11 June, 2018 09:42

From: Seavey, Mark C. [mailto:mseavey@legion.org]
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2018 5:06 AM

Subject: American Legion Daily News Clips 6/11/19

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, June 11, 2018 which is Corn on the Cob Day, Cousteau Day, National King Kamehameha Day, and National Making Life Beautiful Day.

This Weekend/Day in American Legion History:

· June 9-10, 1944: The American Legion works feverishly to find U.S. Rep. John Gibson, who is at home in Georgia while the fate of the GI Bill is hung up in a House-Senate conference committee in Washington, deadlocked 3-3. If the tie cannot be broken, the legislation will die in committee. The Legion gets through to an operator in Atlanta who calls Gibson’s home every five minutes until he answers at 11 p.m. The Legion, assisted by military and police escorts, take Gibson on 90-mile high-speed trip through a rainstorm to the Jacksonville, Fla., airport where he is flown to Washington, arriving shortly after 6 a.m. He casts the vote to send the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 to the president’s desk and promises to make public those who vote against it, along with their reasons.

· June 9, 1921: Highly decorated World War I Army Col. Frederic W. Galbraith of Ohio is killed in an automobile accident in Indianapolis while serving as second national commander of The American Legion. A revered leader in the fight for veterans benefits and care, his death makes national news, and thousands attend his funeral in Cincinnati, where a memorial now stands in his honor.

· June 11, 1990: The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Flag Protection Act of 1989, a legislative response passed on Oct. 28, 1989, that falls to the constitutional precedent set by the Texas v. Johnson ruling.

· June 11, 1997: Cash grants distributed from the American Legion National Emergency Fund exceed $1 million after floods in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota.


· Stripes: Congresswoman calls for VA investigation after survey reveals high rates of sexual harassment

· Military Times: More troops and aircraft: Here’s what House appropriators want in the FY19 defense budget

· Task and Purpose: Trump May Pardon Muhammad Ali For Resisting The Vietnam Draft*

· KTKA: Iditarod musher’s camp offers veterans camaraderie

· Military Times: Veteran receives France’s highest military honor for his actions during WWII

· Army Times: Pentagon identifies special operations soldier killed in attack in Somalia

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.

Stripes: Congresswoman calls for VA investigation after survey reveals high rates of sexual harassment


WASHINGTON — One congresswoman is calling for more oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs after a government survey revealed the VA had the most reported instances of sexual harassment of any federal agency.

The Merit Systems Protection Board found 26 percent of women and 14 percent of men who worked at the VA reported experiencing sexual harassment between 2014 and 2016. The board, an independent group within the executive branch of the federal government, is tasked with safeguarding the rights of government employees.

Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., urged Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, to hold a hearing immediately on the issue. Kuster is the ranking Democrat on that subcommittee.

“I was disturbed to learn of the high rates of sexual harassment for both men and women employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Kuster said in a prepared statement. “Our veterans deserve a VA that is functioning effectively and efficiently, and employees who are impacted by sexual harassment aren’t able to live up to that mission.”

The MSPB gathered the data from the survey of federal employees and released their findings in March. The survey asked employees about 12 different types of behaviors, from unwelcome teasing and the use of derogatory language to stalking and sexual assault. The board cited the recent #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, saying they’ve facilitated more open discussions about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“As a result, many people, including federal employees, are asking how frequently sexual harassment occurs in work settings like theirs,” MSPB wrote in a summary of the report issued in May.

Overall, across the federal government, 21 percent of women and 9 percent of men experienced sexual harassment, MPSB found. Ten percent reported gender harassment, 9 percent unwanted sexual attention and 3 percent sexual coercion.

The board also found there’s been progress since the last sexual harassment survey in 1994. At that time, 44 percent of women reported experiencing sexual harassment and 19 percent of men.

The survey also asked employees about their understanding of sexual harassment. Results showed there’s no longer a gap between men and women in terms of what behaviors they view as harassment, the report states.

“These changes indicate that most federal employees, regardless of sex, now understand that certain behaviors are inappropriate in the workplace,” MSPB wrote in its report. “Nevertheless, such understanding does not necessarily mean that all employees will refrain from inappropriate behavior, or recognize it in themselves.”

Behind the VA, the Department of Homeland Security had the second-highest rate of sexual harassment. The Securities and Exchange Commission, General Services Administration and NASA had some of the lowest rates.

The VA is the second-largest federal agency, with more than 360,000 employees. The Defense Department, with more than 740,000 civilian personnel, is the largest. According to the MSPB report, 16 percent of women and 8 percent of men who worked at DOD from 2014 to 2016 reported experiencing sexual harassment.

In a letter to Bergman on Thursday, Kuster called the VA numbers staggering, outrageous and shameful. She asked the subcommittee to investigate whether high instances of sexual harassment continue to exist in the agency.

Kuster criticized VA officials for “failing to address reports of sexual harassment and creating an environment where employees do not feel comfortable reporting harassment or intervening when harassment is witnessed.” She wants to use a congressional oversight hearing as a chance to hold officials accountable, she wrote.

“Sexual harassment has no place in any workplace, and we must get to the bottom of what is taking place at the VA immediately,” Kuster said.

Bergman’s office and the VA did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

Military Times: More troops and aircraft: Here’s what House appropriators want in the FY19 defense budget

By: Leo Shane III and Joe Gould   3 days ago

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WASHINGTON — House appropriators approved their first draft of the annual defense budget bill Thursday, including a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, dozens more aircraft for the services and new protections for military families from political fights in Congress.

The $674.6 billion measure — $606.5 in base military funding and $68.1 billion for overseas operations — is about $1 billion below the White House’s defense request in February but in line with the two-year budget deal reached by lawmakers a month later and the annual defense authorization measure approved by the House last month.

The spending plan was advanced by the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel in a quick afternoon meeting with little opposition.

“Last year, we took the first big steps to rebuilding the military,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and chairwoman of the subcommittee, told reporters after the mark-up. “This is the second step.”

The appropriations measure echoes previously passed House plans for the annual military pay raise and a military end strength increase of 15,600 troops. It also adds $318 million to the president’s budget request for the Defense Health Program, to include more research into traumatic brain injuries and sexual assault prevention.

Lawmakers also added language to the measure to ensure that military death gratuity payments will not be interrupted by future government shutdowns, authorizing their immediate payment even if federal operations are curtailed or shuttered.

The issue has been a priority for military advocates since 2013, when several families of fallen troops faced financial headaches because of delays in the death benefit payouts due to the 16-day government shutdown.

More recently, families of two service members killed in a helicopter accident saw their payments delayed several days during the weekend-long shutdown in February.

The bill proposes a $145.7 billion — $133 billion in base dollars and $12.7 billion in the overseas war budget — for equipment and upgrades.

That includes more equipment purchases than were in either the president’s budget request or the the House-passed authorization bill: 93 F-35 aircraft, which is 16 more; 66 AH-64 Apache helicopters, which is six more, and three Littoral Combat Ships, which is two more.

Granger said the reason for the big boosts in aircraft is “because the faster you can do it, the cheaper they sell. So we can keep those costs down.”

But appropriators also fund only 24 MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles, which is five fewer than the president’s request.

The bill would buck the Air Force to back the recapitalization of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, program.

For the ground surveillance mission, the Air Force would like to abandon JSTARS, which it sees as vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles, in favor of a new advanced battle management system made up of aircraft and drones.

Even with a bipartisan budget agreement in place that sets spending levels for fiscal 2019, the defense spending bill isn’t expected to become law anytime soon. Senate appropriators still have not released their plans for military funding, and no timetable has been set for full House votes on their proposal.

The defense spending plan will also likely hinge on completion of a host of other federal agency appropriations measures, since Democrats and Republicans have sparred in recent years over balancing non-defense priorities with military funding.

The current fiscal year deal expires on Sept. 30. Lawmakers need to pass a full-year budget or a temporary budget extension before then to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown.

Task and Purpose: Trump May Pardon Muhammad Ali For Resisting The Vietnam Draft*

· Contains quote from The American Legion

By Jeff Schogol

on June 8, 2018

T&P on Facebook


President Trump, who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, said on Friday that he is considering issuing a pardon to legendary boxer and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali, whose conviction for refusing to be inducted was already overturned by the Supreme Court more than four decades ago.

· Trump did not elaborate on why he might pardon for Ali. He told reporters on Friday that he is thinking about pardoning someone who is “not very popular… I’m thinking about Muhammad Ali,” according to a pool report of the president’s remarks. (Ali, who was widely praised as one of the most admired athletes in history when he died in 2016, has previously received presidential medals from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.)

· A spokesman for the American Legion said the group had no position regarding Ali.

· In 1967, Ali was sentenced to five years in prison for evading the draft. “I aint got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” the boxer told reporters at the time. Ali was also banned from boxing for three years and lost his heavyweight title.

· Ali did not serve any prison time. In June 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that the Justice Department was wrong when it recommended that Ali did not meet the requirements to be classified as a conscientious objector.

· “It is indisputably clear, for the reasons stated, that the department was simply wrong as a matter of law in advising that the petitioner’s beliefs were not religiously based and were not sincerely held,” the court ruled.

· An attorney for Ali’s estate, Ron Tweel, told the Louisville Courier Journal that Ali did not need a presidential pardon because “there is no conviction from which a pardon is needed.” Tweel told the newspaper: “We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary.”

KTKA: Iditarod musher’s camp offers veterans camaraderie

Saturday, June 9th 2018, 3:25 pm AKDT

For many Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race mushers, reaching the Burled Arch in Nome after a 1,000-mile trip of adventure and self-discovery is enough — but not for Rick Casillo.

“Yes I race dogs, I race the Iditarod,” Casillo says. “And it’s absolutely a passion and what I’m all about, but this is my true mission and I’m going to do this as long as I possibly can.”

The mission is Battle Dawgs, a non-profit effort that offers veterans a different version of self-reflection. Casillo and his wife Jen started Battle Dawgs five years ago.

“It’s like the light goes on when they’re up here. Alaska is an amazing place. It’s changed a lot of lives, a lot of musher’s lives,” said Casillo. “Everyone that comes up here is in awe of the state, when you bring these guys up here it really shows them that the world is a massive place: ‘What am I doing sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself? There’s so much more to see.’”

The program has helped veterans like Anthony Norris who now sits on the board of directors. Norris was wounded by an IED in Afghanistan. He’s been with Battle Dawgs since the start, participating in a warrior Iditarod camp.

“It was life changing you know. Just being in Alaska is life changing, “ Norris said. “And when you get to be part of Iditarod, working the dogs and helping someone race, you’re part of a team again. It gives you a new mission, a new purpose that a lot of guys don’t have anymore."

Casillo says this summer’s camp is being used to build for the future.

“We thought how cool would it be to have all our warriors who’ve been through Battle Dawgs. We bring them up as kind of a reunion camp and they’re building this future of Battle Dawgs for their brothers and sisters for their future. We sent out the email and it was boom, boom, boom; within a day, it was all set.”

Norris agreed, saying he’s gotten so much out of the program that it’s time to help others.

“We’re not doing this for just something to do. The guys are here building it for other warriors. It’s that whole pay-it-forward thing,” said Norris. “They’re expending energy, they’re getting bonds with other warriors, they’re meeting new people and having new experiences.”

Battle Dawgs has grown largely from donations. Dr. Deb Wood runs a wellness center in Virginia and owns 650 acres of property near Talkeetna.

“They are going to protect us again,” said Wood, who just wrote a book entitled “The Truth About Suicide.” “We just have to get them well and understand that we love them. They don’t know that Americans love them. They are totally shocked that we as civilians, me as a civilian and Rick, love them. I mean we don’t just care about them… we frickin’ love them.”

In some cases it’s about more than recharging a battery. It’s about helping a vet like Matt Berth find purpose.

“When I first came up I was really in a bad spot. I was drinking heavily and I was low on life. And I owe my life to Rick.”

Dr. Wood believes healing camps are the best medicine, as suicide has become an all-too-common-solution for those who’ve fought overseas.

“Some of the guys that come to me are on 20 different pills," Wood said. "They don’t have a chance. They come in lethargic. These are powerhouse big guys that love our country, love their buddies. And they can’t even function, they can’t think.”

Berth, who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, appreciates a program like Battle Dawgs because it gets at core issues without pressure.

“When you go overseas and come home, you leave that high-speed mentality and lifestyle overseas. And you come home and it’s really hard to adjust and fit in,” Berth said.

The camp gives opportunity for veterans to release feelings locked away for decades. It helped Vietnam veteran Patrick Michael Fitzgerald an opportunity to talk and connect with a different generation.

“I talk about things now that I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to talk about," Fitzgerald said. "It’s not that I want to boast I did this or I did that…that stuff’s been inside me since 1968.”

Fitzgerald added, “The guys here are a lot younger than I am, but we were all in combat. We’ve all been shot at, we all know what that feels like.”

It’s true therapy in a place that most only read about. And there is no cost to the veterans.

Anthony Norris currently lives in Missouri.

“It’s really humid," Norris said. "There’s a lot more pain because of humidity. Well coming up here, you hurt less in general. And how can you have a bad day when you look out and you see all this? It’s pretty tough.”

The backdrop of Battle Dawgs Camp is Denali, but it all started with a sled dog race. A race that Casillo believes helps him relate to the veterans, despite the fact that he’s a civilian.

“They know I do something not a lot of people do. They know it’s tough, it’s grueling. They know the hardships that we face. Not that I’m comparing Iditarod to serving in Iraq and Afghanistan because that’s the ultimate, but they know deep down you know what it’s like to be miserable and in the middle of nowhere and working in that team,” said Casillo. “They know without those dogs we’re nothing. They know without the guy on the left, the guy on the right, they’re nothing. Cause they’re willing to lay down their lives for each other.”

The camp creates bonds, while offering veterans another opportunity to be part of a team. Battle Dawgs saves lives and that’s something Casillo takes very serious.

“When we change one life and we’ve saved five since we’ve been doing this," Casillo said. "And I mean literally saved five lives…when you change your first life, save your first lif,e there is no looking back. This is what I’m supposed to do."

For Casillo, Battle Dawgs means working year-round, inspiring and helping America’s heroes get back to their peaks. Because like the Iditarod, there’s the journey and the destination — and he’s determined to help get them where they need to be.

Military Times: Veteran receives France’s highest military honor for his actions during WWII

By: Noah Nash   2 days ago

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Robert Wortman was barely 19 when he joined the Army in 1944 as a scout.

While fighting in France against Germany just one year later, Wortman was wounded by German holdouts and his leg had to be amputated.

More than 70 years later, on June 2, Wortman was presented with the French Legion of Honor for his efforts to liberate France and, by extension, Western Europe during WWII.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein presented Wortman, now 92, with the medal in a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Goldfein had nothing but praise for Wortman.

“There are not many words I can offer here to tell what an honor it is for those of us privileged to wear the uniform today, who have taken the torch that you handed to us, and be able to present you with this medal for your service so long ago,” Goldfein said.

Wortman returned home to the United States after he was wounded, but he quickly showed that his injury would not prevent him from serving his country.

Wortman overcame the significant wound to serve 32 years as an Air Force civilian employee at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.

The medal was not the first awarded to Wortman. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while recovering from his wounds in 1945.

However, the ceremony was a first for Wortman, according to Ann Wortman, his daughter-in-law.

While the medal arrived in the mail for Wortman in 2015, there was not a presentation or ceremony. In order to change that, Ann, who herself is employed at the Air Force Academy, reached out to academy officials to see if a ceremony would be possible, according to the Air Force.

During the ceremony, Goldfein said he was honored to present the medal to Wortman.

“Today, when you look at the fight we are engaged in with violent extremism, you can’t look beyond France to find a better partner,” he said. “They would not be standing shoulder to shoulder with us today had it not been for what you and your brothers and sisters in arms did all those years ago for the liberation.”

Army Times: Pentagon identifies special operations soldier killed in attack in Somalia

By: Michelle Tan   1 day ago

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The Pentagon on Saturday released the name of the special operations soldier killed in an attack in Somalia.

Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, 26, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. He was killed by enemy indirect fire, according to the Pentagon announcement.

Conrad was supporting Operation Octave Shield, according to the Pentagon.

Four other U.S. troops and one partner force member were wounded in the Friday attack.

U.S. Africa Command on Saturday said the wounded Americans were treated and discharged and were under the care of the U.S. Embassy Medical Team in Kenya as they awaited transportation for additional medical evaluation.

The attack took place about 2:45 p.m. local time Friday in Jubaland, Somalia, when the troops came under mortar and small-arms fire from al-Shabab militants, AFRICOM said.

About 800 Somali and Kenyan forces, with support from U.S. troops, were conducting a multi-day operation about 220 miles southwest of Mogadishu when the attack occurred, AFRICOM said.

Their goal was to “clear al-Shabab from contested areas, liberate villages from al-Shabab control, and establish a permanent combat outpost designed to increase the span of Federal Government of Somalia security and governance,” AFRICOM said in its statement.

The U.S. troops were providing advice, assistance and aerial surveillance during the mission.

Born in Mesa, Arizona, Conrad joined the Army in June 2010, according to information from U.S. Army Special Operations Command. After completing initial training, he was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, as a human intelligence collector.

While stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Conrad deployed to Afghanistan twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He later completed the French Basic Language Course at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in 2016, and was subsequently assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group as a human intelligence noncommissioned officer, according to USASOC.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation (second award), the Army Commendation Medal (third award), the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal (second award), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and the Basic Parachutist Badge.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

This is at least the second deadly attack on soldiers from 3rd Special Forces Group in Africa over the past year.

In October, four soldiers from the unit were killed in a deadly ambush in Niger.

The group from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, began shifting its area of operations to Africa in the fall of 2015 as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down.

Originally activated in 1963 with a Middle East and Africa focus, soldiers from 3rd Group deployed almost constantly to Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, Iraq throughout the height of those wars. The transition back to Africa came as demands and operations changed, commanders said at the time.


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