Category Archives: News

9 May, 2019 07:09

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, May 9, 2019 which is Tear the Tags Off the Mattress Day, National Moscato Day, Hurray for Buttons Day and Lost Sock Memorial Day.
This Day in Legion History:

  • May 9, 1951: A 21-year-old combat veteran of the Korean War is denied admission into the Tucson, Ariz., VA Hospital because, as the director tells the media and American Legion members who take up the veteran’s cause, “no returned veteran from Korea is eligible for hospital benefits unless he has been discharged from the service because of a duty disability.” This nationally publicized story leads National Commander Erle Cocke, Jr., to call on Congress to expand VA health-care services, disability benefits and pensions to veterans of the Korean War to an equal footing as those received by World War II veterans. A joint resolution to that effect is swiftly passed and signed into law May 11, 1951.

This Day in History:
1671: In London, Thomas Blood, an Irish adventurer better known as “Captain Blood,” is captured attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
Blood, a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, was deprived of his estate in Ireland with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. In 1663, he put himself at the head of a plot to seize Dublin Castle from supporters of King Charles II, but the plot was discovered and his accomplices executed. He escaped capture. In 1671, he hatched a bizarre plan to steal the new Crown Jewels, which had been refashioned by Charles II because most of the original jewels were melted down after Charles I’s execution in 1649.
On May 9, 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest, managed to convince the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols. Blood’s three accomplices then emerged from the shadows, and together they forced their way into the Jewel House. However, they were caught in the act when the keeper’s son showed up unexpectedly, and an alarm went out to the Tower guard. One man shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches while Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run off with it. The Tower guards apprehended and arrested all four of the perpetrators, and Blood was brought before the king. Charles was so impressed with Blood’s audacity that, far from punishing him, he restored his estates in Ireland and made him a member of his court with an annual pension.
Captain Blood became a colorful celebrity all across the kingdom, and when he died in 1680 his body had to be exhumed in order to persuade the public that he was actually dead.


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The Hill: Joint Chiefs chair floats longer military presence in Afghanistan

By Ellen Mitchell – 05/08/19 03:00 PM EDT 97
The United States will need U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future to act as a counterterrorism force until all insurgency is removed, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday.
Gen. Joseph Dunford told lawmakers at the Capitol that the United States will “need to maintain a counterterrorism presence as long as an insurgency continues in Afghanistan.”
The United States is in the midst of peace talks with the Taliban to negotiate an end to the nearly 18-year war.
The Trump administration hopes negotiations will lead to a withdrawal of U.S. troops in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to not harbor terrorist organizations that could threaten U.S. security, though the talks appeared to stall in recent weeks and have been met with bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill.
Dunford said there are still 20 extremist groups in the Afghanistan region, and “a handful” have said they want to attack the United States.
“I don’t think anybody would want to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan or the broader Middle East more than me,” Dunford told Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
“But I will share with you the advice that I’ve provided now to two presidents … It’s my judgment today based on the threat from South Asia, that we need to continue to put pressure on those terrorist groups or they’ll pose a threat to the United States.
“I know it’s frustrating to you and the American people for us to be there for such a long period of time," he continued. "It’s just my judgment right now that the conditions for a complete withdrawal aren’t there.”
Dunford noted that about 15,000 American and 7,000 NATO forces still remain in the country and that “there are the conditions for continuing to decrease U.S. presence in the region as we have and increase the responsibility of, in this case, the Afghan forces to provide security for themselves.”
Udall had questioned Dunford and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on whether they anticipated U.S. forces coming home from Afghanistan anytime soon.
Shanahan replied that the Trump administration’s current policy remains the South Asia strategy, which President Trump unveiled in August 2017.
“Our best chance for peace, and this is probably the best in 40 years, is taking place right now,” Shanahan said. “I would say our policy is to fight and talk. We’re fighting the Taliban, to pressure them into reduction of violence. I think we’re making progress.”
Dunford, meanwhile, said he’s “realistic” about current peace negotiations, and believes “it is the first time in many, many years where we have some opportunity now to pursue a peaceful resolution to the war in Afghanistan.”

Stripes: Veteran suicide, ‘blue water’ benefits among topics addressed in 18 bills OK’d by House panel


WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs sent 18 bills to the full House Wednesday, including legislation to address veteran suicides, create a fourth administration at the Department of Veterans Affairs and extend benefits to “Blue Water” Navy veterans.

The hearing marked the first time that the committee has met during this congressional session to advance legislation. It remained uncertain Wednesday when the bills might be scheduled for votes on the House floor.

“The 18 bills we have before us today represent considerable time and hard work by members of this committee on both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the committee chairman.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the committee, voted in favor of the bills but cautioned Takano against advancing legislation in the future without including methods to pay for them.

“Several of the bills on today’s agenda have preliminary scores from the Congressional Budget Office that include millions of dollars in discretionary spending costs,” Roe said. “Given the number of worthy proposals competing for limited tax dollars, I believe it is incumbent upon this committee to do the hard work of prioritizing which proposals provide the most bang for the buck of our veterans.”

Some of the bills approved Wednesday were:

• H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which extends benefits to veterans who served offshore on ships during the Vietnam War and have fought for years to prove they were exposed to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange. To help pay for the benefits, the bill increases fees for nondisabled veterans who apply through the VA home loan program. The bill would also extend benefits to veterans who served in or near the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula beginning Sept. 1, 1967 and require the VA to identify U.S. military bases in Thailand where Agent Orange was used.

• H.R. 2340, FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act, which requires the VA to notify Congress of suicides and suicide attempts at VA campuses within seven days. The VA must also provide medical and housing information about the veterans, as well as an explanation of their most recent encounters with VA employees. The bill was introduced after three veterans died by suicide at VA facilities in five days in April.

• H.R. 2333, Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, which requires the comptroller general of the United States to review the responsibilities, workload and vacancy rates of VA suicide prevention coordinators and submit a report to Congress after one year.

• H.R. 2045, VET OPP Act, which creates a fourth administration within the VA dedicated solely to veterans’ transition into education and employment. The VA is made up of three administrations: the National Cemetery Administration, the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration. The bill would add the Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration and a new senior official to lead it.

Three bills that aim to increase veterans’ access to medical marijuana were omitted from the hearing Wednesday after originally being listed for consideration. Committee staff said the bills were withdrawn in order to solicit more feedback.

The bills would prohibit the VA from denying veterans benefits because of their participation in state marijuana programs, authorize VA health care providers to recommend veterans for state marijuana programs and direct the VA secretary to carry out a clinical trial of the effects of marijuana on chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

During a hearing last week, VA representatives voiced their opposition to the measures, citing the Drug Enforcement Agency’s listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. VA May Have Incorrect Addresses for 25,000 Veterans

8 May 2019 | By Jim Absher
The Department of Veterans Affairs has notified veterans in several states that the address the agency has on file for them may have been incorrectly changed.
In social media postings and press releases, the VA has stated that both the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration have "detected inconsistencies with how veterans’ permanent mailing addresses are being updated and stored at VHA medical facilities and shared with the national enrollment system."
The postings urge all veterans to verify that the information the VA has on file for them is correct. To do this, veterans should go to and verify that their mailing and home addresses, phone number and email information are all correct.
If you don’t have an online account, the webpage will let you create one. If you are unable to do so, you can call the VA at 877-222-8387 to speak with a live person to check out the info the department has on file for you. You can also visit a local VA office for assistance.
Updating your address will affect the information the VA has for:

  • VA health care (including prescriptions, appointment reminders, lab and test results, and other communications)
  • Disability compensation
  • Pension benefits
  • Claims and appeals
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E)

It will not update the mailing address the VA uses for:

  • GI Bill benefits
  • Home loans
  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance
  • The Foreign Medical Program

Officials say the different computer systems do not talk to each other. The change of address page above explains how to change your address for these programs.

Defense News: Democrats warn Shanahan that military activity on the border could spark legal violations
By:Joe Gould 15 hours ago
WASHINGTON ― Democratic lawmakers want the head of the Pentagon to drop plans for military personnel to directly interact with migrants on the U.S. southern border, arguing it could violate America’s long-standing separation of the military and law enforcement.
In the latest flashpoint in the military’s growing role at the border, 19 Democratic senators, including several presidential hopefuls, sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Wednesday urging him to revoke waivers he granted to nearly 280 of the more than 4,000 troops on the border. They also want a legal justification for “military protective activities” that President Donald Trump has authorized troops to perform.
“We urge you to revoke these waivers to prevent the continued escalation of military involvement in immigration enforcement activities and the further politicization of the use of servicemembers to inappropriately respond to a divisive domestic policy issue,” reads the letter, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a senior member of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees. The letter was obtained by Defense News.
Several presidential hopefuls joined the letter, including Michael Bennett, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ― as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
For troops on the border, the mission in support of the Department of Homeland Security has involved reinforcing barriers and providing logistics support, but typically not directly engaging with or detaining immigrants or asylum seekers.
The lawmakers targeted the Defense Department’s agreement to provide 160 personnel to transport migrants, 100 personnel to distribute meals and conduct welfare checks, and 20 military attorneys to represent DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in immigration court and before the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The lawmakers requested legal justification for Trump’s authorization for military protective activities, which include “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search” if deemed necessary to protect Customs and Border Protection personnel.
Fearful that troops could breach the law, “under the pretense of humanitarian assistance,” they also request details of the training and legal guidance for border troops on the use of force and the Posse Comitatus Act, a 19th century federal law that restricts active-duty military participation in domestic law enforcement activities.
On Wednesday, Durbin grilled Shanahan before the Subcommittee on Defense, arguing that the longer the deployment goes on, the greater the risk of breaching the military-law enforcement divide.
“There will never be a blurring of the line in terms of law enforcement,” Shanahan said. “We do not provide law enforcement. Never have. Never will. Our role is to support DHS.”
Illustrating another potential overlap, Durbin asked Shanahan about visits by the Department of Health and Human Services to sites — some military — that could potentially house unaccompanied migrant children. Shanahan said military assistance there would be “turnkey,” implying that no troops would interact with the children.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., noted that the Department of Defense has made at least seven supplemental appropriations for the border missions since DHS first asked for its aid last year. Meanwhile, Durbin wanted to know why the mission wasn’t in the DoD’s fiscal 2020 budget request.
Military officials acknowledged that they are wrestling with their ever-evolving mission in the absence of a formal plan.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said he is lending DHS a two-star assistant to the Joint Chiefs who would typically work with the State Department, and number of military planners, to create an interagency planning team. They would create a plan for DoD support to DHS based on the number of migrants and DHS’ capacity.
“Although the commitment on the border hasn’t impacted our preparedness for other missions at this point, what we wanted to do was get into a more predictable mode for the requirements that the Department of Homeland Security has and do better at integrating across the government,” Dunford said. “What we’re hoping to do for the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is have a much more predictable plan for the next couple of years."
Trump and congressional Democrats are locked in a monthslong battle over funding for his border wall proposal, which culminated in an extended partial government shutdown at the start of the year.
In February, Trump announced plans to use more than $3 billion in unspent military construction funds to advance the wall project, over the objection of Congress. Pentagon officials promised they will replace that money in future years, but lawmakers would have to approve such a move.
Generally, congressional Republicans have shown support for the border mission and Trump’s tactics in obtaining funding. However, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and an ally of the president, indicated Wednesday he wants to the Posse Comitatus Act’s restrictions protected.
“Bottom line is our military does not engage in traditional law enforcement functions,” he said. “Providing assistance to the border patrol is fine, but our soldiers should not become border patrol agents.”
In recent weeks, Trump has called the situation on the southern U.S. border increasingly dangerous, and he publicly chafed at legal restrictions placed on troops he’s sent there.
“Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like a military would act,” Trump said in April. “Because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy. … They have all these horrible laws that the Democrats won’t change.”

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8 May, 2019 06:13

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.
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.”


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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.

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Drive a big truck in the military? There may be a simpler path to a commercial driver license

FYI, please help get this information to members who have recently left the military or those about to get out and remain in Arizona!

Arizona Department of Transportation sent this bulletin at 05/07/2019 10:38 AM MST. If you would like alerts on this and other ADOT news, sign up above to receive our GovDelivery notices.

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Drive a big truck in the military? There may be a simpler path to a commercial driver license

Some vets eligible for skills test waiver

Veterans of the U.S. military who operated large vehicles as part of their service may qualify for an Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division military skills test waiver when applying for a commercial driver license.

“The waiver is something that deserves more attention because it gives veterans who’ve honorably served this country more opportunities to use those skills once they return to civilian life,” said MVD Field Operations Administrator Mike Cryderman.

He added, “There’s a real need in this country for proficient commercial drivers, and the MVD is committed to assisting veterans with this kind of experience to appropriately get the credentials they need.”

fThe military skills test waiver applies to veterans who operated a military vehicle equivalent to a commercial vehicle within the last year. The waiver requires the applicant to describe what kind of vehicle he or she operated, such as fifth wheel, truck tractor/semi-trailer, truck trailer combination, or single vehicles that meet certain commercial weight specifications. It also requires the applicant to obtain a commanding officer’s certification that the applicant has commercial driving experience in the military.

Tony Bradley, President and CEO for the Arizona Trucking Association said, “The simple fact is that veterans make great employees and we should encourage every veteran with experience driving heavy equipment to take advantage of the military skills test waiver. By utilizing the skills test waiver these veterans can get credit for the skills they learned in the military and start earning money as a commercial truck driver or heavy equipment operator.”

Potential applicants can find the waiver form (Form 96-0680) at

The vision of the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division is to “get Arizona out of line and safely on the road”. Dedicated MVD employees, Authorized Third Party providers and offering more services online help MVD achieve this vision.

7 May, 2019 08:34

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, May 7, 2019, which is Childhood Depression Awareness Day, National Concert Day, National Teacher Day, National Tourism Day, and World Asthma Day.

Today in History:

  • On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner Lusitania is torpedoed without warning by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland. Within 20 minutes, the vessel sank into the Celtic Sea. Of 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,198 people were drowned, including 128 Americans. The attack aroused considerable indignation in the United States, but Germany defended the action, noting that it had issued warnings of its intent to attack all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain.
  • 1954: In northwest Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces decisively defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu, a French stronghold besieged by the Vietnamese communists for 57 days. The Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu signaled the end of French colonial influence in Indochina and cleared the way for the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at the conference of Geneva.
  • On this day in 1945, the German High Command, in the person of General Alfred Jodl, signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces, East and West, at Reims, in northwestern France.
  • Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller scores eight points in 11 seconds to lead his team over the New York Knicks 107-105 on this day in 1995. Miller was famous throughout his career for what became known as “Miller Time,” clutch performances to finish games. This 1995 Eastern Conference semifinal playoff was Miller’s greatest late-game display, and one of the most shocking endings to a game in NBA history.


  • Federal Times: mseaveywith “Remove” in the subject line. If you have received this from someone who forwarded it and would like to be added, email mseavey.

    Federal Times: VA and union clash in negotiations for a new contract
    By: Jessie Bur | 16 hours ago
    The Department of Veterans Affairs proposed a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees May 2, one that agency officials say will improve medical care, customer service and staff accountability.
    But union officials say the proposed agreement strips significant protections offered under the current agreement that covers approximately 250,000 employees at the agency.
    According to a VA news release, the new bargaining agreement would cut official time use at the agency from approximately 1 million man hours per year to 10,000 hours of official time, a 99 percent reduction.
    Official time is used by union representatives while on the clock in their federal jobs to perform work like supporting other employees in grievance proceedings or preparing for negotiations with the agency.
    According to the 2016 official time rates — the most recent published by the Office of Personnel Management — the VA’s use of official time calculates out to about 3.53 hours per bargaining unit employee per year.
    The federal government average in 2016 was 2.97 hours per employee per year.
    Under the new proposal and assuming the same number of bargaining unit employees, union representatives would have about two minutes of official time to use per employee per year, which the agency said will direct more that $48 million per year into other services.
    “Secretary [Robert] Wilkie is making a mockery of the collective bargaining process to do the bidding of President Trump,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “This is all part of the Trump administration’s strategy to force the VA to fail, thereby paving the road to privatization.”
    In May 2018, President Donald Trump issued three executive orders altering the treatment and collective bargaining of federal employees, which included a requirement that union reps use at least 75 percent of their time doing agency work, rather than on official time.
    Significant sections of those orders were overturned by a district court judge in August of that same year, but the administration has appealed that decision.
    Under the Trump administration, the VA has been aggressive in attempts to curtail official time, deciding in November 2018 that certain medical employees at the agency would not be allowed to use such time. That rule was brought to court by AFGE shortly after its introduction.
    The new agreement would also empower frontline supervisors, streamline the hiring and training process and ensure the bargaining agreement doesn’t interfere with agency modernization legislation, according to the VA news release.
    “It’s time for a reset in VA’s approach to labor-management relations. A reluctance to challenge the status quo produced the current agreement, which includes many benefits that favor the union rather than the veterans we are charged with serving,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in the news release.
    “With VA facing thousands of vacancies, these proposals could add more than one million man-hours per year back into our work force — a vital influx of resources that would make an almost immediate difference for veterans and the employees who care for them. These proposals make clear that service to veterans must come first in all that we do, and I look forward to working with AFGE to ensure we achieve that goal.”
    But according to AFGE, the proposal also eliminates 42 articles entirely or in part that concern areas such as employee training, workplace health and safety, and protection from whistleblower retaliation.
    “As a veteran myself, it makes me sick to see how little regard this administration shows to the workers who serve our veterans day in and day out,” said AFGE District 3 National Vice President Phil Glover in a news release.
    “VA employees deserve to be treated with the same respect we expect them to show the veterans they serve.”
    The current collective bargaining agreement between AFGE and the VA has been in place since 2011, and the union and agency must now begin negotiations on the new proposed agreement.

    Associated Press: Trump pardons former US soldier who killed Iraqi prisoner
    By: Kevin Freking, The Associated Press | 10 hours ago
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has pardoned a former U.S. soldier convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner, the White House announced Monday.
    Trump signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, for former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, of Oklahoma, press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
    Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq. He was paroled in 2014 and had been scheduled to remain on parole until 2024.
    A military court had sentenced Behenna to 25 years in prison. However, the Army’s highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Behenna’s claim of self-defense, Sanders said. The Army Clemency and Parole Board also reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible.
    Behenna’s case attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials and the public, Sanders said. She added that Behenna was a model prisoner while serving his sentence, and "in light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving" of the pardon.
    Oklahoma’s two Republican senators, James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, hailed the pardon, thanking Trump for giving Behenna “a clean slate.”
    Behenna acknowledged during his trial that instead of taking the prisoner home as he was ordered, he took the man to a railroad culvert, stripped him, and then questioned him at gunpoint about a roadside bombing that had killed two members of Behenna’s platoon.
    Behenna, a native of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, said the man moved toward him and he shot him because Behenna thought he would try to take his gun.
    Oklahoma’s attorney general first requested a pardon for Behenna in February 2018 and renewed his request last month. Attorney General Mike Hunter said he believed Behenna’s conviction was unjustified because of erroneous jury instructions and the failure of prosecutors to turn over evidence supporting a self-defense claim.

    CNBC: Pentagon shrugs off Trump’s call to reverse student athlete policy at service academies
    PUBLISHED MON, MAY 6 2019 6:38 PM EDT | Kevin Breuninger, Christina Wilkie
    The Pentagon stood firm Monday on its policy of prohibiting service academy athletes from getting deferments from their active-duty service requirements in order to play pro sports — even after President Donald Trump said earlier in the day that he was considering reversing it.
    In a speech at the White House honoring the U.S. Military Academy’s football team, Trump said that he was “going to look at doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into the major leagues like the NFL, hockey, baseball.”
    The president said that those athletes should be able to defer their required service so they can play professional sports. “I think it sounds good,” Trump said of reversing the policy. “They’ll serve their time after they’re finished.”
    The policy that Trump talked up in the Rose Garden, which allowed military academy athletes to request reserve status in order to clinch pro sports contracts, was expanded by the Obama administration in 2016. One year later, however, Trump’s own Defense Department abruptly rescinded it.
    On Monday, Trump clearly expressed his preference for a return to the old deferment policy, adding that he had mentioned it to West Point football coach Jeff Monken. “I mentioned this to the coach, and it’s a big deal,” Trump said.
    “Can you imagine this incredible coach with that little asset?” Trump said. “I think it sounds good, right?”
    Shortly after Trump’s comments, Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell told CNBC that the Defense Department is currently following the 2017 guidance, which requires military academy athletes to complete two full years of active-duty service before going into pro sports.
    “No service shall make unique or special arrangements pertaining to the initial assignments for [military service academies] or [Reserve Officer Training Corps] graduates that are not typically available to other such graduates,” Maxwell said.
    The White House did not respond to CNBC’s inquiry about what had changed, if anything, about the president’s thinking on the service policy. The Pentagon did not immediately say whether Trump had been informed of the 2017 policy change at the time it was made.
    The apparent disagreement Monday between the president and the Pentagon was only the latest chapter in the decades-long saga of whether to allow student athletes at service academies — where, like all students, their tuition is free — to defer their active-duty service to play pro sports.
    For most of the 20th century, the policy was simple: Everyone served on active duty, regardless of their athletic prospects. But starting in the 1980′s the military began granting waivers to some star athletes to go pro right away. At the time, the military justified the waivers as a good public relations move for the service academies.
    Waivers continued to be granted to star athletes during the next 30 years, but only in select cases, and only for two years. Then, as now, a lot depended on who was in charge in Washington.
    In 2016, the Obama administration expanded the waivers to include up to five years of deferment, not just two. As part of the expansion, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced at the Naval Academy graduation ceremony in May that recently drafted quarterback Keenan Reynolds would be allowed to defer his active-duty service to play for the Baltimore Ravens.
    “Keenan . . . you are cleared and approved to defer your service so you can pursue your NFL dreams. Go get ’em,” Carter said to Reynolds, prompting the audience to burst into cheers.
    Fast forward one year to the spring of 2017, just days before the National Football League’s annual draft.
    At the Air Force Academy in Colorado, two football players who expected to be drafted and granted waivers to play in the NFL were stunned to learn their waivers had been denied. At the time they got the news, there had been no formal announcement of a policy switch.
    But on April 29, the final day of the 2017 draft, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed a memo requiring that all service academy graduates serve a minimum of two years active duty upon graduation. With a stroke of his pen, Mattis had effectively ended three decades of selective waivers granted to star athletes.
    It was unclear late Monday what the next steps might be for the Pentagon’s current policy.

    Marine Corps Times: North Carolina Raider theft rings: Marines stole tactical gear, vehicle parts, flashbang grenades, and pawned off some of the loot
    By: Shawn Snow | 16 hours ago
    From 2016 to 2018 the motor pool and supply warehouse for 3d Raider Battalion aboard Camp, Lejeune North Carolina, were the targets of thieves within the elite commando unit, according to military charge sheets.
    The culprits, five Marines with 3d Raider Battalion, managed to steal vehicle parts, military tactical gear, SureFire flashlights and even flashbang grenades in one instance.
    More than $300,000 worth of government property was stolen by one group of four Marines in 2017 alone, according to Gunnery Sgt. Lynn Kinney, a spokeswoman with Marine Forces Special Operations Command.
    Some of the stolen gear found its way into a local Jacksonville, North Carolina, pawn store, while other gear was sold to an unnamed civilian.
    The crime spree involves two separate theft rings, which spanned from 2016 to 2018, according to charge sheets.
    Four Marines, who raided the 3d Raider Battalion supply warehouse in 2017, were subject to courts-martial, where the accused Marines pleaded guilty and were sentenced to confinement ranging from five to 28 months, according to Kinney.
    The Marines were subsequently demoted in rank and punitively booted from the Corps, Kinney said.
    A fifth Marine, who broke into various motor transport lots in 2016, including the 3d Raider motor pool, was also subject to a court-martial, according to details in charge sheets.
    Some of the charges included larceny of government property, wrongful sale of military property and obstruction of justice for at least two Marines.
    “These actions are not consistent with Marine Forces Special Operations Command values and deter from our priority mission of deploying special operations forces,” Kinney told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
    The details of these crimes were laid out in a series of charge sheets obtained by Marine Corps Times via Freedom of Information Act request.
    One of the Raider bandit theft rings involved four Marines, two lance corporals and two corporals, all from 3d Raider Battalion.
    The names on the charge sheets have been redacted and it’s unknown what jobs those Marines held at Marine Forces Special Operations Command.
    For at least a year, the Marines conspired together in some instances to steal equipment from the 3d Raider supply warehouse, and a couple of the Marines also took gear designated for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, or DRMO.
    In March 2017, one of the corporals conspired with another lance corporal to steal SureFire Hellfighter Lights — a popular weapon mountable tactical flashlight.
    To carry out the crime, the two Marines moved pallets to block the view of a security camera at the 3d Raider supply warehouse. After stealing the tactical flashlights, they sold 13 of the SureFires for $2,600 to an unnamed civilian, according to the charge sheets.
    Other instances of theft, which involved the entire gang of four, included loading 72 fixed rifle buttstocks and 130 rifle buttstock subassembly parts into a Marine Corps 7-ton vehicle where the gear was then offloaded into a lance corporal’s personal car.
    Those rifle parts were then sold to a civilian in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina.
    The four Raider bandits, between the time span of January 2017–January 2018, managed to steal Leatherman multitools, Benchmade knives, SureFire scout lights, SureFire helmet lights, Ka-bars, Gerber knives, recon sleeping systems and Blackhawk rifle slings, charge sheets detailed.
    The gear was sold to a civilian in Sneads Ferry.
    And around January 2018, two of the Marines loaded 25 pelican cases containing portable solar panels for charging communications gear. That equipment was intended for the DRMO lot, which often houses old or outmoded gear that may be reused again by other units who find use for it.
    Around Aug. 1, 2016, and May 2017, one of the Marines, without proper authorization, sold a Leatherman, four Benchmade knives, four Gerbers, one MTech knife, one Ka-bar, three SureFire lights, two SureFire scout lights and one SureFire light with an M93 rail mount to the Jacksonville Park-n-Pawn store.
    Two of the Marines attempted to clean up after their crimes, according to charge sheets.
    After learning that security cameras at the Raider warehouse may have recorded them stealing the equipment, two of the Marines made an effort to destroy the footage.
    Sometime around July and August 2017, at least two of the Marines went to a local Jacksonville Best Buy where they purchased a hard drive.
    They then replaced the hard drive connected to the 3d Raider security camera with the newly acquired hard drive. The old hard drive was tossed into a body of water.
    The theft ring came crashing down around March 2018 when the command dished out charges to the four Marines for theft of the equipment.
    But prior to that, in 2016, another 3d Raider Marine had managed to steal tactical military equipment and vehicle parts from several motor transport lots.
    The Marine lance corporal gained entry to one the motor pool lots with a key, and in another instance, he used bolt cutters to cut a chain link fence.
    The Marine stole gear from the 3d Raider motor pool lot and the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group motor transport lot.
    The lance corporal also used bolt cutters to gain entry to a vehicle lot housing Logistics Vehicle System Replacements, or LVSR, trucks.
    Looted gear from the crime spree included flashbang diversionary hand grenades, tool kits, multi-meters, BF Goodrich Baja tires, plate carriers, helmets, M16 magazines, military medical kits, fog lights, wire harnesses, headlights and composite lights.
    In all, over the past several years, hundreds of thousands of dollars in tactical gear and vehicle parts have been stolen by Marines, where the 3d Raider warehouse and motor pool lot have been the central focus of the crime sprees.
    “We are committed to accountability against any violation the standards we set for our Marines,” Kinney said.

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