sixth in Marshalls since 1982 (ahead of Columbia and Cornell) and fourth in Trumans since 1992 (ahead of Princeton and Duke). This year 4 out of 37 Gates scholars, who earn a full ride to study at the University of Cambridge in England, graduated from the service academies. The Gates roster includes four Yale grads, one from Harvard and none from Princeton.

"I think I got a lot out of it," says Joseph M. DePinto, USMA class of '86 and chief executive of 7-Eleven. "Just the discipline, the approach I take to leadership, the understanding of the importance of teamwork. All of that stuff I learned at West Point, and I think that's what helped me be successful."
Classes are small, with no more than 18 students. Cadets work their way through a core curriculum in which an English major has to take calculus and a chemist has to take a philosophy course. Since there are no graduate programs, faculty and administrators can focus on the undergraduates.

"If you really look at Brown University or Boston College or Stanford, their number one mission is likely not to teach. It's to bring research dollars to the campus … to write the next book that will get them on CNN," says James Forest, an associate professor at West Point who is the director of terrorism studies. "Pressure to be that kind of new academic star isn't there [at West Point]."

A big factor in its top rank is that grads leave without a penny of tuition loans to repay. The Army picks up all costs and pays the cadets a stipend of $895 a month. On graduation, they start as second lieutenants, earning $69,000 a year. They have to serve in the armed forces for five years plus three more years of inactive reserve duty. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have pulled 15% of reservists into active duty.

West Point has plenty of critics. In April Thomas E. Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has covered the military, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post ( WPO - news - people ), calling on the government to shut the military academies. West Point doesn't produce officers of any higher caliber, he argues, than a graduate from another elite school who has participated in an ROTC program. "It's not better than Harvard," he says, citing the fact that the majority of West Point professors don't have Ph.D.s and the school's traditionally weak treatment of crucial subjects like anthropology, history and foreign languages.

It also produces young people more prone to groupthink than to groundbreaking ideas. W. Patrick Lang, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a professor of Arabic at West Point in the 1970s, says the service academies "haven't been very good at producing people who were very good at humanistic, open-ended problems."

Bruce Fleming, who has been teaching English for 22 years at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., faults the service academies for their rigidity. "I really love my students. I just do. It's an institution that grinds students down," he says.

But the cadets know the drill: job security. Leadership training. Lifelong friendships. "A West Point diploma is at least as impressive as a Harvard diploma for a lot of things," says Robert Farley, an assistant professor of national security at the University of Kentucky. "Were I an employer, I'd have utter faith in a graduate of the service academies."

"We are giving up what may be the quintessential college experience. But we're getting a job where we're immediately in a leadership position, not a back-room job where who knows what your chances of promotion are," says Elizabeth Betterbed, 20, of Fox Island, Wash., one of the 699 female cadets at West Point. "Like any other school you incur a debt, and for us it only takes five years to pay off. It's really nothing."

Behind the Numbers

Our college rankings are based on five criteria: graduation rate (how good a college is at helping its students finish on time); the number of national and global awards won by students and faculty; students' satisfaction with their instructors; average debt upon graduation; and postgraduate vocational success as measured by a recent graduate's average salary and alumni achievement. We prize the undergraduate experience and how well prepared students are for the real world rather than focusing on inputs such as acceptance rates and test scores. Our data are from publicly available sources rather than surveys filled out by the schools themselves. Special thanks to Richard Vedder and his research team at Ohio University.

Top 5 Colleges

1. United States Military Academy

2. Princeton University

3. California Institute of Technology

4. Williams College

5. Harvard University

VFW is pleased to announce — for the first time in convention history — this year’s VFW National Convention will stream live on www.vfw.org from the Phoenix Convention Center.

Live streaming is set to begin at 8:00 a.m. (MST) on August 17, during the call to order of the VFW/VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Joint Opening Session. The live stream will continue for the duration of the session, including presentations of the VFW Hall of Fame Award to Connie Stevens, the VFW Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award to Gen. Michael Hayden (ret.), as well as appearances by many other notable guests.

Streaming of VFW general sessions will continue live August 18 – 20, beginning at 8:00 a.m. Replays will run from approximately 1 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. the next day.

Don’t miss Buzz Aldrin, Scott Carpenter, World Wrestling Entertainment’s Sgt. Slaughter, the installation of our next VFW Commander-in-Chief Tommy Tradewell and much more!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

South Korean special warfare command soldiers take part in a sea infiltration drill against possible threats from North Korea at Taean seashore, South Korea. The Korean peninsula is the world's last Cold War frontier as North and South Korea have been technically at war since the 1950-53 conflict.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

EXACTLY one-half century ago, one of the great confrontational moments of the cold war seized the world’s attention: Nikita Khrushchev, bombastic anti-capitalist leader of the Soviet Union, and Richard Nixon, vice president of the United States with the reputation of a hard-line anti-communist, came to rhetorical grips in the model kitchen of the “typical American house” at the 1959 American exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow.

I was in that kitchen, not because I then had anything to do with Nixon, the exhibition’s official host, but as a young press agent for the American company that built the house. The exhibit was designed to show Russians that free enterprise produced goods that made life better for average Americans. However, my client’s house was not on the official tour.

Instead, “Nik and Dick,” as the adversaries were promptly dubbed, were steered into the RCA color television exhibit, a consumer marvel at the time. This display of technical superiority must have irritated the Russian leader, who noticed the taping going on and demanded “a full translation” of his remarks be broadcast in English in the United States. Nixon, in his role as genial host, readily agreed, expressing a hope for similar treatment of his remarks in Russia.

Khrushchev then promptly denounced a recent proclamation by the United States of “Captive Nations Week” — dedicated to praying for “peoples enslaved by the Soviet Union” — as an example of thoughtless provocation. “You have churned the water yourselves,” he warned the vice president. “What black cat crossed your path and confused you?” Then he wrapped his arms around a nearby Russian workman: “Does this man look like a slave laborer?”

Nixon, trying to be Mr. Nice Guy, noted that Russian and American workers had cooperated in building the exhibition and added: “There must be an exchange of ideas. After all, you don’t know everything — ” At which point Khrushchev snapped, “If I don’t know everything, you don’t know anything about communism — except fear of it.” On the defensive, Nixon said, “The way you dominate the conversation ... if you were in the United States Senate you would be accused of filibustering.”

Coming out of the RCA studio and being led into the innocuous Pepsi exhibit, Nixon looked glum; by playing the gracious host in the face of an aggressive debater, he had made a mistake soon to be replayed by leaders around the world. His military aide, Maj. Don Hughes, was looking around for a venue — off the planned route — where the vice president could regroup in front of the crowd of reporters.

I hollered at Major Hughes, “This way to the typical American house!” He didn’t hesitate, steering Nixon, Khrushchev and their entourages off the path and toward the structure we called “the Splitnik,” because it had a path cut through the middle to allow crowds to walk through the interior.

Problem: the momentum of the following crowd threatened to push the party all the way through the house without stopping. Thanks to Gilbert Robinson, a coordinator of the exhibition (and later head of State Department public diplomacy in the Reagan years), I arranged to make a certain section of fence disappear, allowing a crowd from the other side to spill in and trapping the official party inside the house. Nixon made a beeline to the railing that exposed the kitchen.

Nixon: “I want to show you this kitchen. It’s like those of houses in California. See that built-in washing machine?”

Khrushchev: “We have such things.”

Nixon: “What we want to do is make more easy the life of our housewives.”

Khrushchev: “We do not have the capitalist attitude toward women.”

Next problem: during this opening banter, I was in the kitchen, but the principals’ backs were to the reporters, who couldn’t hear. Harrison Salisbury of The Times, who spoke Russian, was trying to squeeze past burly Russian guards into the kitchen; I explained to them that he was the refrigerator demonstrator. They let Harrison in; he sat on the floor and took notes for the press pool.

read rest of NY Times article

VA works to prevent veterans from repeating crimes

DENVER — Bracing for an influx of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an ambitious effort to locate veterans who’ve had minor brushes with the law and offer them treatment to try to prevent repeat crimes.

The VA started its Veterans Justice Outreach Program early this year — before public attention intensified on a handful of Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning from a deployment where they faced intense combat. Most of the soldiers had been arrested for domestic violence, assault, illegal gun possession, and alcohol and drug charges before the slayings.

A July 15 Army report said more study is needed to link the soldiers’ alleged crimes with their heavy combat duty and lengthy deployments in Iraq.

The VA is training 145 specialists at its hospitals nationwide to help veterans who are in jails awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences. Other VA programs aim to prevent homelessness and help veterans readjust after serving prison terms for serious crimes.

To date, more than 1.9 million U.S. service members have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest deployment since 3.4 million were sent to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War.

“Some of them are obviously struggling,” Jim McGuire, Los Angeles-based director of the VA’s incarcerated veterans outreach programs, said of returning war vets. “The VA is very attuned to this and received an education about all this after Vietnam when the whole issue of PTSD came up.”

In a typical case, VA specialists would provide a civilian court a report on an accused veteran’s medical history — and available VA benefits or programs that might help. It’s up to prosecutors and judges to use that information when deciding if a veteran should undergo treatment instead of incarceration.

The VA also is participating in 10 “veterans courts” to help former service members accused of crimes get into treatment programs in exchange for reduced sentences or dismissed charges. More than 40 such courts are planned across the country, including one near Fort Carson, McGuire said.

The courts are patterned after drug courts where defendants are offered treatment instead of jail.

Part of the challenge in finding out who’s in trouble is persuading counties to identify veterans in their jails. Only a handful of U.S. counties, including Los Angeles, Hamilton County, Ohio, and Alachua County, Fla., track veterans for VA outreach programs, McGuire said.

In 2002 — before the Iraq War — the Department of Justice reported that veterans accounted for roughly 10 percent of the nation’s jail and prison population. Those are the latest figures available.

Advocates say some war veterans facing lesser charges may be self-medicating or acting out as a result of untreated post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

“It’s a whole cluster of issues,” said Robert Alvarez, who works with injured soldiers at Fort Carson through his affiliation with the National Organization on Disability. He is helping set up the local veterans court. “Some of these guys carry guilt, some remorse for what they had to do, some remorse about the friends they lost, the comrades who they watched die,” he said.

Police encounters and pretrial proceedings are often missed opportunities to connect with mental health services, said Bradley Schaffer, director of the veterans housing program at the VA hospital in Butler, Pa., in an article to be published in the American Jail Association’s magazine this fall.

An evaluation of a VA outreach program Schaffer started in Cincinnati found 399 veterans last year in jails and prisons in southern Ohio and a corrections center in Northern Kentucky.

About 80 of the veterans served in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and 160 served during the Vietnam War. As a group, the veterans’ crimes ranged from probation violations to murder; their ages ranged from 20 to 80.

Schaffer, a former psychiatry professor at the University of Cincinnati, warns against veterans automatically blaming problems on their military service.

“Someone who says, ‘I’m an alcohol and drug addict because I’m a veteran,’ during noncombat periods, I find that very suspicious,” Schaffer said in an interview.

On the Net:

VA Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative: www1.va.gov/homeless/docs/VJO(underscore)Fact(underscore)Sheet.pdf

VA PTSD information: www.ptsd.va.gov

National Organization on Disability: www.nod.org

The New GI Bill: Just the Beginning

This is nothing short of historic and we should be proud.

Yesterday, IAVA's Pat Campbell joined President Obama, VA Secretary Shinseki, Members of Congress and IAVA Member Veterans at a celebration for the new GI Bill, which went into effect on Saturday.

With over 125,000 veterans already signed up for the benefit, this is the week we begin building a new generation of American leaders.

And that's what Pat told CNN when he was interviewed about this historic milestone and IAVA's leadership role in getting the bill passed. Click here to watch the clip.

The VA's system to claim GI Bill benefits is complicated. To simplify the process, IAVA created NewGIBill.org, the premiere online resource for the new GI Bill. Thousands of vets have already used this one stop shop to calculate benefits and get questions answered.

When we started this fight two years ago, many people said we couldn't do it and the GI Bill would never get passed. Yet here we are, and now the lives of millions of vets will never be the same.

Years from now, we'll look back on this week as the start of something momentous.

Thank you for standing with us.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How the war in Iraq has shaped a new US military mind-set
The US Army is seeking to sustain the adaptability and creativity officers gained in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By Tom A. Peter | Correspondent

from the August 2, 2009 edition

Baquba, Iraq - If anything is certain for Lt. Col. Matthew Anderson and the nearly 500 men under his command, it's that they can expect to spend the least amount of their time doing their designated job as artillerymen.

Over the course of the unit's 10 months in Iraq, they've cleared houses rigged with explosives, helped refugees return home, and worked to restore Diyala Province's irrigation system. In the process, they've shifted from a cold-war mind-set of following rigid doctrine to a new approach that requires flexibility and creativity.

When Anderson tasked Capt. Todd Tatum to lead his company in clearing enemy weapons caches in the palm groves outside Naquib, a town in Diyala, the company commander responded with an unexpected request: set fire to the palm groves.

"I was like, 'What?!'" recalls Anderson, who comes off as the friendly guy next door rather than a hardened battle commander.

With the thick undergrowth, the mission would be dangerous. Tatum explained that he could get the landowner's permission and burn away the underbrush without damaging the trees. After some discussion Anderson agreed and managed to get approval from his commanders, who initially shared his first response. The mission became hugely successful and was a critical step that enabled many displaced people to return to Naquib.

Military to cultivate creativity

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military has looked to both veteran officers – such as Anderson, who came of age during the cold war – and young lieutenants and captains to adapt and implement new strategies on the fly. As American involvement in Iraq winds down, the military is looking to ingrain those skills in future leaders across its ranks – many of whom earned their chops here.

"We've developed a generation that has ... gained invaluable experience fighting a counterinsurgency, so 10 years from now, if that's where we're at, these young men and women that have served here will be able to go back [to] that experience," says Anderson. "They'll create that culture of out-of-the-box thinking, which is what's needed to be successful rather than the old cookie-cutter solutions."

But ironically, trying to develop a curriculum that teaches the kind of creativity required in a counterinsurgency only succeeds in creating a new doctrine just as rigid as those from the cold war, says James Carafano, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel and former West Point professor.

"[Secretary of Defense Robert Gates] is going to institutionalize what he thinks is creativity and innovation and actually what he's going to be doing is killing creativity and innovation," says Mr. Carafano, currently a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "He's focusing on, 'I need people who can really understand counterinsurgency' ... [when] you need people who can be adaptive and creative and can be critical thinkers and decisionmakers."

A shift from the cold war mentality

When Anderson graduated from West Point in 1988, the Berlin Wall was still standing. Though he credits his education with providing general problem-solving skills, his main focus as a cadet was how to deal with the Soviet threat. "When I joined, we really hadn't been in a war since Vietnam. There was Grenada and that was about it," says Anderson. "I was raised in fighting this huge conventional fight against the Soviet Union."

Anderson's first combat experience during Desert Storm was more or less like the big army war he'd been prepared for. As a young lieutenant he commanded a howitzer platoon, maneuvered with a large unit, and fired shells on Iraqi military positions.

But when the US got involved in the Balkans, Anderson began to notice a shift in military operations. As an instructor at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Fort Polk, La., where the Army created miniature Bosnian villages complete with Bosnians and livestock, Anderson would critique mock missions through the "towns."

Although the demands of the Bosnian mission were far from the challenges that would face soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Anderson says that shifting from conventional war to a peacekeeping mission was a pivotal step in later shifting to the counterinsurgency mind-set.

"The thing that I pulled most ... was the US and our role as an honest broker and how to mediate between different parties with certainly different objectives," says Anderson.

US Army Capt. Joey Williams, whose 1-5 Infantry Battalion serves alongside Anderson's 2-8 Field Artillery battalion, was in his first semester at West Point when the Sept. 11 attacks happened and the US moved toward a new type of war. Williams became one of the first students to take the military academy's new counterinsurgency class in preparation for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Our core military history courses talked about counterinsurgency as a thing that happened, but not really a conceptual idea that you would actually have to know about," says Williams.

Perhaps the biggest question for the military's future is how many experienced soldiers they'll retain. Like Anderson, who has served four tours in Iraq since the war began in 2003, many soldiers in his unit have deployed multiple times.

Still, Anderson has cause to be optimistic that many experienced soldiers will stay. His unit had a goal to reenlist 61 soldiers. Nearly double that number – 121 – decided to.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Almost five years into the Afghanistan war and three years into the Iraq war, something started to nag at me, something just didn’t seem right.

In spite of the high number of casualties (killed in action and seriously maimed and wounded); in spite of the heroic deeds we knew our brave troops were accomplishing; and in spite of the importance of those wars to the security of our country, a woefully small number of Medals of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for battlefield valor, were being awarded.

In letters to the editor and in other articles, I questioned this troubling phenomenon, and in my own small way I urged our military and national leaders to look into this issue.

For example, in August 2006, in a letter, ”Recognize Our Heroes,” and commenting on an Op-Ed by Joseph A. Kinney on this very same issue, I wrote in part:

In a war touted by our president as being for such a noble cause, I cannot think of a more noble gesture than for him to recognize what surely are instances of “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life,” as the citation for the [M]edal [of Honor] reads.

At the time, our nation had seen fit to award the Medal of Honor to only one hero of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith (Sgt. Smith received his Medal posthumously).

At that time, we had already lost more than 2,800 of our brave troops in the two wars.

At the time, I was hoping that many more of our heroes were being considered for our nation’s highest military decoration—I was hoping that many more recommendations were “in the pipeline.”

But this was not to be.

Three months later, the second Medal of Honor was awarded.

In a December 11, 2006, letter in the Air Force Times, I wrote how inspiring the heroic actions that earned Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham the Medal of Honor were, and commented:

Not so inspiring is the fact that the Medal of Honor for this hero is only the second awarded in the war on terrorism. After five years of combat in the Afghanistan-Iraq theater, it is baffling that only two Medals of Honor have been awarded to our war heroes. In contrast, there were 245 Medal of Honor recipients during the Vietnam War, and 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for the single World War II battle of Iwo Jima.

Of course, I was not the only one who noticed such dearth of recognition.

Joseph Kinney—mentioned above—was one of them. Several others have done likewise.

But perhaps the most factual and seminal account of this breakdown in respect and recognition for our heroes was written by Brendan McGarry, staff writer at the Military Times, in March of this year.

McGarry starts his column, “Death before this honor,” with these words: “The number of Medal of Honor recipients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be counted on one hand.”

Keep in mind; it is now March 2009, more than seven years into the war in Afghanistan, six years into the war in Iraq. Almost 5,000 of our troops have been killed and more than 32,000 have been wounded in the two wars.

And the number of those considered worthy of our nation’s highest military award for battlefield heroism “can be counted on one hand.”?

In “Mr. President: The Medal of Honor, Why a Measly Five?” I discussed McGarry’s superb column, including these cold, hard facts:

From World War I through Vietnam, the rate of Medal of Honor recipients per 100,000 service members stayed between 2.3 (Korea) and 2.9 (World War II). But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only five Medals of Honor have been awarded, a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 — one in a million.

McGarry’s article also disputes the often-heard excuses about bureaucracy, red tape, the lengthy approval process, etc.

For example:

It took just 6½ months for the Clinton administration to posthumously award Medals of Honor to Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart for heroic action in Somalia on Oct. 3, 1993.

By contrast, during the Bush years, the speediest Medal of Honor approval took 18 months. One took as long as three years.

McGarry also asks whether the process has been “politicized,” and discusses many other factors, statistics, and examples of the kind of heroes who have been awarded—and not awarded—the Medal of Honor.

Last month, President Obama announced that he would be awarding the Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who was killed by enemy fire on June 21, 2006, while trying to rescue wounded comrades in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Monti thus becomes the first hero awarded our nation’s highest honor under the Obama administration, and only the sixth soldier to receive the Medal of Honor after almost eight years of combat in Afghanistan and more than six years of combat in Iraq.

Mr. Obama has been in office for almost seven months—more than enough time to prime and get that “pipeline” flowing again.

When it comes to our heroes, I am an equal opportunity critic. I have decried the dearth of Medals of Honor awarded to our heroes during the Bush administration and I will continue to lament, under our new president, what I feel is a continuing injustice.

Fortunately, those of us who have been a lone voice in the wilderness are no longer alone.

An article in this morning’s New York Times gives me new hope.

In, “Lawmaker Questions Low Medal of Honor Count,” we finally hear, in reference to the six Medals of Honor, that “For some veterans and members of Congress, that last number simply doesn’t add up. They question how so few Medals of Honor — all awarded posthumously — could be bestowed for two wars of such magnitude and duration.”

Again, Pentagon officials attempt to blame this on the changed nature of war, roadside bombs, the lack of firefights and close combat, etc., etc.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., son of Duncan L. Hunter, and a former Marine officer who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, doesn’t accept those explanations. He has sponsored legislation “that directs the secretary of defense to review current trends in awarding the Medal of Honor to determine what’s behind the low count. The bill passed the House. If Senate negotiators go along, Secretary Robert Gates would have to report back by March 31.”

While, in my opinion, this is too much time to review something that is so flagrantly wrong, it is a start.

Hunter has it right when he says:

It seems like our collective standard for who gets the Medal of Honor has been raised…The basis of warfare is you’ve got to take ground and then you’ve got to hold it. That takes people walking into houses, running up hills, killing bad guys and then staying there and rebuffing counterattacks…That’s how warfare has always been no matter how many bombs you drop and how many predators you have flying around.

Kudos to Congressman Hunter and, also, to AMVETS, a veteran’s advocacy group, that supports Hunter’s efforts.

The author of the article, Kevin Freking, also says that it’s unclear exactly how many soldiers have been nominated for the Medal of Honor from the two wars. “But, seven have made it all the way to the secretary of defense, and six were approved. The exception is Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego, Calif.”

Freking is referring to Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen while in the Marine Corps and who gave his life to protect his Marine buddies during a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq.

For his “undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty,” Sergeant Peralta was nominated for the Medal of Honor by the Commandant of the Marine Corps and by the Secretary of the Navy.

Regrettably, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for some yet-to-be-determined reason, rejected the Marine Corps’ recommendation for Sgt. Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor. Instead, Peralta would be receiving the Navy Cross.

I have written extensively on this case, for example in “Stolen Valor at the Highest Levels: The Case of Sgt. Rafael Peralta.”

It is about a travesty that cries for redress. Several California lawmakers, including Congressman Bob Filner, Representative for California’s 51st Congressional District (Sgt. Peralta’s district), have petitioned President Obama to order a review of Peralta’s case.

Hopefully, Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta will become the seventh, or the eighth, or even the 20th recipient of the Medal of Honor for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

by John Ingle
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

7/31/2009 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- More than 50 years of dependable service is a lot to ask, especially from a tool used to train thousands of people in a critical and sometimes dangerous business.

But as men and women in the U.S. Air Force said farewell to the T-37 Tweet July 31, they did so knowing they got all they asked for and more from the venerable training aircraft.

Among those who came to Sheppard to usher out the end of an era and welcome in a new technological advancement in undergraduate pilot training was Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command. His story, like many of those who came before and after him, includes the Tweet, a durable and rugged training platform that provided the foundation of more than 78,000 Air Force, NATO and other international pilots since it became operational in 1957.

The general, who "owns" the final destination of the Tweet -- the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and home to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG -- said his last flight in the venerable Tweet is one that holds a special place in his heart. Not only because of its heritage, but because it was the beginning of his 35-year Air Force career.

His first active assignment was as an 80th Flying Training Wing instructor pilot at Sheppard.

"Because I flew the Sheppard jets during my first assignment, and now have the Boneyard at Tucson as part of Air Force Materiel Command, I have a close sense of identity with the final retirement of this wonderful aircraft," General Hoffman said. "Nothing compares to the feeling of stepping out of the aircraft and launching your student on their first solo ... you can almost see their grin coming out from the edges of their oxygen mask."

The general is part of the group that will take four aircraft to AMARG. Another group will take a couple to the Utah Test and Training Range located at Hill AFB, Utah.

But why has the T-37 been such a dependable beginning trainer for so many pilots?

"For most students, the T-37 is the first jet, the first ejection seat, the first helmet and oxygen mask, and the first formal Air Force flying syllabus they have been exposed to," General Hoffman said. "This can be an intimidating experience, but they get the ground training, simulator training and personalized attention of the instructor to get them through it."

Col. Kevin Schneider, commander of the 80th FTW, said when most people think of the U.S. Air Force and the air forces of NATO partners, they think of fighters and bombers going off to war to preserve freedom and democracy across the world. Those flying the warbirds didn't just get in them and begin to fly. They had to learn how first.

"Combat skill and success doesn't happen overnight and it certainly doesn't start without disciplined training," the colonel said. "The T-37 Tweet has been that starting point for pilots for more than 50 years."

The colonel witnessed a portion of that as a Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training undergraduate pilot training student at Sheppard in the late 80s. He said the Tweet was a very dependable aircraft during his training and remained so until its retirement.

"As the commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing, I have the unique opportunity to retire an incredibly durable trainer that has been the foundation of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program," he said. "The departure of the last few U.S. and German-owned T-37s closes the book on a legacy of success that may never be matched."

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Kendall, deputy director of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration for flying training at Air Education and Training Command and commander of the 80th FTW from January 2005 to August 2007, recalled his first experience with the Tweet when he began pilot training in the ENJJPT program at Sheppard.

He described his "dollar ride," or first student flight, during his comments at the ceremony. He said he was a nervous, yet excited student watching his instructor, Danish air force Capt. Gullach Tousgaard, go through the checklists. The general said he doesn't remember much from that first flight other than taking the flight controls for a while.

"The one thing I do remember to this day is how wide my grin was as I proudly walked back into the life support area to drop off my parachute and helmet," General Kendall said. "The Tweet had firmly planted that silly (student pilot) smile on my face. I was truly hooked."

General Hoffman, the leader in charge of providing the acquisition management services and logistics support required to develop, procure and sustain Air Force weapon systems, said there is a more-than-viable option to replace the Tweet, the T-6A Texan II.

"The T-6 is a highly capable replacement for the venerable T-37," he said. "We are still going through some growing pains, but it is much better suited to prepare student pilots for today's aircraft and those that will come in the future."

The Texan II provides a tandem cockpit configuration similar to two-seater fighter setups compared to the side-by-side T-37. It also has a "glass cockpit," or all digital instrument panel.

General Kendall said should not be concerned about moving from a jet powered aircraft to a single turbo-prop platform.

"Some might think it unusual or a step backwards to replace a jet aircraft with a prop-driven one," he said, "but let me say that this is not your granddaddy's T-6. This primary flight trainer outperforms the over 50-year-old flying 'birdwhistle' in just about every area except perhaps in noise generation."

Capt. Speicher's remains identified

Jeff Schogol's picture

The search for Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher is over after nearly two decades.

Speicher's remains have been identified through dental records after an Iraqi citizen led U.S. Marines to the site in Anbar province where Speicher's plane crashed in the first Gulf War, the Defense Department announced on Sunday.

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA Lab in Rockville, Md., is conducting DNA tests on the remains to confirm the remains are Speicher's, a Defense Department news release said.

Speicher was originally listed as killed when his plane was shot down on Jan. 17, 1991, but as rumors that he survived the crash spread, his status was eventually changed to captured.

Former President George W. Bush used Speicher's suspected capture as one of the rationales for invading Iraq in March 2003.

The military conducted a search for Speicher in 2003, finding the letters "MSS" -- Speicher's initials -- in an Iraqi prison, which one of Speichers high school friends said were in Speicher's handwriting.

But in March, then Navy Secretary Donald Winter changed Speicher's status from captured to missing after expressing doubts that he could have survived the crash.

In July, U.S. officials learned that Speicher was apparently found dead at the crash site and buried by Bedouins, the Defense Department news release said.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

By KEVIN FREKING Associated Press Writer
Updated: 08/02/2009 12:01:59 AM EDT

WASHINGTON—Nearly eight years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have left 4,000 soldiers killed in action, more than 34,000 wounded—and only six considered worthy of the nation's highest military award for battlefield valor.

For some veterans and members of Congress, that last number simply doesn't add up.

They question how so few Medals of Honor—all awarded posthumously—could be bestowed for two wars of such magnitude and duration.

Pentagon officials say the nature of war has changed. Laser-guided missiles destroy enemy positions without putting soldiers in harm's way. Insurgents deploy roadside bombs rather than engage in firefights they're certain to lose.

Yet, those explanations don't tell the whole story, said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. Hunter sponsored legislation that directs the secretary of defense to review current trends in awarding the Medal of Honor to determine what's behind the low count. The bill passed the House. If Senate negotiators go along, Secretary Robert Gates would have to report back by March 31.

"It seems like our collective standard for who gets the Medal of Honor has been raised," said Hunter, a first-term member of Congress who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The basis of warfare is you've got to take ground and then you've got to hold it. That takes people walking into houses, running up hills, killing bad guys and then staying there and rebuffing counterattacks," he added. "That's
how warfare has always been no matter how many bombs you drop and how many predators you have flying around."

Military officials said they welcome the opportunity to conduct an in-depth review of the award process. Still, they dispute Hunter's theory.

"Nominations go through no more or less scrutiny than in the past," said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "The standard for the Medal of Honor is high, as one would expect for our nation's most prestigious military decoration."

AMVETS, a veteran's advocacy group, said it supports Hunter's efforts. It held a banquet for Medal of Honors in January, and the low number of medals was a big topic of discussion, said Jay Agg, the group's communications director.

"They have expressed concern about their dwindling numbers and they're wondering why there are so few Medals of Honor being awarded for current conflicts," Agg said.

The Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,467 times since the Civil War. Almost half—1,522—were awarded in that conflict alone. The next highest tally came from World War II—464. In the Vietnam War, 244 were awarded.

To get the Medal of Honor, at least two eyewitnesses have to view a deed so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. No margin of doubt is allowed. Nominations make their way through military channels until eventually they're approved at the highest levels of the Pentagon and then by the president.

Drew Dix, 64, of Mimbres, N.M., received the medal for actions taken during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam when he continually risked his life during a 56-hour battle to rescue civilians. He said he didn't feel comfortable judging the current Medal of Honor process.

"We've trusted the military to fight this war," Dix said. "We've got to trust the military in all aspects of it, including the awarding of medals."

Jack Jacobs, 64, also received the award for actions taken in Vietnam when he returned again and again under intense fire to rescue wounded soldiers. He said the Pentagon's explanation for the low Medal of Honor count is logical, but he would not rule out other factors because of the subjective nature of the award.

"I'm not a fan of single factor analysis," Jacobs said. "There are lots of reasons why things occur and that is only one of them. Human attitudes also play a great role."

Jacobs, a military analysis at MSNBC, predicted the war in Afghanistan will involve more of the kind of close combat that leads to Medal of Honors being awarded.

It's unclear exactly how many soldiers have been nominated for the award from the two wars. But, seven have made it all the way to the secretary of defense, and six were approved. The exception is Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego, Calif. Hunter said the Peralta case shows that a higher standard is being used for the medal than in previous wars.

Peralta died on Nov. 15, 2004, during fierce fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. The military's investigation showed he was probably hit by friendly fire from a member of his unit as they engaged insurgents inside a house.

Witnesses said Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen while in the Marines, fell to the ground face-first after being shot in the crossfire. A fleeing insurgent threw a hand grenade into the room, which bounced off a couch and landed near Peralta's head.

"Sgt. Peralta grabbed the grenade and pulled it underneath him while we took cover," said an unidentified soldier whose name is redacted as part of the investigative file the military released publicly.

Peralta's nomination was sent back for further investigation after a preliminary autopsy report stated the head wound would have been immediately incapacitating and "he could not have executed any meaningful motions."

In the end, Lt. General Richard F. Natonski, stuck with his recommendation: "I believe Sergeant Peralta made a conscious, heroic decision to cover the grenade and minimize the effects he knew it would have on the rest of his Marine team."

Gates assemble an independent panel to review the nomination—something he did not do in the other six cases sent his way. The reviewers included a former commanding general, a Medal of Honor recipient, a neurosurgeon and two pathologists.

"The reviewers each individually concluded that the evidence did not meet the exacting 'no doubt' standard necessary to support award of the MOH," Gates said in a letter to Hunter.

Robert Reynolds, a lance corporal at the time, was about three to five feet behind Peralta when the grenade exploded. He has no doubt that Peralta purposefully attempted to place the grenade underneath himself to save others.

"It wasn't just something he barely did. He physically reached out and pulled it into his body," said Reynolds, 31, and now a corrections office and father of two daughters in Ritzville, Wash.

In the end, Peralta received the Navy Cross, the branch's second highest honor. Several California lawmakers have petitioned President Barack Obama to order a review of Peralta's case. AMVETS said all recipients of the second-highest honor for bravery for their branch of the military should have their case reviewed to determine if their actions merit the Medal of Honor.

Hunter said he's also concerned that no living soldier from Iraq or Afghanistan has earned the Medal of Honor.

"Having fewer of them is like depleting our national treasures," Hunter said.

But there are also concerns that meddling by Congress could lessen the significance of the medal.

"You don't want this group here determining what's courageous and what's not," Hunter said, referring to his fellow federal lawmakers. "You want that left up to the military. The problem is the military is not stepping up on this."


On the Net:

Medal of Honor Statistics: http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/mohstats.html