Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, October 1, 2019 which is International Raccoon Appreciation Day, International Music Day, Less Than Perfect Day and National Fire Pup Day.
Today in Legion History:
- Oct. 1, 1920: Membership in The American Legion stands at 845,185, an increase of approximately 180,000 from the organization’s inaugural year.
- Oct. 1, 1995: The American Legion forms a Persian Gulf Task Force to address issues specific to those who served in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and other theaters in the Middle East that followed.
This Day in History:
- On October 1, 1890, an act of Congress creates Yosemite National Park, home of such natural wonders as Half Dome and the giant sequoia trees. Environmental trailblazer John Muir (1838-1914) and his colleagues campaigned for the congressional action, which was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison and paved the way for generations of hikers, campers and nature lovers, along with countless “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs.
- 1918: A combined Arab and British force captures Damascus from the Turks during World War I, completing the liberation of Arabia. An instrumental commander in the Allied campaign was T.E. Lawrence, a legendary British soldier known as Lawrence of Arabia.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- AP: Trump applauds Gen. Milley on becoming Joint Chiefs chairman
- Military.com: Will VA Really Share Your Personal Medical Info Without Permission?
- Military Times: Afghanistan peace negotiations may be dead, but the war’s still very much alive
- Military Times: Veterans benefits will see a cost-of-living bump this year, but how much?
- Miami Herald: This veteran had no family to bury him. He won’t be laid to rest alone
- Military Times: Will climate change hurt VA hospitals and programs?
If you wish to be removed from this email list, kindly email me at mseavey with “Remove from Daily Clips” in the subject line. If you have received this from someone who forwarded it and would like to be added, email me at mseavey and I will promptly add you to the list, that you might get the daily American Legion News.
AP: Trump applauds Gen. Milley on becoming Joint Chiefs chairman
By: Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press 18 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Army Gen. Mark Milley is taking over as the nation’s top military officer against a backdrop of controversy over defense aid to Ukraine that has triggered a presidential impeachment inquiry at a time of persistent threats from China, Russia and Iran.
Milley, who was sworn in during a rain-soaked ceremony Monday at Joint Base Myer-Henderson, will officially become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Donald Trump’s top military adviser at midnight. And he will face what has been an increasingly difficult task: maintaining the nonpolitical nature of the U.S. military and providing blunt advice to a president who is prone to making sudden Pentagon announcements via Twitter and abruptly turning on Cabinet members who cross him.
In a brief speech Monday, Milley told Trump, “You can rest assured that I will always provide you informed, candid, impartial military advice to you.” And he vowed to maintain the high quality of the world’s preeminent fighting force.
“With the complex challenges of the international environment, the United States Armed Forces stand ready. We stand ready to keep the peace or, if necessary, win the war,” he said.
Trump, who attended the ceremony, praised Milley, saying, “Mark is living proof that the American warfighter is the toughest, smartest and bravest, best and brightest by far anywhere in the world.”
Pentagon leaders have largely tried to avoid the impeachment matter. House Democrats are moving ahead with their probe into a phone call and whistleblower complaint that Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic foe Joe Biden’s family.
But the issue casts broad questions over whether allies must worry that any U.S. military aid could come with political strings attached. And Milley will be at the forefront of military deliberations with U.S. allies and partners around the world.
The matter did not come up during the Fort Myer ceremony. But, addressing the visiting chiefs of defense from other nations who attended the event, Milley said in his speech that their presence “demonstrates the importance of our shared security interest and common values. As chairman, I look forward to working with all of you to ensure our collective security.”
Milley, 61, has been serving as the Army chief of staff since August 2015, and he succeeds Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as Joint Chiefs chairman. A combat-hardened veteran, Milley commanded troops during several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A native of Winchester, Massachusetts, Milley received his Army commission from Princeton University in 1980. An infantry officer by training, he commanded Special Forces units in a career that included deployments in the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the multinational mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina to implement the Dayton Peace Accords.
As the Army’s leader, Milley helped shepherd the groundbreaking move of women into front-line infantry and other combat positions. More recently, he has worked with his senior officers to reverse a shortfall in Army recruiting when the service fell far short of its annual goal last year.
Military.com: Will VA Really Share Your Personal Medical Info Without Permission?
30 Sep 2019
Military.com | By Jim Absher
Late last week, several stories began popping up on websites and social media about veterans getting letters saying the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would soon start sharing their medical records with civilian doctors.
The letter says that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) "may now communicate without your authorization your health information through health information exchanges (HIE) with non-VHA providers for them to treat you."
Yes, the VA will share all the medical information it has on you with private doctors. This may even include details on medical treatment you received while on active duty.
The letter goes on to say, "If you do not want VHA to share your health information with non-VHA providers through HIEs for your treatment and care," you need to submit a form.
To add irony to all this, you can’t electronically submit the form. You need to print it out, sign it and either mail or personally deliver it to the VA.
Yes, if you want the VA to stop sharing your private medical information over the internet with civilian doctors and more groups, you need to print a form, sign it and physically deliver it to the VA.
With Whom Will the VA Share Your Information?
Public Law 115-182, better known as the VA Mission Act, says that the VA can share your medical information with health care providers who need to know your health history before caring for you. That makes sense.
But the law also allows the information to be shared with a "third party in order to recover or collect reasonable charges for care."
Basically, your VA medical records will soon become available to any civilian doctor who is part of the VA Mission Act, as well as the company who funnels payments from the VA to civilian doctors. Currently, that is TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the politically connected company that also manages Tricare payments to doctors.
Who Is Affected by This?
According to a copy of the letter Military.com received, any veteran enrolled in, or eligible to enroll in, VA health care will have their information shared. This affects pretty much every veteran who didn’t get a dishonorable discharge.
It isn’t specific, but the VA and Defense Department have health information sharing agreements, so your medical history from active duty may be shared as well.
Should You Worry?
To be fair, is this something you need to get upset about? That depends on your point-of-view.
Obviously, doctors need to know your health history before treating you. Do you have allergies, an underlying condition, other medical issues, etc.?
However, the law also allows sensitive protected medical information to be shared. This includes information about drug abuse, alcoholism or alcohol abuse; infection with the human immunodeficiency virus; or sickle cell anemia. Previously, release of this information required special written authorization.
Do your hometown doctor and your gossipy cousin who works as his nurse need to know you’re being treated for mental health issues by the VA? Well, that’s your call. But your information is protected by law; anyone who uses it improperly will be in an expensive bit of trouble. And health care professionals are pretty used to seeing all kinds of personal information on all their patients.
Also, if you remember back to your first week of basic training, you gave up a lot of rights and expectations when Uncle Sam became your boss. I’m sure, like me, you were probably told words to that effect (in much less elegant language) plenty of times while in the service. As a veteran, you’re probably used to having your personal information shared many different ways and times.
Truly, this is no different than civilians who have their health information shared amongst doctors and insurance companies. The problem is that the VA sprung this information at the last minute, and you don’t have to give them permission to share your details. You actually have to tell them not to share it.
When Does This Take Effect and What Should I Do?
According to the VA, all medical records will be shared by Jan. 1, 2020. If you are OK with that, there is nothing you need to do. If you don’t want your information shared, you need to opt out by using VA Form 10-10164.
Again, that form needs to be mailed or physically delivered to your local VA Medical Center.
For more information, see the VA’s website.
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Military Times: Afghanistan peace negotiations may be dead, but the war’s still very much alive
By: Meghann Myers 22 hours ago
Nearly 18 years after U.S. forces first dropped into Afghanistan, yet another administration is struggling to get out of the quagmire.
And the struggle is not going well.
As much as he wanted to pull troops out, President Donald Trump, like his predecessors, has not found the way forward.
Quite the opposite.
When Trump took office, there were about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Now there are about 14,000. Troop deaths have risen to the most in years, the Taliban holds more territory than ever and a new foe, ISIS-K, has emerged to add to the deadly misery.
Trump has signaled his eagerness to withdraw in recent months, lamenting that troops are acting more as police officers and public works employees than war fighters.
“They’re building gas stations. They’re rebuilding schools. The United States — we shouldn’t be doing that,” he said in July, calling on the Afghans to pick up the slack. “That’s for them to do.”
Trump authorized high-level peace talks with the Taliban and even floated the idea of a meeting at Camp David. An end to the nation’s longest war looked within reach.
But in September, President Trump declared the peace talks dead, after a car-bomb near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul killed an 82nd Airborne soldier.
Days later, at the Pentagon’s 9/11 ceremony, Trump told an audience of survivors, family members and first responders from that attack that he had responded by ramping up the pressure on the Taliban.
“The last four days, we’ve hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue,” he said.
For service members deployed abroad, or preparing for their next sojourn to “the sandbox,” business will continue as usual for now. But the administration has signaled its motivation to end this endless war. So what could that mean for future deployments, and the security risk for those on the ground if forces are scaled back?
A White House spokesman declined to answer questions on whether the administration was still planning a drawdown of troops to a recently proposed 8,600, or whether any amount of withdrawal would be tied to negotiations and a possible peace deal with the Taliban.
When combat troops withdrew from the country in 2014, the hope was that Afghanistan’s fresh, new, democratically elected government and American-trained security forces would be able to hold the line against another takeover by extremist groups.
While the Afghan government and its national police/national army organizations still exist, today the Taliban controls more square footage of the country than it did when Green Berets first parachuted in 18 years ago.
The resurgence of the Taliban, coupled with the rise of a local ISIS faction, has kept U.S. troops rotating into Afghanistan at a steady clip, even if their new mission set revolves around training, advising and assisting Afghan forces.
Neither U.S. Central Command nor Pentagon spokespeople responded to requests for specific numbers of airstrikes or other missions that would indicate the U.S. had increased operations.
That same week, multiple requests from the Pentagon press corps to have an on-camera briefing with Gen. Austin Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, were also denied.
Until further notice, according to officials, nothing has changed.
Business as usual
Pentagon officials say they have what they need.
“The number of troops that we will have will always be the appropriate level that we need to provide security,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters on Sept. 9. “We’re going to focus on the counter-terrorism mission, and we’re going to focus on the reason we got into Afghanistan in the first place, and that is to prevent terrorist operations or individuals from using Afghanistan as a base from which to operate against the homeland.”
There are still roughly 14,000 troops deployed to the country, a mix of train-advise-assist units partnered with the Afghan National Army, special operations teams working the counter-terrorism mission and air support personnel to back them both up.
The Army has been sending brigade and division headquarters elements to help on the ground for half of a decade. In 2017, with an eye toward that mission continuing for years to come, the service announced it would create security force assistance brigades that would focus on that mission and be available by request for any of the combatant commands.
The first SFAB deployed to Afghanistan in 2018, followed by the second this year. As of September, a 3rd SFAB is still training for an Afghanistan deployment, Security Force Assistance Command spokeswoman Maj. Christina Wright told Military Times Sept. 16.
“SFABs continue to train for worldwide deployment in support of combatant command security cooperation objectives,” she added.
Meanwhile, in the south of the country, Task Force Southwest has been rotating Marines into Helmand Province since 2017. The mission is to to train, advise and assist Afghan security partners there, according to Resolute Support officials. Earlier this year, there had been rumblings that the Marines would withdraw soon.
The task force consists of several hundred Marines. Now in its fourth rotation, and the primary Marine presence in Afghanistan, the task force has helped create a security belt around the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. The city hasn’t come under considerable pressure since it arrived even though the Taliban still control most of Helmand.
In addition to training Afghan aviation forces, the Air Force provides air support to troops on the ground and runs its own missions.
The most recently available monthly data shows the Air Force launched 810 strikes over nearly 1,000 sorties in August — that’s about one sortie every 45 minutes.
Officials from the Navy did not provide information about its current and future efforts in Afghanistan. However, nearly 18 years of constant deployments by SEALs have created a strain on the force that’s contributed to a series of scandals, former U.S. Special Operations Command honcho William McRaven said at a recent security forum.
Experts agree that Afghan security forces are not ready to secure their country from an insurgency by themselves.
Citing DoD figures, a senior RAND Corp. researcher said Sept. 18 at the New America Special Operations Forces Policy Forum in Washington, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are at 77 percent of their goal end strength.
“They’re going to need continued aid, and this was the big lesson from the Soviet Era, of course,” Linda Robinson said. “You must continue to support this force, or it will collapse in the face of a robust insurgency.”
Afghan forces are making solid progress, according to a Pentagon report from June on Afghanistan’s security, covering Dec. 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019.
During that period, the authors wrote, the Afghan Special Security Forces “achieved over 80 percent of its projected end strength planned for 2020.”
Despite “record-high” casualties — from nearly 1,000 enemy attacks in April, but generally between 600 and 800 a month, according to the report — “ANDSF recruitment and retention outpaced attrition for the first time in several reporting periods.”
Part of that progress, as well, has been an aviation capability upgrade, switching out Russian Mi-17 helicopters with U.S.-made aircraft. U.S. troops have been on hand to train the Afghan pilots, and according to the report, they are meeting their milestones.
On the other hand, the rise of ISIS-K — Afghanistan’s local Islamic State faction — has overwhelmed both U.S. and Afghan forces, gaining territory throughout the first half of this year.
“Regionally the group continues to evade, counter, and resist sustained CT pressure,” according to the report. “While ISIS-K remains operationally limited to South and Central Asia, the group harbors intentions to attack international targets.”
If the U.S. drew down or ultimately withdrew troops, Afghan forces would not be on their own, though. There are five regional train-advise-assist commands in Afghanistan, and three of them are run by Turkish, German and Italian forces.
Still, that support is crucial to their progress.
“Right now, it’s our judgment that the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence today,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Aug. 28 in a Pentagon briefing. “If an agreement happens, that could change.”
So far this year, 17 U.S. service members have been killed in action in Afghanistan, at the hands of both Taliban and ISIS combatants. That makes this year’s casualty count the highest since former President Obama declared the end of combat operations in 2014.
Thirteen of those were members of special operations forces, which is leading the counter-terror fight, including eight Special Forces soldiers and one Army Ranger.
Of the roughly 14,000 troops deployed there, 9,000 are under the train-advise-assist mission, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Campbell told Military Times, and the remaining 5,000 are focusing on counter-terror.
Efforts to train the Afghans to take care of themselves have seen mixed results.
The build out of the Afghan commandos, for instance, has been seen as a big success while creating a self-sufficient air force has encountered problems.
And Pentagon officials say the effort to train the Afghan air force has been largely successful.
Their combat capability “continues to increase as more aircraft are fielded and as Afghan pilots become more proficient,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman. "The AAF can unilaterally plan and conduct precision strike, close-air support, and MEDEVAC/CASEVAC missions. Their growing fixed wing attack fleet is proficient in conducting precision attack using laser guided munitions."
The Afghan air force contingent of AC-208s, MD-530s and UH-60s “are now fully fielded; the remainder of their A-29s will be fielded by the end of 2020. AAF A-29s average more than 60 bombs dropped and 20 missiles fired in combat operations per month,” said Campbell. “Their MD-530s fire an average of more than 500 rockets a month during combat missions.”
The Afghans rely on contract logistical support, “as does any air force that conducts a high volume of operations; about 80 percent of their maintenance is provided by contractors,” said Campbell. “Coalition Forces continue to mentor and provide individual pilot and maintainer training as the AAF works to grow its maintenance and aircrew workforce.”
Still, U.S. and coalition forces with the NATO-led Resolute Support mission fell short in developing Afghan tactical air coordinators’ ability to coordinate airdrop operations with Afghan air forces, according to a new report.
The Pentagon Inspector General report publicly released on Aug. 12, says Resolute Support’s Train Advise, Assist Command – Air that supports the Afghan air force failed to meet goals to develop Afghan tactical air coordinators competent in coordinating air drop operations that help provide supplies to the ANDSF.
Despite the fact air-drop training was included in training curriculum, TAAC-Air advisers chose to not provide Afghan tactical air coordinators with training or advising on air-drop operations.
Additionally, the report found TAAC-Air did not have a thorough training curriculum for the Afghan air liaison officers regarding targeting for airstrikes. The absence of an in-depth training curriculum was attributed to a lack of oversight from TAAC-Air over contracted advisers.
In discussions of a drawdown, counter-terror special operations troops have been suggested as the preferred stay-behind force. But Robinson urged the presence of more conventional forces to support the Afghan troops.
“Aside from the need to convert our military pressure into political outcomes, I think the big lesson here is [counter-terrorism] only is not the only solution,” she said. “A small [counter-insurgency] approach is really the way ahead.”
For the Taliban, the White House’s very public motivation to withdraw troops might be emboldening, a former South Asia foreign area officer told Military Times.
“I see them targeting our people more and more,” retired Maj. Jason Howk, now a military columnist and author, told Military Times. “I think that’s going to be one of their higher-level missions, is to hit our folks as much as possible, as frequently as possible.”
It would be a top priority for them, he said, to use Trump’s own rhetoric against him.
“That was his base, that’s what he was pushing for — pull every troop out of every country and bring them all home,” Howk said. “That, unfortunately, is a signal to an enemy that knows that’s what you’d like to do. They’re going to speed that up for you.”
To be sure, a rising death toll in Afghanistan presents a strong argument for getting out.
“We don’t do body counts of our enemies, but the media worldwide loves to do body counts of American soldiers, and NATO soldiers,” Howk said. “That just drives everybody away from wanting to be involved in Afghanistan. That’s what the Taliban and their supporters are hoping for.”
It gives them an upper hand in any negotiations, according to a former CENTCOM chief of staff.
“Right now, they believe that they have a strategic advantage over us, and in fact, they do,” retired Maj. Gen. Jay Hood, who now runs his own consulting firm.
The U.S. would’ve had a chance during the Obama administration’s surge circa 2010, he said. But with one major drawdown in the recent past, and strong indications another is on the way, the Taliban can bet on waiting out the administration’s will to stay.
“Today it makes absolutely no sense for the United States to stay there and continue what they’re doing,” Hood said.
Stay or go
Whether Trump plans to go ahead with a drawdown or return to the negotiation table is an open question. While the U.S. posture in Afghanistan hasn’t changed, neither has the administration’s desire to end what many people are calling an “endless war.”
Staying in Afghanistan is a problem for the president politically, experts said, but pulling troops out of the country also presents a risk.
“This is still a diplomatic solution. We’re not going to kill our way to victory. Everybody knows that,” retired Army Col. Stu Bradin, a career Special Forces officer and current president of the Global SOF Foundation. “The problem is, nobody wants to make the compromise to get the ball moving in the right direction.”
So if troops were to draw down, from which bucket do you pick, and which personnel would be considered more essential than others?
A special operations forces footprint with strike capability will be key, he said, so that there are troops on the ground keeping an eye on things and air power to get them out of trouble.
“It’s going to be hard to say, hey, we’re going to have a force there that is for strike capability — at the same time you’re trying to sustain the Afghans with the training and the stuff they need to actually run the fight,” Bradin said. “I’m sure there’s stuff they can get rid of, but I don’t know what that would be.”
There will also likely be some train-advise-assist teams spread around, but striking a balance while keeping the footprint reduced will be tricky.
“If you drop 5,000 people that are trainers, that are focused on building out the Afghan forces, to maintain the strike package — it’s like eating your seed corn,” he said. “You’re accepting short-term victory for long-term issues.”
To smooth over that transition, the State Department began sending diplomats to Qatar in February, to meet with Taliban officials and map out some sort of agreement.
The understanding had been that the groups would agree to conditions, and if the Taliban met them, the U.S. would begin withdrawing. The effort was controversial, particularly because it did not include Afghan government officials, who would bear the brunt of a Taliban empowered by an agreement with the U.S.
The break down in talks, in fact, was welcomed by Afghan central government officials.
“As an Afghan woman, as an ordinary citizen of Afghanistan, I was relieved,” Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., said Sept. 18 in Washington.
Afghans didn’t feel in charge of their destiny, she said, as the U.S. and Taliban went around them to continue to try to strike a deal. The Afghans have been fighting the Taliban, too, she explained, and dying by the thousands between their security forces and the innocent civilians who are targeted in attacks.
“For any peace process to succeed … it must have popular buy-in,” she said, which it wouldn’t while the Afghan government didn’t get a say. “It must ensure that it will pave the way for a hopeful, prosperous future.”
Some, like a legendary former leader of SOCOM, also believed making concessions to be the wrong move.
“I do believe that if we negotiate some sort of settlement with the Taliban, and that settlement involves the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, that, you know, it won’t be six months or a year before all of the blood and treasure we have put into Afghanistan will have been reversed because the Taliban will come back in and do what the Taliban do,” retired Adm. McRaven said at the SOF Policy Forum.
Others share that sentiment, that a deal with the Taliban would inevitably crumble.
“I think they’re still pushing that, even knowing that the Taliban will probably renege on some of it and they’ll have to re-start the peace process,” Howk said. “Until the Taliban gives some sort of sign, some sort of effort that gives some confidence … then the Afghan people are going to look at America and go, ‘No way. We told you we couldn’t trust them. Let’s just keep killing them.’ “
On the other hand, said Howk, a former CENTCOM two-star, the U.S. is not going to subdue the Taliban in Afghanistan, especially not while they already control about half of the country’s districts and share an ethnic heritage with the roughly 40 percent Pashtun population.
The best hope for keeping the country from turning into another terrorist training ground could be to let the Taliban handle it, he said.
“Their response to somebody who acts out against what their directives are, is going to be — frankly, in that part of the world — far more effective than what we have been or ever will be,” Hood said. “They will take a very violent approach to dealing with ISIS, to dealing with anybody else who should oppose them in specific areas.”
And if they do go back on their promises, he added, the U.S. is much more prepared to head off a foreign attack.
“I hear some senior American leaders preaching the same old story,” he said. “ ‘You know, if this goes bad, can you trust them? Who’s to say they won’t allow another org in these broad, ungoverned lands to train and attack the West?’ We have a lot more systems in place that allow for much more gathering of intelligence.”
Reporter Shawn Snow contributed to this story.
Military Times: Veterans benefits will see a cost-of-living bump this year, but how much?
By: Leo Shane III 19 hours ago
Veterans will see a cost-of-living increase in their benefits payouts later this year, but it likely won’t be as big as the last one they received.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed into law the annual Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, which guarantees that a host of veterans benefits will see the same annual boost as Social Security recipients.
Veterans benefits covered include disability compensation, compensation for dependents, clothing allowances, and dependency and indemnity compensation checks.
The measure is typically just a formality — it passed Congress again this year with no opposition — but is required annual work for lawmakers because federal statute does not link annual COLA increases for the two separate payouts. Legislative efforts in recent years to make the increases automatic for veterans have proven unsuccessful.
Navy veteran Elaine Lauria, D-Va., sponsored the measure and called it an important way for lawmakers to honor their commitment to individuals who served honorably in the armed forces.
“Providing quality benefits to our veterans and their dependents can change lives,” she said.
The official cost-of-living boost for social security beneficiaries won’t be announced until next month, but multiple analysts have said they expect it to be below the 2.8 percent adjustment awarded last January.
The annual COLA calculation is based on a series of economic indicators, including the private sector wage growth. In the last decade, Social Security recipients (and individuals receiving veterans benefits) have gone without an annual increase three times. It has only gone about 2 percent twice in that span.
Frequently, lawmakers don’t finalize the link between the veterans cost-of-living increase and the Social Security one until later in the fall, after the figure has been announced. Because of the timing of check distribution and the federal calendar, the increases in veterans benefits will be reflected in individuals December payouts.
Miami Herald: This veteran had no family to bury him. He won’t be laid to rest alone
BY MARK YOUNG
SEPTEMBER 30, 2019 09:54 AM, UPDATED SEPTEMBER 30, 2019 10:58 AM
It was a small obituary for Edward K. Pearson, 80, that appeared in a local newspaper recently.
It simply said he was going to be interred at Sarasota National Cemetery on Tuesday and that, “This veteran has no immediate family and all are welcome to attend.”
The obituary soon hit social media and the response has been overwhelming as hundreds of people who have never met Pearson are pledging to attend the veteran’s funeral.
“I’ve certainly never seen anything like this,” said Legacy Options funeral director Michael Hoyt. “It’s good to know people are coming to support this veteran who has served and probably don’t even know him.”
Hoyt said the funeral home has received calls from all over the from people who want to attend, including from one person from Canada. Others have called just to offer emotional support.
Pearson served in the U.S. Army from 1962-1964 and was honorably discharged. According to public records, he went on to become an engineer and worked for Marriott Hotel Services Inc.
Hoyt said no family ever claimed the remains, but that ultimately a good friend of his made the arrangements for the Sarasota National Cemetery knowing that Pearson was a veteran.
Services begin at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Pearson will be interred with full military honors and will likely be sent off with many strangers taking the time to pay their respects.
The cemetery is located at 9810 SR 72 in Sarasota.
Part of what made Pearson’s obituary viral was a tweet sent out by CNN’s Jake Tapper and the news that a veteran was about to be laid to rest with no one in attendance soon sprawled across the nation.
Pearson will no doubt be laid to rest on behalf of a grateful community and on behalf of a grateful nation.
Military Times: Will climate change hurt VA hospitals and programs?
By: Leo Shane III 7 hours ago
A pair of Democratic senators want Veterans Affairs officials to start better preparing for climate change, noting that extreme weather events have already disrupted operations at a host of department sites.
“VA, like all federal agencies, has finite resources and must balance competing budget priorities. However, those priorities must include adapting VA infrastructure and operations to climate risks,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote in a letter to VA leadership today.
“Strengthening VA’s resilience to climate change is consistent with the agency’s mission to deliver timely, high-quality care and benefits to America’s veterans.”
The lawmakers are asking for a comprehensive evaluation of the department’s climate change preparation plans in the last five years, when officials in the last administration released reports on threats posed by future climate patterns to all government agencies.
They noted that VA has released several updates on efforts to operate environmentally-friendly facilities, but did not include how altered weather patterns and extreme storms could hurt existing locations.
“Natural disasters and extreme weather events have adversely affected VA infrastructure and operations at facilities across the country in recent years, including in Louisiana, Texas, New York, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico,” the letter stated.
Most of those referenced events are short-term closures of VA health facilities in the lead-up and aftermath of severe storms. Several Florida and North Carolina sites have had to temporarily close for repairs due to wind and water damage the senators argue are connected to global climate pattern changes.
In addition, VA officials were faced with significant supply and staffing issues in the wake of the category 4 hurricane that hit Puerto Rico in 2017.
Schatz, who is ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s veterans panel, and Warren, who is running for president on a platform that includes more aggressive climate change policies, want to know how much those types of weather issues are being taken into account in new construction and how much past damage from storms has totaled in each of the last few fiscal years.
Similar requests have been made of Department of Defense planners and officials at other federal agencies as President Donald Trump’s administration has worked to reverse or revoke a number of executive orders related to the issue, arguing they amounted to redundant or unapplicable work for the agencies.