9 July, 2018 08:41

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today Friday, July 6, 2018 which is National Fried Chicken Day, International Kissing Day, Take Your Webmaster to Lunch Day and Umbrella Cover Day. (Except to those of us Army guys who continue to follow Army Regulation 670-1 which does not allow for use of an umbrella, and yet have long beards also proscribed by the same regulations.)

This Day in History:

· On this day in 1775, one day after restating their fidelity to King George III and wishing him “a long and prosperous reign” in the Olive Branch Petition, Congress sets “forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms” against British authority in the American colonies. The declaration also proclaimed their preference “to die free men rather than live as slaves.”

· 1864: On this day, Confederate General Jubal Early’s troops cross the Potomac River and capture Hagerstown, Maryland. Early had sought to threaten Washington, D.C., and thereby relieve pressure on General Robert E. Lee, who was fighting to keep Ulysses S. Grant out of Richmond, Virginia.

· 1976: In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admits women for the first time in its history with the induction of 81 female midshipmen. In May 1980, Elizabeth Anne Rowe became the first woman member of the class to graduate. Four years later, Kristine Holderied became the first female midshipman to graduate at the top of her class.

· 1964: At Nam Dong in the northern highlands of South Vietnam, an estimated 500-man Viet Cong battalion attacks an American Special Forces outpost. During a bitter battle, Capt. Roger C. Donlon, commander of the Special Forces A-Team, rallied his troops, treated the wounded, and directed defenses although he himself was wounded several times. After five hours of fighting, the Viet Cong withdrew. The battle resulted in an estimated 40 Viet Cong killed; two Americans, 1 Australian military adviser, and 57 South Vietnamese defenders also lost their lives. At a White House ceremony in December 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Captain Donlon with the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Defense News: Trump’s NATO summit focus won’t include withdrawing troops from Europe

· Military Times: More veterans’ requests for help on immigration are rejected now, data shows

· MyWebTimes: Community ensures homeless vets get burials with honors

· AP: Trump praises military for keeping US ‘safe, strong, proud’

· Stripes: Frustrated USS Cole case judge retiring from military service

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Defense News: Trump’s NATO summit focus won’t include withdrawing troops from Europe

By: Leo Shane III  18 hours ago

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WASHINGTON — Senior administration officials said discussions of withdrawing U.S. troops from Germany will not be included in next week’s NATO summit, despite reports that President Donald Trump has considered the move.

White House officials have pushed back against those reports for the past week, since a Washington Post piece noted that the Pentagon, at Trump’s request, is analyzing the national security impact and cost savings of a large-scale withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe.

About 35,000 American troops are currently stationed in Germany, a significant hub for U.S. military operations worldwide. Trump in the past has repeatedly complained about NATO allies not shouldering enough responsibility — financially and personnel-wise — for the alliance’s security operations.

In a press call with reporters on Thursday, U.S. Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said that those broader cost concerns would be a key point of the upcoming NATO summit, set to start July 11.

“Every one of our allies are already increasing defense spending,” she said. “That is something we will talk about as an achievement, but also recognize we need to do more.”

Other topics for the summit include the ongoing NATO mission in Afghanistan, extending alliance membership to Georgia and Ukraine, and emerging threats to member countries.

But a senior administration official said the issue of U.S. troops in Germany is not on the agenda, and there are no plans for Trump to threaten removing American forces from the country if NATO allies do not continue to step up their own military investments.

The official went even further, calling the current U.S. force strength there a key strategic point of American military strategy and national security, and said plans in coming months call for closer relationships among U.S. and Germany military forces, not fewer.

Hutchison characterized the tone of the upcoming summit in Brussels as positive — “everyone has the same goal, and that is a strong deterrent and an alliance that is unified” — despite Trump’s past criticisms of NATO.

At a South Carolina rally last month, the president said that America is “the piggy bank that (NATO) likes to take from” and promised changes in the relationship in the near future.

“We like to help out, but it helps them, they’re in Europe,” he said. “It helps them a lot more than it helps us, we’re very far away.”

Hutchison also said that NATO representatives at next week’s summit will discuss Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and other “malign activities” by the country.

Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the days following the summit. Lawmakers have expressed concern that Trump has not taken an aggressive enough stance with Russia on a host of national security issues.

Military Times: More veterans’ requests for help on immigration are rejected now, data shows

By: Tara Copp   19 hours ago

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As part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, the government is rejecting more requests from veterans and their dependents for protection from deportation, according to new government data.

Last month U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released previously unreported statistics on the numbers of active duty and veteran service members who were seeking deportation protections for a spouse or a dependent.

The data shows that rejections of veteran requests have increased under President Donald Trump, from about a 10 percent rejection rate in fiscal 2016, the last year President Barack Obama was in office, to an almost 20 percent rejection rate through the first nine months of fiscal 2018. Specifically:

In fiscal 2016, the Obama administration denied 140 veteran requests for deportation protection and approved 1,304 requests.

In fiscal 2017, the Trump administration denied 250 veteran requests for deportation protection and approved 1,449 requests.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2018, the Trump administration has denied 218 requests for deportation protection and approved 875 requests.

While the increase in rejections for the dependents of active members was not as steep, it still rose from slightly more than 11 percent in fiscal 2016 to about 14.5 percent to date in fiscal 2018.

The protections, known as Parole in Place, allow members of the military to petition the government to drop any removal proceedings against a spouse or dependent who entered the U.S. illegally. That action then allows that family member to seek an adjustment in his or her residency status without having to leave the country.

The ability to remain in the U.S. is a critical advantage because most other undocumented immigrants seeking legal residency in the U.S. must first depart the country and not return for years while going through the lengthy process of obtaining a visa. Parole in Place allows those military families to stay together.

Parole in Place requests from both active duty and veteran service members spiked 31 percent from the last year of the Obama administration to the first year of Trump’s presidency, to 6,586 applications in 2017, as the new president directed the Department of Homeland Security to increase the number of deportations it processed. However most Parole in Place decisions take months or years to get approved and often are not decided in the same year as they are applied for.

Among active duty service members the spike in 2017 from the year before was 33 percent, and among veterans, 29 percent. Multiple active duty families have contacted Military Times with fears that their spouse or dependent will be deported while they are deployed, and veterans have contacted the paper worried that despite their military service, their family will be split apart.

Secretary Jim Mattis has said previously that active duty service members and veterans who had served honorably and who were part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be protected. Mattis said he would work with DHS to see whether there were similar protections available for their dependents.

MyWebTimes: Community ensures homeless vets get burials with honors

By Allison Selk, for Shaw Media

July 4, 2018

Two World War II veterans reached the ends of their lives homeless and alone. But these community members ensured they still were laid to rest with honors.

“Once you put the uniform on, we all become brothers,” American Legion Romeoville Post 52 Chaplain George Sanchez said.

Victor Jonas, who served in the U.S. Army February to July 1945 and Keith Bolton, who served in the U.S. Navy 1945 to 1948 found their final homes Friday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.

Both men served in the military during World War II. Jonas was discharged after he was wounded.

The Patriot Guard Riders led the way for the two hearses, which wound around the cemetery to a pavilion filled with Abraham Lincoln Memorial Squad members – a volunteer group dedicated to providing final memory and tribute for the friends and families of those who have served.

The Patriot Guard Riders exited their vehicles and lined the path from the hearse to the pavilion for the ceremony. A pin drop could be heard as the men, who were both in their 90s when they died, were taken from the hearse in their flag-draped caskets.

Someone who came for the memorial service was asked to accept the flag for each veteran. As the group filled in the seats, the guests were welcomed. The memorial squad fired rifle volley and played taps.

Army Sgt. Jacob Martin, Army Private Zyon Jones and memorial squad members Lynn Berndt and Ken Witkowski folded and presented the flag.

“We are all family here, we take care of our own, even if we don’t know them, we are all still family. It’s pretty emotional for everybody, especially when they play taps," said Virgil Oikion, State of Illinois American Legion Department chaplain. "These are fellow veterans; we don’t know them, but we truly believe in them getting these honors.”

Those in attendance included Morris Color Guard, Patriot Guard Riders, various American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War groups, the Marine Corps League, Will County Veterans Assistance Commission, Shorewood Boy Scout Troop 256 Honor Guard, Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care and fellow veterans.

“We came to pay our respects to the men who fought for our country,” Shorewood Boy Scout Troop 256 honor member Will Ogrizovich said.

Kristi McNichol, superintendent of Will County Veteran’s Assistance Commission, said, “We need to show respect. We may not have known these men in 90 years of life, but we show up here to show respect; the rest is in God’s hands.”

Jack Piccolo, chairman of the Will County Veteran’s Assistance Commission Board and former post commander for VFW Post 5788 in Lockport said he began to help coordinate the homeless burials with honors in 2011 and every veteran, except those who were dishonorably discharged, were eligible for a burial with honors in a national cemetery.

Once homeless veterans die, the deceased are checked for military service through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Once the research has been finished, Diane Nowak of Dignity Memorial is contacted. Dignity Memorial then provides clothing, a casket and funeral services.

The Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn was a partner in Friday’s ceremony. Nowak said each funeral costs about $5,900, and all funds are donated.

“We owe a debt of thanks to the veterans who served unselfishly and went into combat. The veteran may have fallen down on their luck, but everybody deserves a dignified burial. We want to make sure each veteran receives individual honors,” Nowak said.

Piccolo said most homeless veterans come from Cook County and, once in awhile, they will get a call for a local veteran.

AP: Trump praises military for keeping US ‘safe, strong, proud’

By: Darlene Superville, The Associated Press   15 hours ago

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised the U.S. military for keeping America “safe, strong, proud, mighty and free” and used the Independence Day holiday to thank them for being willing to put their lives on the line in defense of the nation.

“Two hundred and 42 years ago on July 4, 1776, America’s founders adopted the Declaration of independence and changed the course of human history,” said Trump, addressing hundreds of military families attending a White House picnic from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn of the White House.

“But our freedom exists only because there are brave Americans willing to give their lives, to defend it and defend our great country,” added Trump, who was accompanied by his wife, Melania. “America’s liberty has been earned through the blood, sweat and sacrifice of American patriots.”

Trump and the first lady later returned to the balcony toward the end of a nationally televised concert from the South Lawn and stayed for the annual fireworks show on the National Mall. Trump pumped both fists several times at the end of the show before he went back inside the White House.

Trump was not expected on Wednesday to interview candidates for the Supreme Court, taking a holiday respite from the intense process. He has spoken with seven candidates, according to the White House, and will announce his choice for a successor to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday.

Before greeting guests on the lawn during the picnic, Trump praised service members and their families as “truly unbelievable people.”

“Thank you for keeping America safe, strong, proud, mighty and free,” he said.

The White House invited some 1,500 military families to the picnic, according to the first lady’s office, with 5,500 more invited for the fireworks. Several Cabinet secretaries attended the picnic, including embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Entertainers appearing at the 90-minute concert that was televised by the Hallmark Channel included singer-songwriter Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova and former “American Idol” finalists Jonny Brenns and Jax.

Stripes: Frustrated USS Cole case judge retiring from military service

By CAROL ROSENBERG | Miami Herald | Published: July 5, 2018

MIAMI (Tribune News Service) — The military judge who ordered a Marine general to serve 21 days confinement in a Guantanamo trailer park for contempt of court — a conviction that a federal court recently overturned as illegal — is retiring after 26 years of service, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Air Force Col. Vance Spath “has an approved retirement date of Nov. 1, 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske said in a one-sentence email response to a question from McClatchy. She did not say when the colonel submitted his paperwork for retirement.

Spath has been chief of the U.S. Air Force judiciary since April 2014. He been serving as the judge in the USS Cole case at Guantanamo since the summer of 2014. He did not respond Thursday to efforts by McClatchy to reach him via his social media accounts.

Spath drew national attention for his November conviction of Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker after summary contempt proceedings, making Baker the first U.S. citizen to be convicted of a crime at the war court created by President George W. Bush to try suspected foreign war criminals in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

At issue was a decision by Baker, the chief defense counsel for military commissions, to release three defense attorneys from the USS Cole case. The attorneys said they had an ethical obligation to quit after Spath forbade them to investigate their discovery of a listening device hidden in the confidential attorney-client meeting room at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. Spath said only he, as the case judge, had the power to release defense attorneys of record. He several times ordered Pentagon paid defense attorneys Rick Kammen, Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears to return to the capital case; they refused.

Guantanamo inmate Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, held by the CIA from 2002 to 2006, is accused of plotting al-Qaida’s suicide bombing of the warship that killed 17 U.S. sailors off Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. He could face military execution, if he is convicted.

In February, Spath declared his frustration over uncertainty of the mechanics of military commissions and halted all pretrial proceedings in the case, pending clarification of his authority from higher courts. “I am abating these proceedings indefinitely,” he declared Feb. 16 before walking off the war court bench at Guantanamo. “We’re done until a superior court tells me to keep going.”

At the time, Spath mentioned that he was weighing retirement.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that Spath “acted unlawfully when he unilaterally convicted” Baker “of criminal contempt and sentenced him for that contempt” at the Guantanamo war court on Nov. 1, 2017. Spath sentenced the general to 21 days confinement and to pay a $1,000 fine. Because the brig at the Guantanamo Navy base was not operating at the time, the Air Force judge instead confined him to his quarters — a trailer park behind the war court compound, called Camp Justice.

The Pentagon overseer released the general from his confinement after two nights in the trailer as a federal court was weighing whether the Air Force judge had deprived the Marine general of due process.

As of Thursday there was no notice of Spath’s pending retirement on the USS Cole case docket at a Pentagon website for military commissions.

Al-Nashiri’s prosecutors have asked a Pentagon panel, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, to clarify a range of questions Spath raised, including the scope of war court contempt authority as well as who has the power to release attorneys of record from ongoing proceedings.

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