Monday, March 31, 2008

UK Veterans have started a campaign for a UK National Defence Medal (NDM).

They are demanding full recognition for proud Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen who have protected our nation through all types of political turmoil since the Second World War.

It is their belief that an NDM as recognition for putting yourself at the mercy of the Country's leaders in the hope it will act in its citizens best interests is fair and reasonable. A medal that can be "officially" worn on parades with pride.


On the 6th March 2008, Mr. Roy Wilson, London & District Liaison Officer for the National Service Veterans Association and the writer Mr. Charles Lovelace, NSVA, were graciously afforded a meeting at Portcullis House with the Rt. Hon.Don Touhig, Esq., MP, former, Minister for Veterans, to discuss the compelling case for a new National Defence Medal. Both NSVA delegates will then attend the 8th Veterans UK Annual Conference (formally called the Veterans Plenary Forum) in London on the 13th March 2008. This written paper will also be presented at that time and hopefully receive a hearing.


Over the past few years there have been frequent letters sent to the MoD and to the Government requesting that all veterans, both men and women, irrespective of their form of military engagement should be honoured with a medal. More recently the December 2007, issue of the Soldier Magazine reported that more than 75% of those who contacted the magazine believed that the Government should recognise time spent in military uniform, and in particular those who completed National Service. Sadly various Governments of the day have wittingly excluded National Servicemen and others from proper recognition. In view of this egregious and pernicious mindset it was decided to promote the idea for an all encompassing, National Defence Medal, similar to the Australian National Defence Medal. (Appendix A)

This paper is not intended to be as lengthy as John Milton’s Areopagitica pamphlet published on the 23rd November 1644, during the height of the English Civil War. However as former veterans who have served our country, with honour and fidelity, we like the poet, also believe in the principle of a right to free written expression.

When I and many others have written to the Government, MoD or HD Committee to propose a medal for all servicemen and women, encompassing National Service, Short Service, Regular and Reserve Service the reply is always the same. All the arguments for the award of a medal to honour these men have been made by many ex servicemen to a whole cross section of MPs’ and the majority have been entirely sympathetic. However when these same arguments are put to those MPs’ in various appointments specific to the armed forces and to MoD civil servants, there is a completely different attitude. They appear to be working to a standard script in which any understanding or concern for our loyal service has been sedulously written out.

If the Government is seriously adhering to the Military Covenant then it should recognize all veterans as well as our current gallant servicemen. We do however acknowledge that the Veterans Badge is purely a first step to remedy the just and permanent sense of grievance held by former service men and women.

We are not however in favour of wearing any unofficial or commemorative medals at public ceremonies.





To further the above aim we have approached various RN, RM, Army and RAF Associations, the NSVA, MPs’, Local and National press. To our great pleasure articles have been published in the national press promoting our cause. We have also started our own website which has created great interest both on a national and international basis. We commend it to you. Various MPs’ have registered support. However to be unbiased we also record the *only negative comment. This is from the Rt.Hon.Des Browne, Esq.,MP.,Secretary of State for Defence, who in a reply to a letter sent to him stated ;

“The British Government is under no obligation. There are no plans to introduce a new National Defence Medal. There is nothing further to be gained by continuing this correspondence.”

In contrast however, Mr. Mike Penning, MP wrote; “ I take great pleasure in personally supporting the National Defence Medal and you are quite right that many of the ministers who serve at the MoD have no concept of what it is to serve our country in uniform.” He had the honour to serve in the Grenadier Guards!



Before presenting our case we ask you to reflect and ponder on the following-

In 2006, the highly acclaimed journalist Tom Brokan , received the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award, from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

In his acceptance speech he said;


1/ Our case is simple, compelling and just. We are seeking a National Defence Medal similar in criteria to that of the Australian Defence Medal. (Appendix A)

2/ We believe that the precedent has been set. The Commonwealth of Australia instituted the Australian Defence Medal. This was formally approved by Her Majesty the Queen and the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No: S48 of 30 March 2006 refers.

3/ Even France under Minister of Defence, Charles Hernu and on the proposal from Gen.De Boissieu, instituted the Medaille de la Defense similar in criteria.


4/ We do not consider that HD Committee has acted in a fair and equitable manner. We are still trying to determine when the committee last met to discuss the question of medals. We specifically asked the following questions-

1. Have they ever discussed a proposal for a National Service Medal?
2. Has a proposal for a Cold War Medal ever been discussed?
3. When did they last sit to discuss any medal?
4. Is it correct that the last time the HD Committee met was in 2002?

The HD Committee is undemocratic. Democracy is government by all the people through elected representatives giving equality of rights in society. Our rights are blatantly ignored

We are still awaiting a reply to these questions posed in our e-mail dated 08/02/08 at 09:29:52 GMT Standard Time. If necessary we will make an application under the Freedom of Information Act to secure this information.

5/ We believe that the Rt. Hon. Des Browne, Esq., has a duty with his Minister for Veterans to ensure that veterans are properly recognised. His indifference is both incredible and shameful. We note with astonishment his comment made during his recent visit to the ATR Bassingbourn , that “Politicians do not do medals, nor should they- it is not a political decision.”


The replies received from the Government, MoD and HD Committee are all off the same hymn sheet and from the same template.

Re: 1. The standard reply is that Australia withdrew from the Imperial Honours System in the mid 1970s. Any awards are the sole responsibility of that country and have no bearing on the rules pertaining to medals instituted in the UK.

Re: 2. Hence No Precedent has been set. *Our Legal Counsel advises otherwise. Also, Her Gracious Majesty the Queen who is head of our Armed Forces promulgated the Australian National Defence Medal. (Appendix A)

Re: 3. This point relating to the French stance has been studiously ignored.

Re: 4. In his letter Dt.7th February 2008 Mr. Denis Brennan, Secretary of the HD Committee- Cabinet Office- replying on behalf of all its members dismisses out of hand the proposal for a new National Defence Medal.


He then goes on to state that even if the Armed Forces were to submit a case on the lines suggested the HD Committee would not endorse any suggestion to issue the medal retrospectively, as this would contravene their long maintained five- year rule.

The Committee will not consider any case for service that was carried out more than five years previously

*Perhaps the HD Committee has forgotten that this rule is already in disrepute. We know that a precedent has already been established, historically twice. The first time was in 1846 to honour the Battle of Waterloo, of 1815. The Suez Canal Medal was issued retrospectively after 52 years, with the risible claim that this was a one ‘off’. This was after an unnecessary, acrimonious, lengthy and intense lobbying campaign by our associate and a prime mover the late Charles Golder, MBE, who served as a regular soldier attaining the final rank of Regimental Sergeant Major. They also conveniently forget that Her Gracious Majesty the Queen is head of our Armed Forces and that she has allowed a similar medal to the one that we suggest for the Commonwealth of Australia.

Re: 5 *The statement can only be disingenuous. Of course the Government of the day, the MoD and its specific ministers play a part in the medals scenario.


It is apparent that the Government, MoD and HD Committee are uncaring.

The case for a National Defence Medal is reasonable. However all of the above continue to prevaricate. This is ill behoves them, since by doing so they insult the intelligence of veterans. Such continued intransigence and misplaced hubris is to be deplored.

The majority of the ‘body politic’ and those in the ‘corridors of power’ have never served in uniform. This unaccountable cabal of decision makers has never experienced the rigours of basic training, let alone the personal determination required for the Pegasus Company selection or for the RM Commando Course. Consequently they can never comprehend the comradeship, which shared hardships imbue. They are thus unable to say; “I had the honour to serve.” Despite their exalted posts in Government, the MoD or HD Committee, even with an occasional visit to the officer’s mess or to a combat unit in the field, they still do not understand the military ethos. Having never served they can hardly fathom the élan and panache of certain regiments. They must remain as ever, ‘mere’ spectators to honour and tradition.

As the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, (1709-1784) stated in his often quoted discourse with James Boswell , (1740-1795) ; “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.”

We can justly and proudly say; “WE SERVED.” We may rightfully then ask, “who are you to sit in judgement over our reasonable and compelling case for a new National Defence Medal?”

Quite simply if they think so, they should take time out to read the following letter which can be found on our website- http// –or alternatively-



I served as a Cold War warrior from 1972-84, including six years in Germany, where the invasion of West Berlin was taken as a real threat. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan everything on wheels, tracks and jet powered was mobilised.

For nine months of the year we perfected our craft in the art of radio communications; all traffic was in real time in all weathers under all conditions, and if you have not experienced a German winter at 2 a.m.on the Deister Ridge you do not know what cold is.

All elements of the British Army of the Rhine were ready and willing to repel the Russian Bear. When not on exercise we were putting out forest fires and patrolling the inner German border, guarding atomic rocket and warhead sites.

Living in field conditions, eating field rations, burdened with weapons and back- packs, month after month, took its toll, but we did it with a will and solid determination.

Now I’m a civilian, I have nothing to show that I served my country. That is why I will stand on the sidelines and applaud the be-medalled warriors who were able to prove themselves under fire.

The Veterans Badge I wear on my lapel is no substitute for a more tangible symbol of time served as a soldier. What’s left of Gt. Britain? A medal would suffice.

*This is a singularly passionate and cogent letter.

We demand to be treated in the same manner that other countries treat their veterans. We will continue to campaign as long as is necessary for a National Defence Medal. We believe that we have a just, lawful and compelling case. We require answers to the questions posed with the HD Committee and maintain that it, with Government and the MoD have all manifestly failed in their duty.

Finally the onus now lies with the Government, MoD and members of the HD Committee to show some humility and rectify this unhappy situation. If they fail to act they will suffer obloquy.

Charles Lovelace. RMV202910- 20/06/1956. (Mne.)

Member NSVA & RMA HQ Roll Life Member.

RM Green Beret Commando Association Member.

Former 2Lt. RM & Lt.RMV- Queen’s Regt. 6/7(V) HSF Officer.
SSG Maupin

The body of Staff Sergeant Keith Maupin, the American soldier who was captured and murdered nearly four years ago, has finally been officially identified.

Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin’s parents vowed to never let the U.S. Army forget about finding their son. Their efforts included trips to the Pentagon and even meeting with President Bush, but they ended in disappointment Sunday: An Army general told them the remains of Maupin, a soldier who had been listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004, had been found.
“My heart sinks, but I know they can’t hurt him anymore,” Keith Maupin said after receiving word about the remains of his son, who went by Matt.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed sympathy to Maupin’s family. “This has been especially difficult for the Maupin family because of not knowing for almost exactly four years. So I want to extend my condolences,” Gates said, speaking to reporters aboard a flight to Denmark.
The Army didn’t say how or where in Iraq his son’s remains were discovered, only that the identification was made with DNA testing, Maupin said. A shirt similar to the one his son was wearing at the time of his disappearance was also found.
Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy, part of the Bartonville, Ill.-based 724th Transportation Company, was ambushed west of Baghdad. A week later, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape showing a stunned-looking Maupin wearing camouflage and a floppy desert hat, sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles. That June, Al-Jazeera aired another tape purporting to show a U.S. soldier being shot. But the dark and grainy tape showed only the back of the victim’s head and not the execution.
The Maupins refused to believe their son was dead. They lobbied hard for the Army to continue listing him as missing-captured, fearing that another designation would undermine efforts to find him. The Pentagon agreed to give the Maupins regular briefings, and Bush met with them when he traveled to Cincinnati.
Keith Maupin said the Army told him soon after his son’s capture that there was only a 50 percent chance he would be found alive. He said he doesn’t hold the Army responsible for his son’s death, but that he did hold the Army responsible for bringing his son home. “I told them when we’d go up to the Pentagon, whether he walks off a plane or is carried off, you’re not going to leave him in Iraq like you did those guys in Vietnam,” Maupin said.
Four U.S. service members remain missing in Iraq: Capt. Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot, has been missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf War; Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie, a 41-year-old Iraqi-born reserve soldier from Ann Arbor, Mich., was abducted while visiting his Iraqi wife in October 2006 in Baghdad, and Pfc. Byron Fouty and Sgt. Alex Jimenez have been missing since May 12.

For my buddy Hans thijssen

Hey Hans how about a translation.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

VA Watchdog = Veterans News
Veterans Benefit Network
Veterans Disability Benefits Commission
Veterans For Peace
American Gulf War Veterans
VFA Wounded Warrior Registry

Veterans for America works with servicemembers and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure that they are getting the treatment they need for psychological wounds and/or traumatic brain injuries. If a servicemember or veteran feels that they are not getting the help they need, we talk with their military commanders, or we work with the VA to get them help. We also work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to make sure that our national leaders realize the scope of the challenges our military is facing.

VFA has launched a new service to help wounded warriors. Below, you’ll find a form asking for basic information if you have been wounded in battle, and you feel like you’re not getting the help you need. Please fill it out, and someone from VFA will be in touch with you shortly to talk about what can be done to help.

Note that required fields are marked in red.

Registration Page

Walz, who was elected to Congress in 2006, is the highest-ranking enlisted servicemen to ever serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Like the Hecimoviches, Walz also holds the rank of command sergeant major in the Minnesota National Guard.

During the two-week Easter break, Walz has been holding medal ceremonies and veterans forums throughout the 1st District.

Of his three House committee assignments, agriculture, transportation and infrastructure and veterans affairs, the latter has seen his passion for patriots surface repeatedly.

With the global backdrop of more unpopular wars on people’s minds and the weekend’s debut of a state holiday to observe sacrifices made in another unpopular war — Vietnam —- Walz admonished the audience, “Don’t ever make the mistake of confusing the war with the warrior.”

In other opening remarks, he said the nation has both a moral responsibility and an obligation to its security to take care of its soldiers.

He said the Department of Veterans Affairs is getting better at doing that, but, he added, “There’s still a long ways to go.”

To him, it’s a given. “If you spend billions to put soldiers in harm’s way, you spend billions to get them out and then you have to take care of them, too,” he said.

In a free-wheeling comment and question-and-answer period, Walz became a target at one point for criticism, when an unidentified veteran blamed him for not helping the veteran receive benefits.

Walz took the obscenity-laced criticism unflinchingly.

The questions ranged from the unfairness of disability ratings to the lack of mandatory full funding for the VA budget to arbitrarily taking benefits from Level VIII veterans.

A veteran complained of being denied benefits, “because the VA said my hearing loss was due to cutting the grass with a loud lawn mower instead of loading artillery shells.”

Another veteran urged the congressman to continue to push for enforcement of the Veterans Preference law to guarantee veterans their jobs upon returning home from active duty.

A Cold War-era sailor said he was denied benefits even though “I was exposed to two atomic bomb blasts when I was on a ship at sea.”

A Vietnam-era veteran said he was 100 percent disabled after being exposed to Agent Orange chemicals. He went to the Mayo Clinic instead of the VA Hospital in Minneapolis and “now I spend my veteran benefits checks on my medical bills, which are huge.”

While the congressman’s aides took notes to follow-up on veterans’ requests, Walz fielded more questions and heard more complaints.

That was what he apparently wanted to happen.

“The message has been wherever we have gone, ‘Take care of the soldier,’” he said. . . .

Earlier this afternoon, when Walz stepped into the phone banking room, a volunteer handed him a phone almost immediately; she had just called a man who said he had two sons deployed in Iraq and she thought the congressman might want to thank him for his family's service to the country. Once he was off the line, Tim shared more about the family. One of the sons was home on leave because a very young child had died; the soldier only received ten days leave. Walz, the father of two young children, said he would have his congressional staff contact the Pentagon to see if the leave could be extended, then continued phone banking.

Since listening to only half of a phone conversation isn't too exciting, we stepped over to the auditorium where the Olmsted County DFL had convened. Inside, John Pearce, an Army Reservist who served in Iraq and Kuwait, had just begun a passionate speech on Walz's behalf. He spoke first of getting involved in politics because of his disagreement with "national security policy when it came to Iraq."

Pearce had attended Republican events to find out where the three candidates for the GOP noimnation stood. As a veteran he was appalled:

I listened to Randy Demmer at a county convention say, " The number one responsibility of the federal government is national security. When he was done speaking I was left asking myself, "That's it?" He talked about national security but never mentioned the words "Iraq, Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden...

Brian Davis, on the other hand, states his Iraq policy as "we need to stay the course, we need to keep doing what we're doing and we'll have to keep our fingers crossed." We'll have to keep our fingers crossed. That's Davis's plan. Is that what I'm supposed to tell my mother when I have to break her heart again, when I get deployed for a third time? Well Mom, we have no cohesive Iraq strategy but Brian Davis and the GOP have their fingers crossed for me. . .

. . .But Brian Davis also has another saying, "Democrats can't even say the phrase 'Radical Islam' and if they can't say it, how can they fight it?" Well, I can physically say the phrase 'Radical Islam' but choose not to demagogue an entire culture based on a handful of lunatics. As Democrats, we are a party of diversity and we are better that this. Just because I choose not to say the phrase, by no means makes me incapable of fighting terrorism. And now that I think about it, I don't remember seeing Brian Davis or Randy Demmer on any of my 8000 plus miles of Iraq convoys. In fact, the only congressional candidate the [MN-01] Republicans had with military service, they excommunicated....

We talked briefly with Pierce after his speech and were able to get a copy of his words. He had written the text out before the GOP endorsement was known. Powerful stuff, indeed.

more on this story at

News Story Austin Daily Herald Walz fields questions at vets' forum

2008 race, Afghanistan, Iraq War, MN-01, Tim

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bulletin From

Hi everyone! It`s JP, webmaster of As many of you know, I`m a member of Bad Voodoo Platoon and I’m currently deployed in support of OIF. Over the last year, several of us includi ng fellow military blogger
Toby Nunn, have been videotaping our experience. Deborah Scranton (The War Tapes) has made a film for FRONTLINE called Bad Voodoo`s War that will be airing on April 1st. The details are below:


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

9 P.M. (check local listings)

In June 2007, as the American military surge reached its peak, a band of National Guard infantrymen who call themselves "The Bad Voodoo Platoon" was deployed to Iraq. To capture a vivid, first-person account of the new realities of war in Iraq for FRONTLINE and ITVS, director Deborah Scranton (The War Tapes) created a "virtual embed" with the platoon, supplying camer as to the soldiers so they could record and tell the story of their war. The film intimately tracks the veteran soldiers of "Bad Voodoo" through the daily grind of their perilous mission, dodging deadly IEDs, grappling with the political complexities of dealing with Iraqi security forces, and battling their fatigue and their fears.

Watch a preview now at:

Visit the PBS pressroom for press release and

Online starting April 1.

Keep in mind, if you intend to respond to this e-mail, please write back to me at (I`m currently in the process of transferring email accounts, but the best place to re ach me for now is )
Calculator for Veterans eligible for stimulus payments

Podcast: Economic Stimulus Payment (mp3) Running time 6:14

A new online calculator will give you an estimate of the stimulus payment you may be due. Just answer a few questions and the calculator will do the rest. Remember: you must file a 2007 tax return in order to receive the payment.Payments will start May 2. The last two-digits of your Social Security number and whether you opted for direct deposit into your financial account or a paper check will determine when you receive your payment.Super Saturday — March 29 - Approximately 320 IRS offices located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will be open on Super Saturday to prepare the simple Form 1040A for people who are filing a return solely to receive their stimulus payment. Operating hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., although some may be open longer. IRS employees will help prepare the Form 1040A returns for low-income workers, retirees, disabled veterans and others. Super Saturday Locations for March 29

You May Be Eligible Even if You Normally Do Not File a Tax Return - If you have at least $3,000 in certain types of income, you may be eligible for the economic stimulus payment. You also may be able to use Free File - Economic Stimulus Payment. See the special types of benefits or income that qualify below:Rebate Scam Alert - Be aware that identity thieves are already pushing scams involving the stimulus payments. At least one telephone scam is making the rounds using the proposed rebates as bait. News release IR-2008-11, IRS Warns of New E-Mail and Telephone Scams Using the IRS Name; Advance Payment Scams Starting, has more details.

En Español - Pagos de Estímulo Económico: Conozca sobre los pagos del estímulo económico, a cuanto ascienden los pagos y cuando estos se enviaran a los contribuyentes.

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Veterans set to meet in D.C. can you attend?

Please repost liberally


April 30 - MAY 1, 2008WASHINGTON, DC


April 30 -- Meeting of AMERICAN COLD WAR VETERANS– Best Western Rosslyn/Iwo Jima

1501 Arlington Blvd. Arlington, VA 2209-3001

Phone 703-524-5000 or 800-424-1501

Rate 135.99 Group Code 1121

(Group to assemble in lobby at 12:30pm, April 30th)

Visit the Hotel website for directions here.



May 1 - CONGRESSIONAL BREAKFAST 7:30-8:30 - Room 902 of the Hart Senate Office Building

FOLLOWED BY visits to your senators and representatives

11:30 – Travel to Arlington National Cemetery -- "Remembering Forgotten Heroes of the Cold War" Ceremony sponsored by American Cold War Veterans and the White House Commission on Remembrance. Ceremony begins at 12 noon, followed by visits to Korean War, Vietnam War, USS Thresher, and Laos memorials

Military searches for members lost in past wars

by NC Sentinel

Medill Reports - Washington, DC, USA

Military searches for members lost in past wars
by Joyce Chang
Mar 20, 2008

WASHINGTON -- As people observe the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war this week, the American military continues a labor-intensive search for troops lost long ago in other conflicts.

“As long as the American public finds this mission necessary, we will continue searching,” said Air Force Capt. Mary Olsen, a public affairs officer for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel office. “There is no timeline for finishing it.” Olsen said the military identifies the remains of nearly 100 service members per year.

“The goal is that we are trying to work ourselves out of a job,” said Jim Russell, chief of the missing persons branch at the Air Force Personnel Center, which updates military families on search efforts. “We are trying to account for all the unaccounted for.”

Once investigative teams pinpoint an area believed to contain human remains, the Hawaii-based Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) sends an excavation team led by forensic anthropologists and diggers, according to JPAC spokesman Troy Kitch.

The team divides the area into sections to keep track of the digging, Kitch said. Grid by grid, they dig until they reach soil that has not been impacted by a crash or burial, which they can tell by the characteristics of the soil. Kitch said that if the team finds remains on the outer edges of a grid, they must dig two grids out from there and keep expanding until they no longer find any more remains. This process typically takes nearly 30 to 40 days, according to Kitch.

Once the team has gathered all the remains at a site, an Army Central Identification Laboratory scientist makes a biological profile based on key characteristics such as age, race, sex, stature and fracture lines. JPAC boasts that is has the world’s largest forensic anthropology lab, with sophisticated “crime scene” level identification technology, according to Kitch.

Olsen said the condition of remains really varies and that, for example, older remains from World War II may be easier to identify and more complete than those from Vietnam, which has more acidic soil. Dental records are the primary way that remains are identified, often combined with historical evidence, Kitch said.

Kitch said that in about 75 percent of cases, the office must go a step further and use DNA testing. The Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Rockville, Md., extracts DNA from the bones of remains. Since the military did not routinely get DNA samples from service members until 1992, older remains are almost exclusively identified using Mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited and, because it is not unique to families or individuals, it is used as more of an exclusionary tool for determining whether an individual is related to others.

For example, Jackie Raskin-Burns, a supervisory DNA analyst at the lab, said about 7 percent of Caucasians share the same Mitochondrial DNA profile. If Mitochondrial DNA of remains does not match the DNA of an expected maternal relative, then that person is excluded from being considered for that identification. If there is a match, the lab must consider how prevalent that particular DNA profile is in the population that they’re considering.

Olsen said the military sometimes hires genealogists to locate family members and to obtain DNA samples if they believe they are close to an identification but need DNA to verify it.

In 1992, the military began collecting Nuclear DNA, which is longer-lasting and unique to each individual, from service members.

Even when DNA is tested, the forensic evidence is compared with historical information such as eyewitness accounts of a plane crash, and with material evidence such as recovered plane parts that match the type of airplane a person was lost in.

The DNA lab officials acknowledged that there are occasionally disputes with families over identification and that some choose to have independent testing done.

However, some families of service members whose remains have been recovered are relieved for the closure that the investigations bring.

Julie Zouzounis of California was surprised last fall by news that, after 35 years, the military had found her father’s remains.

“All of the sudden it brings back all those old feelings and that sense of loss again,” Zouzounis said, who was a child when her father, Air Force Maj. John L. Carroll, died.

Carroll was lost in a plane crash in Vietnam on Nov. 7, 1972. Zouzounis said two rescue attempts at the time were unsuccessful and that her family never expected to recover any remains, especially considering that a 2,000-pound bomb had been dropped on the crash site.

Olsen said that, for many families, it is as though the casualty happened yesterday. Russell said the reaction from families ranges from a “hug or handshake and a ‘thank you’” to anger from families who are still hurting and blame the government.

U.S. Armor Forces Join Offensive In Baghdad Against Sadr Militia

BAGHDAD, March 27 -- U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting.
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Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army's AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.

As President Bush told an Ohio audience that Iraq was returning to "normalcy," administration officials in Washington held meetings to assess what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.

Maliki decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies, according to administration officials. With little U.S. presence in the south, and British forces in Basra confined to an air base outside the city, one administration official said that "we can't quite decipher" what is going on. It's a question, he said, of "who's got the best conspiracy" theory about why Maliki decided to act now.

In Basra, three rival Shiite groups have been trying to position themselves, sometimes through force of arms, to dominate recently approved provincial elections.

The U.S. officials, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said that they believe Iran has provided assistance in the past to all three groups -- the Mahdi Army; the Badr Organization of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Iraq's largest Shiite party; and forces loyal to the Fadhila Party, which holds the Basra governor's seat. But the officials see the current conflict as a purely internal Iraqi dispute.

Some officials have concluded that Maliki himself is firing "the first salvo in upcoming elections," the administration official said.

"His dog in that fight is that he is basically allied with the Badr Corps" against forces loyal to Sadr, the official said. "It's not a pretty picture."

Elements of Sadr's militia have fought fiercely, including rocketing the Green Zone, the huge fortified compound in Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy, Iraqi government offices and international agencies are located.

Starting about 5:25 p.m., the Post reporter heard the launch of 14 rockets, which Mahdi Army officers in the area said were aimed at the Green Zone. U.S. officials reported that 12 rounds hit the zone in that time frame, including six that fell inside the embassy compound. An American civilian contractor was killed in a residential area of the embassy compound, while another death was reported in the zone's U.N. compound.

Several Mahdi Army commanders said they had been fighting U.S. forces for the past three days in Sadr City, engaging Humvees as well as the Strykers. By their account, an Iraqi special forces unit had entered Sadr City from another direction, backed by Americans, but otherwise the fighting had not been with Iraqis.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hi all--Just wanted to let you know that we have a Facebook group called "VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States)"--okay, not that original, but we were going for accuracy not excitement. We also only have 1 member at the time of this post. So look us up if you use Facebook.

VFW National Membership

Wednesday, March 26th 2008, 4:00 AM

Queens veterans are protesting plans to build a high-tech VA medical center in St. Albans - and let a developer lease nearby acres they say should remain for veterans only.

Plans call for the 231-bed facility at 179thSt. and Linden Blvd. to be demolished and replaced by a 221-bed center, while the developer leases 25 of 55 acres at the VA-operated site, said agency spokesman Raymond Aalbue.

Veterans are outraged the VA denied their repeated requests for a hospice and women's residences, while letting a developer decide how to use the extra land.
They are set to rally against the plan on Saturday morning.

"What they're proposing [for vets] is pretty minimal," said John Rowan, national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "There shouldn't be any reason to skimp on this thing."
Other vets were irate with Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) because of rumored links to a possible developer who wants to put a parking lot for a nearby funeral home on the land.
"Meeks is attempting to take over and give away some of that land," griped Vietnam War vet Paul Schottenhamel, 59, of Glendale. "The veterans end up getting pushed out."
Aalbue said the plans do not include a parking lot.

Even so, a flyer for Saturday's rally, with the headline "Stop the Madness, Stop Mr. Meeks," said the event was sponsored by state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica).

But Huntley said someone distributed the leaflets without her approval - and now she won't support the rally, even though she wants "fair and equitable housing" for vets.
"I'm against the way they did it," Huntley said, adding she wouldn't use divisive tactics. "They're wrong."

Ida Smith, a special assistant to Meeks, said the congressman supports a proposal for an easement for cars going to the funeral parlor - not a parking lot.
But she also understood why the vets are mad at her boss.
"He is a representative of the federal government in their eyes," Smith said.
The VA will choose among several developers by May - and at least one is proposing co-ops offering assisted living for vets, Aalbue said.
"We took the local veterans' concerns, and we tried to incorporate them into the criteria for the developers," Aalbue said.
"We're the Veterans Administration. We take care of veterans."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

IAVA Bulletin

Dear Sean,

Through all the clutter of the presidential campaigns, it seems the media is starting to remember we're at war. Last week, several thousand of you signed our open letter calling on the national networks to devote more than 3% of their coverage to the war and veterans' issues. This past week, our work was covered in three major national news outlets.

Newsweek's Anna Quindlen penned a piece on our push for a new GI Bill, summing up the urgent need for the bill in three words: "Because It's Right". She writes, "The original GI Bill set the standard for innovative and audacious legislation. It was right in both senses of that word: the sensible thing to do, and the moral thing as well." You can read the rest of the article here.

In a Wall Street Journal article on veterans in the work force, IAVA's own Todd Bowers had this to say about the tough transition from military to civilian life: "They come from a lifestyle where every day they're told what to wear and what to do, and suddenly they're on their own." Here's the rest of the article.

And in the New York Times' coverage of the 4000th soldier killed in action in Iraq, they asked IAVA to weigh in on the significance of this milestone. "The 4,000th death should not be exploited in the polarized arguments about the war. Honoring the fallen is neither a pro- nor an anti-war statement. It's about respecting the sacrifice of thousands of America's sons and daughters." You can read the rest of that article here.

Thank you for helping to ensure that our troops and veterans aren't relegated to the back pages of our nation's newspapers. Your commitment has a real impact.

If you haven't already, take a minute to sign the open letter and pass it on to your friends.

Thank you for your continued support.
Paul Rieckhoff
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

FREE Art Therapy at SVA for Women Vets

FYI. The School of Visual Arts (www.schoolofvisuala, located
at 209 East 23 Street, in New York City - 2 blocks from the Manhattan VA Medical Center - is offering Free Art Therapy Groups for women veterans who have been to Iraq or Afghanistan starting April 3, 2008.

As the flyer is too big to attach, I am putting it the information below and posting the flyer (which is in MS Word) on NYMetroVets; or you can reach out to me and I will send it to you. Please pass it along to those women vets you know who may be interested or who may need this. Thanks to Nicole Goodwin for sending this along...Joe Bello - http://groups. group/NYMetroVet s/

Time? - 6 PM - 7:30 PM

When? - Thursday, April 3, 2008

Who will be there? - A board certified, licensed art therapist will be facilitating the group, along with several graduate art therapy students.

We have a beautiful art studio on West 21st Street. We are offering scholarships to workshop participants who become students enrolled in the MPS Art Therapy Program at the School of Visual Arts.

For more information or to sign up, please contact Val Sereno, Coordinator, Special Projects at (212) 592-2419 or e-mail: vsereno@sva. edu. Feel free to contact her with any questions.

By Carol Bidwell, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 03/19/2008 09:35:29 PM PDT

Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, considered by many the best airplane designer in history, had a simple formula for good work in the Lockheed "Skunk Works" design shop in Burbank:

"Our aim is to get results cheaper, sooner and better through application of common sense to tough problems," Johnson once explained. "If it works, don't fix it. ... Reduce reports and other paperwork to a minimum. ... Keep it simple, stupid - KISS - is our constant reminder."

His approach worked. Out of the Skunk Works came the Model 14 Electra, a wartime bomber for the British; the XP-80 jet in 1944; the F-80 Shooting Star, the first U.S. fighter to exceed 500 mph; the T-33 trainer, which taught more pilots to fly jets than any other plane; the F-104 Starfighter, which could fly twice the speed of sound; and the P2V Neptune antisubmarine patrol plane.

Johnson's team of engineers and builders helped transform the Constellation, which started out as a commercial airliner, into a World War II transport plane, then back again to a passenger carrier after the war.

And as the Cold War heightened, the Skunk Works team designed and built the U-2 jet, the first spy plane.

The U-2 not only was a stealthy, ultra-high-flying craft that let the U.S. keep tabs on the Soviet Union, but Johnson's team also gave the U.S. government back about $2million of the original $20million contract, and it built six planes extra for the cost of the original 20 ordered.

Johnson's motto: "Be quick, be quiet, and be on time."

Although his brusque manner antagonized some of his co-workers, he was universally respected, wrote colleague Ben R. Rich in a biography of Johnson for the National Academy of Sciences.

At 12 years old, Johnson knew that he wanted to design airplanes someday.

He earned an engineering degree in Michigan and came West, where he settled in at Lockheed. His first job there paid $83 a month.

When he retired in 1975, he had turned down Lockheed's presidency three times and was head of Advanced Development Projects, otherwise known as the Skunk Works. And he had won nearly every prize offered worldwide for airplane design and innovation.

President Lyndon B. Johnson also gave him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor a president can bestow, for his "significant contributions to the quality of American life."

And all this came from what began as little more than a shed crammed with plane designers and builders, always conscious of orders that their work be kept top-secret.

That's how the strange name for the elite unit was born.

The original facility sat next to a stinky plastics factory. As a gag one day, an engineer showed up for work wearing a gas mask, and another engineer, Irving Culver, began referring to their headquarters as the "Skonk Works."

In the Al Capp comic strip "Li'l Abner" - popular in the 1940s and `50s - the "Skonk Works" was a clandestine still in which a nefarious backwoods character ground up dead skunks and old shoes to make a brew he called "kickapoo joy juice."

One day, Culver answered the phone with "Skonk Works, inside man Culver."

"What?" demanded the voice at the other end. "Skonk Works," Culver repeated.

The name stuck - with a slight spelling change to avoid copyright problems with the cartoonist.

Culver said in a 1993 interview that when Johnson heard about the incident, "he promptly fired me; it didn't really matter, since he was firing me about twice a day anyways."

Johnson retired from Lockheed in 1975 and died in 1991. Lockheed closed the old Skunk Works site and moved out of Burbank the same year. A Lockheed Martin facility in Palmdale now bears the name.
Forgotten Veterans of Cold War Experiments

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed what many veterans have known: that the Department of Defense (DOD) stopped trying to find those who participated in the military’s chemical and biological experiments. In 2003, they gave up and have no plan to continue.

Between 1953 and 1975, thousands of soldiers – on ships, on the ground, and in the air – participated in Operation SHAD, also known as Project 112. Edgewood Arsenal's chemical weapon and drug tests and Fort Detrick’s Biological Weapon tests exposed volunteers to many different drugs such as LSD and PCP, and other toxins. Most programs never conducted follow-up medical studies.

I am in contact with fifteen other "test vets" or "med vols," and to a man we cannot get recognition from DOD or the Army. Many have attempted to get the promised awards, medals and certificates of appreciation, without success. Some veterans say they were promised the Soldier's Medal, awarded to peacetime soldiers who risk their lives to save others.

The government claims what these men did was not out of the ordinary or heroic. I beg to differ: the amount of dead and disabled say otherwise. It was a dangerous assignment, and we did not give informed consent. Recruiting teams lied to the "volunteers," telling us the experiments were so safe that there was no need for follow-up exams.

There are not many studies of living victims of chemical and biological weapons tests or attacks, so what little there is should be thoroughly reviewed. Examples include the 1995 Tokyo subway Sarin attack, and chemical victims from the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s.

A major 1975 study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) bases its work on Wermacht soldiers of WW2 who worked in the Third Reich’s chemical warfare units. Another important study came in 1994 from the National Institutes of Health. Both of these studies show many long-term health problems resulting from low level exposures, with veterans being affected years later by from cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nuerological and pulmonary problems.

But Dr. William Page of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) – which won the DOD contract - found no problems, except for 25 personnel per 100,000 who would get brain tumors. That’s an interesting finding given that neither of the other two studies noted such a conclusion.

Meanwhile, test subject veterans are dead and disabled at very high rates, with no explanations from the DOD or the VA, which denies our claims, stating that we have no proof of what or how much we were exposed to, or if the substances cause any problems.

This GAO report shows it doesn't matter because it states that DOD quit looking for more veterans used in these experiments in 2003, despite congressional committees demanding the DOD and the VA help these veterans.

In my own research in the past five years of GAO reports, medical studies, and Congressional reports from the Armed Services and Veteran’s Affairs Committees, I learned that many elected officials who tried to help these men met with stonewalling by the DOD. This is especially so in the past seven years of the Bush Administration.

Of the 7,120 enlisted men used at Edgewood Arsenal, a March 2003 Sarin study shows that 3,098, or 43%, could not be found. One can only assume they are deceased. These men were aged between 45 and 65 at the time of the data-gathering in FY2000. Of the 4022 survivors they did find, 54% (2,200) reported being disabled. The study never explains why, or lists any of the causes.

These are the Conclusions of the 1975 SIPRI report:

Report and the rest of the article

Monday, March 24, 2008

VA Benefits

A useful Guide from

Use the links below to learn about military benefits and to find tips for coping with common challenges of military life:

  • VA Benefits Calculator

    Are you tired of sorting through files, paper work and brochures about VA Benefits? Do you even know which benefits you currently qualify for? With VAJoe’s new Benefits Calculator, you can find answers to all your questions in minutes. Our members have earned their benefits, but unfortunately we’ve found that many of them aren’t even aware of what they qualify for. Hopefully this can make it easier to identify and pursue your benefits.

  • GI Bill and Other Educational Benefits

    You could be eligible for more than $50,000 in educational benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill, Armed Forces Tuition Assistance, VEAP, REAP, benefits offered by each service branch and dozens of other programs. Find out which programs will help pay for all or part of your education.

  • VA Home Loans

    The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees home loans for up to $417,000 for active duty servicemembers and veterans. VA home loans don’t require down payments or mortgage insurance, and you don’t need perfect credit to get a good interest rate. Learn about these and other advantages of a VA home loan.

  • Military Pay

    Find out about active duty and reserves pay, and view the 2008 pay charts. Also learn about retirement pay and overseas pay, as well as information about Cost of Living increases and the Basic Allowance for Subsistence. If you’re curious about the Basic Allowance for Housing, use the online calculator to view your monthly rate.

  • Life Insurance

    The armed forces offer four types of life insurance for servicemembers and veterans: Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI), Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI), Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) and Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI, also called RH). Learn the differences, advantages and benefits of each.

  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program

    The goal of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E) is to help veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For those whose disabilities prevent them from working, the program will work with the veteran to help them lead a more independent life.

  • Veterans Disability Benefits

    Wartime veterans older than 65 and who live on limited income may be eligible for up to $20,000 in an annual veteran disability pension. In fact, you don’t even have to be disabled to qualify. You could also be eligible for up to $2,300 in monthly benefits through veteran compensation benefits if you were injured or developed a disease while on active duty . If you were a victim of a sexual assault during active duty, you could be entitled to receive monthly compensation from the VA.

  • Survivors and Dependents Benefits

    The VA provides several benefits for eligible survivors and dependents of deceased veterans. A veteran's spouse, children, and parents are all eligible to recieve compensation for the loss of their loved one. The VA also provides free counseling to friends and family members of the deceased veteran.

  • TRICARE Facts

    TRICARE provides comprehensive health care services for servicemembers, retirees and their dependents through a network of authorized providers and military facilities. Servicemembers can choose from several plans to meet their needs. Reservists, National Guard members and their dependents also are eligible under certain conditions, and TRICARE has plans for retirees. Learn important facts about TRICARE eligibility, providers, enrollment and patient priority placement.

  • TRICARE Plans

    Learn about the highlights, drawbacks and differences among the numerous TRICARE plans.


    The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) covers dependents and survivors of certain veterans who are ineligible to receive health benefits under TRICARE. Although similar in many ways, CHAMPVA is not the same as TRICARE. CHAMPVA is a VA-run program for eligible dependents and survivors; while TRICARE is a regionally run, Department of Defense program catering to active duty servicemembers, retirees and their families.

  • Veterans Health Programs

    Learn how to use health insurance available to all veterans, and programs for specific ailments, such as Agent Orange exposure, post-traumatic stress syndrome and radiation exposure.

VFW 30 Second Spot

Sunday, March 23, 2008

According to many sources, both inside and outside the government, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has a predicted life-time cost of between 350 and 700 billion in terms of providing disability compensation and direct medical costs for the Gulf War veterans. The terms of its current costs, Linda Bilmes, Harvard University..s Kennedy School of Government, paints a bleak picture.

"The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is already overwhelmed by the volume of returning veterans and the seriousness of their health care needs," Bilmes states. "It will not be able to provide a high quality of care in a timely fashion to the wave of returning veterans."

It is estimated that over 1.4 million soldiers have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and 690,000 soldiers have left active duty. Some 229,000 of that number have sought VA medical care since 2002 and 37 percent have received a preliminary rating for mental health problems.

The number of days it takes the VHA to grant or deny a disability claim is an important measurement because of its links to the number homeless veterans. Most of these veterans are unemployed without family ties. From an initial 125 target days to rule on a disability claim, the Veterans Administration in the year 2007 reported that it took 183 days to evaluate a claim.

Although the number of overall veterans has declined since the year 2000, the number of Gulf War veterans has been growing. Gulf War veterans include the 1991 war with Iraq and grew from 3,065,000 in 2000 to 4,647,000 in 2006, which is a 34 percent increase. The 2016 forecast projects that there will be 5,698,000 Gulf veterans.

Harvard..s Bilmes has already predicted that the backlog in claims will reach 750,000 by 2010 which is nearly double the 400,000 number of pending claims.

The Vietnam War veteran also has a statistical place because they have the largest number of veterans—7,736,000—and an average age of 60 years old.

In addition, the current Gulf War has the highest death to wounded ratio with 7.6 wounded to killed Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) account for most of the wounded soldiers. This is reflected in the types of injuries because of the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

Scott Wallsten and Katrina Kosec calculate in their "The Economic cost of the war in Iraq" the long term care issues for GWOT veterans. Estimates commonly used by medical experts suggest a lifetime cost of care for brain injuries ranged from 600,000 to $4 million per person and about $45,000 to $57,000 for amputees plus the cost of prosthetic limbs ranging from $12,500 to 4100,000. For individuals the VA estimates an average cost of $2,610 per each GWOT veteran.

Chuck Schumers Rational for Co-Sponsoring S.1097 Cold War Medal Act

Thanks to Joe Martin at for his continued Support in our Joint efforts to pass the CWM.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Bulletin About Homelessness from NY Metrovets

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington

“That is not why people were elected. They were elected to lead.” - Mayor Bloomberg to local lawmakers who complain that they are reluctant to support congestion pricing because it is unpopular with many of their constituents.

"Our city and our country owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans, and those who have had the misfortune to become homeless deserve our help to get back on their feet...“I hope our new partnership with Veterans Affairs will become a national model.” - Mayor Bloomberg, December 6, 2006

The article below is FYI, however, as I have been saying for several years now, (read my report entitled "Behind the Bloomberg Press Conference" from 2006 in the files section of NYMetroVets) there were many problems in what Mayor Bloomberg and his administration did with homeless veterans and we (the community) allowed the Mayor - through force and by keeping us in the dark - to change things to make it appear that the homeless veteran numbers had gone down when in fact, it is being done with the community in the dark.

Some of the programs stated in the article are exactly what is happening to our fellow veterans, like moving them to substandard housing. However in the case of veterans, the city has done other things - taking a harder line on determining who is and who isn't a veteran (which has and will lower the number of veterans the city says it has), putting some on busses back to their families, and spreading homeless veterans to shelters and SRO's around the five boroughs, which had the effect of removing their voice when there was a problem (drugs in shelter, etc.).

As an example - The Borden Avenue Veterans shelter, before the "modernization" had 410 beds, enough to serve about 60 percent of the estimated (code word for guess) 700 homeless vets officials believed were in the 5 boroughs. Now after the modernization, there are only half the amount of beds there (about 230). So the question is - Where did the rest of the homeless veterans go? What happened to the special task force created in 2006 to: "end veterans' homelessness once and for all?" What happened to the promised homeless veteran numbers that Commissioner Hess stated he would have when he testified in front of the City Council Veterans Committee last fall?

I continue to say and believe that once this administration closes and/or the war ends, we are going to have some serious problem in the five boroughs with veteran issues and homeless veterans will be a major issue.

The bottom line is that while you have to give Mayor Bloomberg credit for do something, he went about it the wrong way by radically reinventing the way the city engages homeless people and then forcing it on everyone and not working with those in the community who could have helped make a difference; but working only with those groups that had money to help the city overcome the problem. As someone said, you can throw millions of dollars onto a problem, but that doesn't address the variables and I always said that there were too many questions that were never answered by the city in bringing the VA into the city homeless process.

Lastly, I continue to state that an ounce of prevention today can help prevent problems tomorrow but in truth, I feel for the next mayoral administration as I believe Mayor Bloomberg will say as his term ends next year that he brought homeless numbers down but once it all washes out and the new administration comes in, the number will probably have increased, as New York Magazine say they are doing now. Read on...Joe

------------ --------- ----

http://nymag. com/news/ features/ 45103/

A Night on the Streets

Homelessness is the single biggest failure of the Bloomberg administration, which has tried a radical new policy that’s made an intractable problem worse. There are over 35,000 homeless now in the city. On a single cold night in February, we met six of them.

Is VA Picking Sides?

From IAVA Blog

For at least four years, since the 2004 presidential election when a veteran, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was the Democratic Party nominee, the Department of Veterans Affairs has blocked efforts to help U.S. soldiers register to vote at its facilities in all 50 states.

“This is politically motivated voter suppression,” said Scott Rafferty, an attorney based in Washington, D.C., who has fought the Veterans Administration (VA) in federal courts since 2004 over the right to assist veterans, including homeless vets, to register to vote at the VA campus in Menlo Park, California. “The VA is making its open campuses, even those where hundreds of homeless and aging veterans live, First Amendment-free zones.”

It’s not a one-sided argument. The VA should encourage the pointiest part of the political spear - troops and Veterans - to participate in that process. As the article points out, lots of activities that border on the political or social happen at VAs, which often share, rent, or load facilities out. There’s no reason that a non-partisan voter registration couldn’t occur there.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs should serve as an example ensuring that every veteran that passes through its doors is afforded the opportunity to register and vote,” said Randy L. Pleva, Sr., president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “It is through the exercise of our franchise that we unsure the perpetuation of our democracy and serve as an inspiration to others throughout the world.” Neither Rafferty nor congressional staffers could estimate how many veterans might register to vote at VA facilities.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

This is a new bulletin from the KDVA Web Site:


The member voting to determine which earned medal the KDVA should dedicate its efforts to pursue is now closed. We wish to thank all members that participated in the vote and provided information and suggestions. We also thank non members for their comments and suggestions. We read all information provided and all suggestions and comments. The comments were excellent. The membership has chosen the Republic of Korea Service Medal as the award to focus on at this time. The vote percentages were as follows: ROKSM captured 67.9% and the UNKM received 32.1% of the vote. From comments that accompanied the vote, the low vote count for the UN Medal is due to the growing disrespect by veterans for the United Nations as an entity to manage global peace, and because of its disrespect for our Korea service. There will be a page on this web site dedicated to the pursuit of the ROKSM soon.

Although the prime thrust at this time will be the ROKSM, it does not mean we have abandoned the pursuit of the United Nation Medal. For the KDVA, the UN Medal has been, and will always be, a pursuit of recognition for our service which has performed honorably and with distinction under the UN Flag since 28 July 1954.

TO THE SIBERIAN ICE PACK The Queenfish at the North Pole on Aug. 6, 1970.

Photo Gallery of USS Queenfish

Published: March 18, 2008

Atop the globe, the icy surface of the Arctic Ocean has remained relatively peaceful. But its depths have boiled with intrigue, no more so than in the cold war.

USS Queenfish in Pearl Harbor Channel, coming back from North Pole, end of the voyage, 1970. Although the superpowers planned to turn those depths into an inferno of exploding torpedoes and rising missiles, the brotherhood of submariners — the silent service, both Russian and American — has worked hard over the decades to keep the particulars of those plans hush-hush.

Now, a few secrets are spilling through a crack in the wall of silence, revealing some of the science and spying that went into the doomsday preparations.

A new book, “Unknown Waters,” recounts the 1970 voyage of a submarine, the Queenfish, on a pioneering dive beneath the ice pack to map the Siberian continental shelf. The United States did so as part of a clandestine effort to prepare for Arctic submarine operations and to win any military showdown with the Soviet Union.

In great secrecy, moving as quietly as possible below treacherous ice, the Queenfish, under the command of Captain Alfred S. McLaren, mapped thousands of miles of previously uncharted seabed in search of safe submarine routes. It often had to maneuver between shallow bottoms and ice keels extending down from the surface more than 100 feet, threatening the sub and the crew of 117 men with ruin.

Another danger was that the sub might simply be frozen in place with no way out and no way to call for help as food and other supplies dwindled.

The Queenfish at one point became stuck in a dead end. The rescue took an hour and tense backtracking out of what had threatened to become an icy tomb.

“I still dream about it every other week,” Dr. McLaren, 75, the book’s author, recalled in an interview. “It was hairy.” The University of Alabama Press is publishing his recollections of the secret voyage.

Sylvia A. Earle, an oceanographer and the former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said such feats in perilous waters made Dr. McLaren a genuine hero. “The sub could have disappeared, and nobody would have known anything about it,” she said. “But they came through. That’s exploration at its most exquisite.”

After Dr. McLaren’s mission, the Arctic became a theater of military operations in which the Soviets tried to hide their missile-carrying subs under the fringes of the ice pack while American attack subs tried relentlessly to track them. The goal was to destroy the Soviet subs if the cold war turned hot, doing so quickly enough to keep them from launching their missiles and nuclear warheads at the United States.

Norman Polmar, an author and analyst on Navy operations, called the polar environment “very very difficult” for subs. He said ice dangling from the surface in endless shapes and sizes made the sub’s main eyes — sonar beams that bounce sound off the bottom and surrounding objects — work poorly.

Mr. Polmar added that the submarine community nonetheless considered the Arctic “a big deal,” because it had a near monopoly on operations there.

Dr. McLaren commanded one of the Navy’s most advanced warships, a jet-black monster the length of a football field.

It was the first of a large class of submarines specially designed for year-round operations in polar regions. As such, it boasted an array of special acoustic gear meant to help it visualize the complex world beneath the pack ice.

For instance, the sub had a special sensor to detect icebergs jutting downward with threatening spikes. From bow to stern, it had a total of seven acoustic sensors pointing upward to help the crew judge the thickness of ice overhead.

As Dr. McLaren recounts in “Unknown Waters,” the Queenfish, in preparation for its Arctic voyage, was stripped of all identifying marks and picked up a full load of torpedoes.

It arrived at the North Pole on Aug. 5, 1970, rising through open water. On the ice, an impromptu Santa Claus in a red suit frolicked with crew members.

The submarine then sailed for the Siberian continental shelf, where it began its mission of secret reconnaissance.

Moscow claimed seas extending 230 miles from its shores, including most of the shelf, whose waters averaged a few hundred feet deep. But Washington recognized just a 12-mile territorial limit, and Dr. McLaren was instructed to play by those rules.

The Queenfish also spotted a convoy. “I was able to see and identify all six ships as Soviet,” Dr. McLaren writes. “They consisted of an icebreaker leading a tanker and four cargo ships on an easterly course that slowly weaved back and forth through the chaotic ice pack.”

The main mission was to map the seabed and collect oceanographic data in anticipation of the Arctic’s becoming a major theater of military operations. The sub did so by finding and following depth contours, for instance, by locating the areas of the Arctic Basin where the seabed was 600 feet below the surface. A result was a navigation chart that bore the kind of squiggly lines found on topographic maps.

The goal of mapping the bottom contour also sent the Queenfish into the dead end. The crew was watching a favorite Western movie, “Shane,” when a messenger touched Dr. McLaren on the shoulder and whispered that the sub had ground to a standstill.

“Heart in my mouth, I ran up to the after-port side of the control room,” he writes. “Saturating the iceberg detector scope was bright sea-ice-return in all directions.”

Dr. McLaren ordered all crew movement to cease as he and other watch standers worked the propeller, rudder and stern planes to move the Queenfish slowly backward. Finally, he writes, the boat entered deeper water, and the crew “gave out a huge collective sigh of relief.”

The two-month voyage ended in Nome, Alaska, where the sub and crew encountered a chilly reception. The mayor and other people on the town dock had mistaken the sinister-looking sub without markings as Soviet.

In 1972, Dr. McLaren won the Distinguished Service Medal, the military’s highest peacetime award.

Historians say cold war maneuvering in the Arctic picked up after his mission, with the two sides deploying more submarines beneath the ice. The United States built a total of 36 sister subs to the Queenfish, known as the Sturgeon class.

Little is known publicly of the polar exploits. But every so often the icy world erupted in a foretaste of war. In 1984, an American satellite observed a Soviet sub breaking through the ice of the Siberian sea to test fire missiles.

Military and legal experts said Dr. McLaren’s book, while providing a glimpse into a hidden world of cold war planning, might also make political waves today.

That is because of the sub’s repeated penetrations of what Moscow considered its territorial waters, defying boundaries that Washington refused to recognize. The disclosure of that boldness could bolster the case in international forums for American navigational rights, legal experts said in interviews.

Bernard H. Oxman, a specialist in maritime law at the University of Miami School of Law, called the 1970 voyage “an indication of state practice and a refusal to acquiesce in Russian claims over navigation.” Although Moscow has in recent years relaxed such claims, he added, the legal precedent remains.

So too, Dr. McLaren sees his spy mission as a milestone for freedom of navigation, whether in Russian waters or elsewhere in the contested wilds atop the globe.

Today the issue is hot, because melting polar ice is opening up new shipping lanes and exposing potentially vast deposits of natural resources, including oil. A modern gold rush is getting under way.

“It’s important to maintain freedom of the seas,” Dr. McLaren said in an interview. “That’s something our country has fought for literally from its inception.”

Global warming and the shrinking polar ice pack are creating new opportunities and responsibilities, he said, adding, “We’ve got to stand our ground.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

WWII remains may finally be recovered

By Seamus O’Connor - Staff writer

U.S. military officials are in talks with Indian officials in New Delhi to arrange for the recovery of Army Air Forces bombers which crashed in areas previously deemed unsafe.

Clayton Kuhles, an independent researcher, has identified crash sites in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares borders with China and Burma.

“The Indian government previously could not guarantee or was not willing to guarantee our safety, because of unrest in the area” related to border disputes, said Army Maj. Brian DeSantis, a spokesman for the Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command headquartered in Hawaii. JPAC is the group which investigates and recovers U.S. service members from foreign territory.

The situation changed in January, when JPAC Commander Rear Adm. Donna L. Crisp attended a meeting of the Indo-U.S. Defense Policy Group in Washington, D.C. There Crisp laid out a plan to discuss how recovery efforts in Arunachal Pradesh might proceed, leading to the current talks in New Delhi.

The news is music to the ears of Gary Zaetz, the nephew of 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz, who was a crewmember on a B-24 bomber that went down in Arunachal Pradesh in 1944. Kuhles recently found the crash site of that plane, as detailed on his Web site,

“Adm. Crisp’s visit really represents a major leap forward in our efforts, and we’re very grateful to JPAC and (the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office) for accomplishing this,” Zaetz said.

Zaetz said JPAC officials told him recovery efforts could begin as soon as this month, but are more likely to commence in March 2009.

The Army Air Force lost 460 aircraft and 792 men during the aerial resupply of China from India from 1942-45. Airlifters flew a treacherous route over the Himalayas, known as “the Hump,” resulting in numerous crashes in remote areas of India, Burma and China. Many of those lost aircrews are still listed as missing. Though Kuhles has identified some crash sites, JPAC can not investigate without clearance and protection from the host nation’s government.

Indian government officials “believe that it may now be safe to go into some of these places that may contain crash sites with missing service members from World War II,” DeSantis said. The talks will continue through Friday, he said.

IAVA Bulletin

Only 3 percent after 5 years

Dear Sean,

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, but you might not have seen much about it on TV recently. Just 3% of the news in February was dedicated to the war and fewer than one in three Americans know how many American troops have died in Iraq. Believe it or not, a study just released by the Pew Research Center shows that press coverage of the war is at the lowest point since the war began.

Please take a minute now to sign an open letter to the media and demand that major networks increase their coverage of the Iraq war.

The economy and the presidential campaigns are both important stories, but news of the ongoing wars shouldn't fall by the wayside. The media must demonstrate that they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Over 80% of Americans are aware that Oprah Winfrey endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president, while just 28% know how many troops have died in Iraq- even though we are rapidly approaching 4,000 casualties.

An unprecedented detachment between the American public and the men and women at war makes the media's coverage of the conflicts more vital than ever. Just because the coverage has waned doesn't mean our troops aren't facing daily dangers or major issues once they return home.

Men and women continue to serve in Iraq, though you might not realize that just from watching the news. Please sign this open letter and honor the sacrifice of those who have served in the past five years by making sure they remain in the public eye.
Thank you for your continued support.


Paul Rieckhoff
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America