Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, May 8, 2019 which is Bike to School Day, National Have a Coke Day, National School Nurse Day and Victory in Europe Day.
This Day in Legion History:
May 8-10, 1919: The American Legion’s constitution is approved at the St. Louis Caucus, conducted inside the Shubert Theater. Before declining nomination to lead the new organization but serving as temporary chairman of the caucus, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., calls the session to order with a gavel made from the steamship Roosevelt’s rudder; the vessel had carried Adm. Robert Edwin Peary during his explorations of the North Pole. Roosevelt, Jr. rejects chants of “We want Teddy!” to serve as first national leader of the organization. Roosevelt, with plans to eventually run for elected office, does not want The American Legion to be politicized in any way. Former Dallas Mayor Henry D. Lindsley is instead named chairman of the St. Louis Caucus, and plans are advanced to elect a commander at the first national convention of the organization.
By the end of the St. Louis Caucus, drafts of The American Legion preamble and constitution are approved, temporary officers chosen, a national convention site selected and the name of the organization becomes permanent.
This Day in History:
On this day in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrate Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.
The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: In Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the latter had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark–the German surrender was realized in a final cease-fire. More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany.
The main concern of many German soldiers was to elude the grasp of Soviet forces, to keep from being taken prisoner. About 1 million Germans attempted a mass exodus to the West when the fighting in Czechoslovakia ended, but were stopped by the Russians and taken captive. The Russians took approximately 2 million prisoners in the period just before and after the German surrender.
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Meanwhile, more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain.
Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation would continue into the next day. On May 9, the Soviets would lose 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. Consequently, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: “The age-long struggle of the Slav nations…has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Air Force Times: Lawsuit filed over Bible display at New Hampshire VA hospital; uproar ensues
- Military Times: Are you a 30-minute drive from your nearest VA medical facility? This map will show you
- AP: World War II vet, 95, dies during ‘Honor Flight’ trip
- Stripes: Taliban attack targets US aid group in downtown Kabul
- Army Times: Lead investigator in Green Beret murder case pleads guilty to stolen valor charges
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Air Force Times: Lawsuit filed over Bible display at New Hampshire VA hospital; uproar ensues
By: Kent Miller 14 hours ago
A dispute over a Bible display at the Manchester Veterans Affairs hospital in New Hampshire is erupting into a full-fledged war, to include close-air support and vows from both sides to trample the enemy underfoot.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of an Air Force veteran against Alfred Montoya, the director of the Manchester VA Medical Center, seeking the removal of a Bible on display at a POW/MIA table within the hospital. The display violates the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause, according to the lawsuit.
“The Christian Bible clearly doesn’t represent all of the myriad religious faiths and non-faith traditions of the U.S. armed forces veterans using the Medical Center and to presume that it does is quite blatantly unconstitutional, unethical and illicit" said Michael L. “Mikey" Weinstein, MRFF’s founder and president, in a statement.
To drive the point home, MRFF hired a plane to fly near the medical center trailing a banner that read: “VAMC — Honor all POW/MIA — Remove Bible.”
At the center of the dispute is a Bible carried by a prisoner of war in World War II, which was added to the missing man remembrance table honoring missing veterans and POWs at the entranceway of the medical center. The Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday the table was sponsored by a veterans group called the Northeast POW/MIA Network.
In January, after MRFF was contacted by 15 veterans who are patients at the medical center — 10 of them practicing Christians, according to Weinstein — VA officials agreed to, and did, remove the Bible from the display.
But that brought an outcry from other veterans, who objected to the Bible’s removal, and it reappeared on the table in February, this time encased in an acrylic box and bolted to the table.
It had been removed “out of an abundance of caution,” Curt Cashour, a Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. But VA officials changed their minds after a slew of complaints from veterans and others, “many of whom dropped off Bibles at the facility” in protest, Cashour said. After consulting with VA lawyers, it was moved back to the table.
Mike Berry, chief of staff at First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group, defended the VA’s decision.
“Veterans organizations like the Northeast POW/MIA Network should be able to honor and remember those killed, captured or missing with a display that includes a Bible donated by a WWII veteran that represents the strength through faith necessary for American service members to survive,” he said in a statement.
“First Liberty recently represented the Northeast POW/MIA Network in successfully ensuring that the POW/MIA Remembrance display it donated would remain intact at the Manchester VA Medical Center.”
The lawsuit filed in Concord by Air Force veteran James Chamberlain says the Bible’s inclusion is in violation of the Constitution. The First Amendment stipulates “that the government may not establish any religion. Nor can the government give favoritism to one religious belief at the expense of others,” according to the suit.
Chamberlain, a devout Christian, said in the lawsuit the table should be a memorial to all who have served, regardless of their beliefs. The suit asserted that the original POW/MIA table tradition was started by a group of Vietnam combat pilots and didn’t include a Bible as one of the items.
Cashour calls the table “a secular tribute to America’s POW/MIA community” and apologized to anyone offended by the Bible’s “incorrect” removal.
But Weinstein said it is the message that is offensive.
“That sectarian Christian Bible bolted down to that POW/MIA table at the Manchester NH VAMC is a grotesque gang sign of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism, exceptionalism and supremacy, indeed a middle finger of unconstitutional repugnance to the plurality and separation of church and state guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution,” Weinstein told Military Times.
“As a state actor, the VA cannot elevate one faith over another or no faith,” he continued. "The VA is wretchedly disrespecting millions of American veterans by doing so. The VA has ignominiously made sure that that sectarian Christian Bible sticks out like a tarantula on a wedding cake in that POW/MIA display, and they’ve done so for a reason! It’s immoral, unethical and blatantly illegal under our Constitution.
"We look forward to aggressively prosecuting our case in federal court.”
Berry is also looking forward to that confrontation.
“I’m confident the MRFF will continue their losing record,” he said. "It’s sad that the MRFF continues its efforts to bully the VA at the expense of our veterans and service members.
“But as I’ve said, if the MRFF wants to destroy or disturb the Manchester VAMC display, they’ll have to come through us.”
Military Times: Are you a 30-minute drive from your nearest VA medical facility? This map will show you
By: Leo Shane III 17 hours ago
Veterans living in the western United States may benefit significantly more from this summer’s new VA community care rules than their East Coast counterparts, according to a new map released by the American Enterprise Institute this week.
The project plots the location of more than 1,000 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and clinics and calculates a typical 30-minute drive from each. That’s one of several standards department officials will use to determine which veterans are eligible for taxpayer-funded health care outside the VA system, under expanded community care rules adopted by Congress last year.
VA officials have not given specifics on what areas of the country will be most affected by the changes, but have estimated the number of veterans eligible could jump from around 700,000 today to more than 2.7 million with the new rules.
But the 30-minute drive time provision has raised alarm among critics of the plan, who say it would expand the number of veterans in the outside care program even further than those estimates and shift resources away from core department needs.
Rebecca Burgess, manager for AEI’s Program on American Citizenship and a research fellow with the think tank, said the new map shows reason for those concerns.
“The critics are probably right to worry about the cost,” she said. “When you look at these drive times on the map, it leaves a lot of space around the country.”
Much of the upper East Coast sits within a half-hour drive from VA medical facilities, which Burgess noted is a reminder of the age of many department buildings. Many of those centers were built in the early parts of the 20th century, before large population shifts to southern and western states.
The map shows large swaths of California, Texas, Arizona and Florida outside the 30-minute drive window, even in counties with some of the highest veterans populations in the country. More rural states like North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas have only a small fraction of their land masses covered under the map projections.
AEI staffers compiled the map based on available VA data and open-source traffic pattern data. That’s a different tool than VA officials will use in their official eligibility standards, but Burgess said the think tank’s calculations for the first time give a clear idea of just how little of the country sits close to a department medical center.
Along with the 30-minute-drive standard, veterans who face a 20-day wait for most care or whose local facility is rated poorly may also be eligible to receive care from a private-sector physician.
The new community care standards are set to launch on June 6. Several Democrats in Congress have raised objections but not introduced any formal barriers to the changes.
The full map and data explanation are available at AEI’s web site.
AP: World War II vet, 95, dies during ‘Honor Flight’ trip
By: The Associated Press 16 hours ago
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SAN DIEGO — A 95-year-old former soldier died last weekend aboard an Honor Flight carrying World War II veterans home to San Diego after an all-expenses-paid weekend trip to Washington.
Frank Manchel collapsed about an hour before the chartered American Airlines jet was due to land Sunday, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Two physicians, including his own son, Dr. Bruce Manchel, were unable to revive him.
"It was almost instantaneous," said Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego. "He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed."
Chaplains prayed over the body and it was covered with an American flag.
As the plane was descending to its destination, former San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, the daughter of a World War II veteran, asked Dr. Manchel if he was up for honoring his father with the song "God Bless America."
He agreed, and the plane was filled with song, the newspaper reported.
Fellow veterans saluted as they passed by Frank Manchel’s body while exiting the plane. Medical personnel, firefighters and law enforcement officers also saluted as the body was taken from the plane.
"My father’s passing was the ending to the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends," Dr. Manchel said in a statement Monday. "We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.
Zimmerman said the elder Manchel was in an upbeat mood when she chatted with his family on Saturday.
"He was 100 percent engaged, proud, humble — as these veterans are," Zimmerman said. "You could just tell how proud they all were of him. It was just wonderful, a loving, loving family."
American Airlines offered to take the veteran’s remains and relatives to Michigan, where services and burial are planned.
Six other deaths have happened on Honor Flights originating from other cities.
"We know this is a potential situation," said Smith. "We want to honor these veterans, but this is one of our worst fears that this might happen. We do everything we can to make sure these veterans are safe."
The non-profit Honor Flight Network was founded to enable aging veterans to visit the National World War II Memorial, which was completed in 2004.
The organization plans to eventually focus on Korean War veterans and then those who served in Vietnam.
Stripes: Taliban attack targets US aid group in downtown Kabul
By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: May 8, 2019
KABUL, Afghanistan – Gunfire and multiple blasts shook the Afghan capital Wednesday morning as Taliban insurgents attacked a U.S. aid organization in the center of the city.
At least nine people were injured, officials said.
The attack targeted the compound housing Counterpart International, an Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit whose civil society programs in the country are funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
The Taliban in a statement said they were targeting the charity organization for carrying out “Western destructive activities in Afghanistan.”
Counterpart International has been working in Afghanistan since 2005, according to their website. Their current work aims to help women and youth advocate for political reform, according to their mission statement.
The Taliban have had tensions in recent months with some international relief groups, such as the Red Cross and the World Health Organization. In April, the militants announced a ban on the two groups working in areas of the country they control.
Wednesday’s attack began with a car bomb explosion around 11:50 a.m. near several government buildings in a busy commercial area in the heart of downtown Kabul. Additional smaller explosions followed, along with volleys of gunfire as police officers from a nearby station sped to the scene.
Police special operations forces also converged on the compound in the Shar-e-Naw district and exchanged fire with the attackers, the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Gunfire and blasts persisted for at least two hours after the first explosion.
The attack occurred during the third day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. A council of Afghans from around the country last week urged the Taliban and the government in Kabul to reach a cease-fire for the month. The Taliban rejected the prospect of a truce Friday.
Army Times: Lead investigator in Green Beret murder case pleads guilty to stolen valor charges
By: Todd South 20 hours ago
The lead investigator into allegations that an Army Green Beret major murdered an alleged Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to falsifying his military record and wearing the Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Purple Heart medal, none of which he had earned.
On Monday at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. Delacruz pleaded guilty to two specifications of violating Article 107, false official statement and three specifications of violating Article 134, wearing of unauthorized insignia, badges and ribbons, according to a statement by Lt. Col. Mike Burns, Fort Bragg Public Affairs.
Delacruz admitted he had falsely submitted a Purple Heart in his official military file and then certified that file was correct when sending it to the official promotion board for E-7 and above.
He also admitted that he wore the Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Purple Heart he did not earn and wore them in an official Army photo that was also submitted in his official file.
Delacruz was reduced in rank from sergeant first class, E-7, to specialist, E-4. No information was immediately available as to whether he would face other consequences.
He could not be reached for comment.
Maj. Mathew Golsteyn attended part of the Monday hearing and told Army Times that questions by both prosecutors and defense attorneys minimized what Delacruz had done.
Attorneys in the Delacruz case said it “would be inappropriate” for them to comment on the case or any effect it might have on Golsteyn’s case.
Golsteyn faces a potential court-martial for the alleged unauthorized killing of a suspected Taliban bomb maker during a 2010 combat deployment in which he supervised an Operational Detachment Alpha team and Marines during one of the more intense time periods of fighting in the country.
Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman Chris Grey told Army Times that Delacruz had been suspended from all investigative duties when the allegations of stolen valor came to light in late 2018. He was charged on Jan. 31.
Grey declined to comment on if or how the guilty plea and sentencing would affect the Golsteyn case.
Golsteyn was charged in December and was called back from civilian life and work in the Northern Virginia area with his family to Fort Bragg, where he has been ordered to report twice daily.
Golsteyn maintains his innocence and characterizes the Army’s treatment as unjust as he cleared a board of inquiry on the allegations, which recommended a general discharge and found no clear evidence that he had violated the rules of engagement while deployed.
Following his charging in December, President Donald Trump tweeted about Golsteyn’s case:
“At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder. He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” he tweeted.
An Article 32 hearing for Golsteyn was scheduled for March 14 but that was cancelled, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Golsteyn had waived his right to the Article 32, he told Army Times.
There has not yet been a court-martial date set in the case.