Monday, August 31, 2009
A recent change in Texas law could give some criminals with combat-related PTSD an easy choice: jail, or mental health treatment outside of prison walls.
The El Paso Times reported this weekend that officials there are in the process of establishing a new Veterans Mental Health Treatment court, which would handle cases of veterans and soldiers who have been diagnosed with mental health problems related to their combat experience.
The most serious violent offenses -- rape and murder, for example -- would still be handled by traditional courts. But drunken driving charges, minor drug offenses and domestic abuse cases could all be handled by the special courts, and individuals convicted of the crimes could be ordered to various mental health treatment options in lieu of lengthy prison time.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related mental health issues are a tricky problem for normal courts; Stripes reporters have been following the issue for years.
Defense attorneys insist that not considering the mental health problems while sentencing a veteran is overlooking a major mitigating factor. Prosecutors say that excuse only goes so far, especially in more violent and premeditated crimes.
This new trend of veterans courts started 18 months ago in Buffalo with Judge Robert Russell. Other judicial bodies around the country have quickly jumped on the idea; about 20 cities have or are considering similar programs. Colorado Springs – which has already had to deal with a series of violent crimes at Ft. Carson – is one of them.
Texas State Rep. Joe Moody told the El Paso Times that the new program there is not intended to be a "get out of jail free" card for soldiers and veterans. But walking the fine line between rehabilitating troops who need help and punishing those who deserve it will be a tricky task, even for a court with better knowledge and experience with mental health issues.
Veterans feeling suicidal but hesitant to seek help can now chat with a VA counselor anonymously online.
Suicides among servicemembers have increased alarmingly in the last few years, and the "Veterans Chat" program is a pilot effort to get more to reach out for help when feeling depressed.
The idea is that someone who might not take the step to go to a VA clinic could be more willing to talk about their feelings through the distance of an internet connection. There's a certain security and control that comes with that seperation. It's one step removed beyond even the Suicide Prevention Hotline, where having someone hear your voice over the phone can be too personal for some.
Struggling veterans - or their friends and family - can talk to someone at any time; counselors are online 24 hours a day. The user choses whatever name they want for the one-on-one chat.
The VA says the program, though, is not intended for crisis intervention. Anyone deemed to be in immediate danger by the chat counselor is encouraged by the counselor to call the hotline.
"Chat responders are trained in an intervention method specifically developed for the chat line to assist people with emotional distress and concerns," Janet Kemp, the VA's National Suicide Prevention Coordinator, said in a press release. "We have procedures they can use to transfer chatters in crisis to the hotline for more immediate assistance."
Mideast edition, Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said this week that it recently learned that Iraq owns 19 fighter jets, which have been in storage in Serbia since 1989, The New York Times reported.
"Everyone knows how much we need fighter aircraft," a statement issued by the ministry said. "We have reached a tentative agreement with the Serbian side to rehabilitate the aircraft and deliver them to Iraq in the shortest possible time, in recognition of Iraq’s need for such aircraft."
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told the Times the MIG-21 and MIG-23 jet fighters had been sent to Serbia for maintenance and never returned. He noted that the discovery was important because Iraq’s air force at the moment includes primarily helicopters and transport and reconnaissance planes. There are no fighter jets.
The defense ministry said Serbia would make two aircraft available for "immediate use" and the rest would be restored on a rush basis.
The U.S. military recently arranged for Iraq to get a T-6 trainer, which is used to train F-16 pilots.
Lt. Col. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for the Multi-National Transition and Security Command-Iraq, the American military’s training wing, told the paper the addition of the MIG aircraft would not alter the U.S. plans.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
GI Bill program will be able to transfer unused educational benefits to their spouses or children starting Aug. 1, 2009.
New Department of Defense guidance, issued June 23, 2009, establishes the criteria for eligibility and transfer of those education benefits.
The new GI Bill, signed into law June 20, 2008, provides the most comprehensive educational benefit package since the original bill, officially known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was signed into law.
For more information on eligibility and application procedures,
see the Dept. of Veteran's Affairs Web site.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
We have a little less than one month and counting to get the word out all across this great land and into every community in the United States of America.
On Friday, September 11th, 2009, an American flag should be displayed outside every home, apartment, office, and store in the United States.
Every individual should make it their duty to display an American flag on this eighth anniversary of one of our country's worst tragedies. We do this to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11, their families, friends and loved ones who continue to endure the pain, and those who today are fighting at home and abroad to preserve our cherished freedoms.
In the days, weeks and months following 9/11, our country was bathed in American flags as citizens mourned the incredible losses and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. Sadly, those flags have all but disappeared. Our patriotism pulled us through some tough times and it shouldn't take another attack to galvanize us in solidarity. Our American flag is the fabric of our country and together we can prevail over terrorism of all kindshttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Military.com|by Bryant Jordan
Nodya "Gale" Reid of Montgomery, Ala., read the Veterans Administration letter in her hand, not believing at first it was meant for her.
She checked the name again and the Social Security number. It was her.
And she kept reading the first sentence over and over: "According to records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you have a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis."
Her heart dropped.
According to the ALS Association Web site (www.alsa.org), ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually taking away all motor abilities. Life expectancy is typically two to five years.
"I began crying. I was grief stricken," Reid, a former Air Force staff sergeant, who already has a service connected disability, told Military.com in a phone interview.
But Reid's fear was unnecessary. As it turns out, the VA letter diagnosing her with Lou Gehrig's disease was a terrible mistake. And Reid wasn't alone in her scare. The same letter went out to about 1,200 veterans on August 11.
VA officials have not yet replied to Military.com's request for information on the letter. According to Veterans for Common Sense and the National Gulf War Veterans Center, both of which have been alerting vets of the bogus letter, some vets may already have spent thousands of dollars on unnecessary tests to see if they had the deadly disorder.
The Gulf War Center is calling for the VA air public service announcements admitting to the error.
"The VA has an obligation to go on television and make public service announcements to prevent veterans from becoming overly alarmed," GWC President Jim Bunker wrote. "In addition, each veteran that was notified should be rescreened by the [VA] for neurological issues that are undiagnosed."
Reid thought that panicked veterans -- shaken or depressed by the letter diagnosing them with the deadly ailment -- would even consider committing suicide.
"I discussed this with a nurse friend of mine," Reid said. "Somebody in a fragile state of mind, they might think that [ALS] is not how they want to leave the world."
Another veteran, former Army Sgt. Brent Casey, a medic with the 82nd Airborne during the Persian Gulf War, agrees. He learned of the letter's contents on the phone, when his mother called to tell him he had a letter from the VA. As usual, he told her to open it and read it to him.
He was stunned and had to pull off the road, he said. A series of phone calls followed with a VA official.
"For 24 hours I thought I had ALS," he told Military.com. "You contemplate suicide - I knew I had only three to five years to live." Recalling his last conversation with the VA official, he said: "My words to him were, 'I'm so glad it's a mistake, but what about the other veterans who are not having this conversation or getting this explanation?' "
Casey said it has been about two weeks since the letters went out, and yet the VA has not been on TV to alert people who need to know.
"I just can't understand how the days and hours keep passing by and it's not happening," he said.
"Based on the calls we've received and the emails, there are clearly some very anxious and irate veterans out there," said Paul Sullivan, executive director for Veterans for Common Sense. "The VA needs to ensure that any costs incurred are covered."
Reid is one of those vets, in fact. She told Military.com she went to her primary physician with the letter, and though that doctor doubted Reid had ALS, the doctor referred her to a neurologist anyway.
Reid saw the neurologist, who administered some blood tests and an MRI. She also was subjected to "nerve conductivity" tests that used electrodes to shock her in about 20 different places.
"It was very, very painful," she said.
And in the end, the results indicated she did not have ALS.
"I'm keeping a running tab now of what it costs for these tests," Reid said, who estimates the bill to be about $3,000.
© Copyright 2009 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
But at least some of the letters — and the diagnoses — were a mistake.
Jim Bunker, president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, said VA officials told him the letters dated Aug. 12 were the result of a computer coding error that mistakenly labeled the veterans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
Katie Roberts, a spokeswoman for the VA, said the letters were simply to inform veterans with ALS of disability compensation available to them and were not intended to deliver a medical diagnosis of ALS.
Roberts said the administration has since been contacted by a "small number" of people who did not believe they had ALS. Veterans Administration officials are now reviewing all the cases, Roberts said.
For those who were sent the letters in error, Roberts said, VA officials are personally contacting the recipients to "express VA's sincere apologies for the distress caused by this unfortunate and regrettable error."
Bunker said the letters informed recipients that the ALS diagnosis made them 100% disabled, meaning they were entitled to about $2,700 a month, with additional money for children and spouses.
Although some may view that sought-after 100% designation as a welcome benefit, Bunker said, being diagnosed with a disease that generally kills people within five years far overshadowed any monetary gains.
"The vast majority saw it as bad," he said.
Brent Casey served as an Army medic in the 1990 Gulf War and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome.
He has already been classified 100% disabled by the VA, but is working toward a master's degree in business in Louisville. He also volunteers at the local VA.
When Casey's mother called and read him the letter, the 41-year-old thought he had just been read a "death sentence."
"By volunteering at the VA, I've learned a lot of these illnesses. So I knew firsthand what that meant for me," Casey said. "I just had a total meltdown."
Casey learned that the letter was a mistake after making calls to the VA. But he now worries about the veterans who have received the letter and have yet to be contacted about the mistake.
"My concern is, what about the guy who's been on vacation, and he comes home to find this letter this evening?" Casey said. "We need to get the word out to these guys."
Contributing: Alan Gomez in McLean, Va.
Monday, August 24, 2009
In a ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field Thursday, a Marine who was tested in the heat of battle received the highest award for valor given by the Department of the Navy, the Navy Cross Medal, and was meritoriously promoted to the rank of corporal.
Cpl. Richard S. Weinmaster, a Squad Automatic Weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, received the award for his actions as a private first class in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province on July 8, 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
According to his platoon commander, 1st Lt. George Fenton, Weinmaster, a Cozad, Neb., native, was in front of a squad-sized patrol making its way through an eight-foot wide alley bordered on each side by 10-foot tall mud-brick walls, dubbed “ambush alley,” when their patrol was attacked by enemy small-arms fire and grenades.
In the midst of the firefight, Weinmaster provided accurate suppressive fire with his SAW until he noticed an incoming grenade land near his team leader, Lance Cpl. Tyler Wilkerson.
Fenton, a Fredericksburg, Va., native, explained how Weinmaster shoved Wilkerson out of the way then jumped toward the grenade to try and smother the blast. As he jumped, the grenade exploded sending the majority of its shrapnel into Weinmaster.
Weinmaster effectively shielded his team leader from the blast and Wilkerson was spared from any shrapnel. Weinmaster, however, received serious wounds, including a piece of shrapnel that entered his left eye socket and traveled halfway into his brain, where it remains to this day.
Despite his grave injuries, Weinmaster re-mounted his SAW and continued to provide effective suppressive fire on the enemy positions 50 yards away.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Lockhart, Weinmaster’s former platoon sergeant, said Weinmaster’s heroic actions in the heat of battle are a true reflection of his caliber.
Lockhart said for a Marine two-and-a-half months into his first deployment who has been in the Marine Corps for just a year to show such heroism is proof real valor and selflessness remain in the heart of Marines everywhere.
“Valor has to come from the heart and soul,” said Jim Weinmaster, Cpl. Weinmaster’s father. “It has to come from within. Karen [Weinmaster’s mother] and I raised him as best as we could, but actions like that go beyond parenting, beyond anything that can be taught.”
Weinmaster remained humble throughout the ceremony as well as afterward when he was greeted and thanked by scores of Marines, former Marines and grateful civilians.
“I didn’t do anything special,” he told everyone. “Everyone on my left and right would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Fenton and Lockhart agreed, saying that their platoon was full of Marines who would have done the same if given the opportunity, but both also emphasized the fact Weinmaster was given the opportunity and he acted in total disregard for his own safety to save another Marine’s life.
His devotion and selflessness earned Weinmaster the Navy Cross, although he maintains he was “just doing his job.”
Tampa, Florida -- Fallen Tampa Police Corporal Mike Roberts' name is now among the 28 others who made the ultimate sacrifice as they tried to serve and protect. His name was added to the police memorial outside Tampa Police Headquarters Monday. [Full Story]
Tampa Police Chief Steve Hogue says the toughest thing one does as a police chief is to bury an officer.
But part of the process of burying Corporal Mike Roberts includes his family coming together with his police family, sharing hugs and tears as his name was etched into the memorial.
Hogue says putting Roberts' name on the memorial will allow generations to come know that he should be remembered as a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his city and community.
As Roberts' widow Cynthia and his almost 4-year-old son Adam pulled off the stencil to reveal his name and the date he died, it occurred to many, including Chief Hogue, that the little boy who will grow up without a father doesn't have the full understanding of his loss.
Hogue says this is a sad day and that adds to the sorrow. On the same day Roberts' name was added to the police memorial, Tampa Police released the transmissions -- including his final one -- on the night he died. [Full Story]
Sgt. Paul Mumford was the first to arrive on the scene and in the dispatch, you can hear him scream that Robert is "10-33," meaning officer down.
Mumford says his first concern when he saw Roberts on the ground was for his fellow officer.
Although Mumford says he tried to help Roberts, there was nothing he could do and he had to deal with the suspect, who pointed an assault rifle at him.
Mumford says it is difficult to see a fellow officer in a situation like that.
The family will receive visitors at the Blount and Curry Funeral Home in Tampa on Monday night. There will be a service for him Tuesday at St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Lutz. The family will have a private burial at the National Cemetery in Bushnell.
Ed Panosh with his dog Molsen on the balcony of his apartment on the Northwest Side of Chicago on Friday, Aug 21, 2009. The dog was shipped to Chicago from the camp in Afghanistan where Panosh served. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune / August 21, 2009)
Ed Panosh, a Chicago police detective and first sergeant in the Illinois National Guard, thought he'd never see a beloved camp dog again when he left his Afghan base near Kandahar in May.
But friends who heard about a charity that helps with this sort of thing filled out the paperwork, crated up the dog and mailed it home before telling Panosh about their plans. "I got on the helicopter kind of thinking there's no way for it to happen," he said. They alerted him in an e-mail after he left the country.
"It basically said everything was taken care of, but she was in a crate and she was on her way to Kabul," Panosh, 37, said.
A lieutenant new to the base but on his second tour had done this before. A fellow Illinois Guardsman, Jorge Solis, helped carry it forward.
It is 7,000 miles from Panjwai, Afghanistan, to Chicago. Panosh got here May 28, the dog July 15. To get here, she was loaded into a crate at a Canadian camp southwest of Kandahar, flown to Kabul, then to Islamabad, Pakistan, then to New York, and then to Chicago. She got veterinary care in Pakistan, and also, Panosh surmises from new scars, into a few fights.
"Molson" (named after the beer: her hair is golden, and Panosh served on a Canadian base) is now getting used to life in America, where she has discovered grass, forest preserve deer and a regular place to sleep -- at the foot of Panosh's bed on the Northwest Side of Chicago.
email@example.com Chicago Tribune
Sunday, August 23, 2009
PORT RICHEY — Mary Ann Wilson remembers only snippets of her older brother: the colored pencils he adored, his German army uniform, their final embrace.
She was just a child the last time she saw him. Maybe eleven years older than her, he and their father had been drafted to fight in the German army, she said.
After World War II ended, her brother visited Mary Ann and her mother in a displaced persons camp. Their mother was in the final stages of her battle with ovarian cancer. The brother came to say goodbye.
Like many details of her childhood, where he had been before or what happened to him after that, Mary Ann doesn't know.
At 66, she's come to accept that the father she saw only occasionally as a child is long gone. Her mother died when she was 6. But somewhere, her brother, Wisil Petruk, could be alive.
"Maybe God saved him," Mary Ann said.
• • •
Mary Ann was born in Germany two years before the war ended to parents she believes were of Ukrainian descent.
Her childhood playground was the ruins of post-war Germany. Tea parties were held with broken saucers found in the rubble. Old mattress springs were bouncy toys. The children avoided the spots where they found human skeletons.
Mary Ann's mother's dying wish was that her daughter be removed from the squalor and brought to America. After her mother's death, Mary Ann lived with a family friend in the camps for two years, until a relief organization arranged to bring her overseas.
After a week's journey by boat, Mary Ann said she was greeted by the Statue of Liberty in November 1951.
"Coming to America was the best, the most wonderful thing. But by the same token I thought about everyone left behind. I always said, 'I'm going to find them.' "
• • •
Mary Ann is tight-lipped about some of the details of her childhood. She did not reveal the names of the Philadelphia couple who adopted her. She did not say when her birth name of Maria was changed to Mary Ann, or what her last name became after her adoption.
She eventually married George Williams, a police and military man. Mary Ann asked the Times not to contact her husband, but said they raised four children in Philadelphia and retired to Port Richey in 2004.
Once a full-time mom, she now spends her days gardening, babysitting her grandchildren and entertaining friends. She likes chick flicks and is an active member of the local Republican party.
Mary Ann's children always knew they had an uncle, but she didn't reveal the details of her search as they grew up. She didn't want to burden them with the harsh realities of her childhood.
"Every time she would talk about it, she would get emotional," said daughter Daria Wilson, 28, who lives in Philadelphia.
Stories of war-torn families like Mary Ann's are not uncommon, said Orest Subtelny, a history professor at York University in Toronto, Ontario.
"This happened all the time, families were split, brothers and sisters split," he said.
In some parts of Europe, Subtelny said, people still place newspaper ads seeking family members lost during and after World War II.
Mary Ann has written to organizations throughout Europe, inquiring about her brother. She asked friends who traveled abroad to rip out the P pages of phone books. She called all the Petruks, looking for Wisil.
In June 2008, Mary Ann told her story to the American Red Cross, which provides tracing services for families displaced during war, civil unrest and natural disasters through its international network of societies.
Since 1945, the relief organization has handled 9,000 requests to locate family members lost during World War II.
The American Red Cross gathered as much information as they could on Wisil Petruk from Mary Ann, then forwarded it on to their tracing center in Baltimore, Md.
They told her to be patient.
But Mary Ann wasn't about to quit her quest.
The biggest breakthough came soon after. Through an Internet search, Mary Ann said she found a man with the same name as her brother, working as a priest in Brazil.
After decades of searching, Mary Ann felt chills and butterflies looking at his name on the screen.
She called the Red Cross with the information.
"That night, I prayed for the missing link to be found," she said.
• • •
The Brazilian Red Cross is currently looking for Wisil. There have been no updates on the search, and the Times could not find the Web page that Mary Ann discovered last year.
Such delays are not uncommon in a case like this, said Chad Magnuson, emergency services director for the American Red Cross, Tampa Bay Chapter.
"Sometimes these things take years."
But Mary Ann wonders if her brother doesn't want to be found.
Decades ago, she returned to the Philadelphia orphanage where she had lived before her adoption. They gave her a letter, supposedly from her brother.
The letter said that Wisil gave up all rights to his sister. He was in no position to take care of her.
But there was no signature, and Mary Ann holds on to a shred of hope that some organization or orphanage employee wrote it so she could be more easily processed through the system.
If the Wisil Petruk in Brazil is her brother, and he doesn't respond, Mary Ann says she will understand. Maybe by reaching out, she has stirred up too many emotions. Maybe he did write that letter and feels guilty about it. Maybe he never told anyone about her.
"Every day, it's a missing link in my life," she said. "It's a sadness because here in America people take each other for granted. They don't know what a gift it is to have a family."
Times Researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.
Women have served in the United States Army since 1775. They nursed the ill and wounded, laundered and mended clothing, and cooked for the troops in camp on campaign; services that did not exist among the uniformed personnel within the Army until the Twentieth Century. Women are an invaluable and essential part of the Army. Currently, women serve in 91 percent of all Army occupations and make up about 14 percent of the active Army. Women continue to have a crucial role in the War on Terrorism and their sacrifices in this noble effort underscore their dedication and willingness to share great sacrifices.
To my fellow Sisters in Arms: God Bless You, God Speed and know we have made a difference! They say we can't be a part of "the front line", yet we always have been and will continue to be!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Posted : Saturday Aug 22, 2009 8:22:22 EDT
Wedding receptions are a dime a dozen at Idlewild Country Club in Flossmoor, Ill. One in the middle of August, though, stood out. Even the waiters couldn’t help but wipe their eyes at the Del Toro affair.
Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro and his wife, Carmen, who had tied the knot in a simple civil ceremony, finally realized their dream for a big church wedding and reception four years after a roadside bomb almost killed him.
The Del Toros hadn’t meant to keep pushing back their plans. It just happened.
First, there was the hectic pace of Israel’s work as a joint terminal attack controller, one of only a few hundred airmen who travel with the Army to call in airstrikes. The couple settled for a trip to the courthouse to say, “I do.”
Then, an explosion in Afghanistan burned Israel over 80 percent of his body. Suddenly, the biggest church wedding in the world didn’t matter to Carmen — only helping Israel get better, helping him get through the dozens of skin graph surgeries.
But Israel never forgot their dream — and wanted to show his wife of seven years just how much she means to him.
The couple walked down the aisle of St. Raymond’s Cathedral in Joliet, Ill., near Israel’s hometown and then hosted a reception at Idlewild.
“After I got hurt, she said, ‘It doesn’t matter about a wedding; I got you, you’re alive,’” Israel told the Southtown Star newspaper in suburban Chicago. “With what she’s gone through with me it’s just ... it’s the least I can go to give her the wedding she’s always wanted. She’s amazing, and she deserves this.”
The reception had two surprises.
As the wedding party was introduced, the Del Toros learned that members of the country club and others from his hometown area had quietly paid for the $15,000 reception.
“It was just something we had to do,” said George Davis, a board member of the club.
As the couple took center stage for the first dance, Israel pointed to a big screen. On it appeared singer Richard Marx, who recorded Carmen’s favorite song, “Right Here Waiting.” Marx dedicated the song to them before singing it.
The video, the donation — it was all more than the Idlewood staff could take, said Peter Corydon, who was helping run the reception.
Out came the tissue.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” he said.
READ MORE ON DEL TORO
This video is for the troops, its not about pollitics or government, its about my friends, my boyfriend-other peoples families over there dying and doing their jobs. I support the soldier, I dont support the war. That's what this video is about so any negative comments dont need to be heard and will be removed.
This is for the soldiers who have served/are serving or who've lost their life or limbs
And to the protestors, may they open their eyes to what really needs focused on..
The Song is "Hands Held High" by Linkin Park
Posted : Tuesday Aug 18, 2009 7:47:07 EDT
PHILADELPHIA — Six more cases have been found of cancer patients being given incorrect radiation doses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia.
The errors happened in a common surgical procedure to treat prostate cancer.
That brings the total to 98 veterans who were given incorrect radiation doses over a six-year period at the hospital.
The program had treated 114 cancer patients before it was halted when the problem surfaced in 2008.
The cases involved brachytherapy, in which implanted radioactive metal seeds are used to kill cancer cells. Most veterans got far less than the prescribed dose while others received too much.
The newly reported cases have been forwarded to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Posted : Saturday Aug 22, 2009 11:51:05 EDT
The nation’s top military officer wants to hear what’s on your mind — via YouTube.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, an avid Twitter user who has taken the lead among senior leaders in promoting communication via social networking — he’s also on Facebook — has issued an invitation to service members, family members or “anyone who cares about folks in the military” to video-record a question on any topic and submit it by midnight, Eastern Standard Time, Aug. 31.
Mullen, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs is the top military adviser to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will post his answers on YouTube.
“This is your chance to get the straight scoop, straight from the top,” promises Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class William Selby on a promotional video.
The widely traveled Mullen makes a point of talking to troops and family members at every stop. This latest effort allows him to reach out in a different way, said his spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby.
“The chairman really wants to have a conversation with the troops akin to the way he does at all-hands calls at bases all over the world,” Kirby said. “He wanted that conversation to be as interactive as possible and reflective of what is on their minds.”
The effort coincides with the launch of www.defense.gov, a new Pentagon Web site loaded with links to social networking sites and aimed at encouraging viewers to “connect with us.”
But service members interested in posing a question to Mullen will have to do their recording on their own time. Access to YouTube and 11 other popular social networking sites from military computers has been banned since May 2007 because of what officials said was a drain on bandwidth in the .mil domain. A Pentagon review of that policy was launched in late July.
Posted : Friday Aug 21, 2009 17:01:59 EDT
A 20-year-old Marine was awarded one of the Navy’s highest awards for valor during a ceremony Thursday at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
The Navy Cross is the second-highest award for valor and the highest given by the Navy.
The citation accompanying the award described Weinmaster’s actions during enemy combat: “While on a dismounted patrol, Weinmaster’s squad was ambushed by enemy forces. Weinmaster used his body to shield both his fire team leader and several other Marines from the blast of an enemy grenade.
“Although he was seriously injured, Weinmaster continued to carry out the attack, engaging enemy forces with accurate automatic weapons fire and forcing them to break contact before collapsing from the gravity of his wounds.”
Weinmaster is an automatic rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
His decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Hall of Valor collections
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Please take a moment to honor a local Marine, Sgt. Ryan Lane, from Castle Shannon, PA. for giving the ultimate sacrifice to this nation in Afghanistan July 23, 2009.
As you'll see towards the end of the linked video (below), he loved the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is warriors and true patriots like him that allow us the right to enjoy this great game of hockey and to celebrate the Stanley Cup.
Thank you and God Bless you Ryan!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
One of the President’s top priorities since coming into office has been to give our veterans "the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned." That began with the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades, and with trying to initiating electronic medical records that would follow a member of the Armed Forces through their transition into VA care and stay with them forever.
And so we have been particularly concerned with correcting any misperception that health insurance reform would have any negative effect whatsoever on veterans’ access to their care. One of the first "Reality Check" videos we made for our new page on myths about reform was with Matt Flavin, Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy:
Yesterday in response for our call for more myths and questions that we should address, however, we got an email from a veteran in Virginia:
"I am a 27 year Marine Corps Veteran on Tricare Prime. Will the "Proposed" or "Pending Legislation" affect in any way shape or form the current Tricare system?"
To answer that email and others like it, we’ve just added the following to our FAQ page on WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck. Hope this puts his mind at ease:
Q I am active duty military and I am worried that health reform will affect my care under TRICARE.
A The President is committed to ensuring that America’s servicemen and women have high quality care. This was an issue he fought for when he was a United States Senator and will continue fighting for as President. You have given much to your country, and we are determined to provide you and your family with good, reliable health care.
Health reform will only build on our commitment to military health care. TRICARE will continue to be available for all eligible servicemen and women, and their families. The health reform legislation that is being considered would enable those who are covered by TRICARE to meet the shared responsibility requirement for individuals to have insurance, thereby exempting such members of the uniformed services and dependants from being assessed penalties. If enacted, the President will ensure that this exemption is implemented aggressively. The Secretary of Defense would continue to maintain sole authority over the system and for enhancing the quality and access for all eligible members of the uniformed services.
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced Aug. 14 that combat veterans will receive readjustment counseling and other assistance in 28 additional communities across the country where the Department of Veterans Affairs 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 counseling.
The existing 232 centers conduct community outreach offering counseling on employment, family issues and education to combat veterans and family members. Staffs also offer 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 multidisciplinary teams, which may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master's-level counselors and outreach specialists. More than 70 percent of vet center employees are veterans themselves, a majority of whom served in combat zones.
The vet center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing that many Vietnam veterans were still having readjustment problems. In 2008, the vet venter program provided more than 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 www.vetcenter.va.gov/index.asp.
Communities receiving new VA vet centers include:
-- American Samoa
-- Arizona -- Mohave and Yuma Counties
-- California -- San Luis Obispo County
-- Delaware -- Sussex County
-- Florida -- Marion, Lake, Collier, Okaloosa and Bay Counties
-- Georgia -- Muscogee and Richmond Counties
-- Hawaii -- Western Oahu
-- Indiana -- St. Joseph County
-- Louisiana -- Rapides Parish
-- Michigan -- Grand Traverse County, also serving Wexford County
-- Missouri -- Boone County
-- Montana -- Cascade and Flathead Counties
-- Ohio -- Stark County
-- Oregon -- Deschutes County
-- Pennsylvania -- Lancaster County
-- South Carolina -- Horry County
-- Texas -- Jefferson and Taylor Counties
-- Utah -- Washington County
-- Washington -- Walla Walla County, also serving Umatilla County, Oregon
-- Wisconsin -- LaCrosse County, also serving Monroe County.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Both of these girls fathers are away at war. So other kids did not know what they were going through so they created this Sisterhood of the Traveling BDU's like the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
This is great for kids to get involved when there mom or dad is away at war.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell says troops already are under enough stress and making enough sacrifices from fighting the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Pentagon says it won't ban smoking by troops in war zones, despite a recent study recommending a tobacco-free military.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell says troops already are under enough stress and making enough sacrifices in fighting the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he says Defense Secretary Robert Gates doesn't want to do add to that stress by taking away one of the few outlets they have to relieve it.
But Morrell says Gates will look at the study to see what other things can be done to move toward a goal of a tobacco-free force.
An advocacy group, however, is strongly condemning the push by Pentagon health experts to ban the use of tobacco by troops and end sales of tobacco products on military property. Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United, decried even the discussion of such a ban.
"With all the issues facing our military today and the risks our troops take to protect our freedom, banning smoking should not even be on the radar screen," Wise said in a written statement Wednesday.
"Nobody doubts the effects of smoking, but it is not an illegal substance and should not be banned," he said. "Our troops make enough sacrifices to serve our nation. They give up many of the freedoms civilians enjoy already without being told they cannot partake in yet another otherwise legal activity. Perhaps more than anything, smoking in the field is more about comfort and coping with an often hostile environment."
Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, told USA Today last week that he will advise Gates to adopt proposals by a federal study that cites rising tobacco use and higher costs for the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs as reasons for the ban.
The study by the Institute of Medicine calls for a phased-in ban over a period of up to 20 years.
"We'll certainly be taking that recommendation forward," Smith told the newspaper.
The VA and the Pentagon requested the study, which found that troops worn out by repeated deployments often rely on cigarettes as a "stress reliever." The study also found that tobacco use in the military increased after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
Tobacco use costs the Pentagon $846 million a year in medical care and lost productivity, according to the study, which was released last month and used older data. The Department of Veterans Affairs spends up to $6 billion in treatments for tobacco-related illnesses, the study found.
The study recommends requiring new officers and enlisted personnel to be tobacco-free, eliminating tobacco use on military installations, ships and aircraft, expanding treatment programs and eliminating the sale of tobacco on military property.
"Any tobacco use while in uniform should be prohibited," the study said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement Saturday comes days after a U.S. graduate student held in Iran returned to Los Angeles.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Saturday seeking to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Iran to release Americans who are detained there or have disappeared there.
"We once again urge Iran's leadership to quickly resolve all outstanding American citizen cases," Clinton said.
The increased emphasis on Americans in Iran came after news that a graduate student from the United States who had been held in Iran returned this week to Los Angeles.
The student, Esha Momeni, was imprisoned for a month last year because of her research on the Iranian women's rights movement. She was freed in November but was only now able to return to the U.S.
Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing since March 2007. Three hikers -- Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd -- were detained by Iranian authorities on July 31. And an Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, was arrested last month on charges related to provoking unrest.
"Our goal is to ensure the safe return of all our missing or unjustly detained American citizens to the United States as quickly as possible so that they can be reunited with their families," Clinton said in her statement.
The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but in March, Clinton took the unusual step of sending a letter asking the Iranian government's permission for Momeni, Levinson and Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi.
Saberi was convicted of espionage before being released on an appeal in May. Levinson was last seen on Iran's Kish Island on March 8, 2007. He disappeared in Iran while investigating cigarette smuggling for a client of his private security firm.
The three hikers are accused of crossing over the border from Iraq, though they have said it was by accident and they had no intention of straying into Iran.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By Bill Stevens, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, August 16, 2009
[BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]
For 64 years, the Laesch brothers from the east side of Detroit have gone about their lives with little fanfare. They worked hard, remained loyal to their wives and children, and retired where the weather is mild.
And in all that time, they never sat down together to discuss the single most defining experience of their lives.
So why now?
"We won't be around much longer,'' said Harold, 86.
"We're sewn together, but our minds are still clear,'' added Carl, 90.
"Too many damned bitter memories,'' offered Robert, 83. "Harold opened his big mouth and you came in.''
Harold's invitation for me to visit his home in the Summertree subdivision near Hudson actually came in a letter, meticulously crafted on an ancient typewriter. ("We don't have a computer.'') It had been nine years since the brothers got together, and Harold worried he wouldn't get another chance to tell their story.
The numbers aren't lost on Harold Laesch — 5 million World War II veterans left; more than 1,000 of them dying every day.
This is why the brothers' story is unique: They fought at the same time in the Pacific Theater, in different branches — Army (Harold), Navy (Carl) and Marines (Robert).
• • •
Harold was the first to go. He was 19 and working for the Ford Motor Co. when he got drafted in March 1943. He left his parents, brothers and four sisters behind and joined the 33rd Infantry Division for training in the Mojave Desert and then Hawaii. He wound up in the Philippines with the 123rd Infantry, enduring artillery shelling by Japanese forces near Baguio.
In his words:
"When a shell gets close, you can hear it screaming. I had just dug a slit trench when I heard one coming. I pushed down as hard as I could into the earth. When it exploded, dirt covered me. The two men next to me were killed. I survived by the grace of a higher authority."
Harold earned the Bronze Star for bravery.
• • •
Carl was 26 when he got drafted. A week later, he said, "they stopped drafting men 26 and older.'' He had been repairing aircraft engines at the Packard factory, but now the armed forces needed reinforcements. He was given a choice of service branches. "Being a machinist, I thought I could be of most value aboard a ship.''
He wound up aboard the AKA93 Yancey, which transported troops and cargo to, among other places, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
In his words:
"We endured several attacks from the air; some near-misses by kamikazes. But we were lucky and avoided casualties."
• • •
Robert was 15 when the war broke out. He went to work at a converted car factory, helping to build B-24 bombers. He turned 18 on Feb. 25, 1944, got married a week later and received his draft notice on June 24 and "volunteered'' for the Marines.
After jungle training in Hawaii, he shipped out with the 5th Division, 27th Marines. At sea, the Marines learned they were headed to Iwo Jima, considered homeland by Japanese.
In his words:
"Based on other battles, the commanders thought it would take three or four days to secure Iwo. It took 38. I was in the third wave. It was Hell. We didn't move off the beach for four days, while we got pounded."
Robert looked out to the sea and saw the AKA93 Yancey, his brother's ship. They both knew the other was there, but they couldn't get together.
Almost 7,000 Americans died in the fighting. Another 19,000 were wounded. More than 21,000 Japanese were killed. Robert Laesch's detachment lost 566 men, with another 1,703 wounded. He escaped unharmed. Physically, at least.
• • •
The Laesch brothers prepared for an invasion of Japan, but the war ended Aug. 14, 1945, days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The brothers are as certain today as they were then that the bombing was necessary. They agreed millions more would have perished in an invasion of Japan.
They returned to Detroit, resumed civilian careers, raised families. Carl retired from Ford and moved to Spring Hill. He and Evelyn have been married 63 years. Harold chose a career as a police officer in the Detroit area and retired to Hudson in 1981. He and Adele will celebrate 49 years in September. Robert left Michigan and worked 45 years for an aeronautical company in San Diego before retiring to Lake Havasu City, Ariz. He and Wanda have been married for 65 years.
And so last week, they all gathered in this comfortable home in the Summertree retirement community. Robert cracked open a beer — and cracked several jokes. "If bull---- was music,'' Harold said, "he'd be the whole brass band.''
The brothers clearly enjoyed the moment. They weren't certain why it took this long to sit together and talk about the war, but now they couldn't stop.
And then I asked Robert why he didn't revisit Iwo Jima like so many other old soldiers; why he didn't participate in reunions. He had kept a Japanese battle flag, signed by many of his buddies. They included their stateside addresses, but Robert never looked them up.
Now, on a couch with his two big brothers, the memories returned. He saw the faces again, the carnage. Sixty-four years is a long time, but not long enough.
Tears welled in his eyes. He excused himself and walked to another room.
- A U.S. soldier runs across an open area while
- receiving small arms fire at Michigan Base in the
- Pesh Valley of Afghanistan on Aug. 2. Photo: Reuters
With the war in Afghanistan in its eighth year, with deaths and casualties mounting and with no so-called victory in sight, perhaps it is time to recall the words of the late Sen. George Aiken (R-Vt).
Back in 1966, with the country tangled in the war in Vietnam, Aiken suggested that we declare victory and bring our troops home. It was a surprising move by a Republican, though Aiken was considered a moderate.
Naturally, Aiken caught the wrath of President Lyndon B. Johnson and other “hawks,” who portrayed him as defeatist willing to let South Vietnam fall into hands of the Communist regime in Hanoi. Of course, that is just what happened eight years later, after 55,000 American deaths, tens of thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in expenditures.
Vietnam remains a sad episode for a failed foreign policy and a lingering stain on Johnson’s presidency.
Aiken, a quiet Vermont gentleman, ate breakfast almost every day in the Senate dining room with his close friend, Sen. Mike Mansfield (D-Mt.), the Senate majority leader. Like Aiken, Mansfield was a taciturn but a principled man highly respected on both sides of the aisle.
Mansfield, too, drew the anger of LBJ when he withdrew his support for the war in the face of mounting casualties and a series of political failures by the shaky government in Saigon.
For Aiken’s part, his suggestion that the U.S. declare victory wasn’t taken seriously in the White House, the Pentagon or the State Department. In retrospect, it should have been.
There are about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan today. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new top commander in the country, wants even more. (It is a rarity when any field commander does not want additional manpower in the ranks.)
The death total of at least 41 in July is the largest monthly loss for American troops since January 2008. Nearly all have been caused by roadside bombs, the most popular weapon for the Taliban.
In Vietnam, the military at least was fighting a recognizable enemy in the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. In Afghanistan, especially in the areas outside the capital of Kabul, the roadside bombs seem to be everywhere.
Granted, a pullout of American forces now would have serious consequences. The Afghan government, under President Hamid Karzai, is hardly ready to assume control of the nation. Yet there is much resentment of our men and women there, as there was earlier of the occupying Russians and even the Taliban.
Truth be told, the warlords and a large segment of the population do not want outsiders in their country. Period. Those who once said we could make shining democracies out of Afghanistan and Iraq were only dreaming.
President Barack Obama has vowed to remove our troops by the end of 2011. That would mean the war would be 10 years old, and still without any real guarantee that the deadline for withdrawal couldn’t be lifted.
At the end of that year, campaigning will have started in earnest for the presidential election of 2012. Obama could be faced with a big problem if the war is expanding or even stalemated.
Perhaps, the president needs to give Congress and the American people a stronger case for our continued mission in Afghanistan. Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans won’t do the job. And the threat of a renewed takeover by the Taliban could continue for many years beyond the deadline.
After the U.S. forced most of the Taliban out of the country after Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was so eager to attack Iraq that we left Afghanistan much too early. We continue to pay a price for that decision.
A half-century ago, some folks sneered and laughed when Sen. Aiken said the U.S. should quickly get out of a growing quagmire in Southeast Asia. Afghanistan is rapidly becoming a similar quagmire, if it is not there already.
If many in that country continue to oppose our men and women in their their midst, why will we be there at least 18 months more, or possibly longer?
Friday, August 14, 2009
"The Mission Continues is not a charity; it's a challenge."
--Christopher Marvin, 2007 Mission Continues Fellow, Hawai'i
The idea behind The Mission Continues was born on the streets of Fallujah and in the recovery wards of Bethesda Naval Hospital. In 2007, my friend Eric Greitens was wounded in Iraq, and returned home to find many of his fellow wounded eager to continue serving their country. Shortly after Eric's return, I visited with injured Marines recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital. One of them said this: "I lost my legs. That's all. I did not lose my desire to serve, or my pride in being an American." Together, Eric and I founded a new kind of veterans organization.
The Mission Continues was built on the belief that our returning wounded should be recognized not only for the sacrifices they have made, but for everything they have left to give. We award fellowships to empower wounded and disabled veterans to serve in their communities. In doing so, we send the message: "We still need you." America owes these men and women a great deal, but as a nation, we have much left to learn from them. While injury may have changed the nature of their service, their mission continues, and it is as important as ever.
In empowering wounded veterans to continue their lives of service, we depend on the support of Americans everywhere. We have placed Fellows with community organizations throughout the country and are constantly looking to expand these opportunities. If you are interested in supporting a Mission Continues Fellow, please contact us.
We also believe that the best way to honor service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice is to live their beliefs. I encourage you to join us in service by leading a Veterans Tribute Project . In doing so, you will honor our fallen by continuing their mission of service.
Thank you for your interest in The Mission Continues. Every injured service member should have the opportunity to serve their country once again; for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, the greatest tribute we can offer is continuing their mission of service.
Together, we can make this possible.
Kenneth Harbaugh, Executive Director
Thursday, August 13, 2009
To: US Legislature (Congress - Senate - Executive)
I am writing to secure enactment and funding for H.R. 303, a bill that would end the current practice of deducting disabled military retirees' VA disability compensation from the retired pay they earned for completing a career of uniformed service.
Military retired pay and veteran’s disability compensation are two entirely different things, paid for different purposes --- and one should not offset the other. Each of these is earned in its own right --- retired pay for a career of arduous military service, and disability compensation for the pain, suffering, and lost future earnings resulting from service-incurred disabilities. Under the current law, many members with decades of uniformed service are forced to forfeit most or all of their military retired pay to receive the same disability compensation available to a similarly disabled member with only a few years of military service. This unfairly denies the compensation value they are due for their extended career of service in the uniform of their country.
Those who accept the extraordinary demands and sacrifices inherent in a service career deserve better. We have an obligation to those who make this choice to not require them to fund their own disability compensation from their separately earned retired pay. We have the opportunity to make this change now, given the large budget surpluses.
Please work to ensure our political leadership allocates the necessary funding for H.R. 303 in the FY 2002 Budget Resolution, and do all you can to assist in the enactment of this important legislation now --- before we lose thousands more of our dedicated veterans from WW-II, Korea, Viet Nam, and other retirees who already have suffered this unfair financial penalty far too long.
Actions you can take to assist include signing this petition; cut-&-paste this letter into your own letter to your representatives; and sending a link to this petition to as many concerned and like-minded individuals as possible. Thank you for your continued support to our men and women in uniform.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
For many reasons it is difficult to fully account for the actual number of
homeless (including veterans) in the US. Many sleep in their cars, in the
woods, or other hard to locate areas. The difficulty in accurately counting
the homeless is compounded by the fact that the numbers do not include
those who are living with others due to economic need or in motels due to
lack of adequate housing. Furthermore, the definition of homeless used
often excludes many, including those who are in prison or jail and those
residing in permanent housing for the homeless. There is not a national
database to help track our homeless veterans. Most available statistics
don't include the many vets that are at risk of becoming homeless.
Approximately 1/3 of homeless adults (one out of every three) in this country
are veterans, yet veterans represent only 11% of the civilian population. On
any given night 154,000 - 300,000 veterans are homeless. Based on various
estimates, 500,000 - 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the
year. In 2008, 44% of people surveyed reported being homeless for the
first time. This number was 37% in 2007. According to the Department of
Veterans Affairs the number of homeless Vietnam era veterans exceeds
the number of fatalities that occurred during the war.
Veterans become homeless for the same reasons non-veterans
become homeless, including due to the rising foreclosure and
unemployment rates, as well as due to veteran specific issues.
300 vets who returned from serving in Iraq (OIF or Operation Iraqi
Freedom) & Afghanistan (OEF or Operation Enduring Freedom)
sought assistance for homelessness between 2004 & 2006. In
May 2008 U.S. Medicine reported that at least 1,500 veterans of
OEF/OIF are homeless & many expect this number to continue
to rise. The NCHV's Iraq Veteran Project reported that OIF/OEF
vets are in serious danger for homelessness & chronic homelessness.
One source reported that in 2007 the DVA had identified over 1,000
OIF/OEF returnees as at risk for homelessness. The Iraq Veteran
Project had also found that OIF/OEF veterans are becoming homeless
sooner after their return from combat than seen in previous wars. In
addition to the veteran homelessness risk factors noted above,
the researchers identified the following reasons for this.
veterans 18 and older was 11.2% (one in nine are jobless)
vs 8.8% for non vets in the same age group.
* 15% of OIF/OEF vets ages 20-24 were unemployed in March 2009 as well
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Veteran finally receives his Bronze Star Medal for 1967 battle in Vietnam
European edition, Sunday, August 9, 2009
BAMBERG, Germany — The package Alfred Pankey had waited more than 40 years for finally arrived.
The retired Army staff sergeant, now 69, hobbled into the post office on crutches anxiously looking for his long overdue Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for his acts of valor in a battle that claimed the lives of nine of his comrades.
“Yeah man, I was awarded this in Vietnam, but I never received the medal,” Pankey said, proudly holding his newest possession.
“I’ve been trying to get this award for the longest time.”
After retiring in Germany with his family in 1982, Pankey began the process of searching through his military records and contacting his hometown retirement center to see what happened to his award. He said he sent numerous letters and made tons of phone calls.
Then his luck changed six to eight months ago when he was notified by the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command that he would be receiving his Bronze Star.
“This was the last chance I had right here,” he said pointing to the TACOM address on the envelope.
The TACOM representative in Philadelphia, from where the medal was delivered, said they are only responsible for shipping the medals once the National Personnel Records Center verifies the award is legitimate.
The NPRC answered Stripes queries with an automated response and did not address questions about why the specific medal review took so long.
Pankey recalled the horrific battle for which he earned the award.
Then-Sgt. Alfred Pankey was serving with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Blackhorse Base Camp on June 19, 1967, near the Cambodian border when his unit was attacked by “mortars, rockets, recoilless rifles, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from an estimated battalion of Viet Cong,” his citation reads.
Pankey simply calls it “a bad night.”
According to the citation, Pankey rallied his men and maneuvered them to strengthen a vital part of the perimeter.
“Seeing his platoon leader and platoon sergeant cut down by hostile fire, Sergeant Pankey courageously took command of his platoon,” the citation reads.
He then guided his men to rescue a heavily engaged combat patrol that was 1,000 yards away, and thanks to his leadership, the unit evacuated all casualties and all their equipment.
“He forced the insurgents to withdraw and then collected several guerrilla weapons and returned to the perimeter with them,” the citation reads.
During the fighting, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment lost seven soldiers from K Troop and two from the 919th Engineer Company.
“The next day we found what platoon had the most men left. … It was a bad night that night when we got hit,” he said.
In the end he offered a simple piece of advice:
“No one can help you like you can help yourself,” he said about his 40-year quest to get his Bronze Star.
Pankey knew he had earned the medal, so why not just purchase one on the Internet?
“I never did buy it because you are supposed to be given this award,” he said.
When asked if he still wants to have it pinned to his chest, he humbly responded, “That’s OK, they don’t have to come pin it on me.”