19 March, 2019 11:26

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, March 19, 2019, which is Certified Nurses Day, Let’s Laugh Day, National Chocolate Caramel Day and World Social Work Day.

Today in American Legion History:

· March 19, 1919: Lt. Col. George A. White of Oregon, who would later found The American Legion Weekly magazine, writes a letter to Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., saying the Paris Caucus had been “successful and wholesome” and was a rare opportunity for enlisted troops to openly express themselves. White would later rise to the rank of major general and command the Army’s 41st Infantry Division until his death in November 1941.

Today in History:

· On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq.

· 1931: In an attempt to lift the state out of the hard times of the Great Depression, the Nevada state legislature votes to legalize gambling.

· 1916: Eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron take off from Columbus, New Mexico, in the first combat air mission in U.S. history. The First Aero Squadron, organized in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, was on a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops who invaded Mexico to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.


· Stars & Stripes: Military bases in Nebraska battle flooding as Offutt AFB, Camp Ashland remain under water

· Military Times: Here is the Pentagon’s list of construction projects that could be cut to fund a border wall

· Associated Press: Veterans court could lose funding in immigration fight

· Associated Press: US military presence in Syria is ‘illegitimate,’ says defense minister

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Stars & Stripes: Military bases in Nebraska battle flooding as Offutt AFB, Camp Ashland remain under water

By Rose L. Thayer | Stars and Stripes | Published: March 18, 2019

Offutt Air Force Base is operating with only essential personnel and the National Guard’s Camp Ashland is completely closed as floodwaters remain high at both Nebraska bases from massive flooding over the weekend after rivers breached several levees following heavy rain and snowmelt upstream.

Military officials at the bases said Monday that they are surveying damage as they wait for the water to recede, which isn’t expected until Thursday.

Flooding began Friday at Offutt, peaked Sunday evening and flooded about one-third of the base. Overnight, the water only receded about one foot, Col. Michael Manion, commander of the 55th Wing Command, which is headquartered at Offutt, wrote on his Facebook page. He also oversees base operations.

His team at the base is now preparing its priorities for when the water recedes, focusing first on safety and then on “generation of combat power,” he wrote.

Since preparation began Friday, the colonel has chronicled online the devastating flooding that now covers much of the southeastern portion of Offutt. That area includes the majority of the aircraft hangars for the wing’s RC-135s, fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft, said Ryan Hansen, 55th Wing spokesman. The majority were moved to higher ground on the base and eight were flown off base to a National Guard facility in Lincoln and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Base officials evacuated the Base Lake, a recreational camping area, early Friday and personnel worked around the clock to fortify facilities with more than 235,000 sandbags and 460 flood barriers to minimize damage as much as possible, according to a news release on the Offutt Facebook page.

But the efforts couldn’t stop the water from overflowing. With 30 buildings flooded and one access gate blocked by water, the base, which is also home to U.S. Strategic Command, is open only to mission essential personnel. About 10,000 people work on the installation. Of those, 6,500 are active-duty servicemembers.

The flooded facilities range from the 55th Wing’s headquarters to a veterinary clinic to a 55th Maintenance Group facility that is on the edge of the flooded area. Hansen estimated the maintenance facility is flooded with water about 2 to 3 feet high, with other base facilities further east flooded worse.

No housing or barracks were flooded, Hansen said.

“It is extremely clear that we face a grand challenge,” Manion wrote Sunday with photos of the airfield’s partially flooded runway. “Our goal is to only reopen when it’s safe.”

At about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, Manion posted the water levels stayed the same for about 12 hours and were not expected to rise. However, the Army Corps of Engineers predicted the water won’t begin to recede until Thursday.

Record-setting snowfall this winter is now melting, causing water levels to rise in the Missouri and Platte rivers and Papio Creek. Offutt sits north of where the two rivers meet.

Camp Ashland, a training site, is about 25 miles west of Offutt on the Platte River and is “completely underwater,” said Spc. Lisa Crawford, spokeswoman for the Nebraska National Guard. Flooding there began Wednesday and the 225 soldiers on base taking classes were evacuated.

Over the weekend, a levee protecting the base broke and military officials have not been able to access the base and assess damage, Crawford said.

“Right now we are focusing our attention on response efforts for the rest of the state and will assess our needs at a later time,” she said.

The Nebraska National Guard has nearly 80 servicemembers conducting medical evacuations as well as air and ground rescue missions, said Master Sgt. Michael Houk, spokesman for the National Guard. Since Friday, about 43 people have been rescued. Equipment in use includes three UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and one LUH-72A Lakota helicopter.

Ashland flooded despite updated infrastructure following catastrophic flooding in May 2015, reported the Omaha World-Herald. In response, the Guard spent about $3.7 million installing flood gates on some buildings, rebuilding others on stilts and adding additional flood-control measures.

With the water moving downstream, flooding has begun in Missouri with hundreds of homes flooding as levees are breached in the northwestern part of the state, The Associated Press reported. Military C-130 planes, designed to transport cargo or people, were evacuated last week from nearby Rosecrans Air National Guard Base in St. Joseph.

Military Times: Here is the Pentagon’s list of construction projects that could be cut to fund a border wall

By: Tara Copp | 13 hours ago

The Pentagon has released its list of military construction projects that could be cut to fund President Donald Trump’s requested border wall. The bottom line: basically every state has a project that could be delayed in order to get construction underway, but only a very specific set could actually be cut.

To tally up $6.8 billion for wall construction, the Pentagon has proposed culling unobligated spending from approved construction projects. From the list, only funds from projects that had a projected award date after Oct. 1, 2019, are eligible to be used, and it cannot include military barracks.

The list released by the Pentagon includes all unobligated projects — not all of which would be eligible to be used, based on their criteria.

See the full list of projects here.

For example, under the rules the Pentagon has established, $5.2 million for Anniston Army Depot in Alabama to build a weapons maintenance shop that was due to be awarded in March 2020 could be cut. On the other hand, $77 million for a vehicle maintenance shop at Fort Carson that was due to be awarded in June 2019 could not be cut.

The list laid out to members what their constituents had to lose, which some Democrats suggested could fuel enough opposition to be able to override President Trump’s veto last week of the National Emergency Declaration. The president’s declaration of a national emergency was what had loosened up the potential to use this military construction funding in the first place; last week both chambers voted to recall that emergency — which Trump then vetoed.

It becomes a much clearer fight though, said Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., when members see the lost spending in their districts.

“A bipartisan majority of Congress went on record in voting to rebuke this ill-conceived idea. Now that members of Congress can see the potential impact this proposal could have on projects in their home states, I hope they will take that into consideration before the vote to override the president’s veto," Reed said.

Some of the projects on the list that are at risk:

· $31 million for a mission training complex at East Camp Grafenwoehr, Germany

· $50 million for a rotary wing apron at Wheeler Army Air Field in Hawaii

· $16 million for a railcar holding area for Crane Army Ammunition Plant in Indiana

· $53 million for a UAV hangar for Kunsan Air Base in Korea

· $40 million for an information systems complex at White Sands, New Mexico

· $95 million for an engineering center at the U.S. Military Academy

Associated Press: Veterans court could lose funding in immigration fight

By ANDREW SELSKY | Associated Press | Published: March 17, 2019

EUGENE, Ore. — Three decades ago, Lori Ann Bourgeois was guarding fighter jets at an air base. After her discharge, she fell into drug addiction. She wound up living on the streets and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine.

But on a recent day, the former Air Force Security Police member walked into a Veterans Treatment Court after completing a 90-day residential drug treatment program. Two dozen fellow vets sitting on the courtroom benches applauded. A judge handed Bourgeois a special coin marking the occasion, inscribed with the words “Change Attitude, Change Thinking, Change Behavior.”

The program Bourgeois credits for pulling her out of the “black hole” of homelessness is among more than three dozen Oregon specialty courts caught in a standoff between the state and federal governments over immigration enforcement.

The Trump administration in 2017 threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from 29 cities, counties or states it viewed as having “sanctuary” policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. Today, all those jurisdictions have received or been cleared to get the money, except Oregon, which is battling for the funds in federal court.

The Veterans Treatment Court in Eugene and 40 other specialty courts, including mental health and civilian drug programs, risk losing all or part of their budgets, said Michael Schmidt, executive director of Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission, which administers the money.

The commission has managed to keep the courts funded through July, Schmidt said. Unless the Trump administration relents or is forced by court order to deliver the money, or the Oregon Legislature comes up with it, the commission must make “horrible, tough decisions” about where to make the cuts, Schmidt said.

Speaking in her small office in the Eugene courthouse, specialty courts coordinator Danielle Hanson said if the veterans court budget is cut, the vets would have to start paying for drug treatment, and they would be deprived of housing resources and travel funds to go to residential treatment facilities as far as 330 miles away. Some veterans even might be turned away.

“It would impact the program substantially,” Hanson said.

Two dozen former servicemembers, men and women, are currently going through the rigorous program that lasts a minimum of a year, and usually up to a year and a half. They must attend group sessions three times per week, come to court at least once per week — presided over by Judge Valeri Love, who acts as their commanding officer — submit to regular urinalysis tests and show progress. Graduates can have convictions cleared and can avoid prison.

“The Veterans Treatment Court creates a routine and a regimen that many vets can thrive in. It pulls them out of isolation,” said Michael Hajarizadeh, who represents the vets as a public defender. Many have post-traumatic stress disorder, but the common thread is substance abuse, said Hajarizadeh, who himself is an Army veteran of the Afghanistan war.

He said the support structure and the bond vets feel for each other make the system work.

Bourgeois looked healthy and confident and wore a radiant smile as she accepted the coin March 7 and shook Love’s hand. It was a sharp contrast to when Bourgeois was arrested in a homeless camp on Aug. 31, 2017 — her 50th birthday.

“This is my first time not being homeless in seven years,” Bourgeois said, blinking back tears behind metal-framed eyeglasses. “It is a big milestone.”

Bourgeois served in the Air Force Security Police, now called Security Forces, for four years, until 1991. A back injury resulted in dependence on prescription painkillers, escalating to other drugs.

In November, the Lane County Circuit Court entered her into the veterans court after finding her guilty of possessing meth. If she completes the program, the circuit court will discharge Bourgeois and will dismiss all proceedings against her. She had faced a year in jail.

She is on probation and staying in a house for those recovering from addiction.

“Without this, I’d still be out on the streets,” Bourgeois said. “I’m very grateful to be back and start again.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued President Donald Trump in November to get $4 million in grants restored from fiscal years 2017 and 2018, saying Oregon was “unlawfully deprived” of the funds. The lawsuit accuses Trump of an “unconstitutional attempt” to compel Oregon to enforce federal immigration policies.

“As we have seen, these efforts have frequently been both inhumane and dangerous,” Rosenblum said.

Furthermore, the administration is violating the separation of powers by invading Congress’ spending authority, the lawsuit says.

The Byrne grants, named for a New York City policeman killed by gang members in 1988, are the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions, supporting law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education.

Other courts have ruled against the U.S. Justice Department’s attempt to condition them on immigration cooperation.

In September, a federal court temporarily blocked the agency from withholding the funds for jurisdictions represented by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which filed suit in Illinois last summer. Not all went to court to get the grants. Vermont did not join any of the legal cases, instead corresponding directly with the Justice Department. Vermont officials announced earlier this month the state Department of Public Safety would be getting $2.3 million in previously blocked grants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Joseph Hunt was among federal attorneys who filed a motion March 5 to have Oregon’s lawsuit dismissed, arguing the Trump administration has the right to require federal immigration cooperation in order for Oregon to receive the Byrne grants.

Oregon’s 1987 sanctuary state law, the nation’s first, prevents law enforcement from detaining people who are in the U.S. illegally but have not broken any other laws. Consequently, authorities in the state won’t hold those who committed crimes and finished their sentences to be picked up by federal immigration agents, unless they have warrants signed by judges.

Ronald Cooper, 81, a Marine veteran who is a veterans court mentor, has mixed emotions about the veterans court being caught in the immigration tug-of-war.

Wearing an orange garrison cap with the Marine emblem, Cooper said he voted for a November ballot measure to repeal Oregon’s sanctuary law, believing that people who are in America illegally and committed crimes should be handed over for deportation.

But he’s more forgiving of people whose only crime is being in the country illegally. He noted that those who serve in the military can be fast-tracked for citizenship.

Cooper said he wants to see veterans treatment programs expanded by the federal government, not face possible cuts.

“We’ve seen so much progress in this court,” he said.

Associated Press: US military presence in Syria is ‘illegitimate,’ says defense minister

By: Albert Aji, The Associated Press | 15 hours ago

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s defense minister on Monday slammed what he called the “illegitimate” U.S. military presence in his country, vowing that Damascus has a right to self-defense, while Iraq said a border crossing with Syria will open in the coming days.

Syria’s Gen. Ali Ayoub spoke during a rare joint news conference with visiting Iranian and Iraqi army commanders who have been holding meetings in the capital, Damascus.

The U.S. currently has about 2,000 troops in eastern and northern Syria and is expected to withdraw hundreds of them in the coming months.

The meeting in Damascus illustrates the strong alliance between Iran, Iraq and Syria at a time when the U.S. is seeking to isolate and increase sanctions against Iran and its regional allies.

Tehran has sent troops and Iran-backed fighters into Syria and Iraq to fight alongside government forces against Islamic militants, including the Islamic State group, which is on the verge of defeat by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the last area under its control in eastern Syria.

"The Americans will leave Syria as they left other places, because this is an illegitimate presence and is rejected no matter what the justifications are," Ayoub said. "Syria has affirmed the necessity of the withdrawal of these forces. It is a force of occupation and violates the country’s sovereignty," he said.

After years of setbacks, Syrian government forces have been on the offensive since 2016 and have regained control of wide parts of the country thanks to Russian and Iranian support. Ayoub vowed to eventually capture the last major rebel stronghold in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Asked about reports of tension between Iranians and Russians in Syria, Ayoub strongly denied them, saying "the role of the friends and allies was important in all that has been achieved on the ground."

Iranian army commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, who arrived in Damascus on Sunday, said "Syria and Iraq have asked the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian armed forces to stand by their side and help, through advisers as well as logistical support." He added that Iranian troops had been invited by Syrian authorities and would only leave when asked by the Syrians.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Bagheri as saying that Iran, Syria and Iraq will work together to bring end to the presence of foreign forces in Syria. "The current phase has aimed at reinstating the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the departure of all forces who have been present in the country without permission" from Damascus, he said.

Bagheri added that the three countries will "continue the path" of cooperation, as they have in recent years.

The Iraqi army commander, Gen. Osman Ghanemi, did not give further details about the border crossing between Syria and Iraq, saying only that it is open in the coming days.


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Arizona American Legion Veterans/Families 100th Statewide Convention

Hello Everyone!

The Department Convention information forms and notices are now on the http://www.azlegion.org/forms/department-convention-resources-and-forms-2019 page.

There are only about 100 rooms left in our Annual Department Convention room block at The Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort for June 20-23! Please spread the word, especially to the hundreds of new members that we have this year. Veterans or Family of Veterans, if you see this and haven’t joined, it’s not too late. Please visit your community Post and inquire about membership and they can check into your eligibility. Some of them even have need of non-veteran volunteers to serve the Veterans in their community.

Convention: We realize that it’s still a bit out on the calendar but remember to book by May 29. We hope that this reminder helps get members in on our great deal. Remember that hotel is offering before and after dates for this rate. Be ready to provide your membership ID# when asked.


· The resort fee is officially waived for us; regardless of what the website shows. Per hotel.

· Hospitality Rooms are booked directly through me; you only need to book your sleeping quarters. If you want access early for preparation, you’ll need to book the night before as well. These rooms will all be in the North wing unless you request otherwise once you arrive to claim the room.

· I’ve asked the resort to assign us to rooms in the North wing next to meeting areas when you arrive to claim your reservation. First come, first served of course.

· The Agendas are still being built. The Legion is moving some items around to avoid overlap so that officers and members can attend more, easily. Note: If the committee is meeting, you don’t need to be a member of that committee to attend and learn more. The committee reserves the right to go into executive session but, this is rare. If you would like to attend, a courtesy email is requested/not required, to the committee chair.

· SPECIAL: On Thursday morning, a special “arts” activity will be available next to our vendor area. All members are welcome to attend as space allows in the time frames they will bring. MORE information to follow once we have it. A sign up will likely be needed as the room capacity will be set. This is an opportunity that we are extending to women veterans in particular so if you know a woman veteran interested in art, please invite her. In support of her needs, she will not need to be a member to benefit from this activity. All others, as space/time permits.

· NEW: The pre-registration for members remains the same at $10 if you pre-register.

o Registration at the Credentials desk is higher. $20.00 per member. We hope that you pre-register. We are not trying to raise more money. There is simply more effective arrival if you are pre-registered. Please pre-register at the $10.00 rate.

o American Legion Riders: Your pre-registration covers all of your activity including the Annual Riders Meeting on Saturday. When your Post helps with your pre-registration be sure to remind them to mark the “Rider” space on the form that they use. If you are only able to come to the Saturday meeting and did not pre-register, please come early enough to obtain “at the gate” credentials from the Department registration table. Please pre-register. If your chapter fills out its own form(s) for its members, or you fill it for the Post, remember that a separate form is needed for Legion, or Son, or Auxiliary. Legion/Sons payment can be combined; the Auxiliary members need a separate check payable to ALA Department of Arizona. We do not use a separate Rider only form in part, to log for each Post/Squadron/Unit, exactly how many of its members are benefiting from Convention activities. Other instruction is on each form including pre-registration deadlines.

· Other details are available on the page at the link above. Convention questions to me by email please. ajuarez if you have questions from non-members please ask them to email hdqtrs so that our staff might assist.



Angel Juarez

State Adjutant

Arizona American Legion

(602) 264-7706 Fax (602) 264-0029

Twitter @ArizonaAdjutant

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaLegion

"Ora et labora et lege; Deus adest sine mora”. (Pray and work and read, God is there without delay)

How can you be connected? Call | Match | Learn

24/7 Support Line: 1-866-4AZ-VETS

Color/Honor Guard Competition at June Convention at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort

American Legion Post Commanders/Color/Honor Guard Commanders

Dear Commanders,

I would like to extend this invitation to invite your Color / Honor Guards within the Department of Arizona. To join in participating in our planned Posting / Retrieving of National Colors Competition to be held during the 2019 Department Convention at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort at 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85226. This year’s meet will start at 5:30 PM to allow more folks to finish their meetings and get to the indoor field to the spectator seating.

Competition Entry Form and the Rules of Competition will soon be available.

Posts with Color / Honor Guard interested in participating, please Contact Francisco Barraza at: donpepe72or Steve Jones at: saj61255.

Please, do not hesitate to be part of this competition. We are hoping to have a great turn out.

18 March, 2019 11:23

Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) is excited to announce a new benefit. On November 13 2018, VCS is launched ShopVCS.com, an online shopping site exclusively available to Veterans and their families.

Veterans enrolled in VA Healthcare are able to shop VCS online at ShopVCS.com. This new exclusive shopping experience offers deals on thousands of products from hundreds of top brands with the ability to easily and securely shop from any device. The site features an expanded catalog of products to include: Veteran-Owned brands, Made-in-USA items, military items, sportswear, jewelry, health and beauty, home goods, electronics, outdoor gear, travel options, event tickets, and much more.

Registration is free and Veterans enrolled in VA and their family members eligible to register at ShopVCS.com as authorized customers. Proceeds from your purchases are given back to the Veteran community in support of VA programs such as: National Rehabilitation Adaptive Sports Games, Vets Crisis Suicide Prevention, Fisher House, Women Veteran Programs, National Disaster Relief, Homeless Veterans programs, and much more.

Happy 100th Birthday The American Legion

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, March 18, 2019 which is Awkward Moments Day, National Sloppy Joe Day, Goddess of Fertility Day, and Act Happy Day.

This Past Weekend in Legion History:

· March 15-17, 1919: The American Legion is formed in Paris, France, at the American Officers Club, an old mansion at 4 Rue Gabriel, and Cirque de Paris, an amusement hall. Organizers, who originally expected about 300 to attend, are astounded when hundreds more pour in. Officially, 463 register for the caucus, but more than 1,000 are believed to have been there at some point during the weekend.

· The first session of the Paris Caucus is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., but confusion reigns, and the meeting does not begin until 2:55 p.m. Lt. Col. Eric Fisher Wood, a Plattsburgh Camp alum, presides. Among the recorded attendees are Pvt. Harold Ross, who goes on to become editor of The American Legion Magazine and, following that, founder of The New Yorker magazine; future Secretary of the Treasury Capt. Ogden Mills; and future father of American military intelligence, Col. William Donovan. The first four 15-member committees of The American Legion are: Convention, Permanent Organization, Constitution and Name.

· The committee tasked with naming the new organization reports 12 nominations:

· Comrades of the Great War

· Veterans of the Great War

· Liberty League

· Army of the Great War

· Legion of the Great War

· Great War Legion

· The Legion

· The American Legion

· American Comrades of the Great War

· Society of the Great War

· The Great Legion

· American Comrades

· March 15, 1959: World War II “Purple Heart Girl” Frances Langford, a Hollywood singing and acting star, pays tribute to The American Legion’s 40th birthday on her NBC TV network show “Frances Langford Presents. The one-hour episode features such guests as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny and Julie London.

· March 15, 1969: The U.S. Postal Service officially issues a 6-cent commemorative stamp to honor The American Legion’s 50th anniversary. Sales of the stamp begin on March 17, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Paris Caucus that formed the organization.

· March 15, 1969: Legionnaire President Richard M. Nixon flips the switch to permanently light the Tomb of the Unknowns and the amphitheater temple façade at Arlington National Cemetery. Nearly $200,000 was raised for the project, promoted as The American Legion’s 50th anniversary Gift to the Nation.

· March 15-17, 2019: The American Legion celebrates its 100th birthday in Paris, France, throughout the United States and around the world.

· March 16, 1926: Sgt. Stubby dies in his sleep. The only known canine to become an official – rather than honorary – member of The American Legion, the celebrated bull terrier was a stray who wandered into a training camp of the 102nd Infantry Division at Yale University in the spring of 1917. Attracted to the availability of regular chow from the soldiers, he closely befriended Cpl. Robert Conroy. Stubby soon learned to salute officers with his paw, was smuggled overseas and served alongside Conroy in the Yankee Division. He is recorded as having been involved in no fewer than 17 battles. He famously alerted his unit of a mustard gas attack in time to save them. Gassed himself in one German assault during the war, the Army designed a custom gas mask for him. He located wounded troops on the battlefield and comforted the dying. He was wounded by a grenade and, after recovering in the rear, returned to the front where he was in fact credited with rousting a German from the bushes and chasing him – barking and snapping – to his unit where he was taken prisoner. Following the war, Stubby made headlines nationwide, met with top military leaders and presidents of the United States. He marched in the first American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis in November 1919 and was made an official member of Eddy-Glover American Legion Post 6 in New Britain, Conn. Also after the war, he served as the Georgetown University football team mascot. Stubby wore a medal-covered vest and harness, with which he could carry a U.S. flag, in his appearances at veterans event, including several early American Legion national conventions. Included on his vest are distinguished guest badges from early American Legion national conventions and the Iron Cross from the German he captured. He was later stuffed and displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where his vest is today kept. An animated movie, “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” debuted in theaters nationwide in April 2018.

· March 17, 1919: Lt. Col. Thomas W. Miller of Delaware, a former member of Congress who enlisted as an infantryman in the Army after an unsuccessful re-election campaign, brings the final day of the Paris Caucus to order. Without a gavel to start the meeting, he pulls from his pocket an 1873 silver dollar, which he always carries with him, and raps it on a table. The day’s business includes choosing the organization’s name, membership eligibility criteria, establishment of an executive committee and the preliminary drafting of a preamble to The American Legion Constitution. Miller would later serve as a national Legislative Committee co-chairman, would co-author the organization’s federal charter, serve on the National Executive Committee both for Delaware and Nevada, and in 1968 would be elected Past National Commander by a vote of the 50th American Legion National Convention in New Orleans.

· After much debate on the final day of the Paris Caucus, in a motion reportedly accelerated by hunger just before lunchtime, “American Legion” is chosen and adopted as a temporary name for the association.

· March 17, 1919: On the evening after the final session of the Paris Caucus, the first American Legion Executive Committee gathers, chaired by Milton J. Foreman of Chicago, with George A. White of Oregon as secretary and Richard C. Patterson as assistant secretary.

· March 17, 1944: The American Legion’s Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 unanimously passes in the Senate.


· Gov’t Exec: Nurses Picket VA Headquarters to Protest Private Care and Vacancies

· Military.com: Why Do So Many Medals of Honor Go to Irish Troops? Here’s One Theory

· Steamboat Pilot: Routt County veteran fights for better veteran healthcare in rural Colorado and nationally

· Military.com: US Bars Entry to International Criminal Court Investigators

· Military Times: US-backed forces admit to ‘difficulties’ defeating ISIS in Syria

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Gov’t Exec: Nurses Picket VA Headquarters to Protest Private Care and Vacancies

By Eric Katz

March 15, 2019

About 100 Veterans Affairs Department nurses from across the country rallied outside the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters on Friday to protest the leadership of Secretary Robert Wilkie, the department’s 49,000 vacancies and the Trump administration’s crackdown on their union, National Nurses United.

While administration officials have said they have no interest in privatizing the Veterans Affairs Department, many of its health care employees don’t believe those claims, and fear the department is under attack and facing an existential threat.

The nurses protesting in Washington insisted the Trump administration and Wilkie are being dishonest when they call privatization a “myth,” citing the longstanding vacancies and ongoing reform efforts. Several nurses who spoke to Government Executive pointed to the implementation of the Mission Act, which Trump signed into law last year, as evidence VA is committed to shifting funds from its own hospital network to private sector care for veterans.

“He’s lying!” Irma Westmoreland, a nurse based at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., who took leave to attend the rally, said of Wilkie. “I take him by his actions…He’s not authorizing hiring.” Westmoreland referred to Wilkie’s recent testimony to Congress in which he said VA would hire more medical care providers in certain prioritized fields, but it would be unrealistic to backfill every authorized position.

The nurses, wearing red shirts, formed a picket line outside the headquarters’ main entrance and chanted about fighting back and helping veterans. Employees leaving the building for lunch or returning to the office looked confused and surprised as they navigated around the protestors. Security guards stepped outside to monitor the event.

Several nurses highlighted the divergent standards applied to VA nurses and those in the private sector. Under the Mission Act, the department will only pay for veterans to receive private care at pre-approved facilities, but the nurses said that still could lead to inadequate care for the veterans.

Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal called for a $6.5 billion funding increase and would allocate $8 billion directly to Mission Act implementation. Wilkie recently predicted that some opponents of the department’s approach would “claim falsely and predictably that [the moves] represent a first step toward privatizing” VA. He boasted the implementation would “revolutionize VA health care as we know it,” but maintained that expanding choice for veterans would not hamper services within the government-run network.

Erin McLeod, a nurse from San Diego who came to Washington to support her union, said the Mission Act itself was privatization.

“As they chip away at our VA system, they are privatizing more and more,” McLeod said. “Where does the money come from [to send veterans to the private sector]? From the hospital funding. So it’s less funding to do the work we’re already doing so they can send veterans out to the community.”

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McLeod and others hoped their protest would increase pressure on the administration to adequately fund and staff the department, and focus management on the needs and recommendations of rank-and-file workers.

“I’m 100 percent sure that the people in this building don’t really know what’s going on at the bedside,” McLeod said. Wilkie failed to realize, she added, that the 49,000 vacancies “impedes us from providing the best possible care.”

Further adding to the tension between the administration and the workforce is the impasse between the department and the 11,000 nurses represented by NNU. Wilkie last year disapproved of a contract proposed by an arbitrator designated by the Federal Service Impasses Panel after VA and the union negotiated for more than two years. Wilkie took issue with more than 350 provisions of the proposed contract, citing sections of VA statute that prohibit the department from negotiating over clinical competence, compensation or direct patient care issues.

The nurses have challenged Wilkie’s decision in district court suit, while also seeking remediation on some provisions of the contract through the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The union said Wilkie overstepped his statutory authority by deeming the provisions of the contract illegal.

“VA is committed to reaching an agreement that puts veterans and VA beneficiaries first,” Curt Cashour, a department spokesman, said last year, “and we will continue working with NNU to do just that.”

Jack Tennant, a nurse who cares for veterans at a facility outside of Washington, saw the labor-management disagreement and the increased access to private care as a two-pronged approach from the administration.

Wilkie is seeking to strip “unions of their power so we can’t fight back and push back against privatization,” Tennant said. “As a veteran, I can tell you I get my care there and the private sector just can’t compete. They don’t know what veterans have gone through to provide the care that they need.”

The nurses planned to go to Capitol Hill later on Friday to push for expanded bargaining rights for VA medical professionals, protections from violence against VA workers and other legislative proposals.

Military.com: Why Do So Many Medals of Honor Go to Irish Troops? Here’s One Theory

16 Mar 2019

Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla. | By Howard Altman

James Bradley McCloughan watched as President Donald Trump placed the Medal of Honor around his father’s neck, commemorating a series of selfless, heroic acts that saved the lives of fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War,

As the president read the citation during the July 2017 ceremony, the son — a Michigan state policeman — heard for the first time the story of his father’s bravery under fire.

"It’s something that you just don’t bring up for two reasons," medal recipient James Charles McCloughan explained in an interview Thursday. "No. 1, you don’t want to go there. You’ve been through it. Once is enough.

"No. 2, people might not believe you if you told them, anyway."

McCloughan, 72, and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Robert O’Malley, 75, were guests of honor at Thursday evening’s opening of the Irish Veterans Congressional Medal of Honor exhibit at the Tampa History Center downtown.

Sponsored by Irish Veterans Post 2, the exhibit honors the contributions of the Irish and Irish-Americans to the nation’s defense. It was created in conjunction with the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention coming to Tampa Oct. 22-29.

The new exhibit also features the Medal of Honor awarded to Ireland-born Navy sailor Michael Gibbons for his actions May 11, 1898, at the Battle of Cienfuegos during the Spanish-American War. Gibbons took part in a dangerous mission to cut underwater communications cables linking the coastal Cuban city to the Spanish military command.

Of the 3,515 Medals of Honor awarded by the United States, some 2,018 have gone to Irish-Americans, according to Patrick McDermot of Irish Veterans Post 2, created in Tampa in 2017.

Spc. 5 James C. McCloughan speaks during his Medal of Honor Hall of Heroes induction ceremony Aug. 1, 2017, at the Pentagon.

To help explain the numbers, McCloughan turned to history.

"If you go back to the culture of the Irish you know we’ve been fighting each other and fighting the Scottish and so on and so forth for years and years and years," he said.

His own family’s military history dates to the Picts, who lived in Scotland during the early Medieval period.

"You learn to stick up for your rights and the rights of others," said McCloughan, of Michigan, who taught high school sociology and psychology after leaving the military.

"When you go into the service, maybe you are thinking about serving your country but I’m going to tell you what once you get there you just worried about surviving and then helping as many of your brothers survive as possible."

Heritage, then, may help explain McCloughan’s own extraordinary actions as an Army private first class during the Vietnam War nearly half a century ago.

Over the course of a hellish 48 hours in May 1969, McCloughan rushed into a sea of bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to rescue his fellow soldiers and fight off the enemy.

He was a combat medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade. He was wounded three times during the battle and was credited with saving the lives of 10 Americans from enemy fire and patching up dozens more.

Surrounded by superior forces and running out of supplies, McCloughan volunteered to hold a blinking strobe light in an open area to help guide in a nighttime resupply drop, exposing himself to enemy fire.

He is also credited with using a grenade to take out an enemy rocket-propelled grenade position, fighting and killing enemy soldiers, treating a number of casualties, keeping two critically wounded comrades alive through the night, and getting the wounded and dead ready to be evacuated at daylight.

Fellow honoree O’Malley received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Marine corporal in 1965, when he ran cross an open rice paddy in South Vietnam and charged an enemy trench. Wounded three times, he gathered up his battered and wounded squad, led them to a helicopter to be flown out, and remained on the ground, and used gunfire to keep the enemy covered until all the wounded could board their helicopters.

That year, O’Malley became the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Steamboat Pilot: Routt County veteran fights for better veteran healthcare in rural Colorado and nationally

Kari Dequine Harden

March 17, 2019

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Healthcare benefits for veterans aren’t just handed over. They must be constantly fought for, as Jim Stanko knows firsthand.

Today, Stanko, who served in the U.S. Army after being drafted in the early 1970’s, dedicates a significant amount of time and energy to ensuring veterans receive the healthcare they need — and earned.

Stanko is a third generation rancher, operating a centennial ranch with a cattle and hay operation, on Routt County Road 33, but addressing the challenges facing veterans in rural areas, in particular, is the work closest to Stanko’s heart.

It was in the 1980’s, when he was working at the Routt County Extension Office, Stanko became involved in healthcare issues facing veterans. His office was next door to the local Veterans Affairs office. He soon joined the American Legion and became commander of Post 44 in 1995. He also became a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

One of the first issues Stanko worked on was bringing a telehealth clinic to Craig.

With the closest VA hospital located in Grand Junction, Stanko saw a need for veterans, especially the World War II vets, to get care closer to home.

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The telehealth clinic in Craig was the first of its kind in Colorado, Stanko said, and "set a standard for the state and the country." It provided a place where a nurse practitioner covers basic care, can draw blood, monitor vital signs and teleconference with VA doctors in Grand Junction for additional needs.

Because of his work with the telehealth clinic, Stanko was appointed to the Colorado Board for Veterans Affairs in 2006. He has served as chairman for the past two years.

Through his work on the state board, they were able to utilize money from tabacco lawsuits to establish a veteran trust fund for grants.

Stanko and Post 44 applied for one of the first grants, allowing them to provide transportation for veterans to and from Grand Junction or wherever they received treatment.

They’ve gotten that funding for about 15 years, Stanko said, though it is never guaranteed and must be applied for on an annual basis.

Six years ago, Stanko was appointed to the American Legion’s Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission.

He just returned from his sixth lobbying trip to Washington D.C., where Stanko and a group of other veterans from across the country held meetings with every congress member.

He personally met with Reps. Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck and Sen. Cory Gardner — thus "covering almost all of rural Colorado."

While there are numerous legislative issues the American Legion advocates for, Stanko pointed to three at the top of his priority list.

First is support for the VA’s suicide-prevention efforts. An estimated 20 veterans end their lives every day, and most were not receiving care or support through the VA — support that may have saved them — according to the American Legion’s Legislative Agenda.

Access to mental health care isn’t readily available, Stanko said. And they are seeing a lot of younger veterans returning with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

While there may have not been any veteran suicides in Routt County in recent years, there are a lot of young veterans returning from service, and the "potential is there." Stanko wants to be proactive on the preventative measures, like expanding mental health treatment.

A second important issue is improving healthcare for female veterans. Women now make up about 30 percent of the military, Stanko said. And a large percentage don’t enroll for benefits, according the American Legion, with one of the factors being "limited gender-specific treatment services."

Stanko has been involved in visits to hospitals with suggestions on how they can "better accommodate women veterans." And hospitals in Denver and Grand Junction have responded as a result, he said. They’ve created separate areas within the VA hospitals and adapted other components to better serve women. "I can say I’ve been a part of the group getting the VA to recognize and establish better healthcare accommodations for women," he said.

Stanko’s biggest push is for the implementation of the VA Mission Act. In 2014, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the Choice Act, was passed, but it was rife with problems, Stanko said.

In order to get care from chosen or local providers, there were numerous layers through which to navigate — both for veterans and providers. And providers often weren’t seeing the reimbursements they were promised.

The intent was to allow veterans to choose their healthcare providers, but the actual execution was poorly designed, Stanko said.

"The implementation was sort of on the spur of the moment to make people feel better. It just didn’t work."

It has since been replaced with the 2018 Mission Act, which addresses many of the insufficiencies, Stanko said. But, it still has to be funded.

The hope is to see implementation by June, he said. Under the Mission Act, veterans will first go to the VA hospital. If the VA hospital can’t provide the immediate and necessary services, then the VA will assign the patient to a local or outside provider.

Another important component of the Mission Act, Stanko said, is the stipend provided to at-home caregivers. But, part of that battle has been getting the stipend to apply for older, pre-September 11, 2001, veterans.

For decades, Stanko has put in countless hours toward advocating for his fellow veterans, in addition to running a ranch.

"It’s a passion for me," he said. "I’ve always felt living in rural areas has often given us the short straw in getting the benefits veterans deserve."

In addition to his annual trip to D.C., Stanko keeps track of everything happening legislatively as the state and national level and attends town halls with local representatives.

Looking forward, he wants to see more young veterans get involved. "They don’t always realize the benefits they are getting are because of the veterans who came before."

Military.com: US Bars Entry to International Criminal Court Investigators

16 Mar 2019

The Associated Press | By Matthew Lee

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court personnel seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and may do the same with those who seek action against Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

Pompeo, acting on a threat delivered in September by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, framed the action as necessary to prevent the international body from infringing on U.S. sovereignty by prosecuting American forces or allies for torture or other war crimes.

"We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation," Pompeo said.

U.S. officials have long regarded the Netherlands-based ICC with hostility, arguing that American courts are capable of handling any allegations against U.S. forces and questioning the motives of an international court.

The ICC and its supporters, including human rights groups that denounced Pompeo’s announcement, argue that it is needed to prosecute cases when a country fails to do so or does an insufficient job of it.

The visa restrictions would apply to any ICC employee who takes or has taken action "to request or further such an investigation" into allegations against U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan that include forced disappearances and torture.

Pompeo said the restrictions "may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without the allies’ consent," he said.

The Hague-based court, the first global tribunal for war crimes, said it would continue to operate "undeterred" by the U.S. action.

The ICC prosecutor has a pending request to look into possible war crimes in Afghanistan that may involve Americans. The Palestinians have also asked the court to bring cases against Israel.

Speaking directly to ICC employees, Pompeo said: "If you are responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you still have or will get a visa or will be permitted to enter the United States."

That comment suggested that action may have already been taken against the ICC prosecutor who asked last year to formally open an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by Afghan national security forces, Taliban and Haqqani network militants, as well as U.S. forces and intelligence officials in Afghanistan since May 2003.

The prosecution’s request says there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies "committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period."

The United States has never been a member of the ICC. The Clinton administration in 2000 signed the Rome Statute that created the ICC but had reservations about the scope of the court’s jurisdiction and never submitted it for ratification to the Senate, where there was broad bipartisan opposition to what lawmakers saw as a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, his administration promoted and passed the American Service Members Protection Act, which sought to immunize U.S. troops from potential prosecution by the ICC. In 2002, Bolton, then a State Department official, traveled to New York to ceremonially "unsign" the Rome Statute at the United Nations.

This past September, Bolton said the ICC was a direct threat to U.S. national security interests and he threatened its personnel with both visa revocations and financial sanctions should it try to move against Americans. Pompeo said Friday that more measures may come.

The ICC said in a statement it was established by a treaty supported by 123 countries and that it prosecutes cases only when those countries failed to do so or did not do so "genuinely." Afghanistan is a signatory.

"The court is an independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under international law," the statement said. "The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law."

Supporters of the court slammed Pompeo’s announcement.

Human Rights Watch called it "a thuggish attempt to penalize investigators" at the ICC.

"The Trump administration is trying an end run around accountability," it said. "Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked."

Amnesty International described the move as "the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents three people before the ICC who say they were tortured in Afghanistan, called the decision "misguided and dangerous" and "an unprecedented attempt to skirt international accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day."

"It reeks of the very totalitarian practices that are characteristic of the worst human rights abusers, and is a blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses," it said.

Military Times: US-backed forces admit to ‘difficulties’ defeating ISIS in Syria

By: Philip Issa and Andrea Rosa, The Associated Press18 hours ago

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BAGHOUZ, Syria — U.S.-backed forces fighting to recapture the last Islamic State group outpost in Syria admitted on Sunday they were facing “difficulties” defeating the extremists, saying they were being slowed by mines, tunnels and concerns over harming women and children among the militants.

The battle to capture the extremist group’s last patch of territory in eastern Syria — a collection of tents covering foxholes and underground tunnels in the village of Baghouz — has dragged on for weeks amid an unexpected exodus of civilians from the area.

The sheer number of people who have emerged from Baghouz, nearly 30,000 since early January according to Kurdish officials, has taken the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces by surprise. Most have been women and children whose existence in a labyrinth of underground caves and tunnels was unknown to the fighters.

In the last two weeks, many fighters appeared to be among those evacuating. But an unknown number of militants and civilians remain inside, refusing to surrender.

"We are facing several difficulties regarding the operations," SDF commander Kino Gabriel told reporters outside Baghouz on Sunday.

He cited the large number of mines and explosive devices planted by ISIS and the existence of tunnels and hideouts beneath the ground that are being used by the militants to attack SDF forces or defend themselves.

The camp is all that remains of a self-declared Islamic "caliphate" that once sprawled across large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. But a declaration of victory and the group’s territorial defeat has been delayed as the military campaign sputtered on in fits and starts.

A final push by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces started on Jan. 9 but has been paused on several occasions, mainly to allow for civilians to evacuate and fighters to surrender.

Underscoring the struggles faced by the SDF as they try to flush the out extremists, three ISIS fighters emerged from Baghouz on Friday acting as though they wanted to surrender only to blew themselves up, killing six people.

The campaign has also been hindered by bad weather. Intermittent storms have at times turned the battlefield to mud and ISIS militants have mounted counteroffensives on windy days, burning tires and oil to try to force the SDF back with smoke.

On Sunday, dozens of men and women were seen walking around the besieged IS encampment in Baghouz, as SDF fighters watched from a hilltop close by.

The camp, looking much like a junkyard, was littered with damaged vans and pickup trucks parked between tents where people appeared to be moving about.

On the hilltop lookout north of Baghouz, an SDF sentry, lying flat on his stomach with his rocket launcher trained on the camp, cautioned an approaching comrade not to get too close. “There are snipers,” he said of the ISIS camp.

Gabriel said the camp was approximately 0.25 square kilometers in size — much the same area it was five weeks ago, when the SDF said it was finally going to conclude the battle.

In the middle of the camp stands a pair of two-story compounds, showing little sign of damage. Several houses that appeared habitable can be seen as well.

With operations now stretching into the spring, Gabriel faced pointed questions from the press over whether ISIS would be able to resupply itself with water and goods, despite the siege.

He said he was not aware of any smuggling tunnels still in operation, and that ISIS was cut off from the outside world.

"I don’t think we will be seeing more ISIS terrorists appearing in this pocket, he said.

A commander participating in operations on the western side of the enclave said he did not believe ISIS was fleeing to the other side of the Euphrates River either, where Syrian government forces and their allies are holding positions.

Gabriel said 29,600 people have left Baghouz since Jan. 9, among them 5,000 fighters — far greater than the SDF had initially estimated remained inside.

He said the SDF no longer estimates how many people remained in Baghouz but added that recent evacuees told the fighting forces that another 5,000 were still inside.

The force and the Kurdish-led authorities that administer northeast Syria have banned in recent days journalists from interviewing evacuees from Baghouz.

The evacuees are now living in detention-like camps in the self-administered region that international humanitarian organizations say are vastly overcrowded and underserved. They say disease is rampant in the camps and medical care is desperately needed.

“The Daesh terrorists are starting to feel hunger and thirst and we are seeing this in the people who are coming out of the camp,” said Gabriel, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.


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