Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, November 28, 2018 which is Letter Writing Day, National French Toast Day. Red Planet Day and Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Day.
This Day in Legion History:
- November 28, 1919 – Major Arthur Bassett, former Judge Advocate of the Army and Attorney General for the District of China, learns of the formation of the American Legion and becomes a strong advocate of the organization and its potential outside the borders of the United States. Living in Shanghai and a prominent figure in the business and legal community, Maj. Bassett leverages his considerable influence to lay the foundations for what would become American Legion Post 1, Shanghai.
Now known as the Generals Ward & Chennault and Lt. Helseth Post 1, Shanghai, China or colloquially as simply China Post 1, this Post has not only survived the test of time but, ravages of WW II, imprisonment of its officers, and its expulsion and subsequent exile from its home in Shanghai since 1948.
Today, this Post, a Foreign and Outlying Post of the American Legion, FODPAL, is attached to the Department of France and continues to thrive with its worldwide membership.
From China Monthly Review, Volume 10 pg. 511 “An organization of ex–service men of the United States Army and Navy who served during the European War is being formed in Shanghai and a dinner and smoker is to be held at the American Club, at 8 o’clock, Friday night, ‘November 28, 1919.. The temporary organization is headed by Major Arthur P. Bassett as chairman and Don D. Patterson of Millard’s…
This Day in History:
- 1520: After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic.
- 1965: President Elect Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines states that he will send troops to South Vietnam, in response to President Lyndon Johnson’s call for “more flags” in Vietnam.
- After the judgment and loyalty of Silas Deane is called into question, Congress appoints John Adams to succeed Deane as the commissioner to France on this day in 1777.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Military Times: Three US troops killed, three others wounded in IED blast in Afghanistan
- Military Times: Navy: Notification error led to Walter Reed shooter report
- Stripes: Budget cuts could imperil military and national security, experts, lawmakers warn
- Medical Xpress: Veterans with multiple brain injuries twice as likely to consider suicide, compared with those with one or none
- Omaha World Herald: Hundreds brave the cold to honor Vietnam veteran who died with few known family members
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Military Times: Three US troops killed, three others wounded in IED blast in Afghanistan
By: Kyle Rempfer 22 hours ago
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Three U.S. service members were killed and three more were wounded by an improvised explosive device Tuesday in Afghanistan, according to officials with the NATO mission to the country.
One American contractor was also wounded when the IED detonated, officials said in a press release.
The attack took place near Ghazni city, in the eastern Afghan province of the same name.
The wounded service members and contractor were evacuated and are receiving medical care.
In accordance with Department of Defense policy, the names of the service members killed in action are being withheld until 24 hours after their families have been notified.
The NATO mission to Afghanistan does not typically release the names of service members who are wounded.
Ghazni city, located 100 miles from Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, was also the site of an intense battle between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban over the summer.
Militants managed to route elite Afghan commandos in their assault on Ghazni, forcing the U.S. to bring in Air Force A-10 Warthogs and MQ-9 Reapers, as well as the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, to mount an impromptu defense.
According to the Defense Casualty Analysis System, 10 U.S. military members, not including these latest casualties, have been killed and 107 have been wounded in Afghanistan so far in 2018.
The most recent death was Sgt. Leandro Jasso, a 25-year-old Army Ranger. Jasso was unintentionally wounded by friendly fire from an Afghan soldier while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Nimruz province, U.S. officials announced Tuesday morning. Jasso later died from his wounds.
Though insider attacks in Afghanistan have trended upwards this year, there is no indication Jasso was shot intentionally, according to the NATO press release.
The U.S. presence in Afghanistan stands at roughly 15,000 troops. Other NATO allies, such as the Czech Republic and Romania, also contribute troops to the conflict and have suffered from the insurgents’ use of IEDs.
In October, an IED detonated near Bagram Air Base, wounding six Czech soldiers as well as multiple civilians. Another IED in Parwan province in August killed three Czech soldiers and wounded one American.
Another IED at the end of August wounded eight Romanian troops.
Military Times: Navy: Notification error led to Walter Reed shooter report
By: Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press 13 hours ago
This story has been updated since it was originally published Tuesday afternoon.
BETHESDA, Md. — A mass notification error led to reports of an active shooter Tuesday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, the U.S. Navy said.
In a statement, the Navy said that the Naval Support Activity Bethesda notification system was inadvertently activated while preparing for an upcoming drill, without the words "exercise" or "drill." People who saw the notification contacted security at the Maryland base, which launched an active shooter response.
NSA Bethesda spokesman Jeremy Brooks said the incident "was an accident. It was not something that was planned."
NSA Bethesda tweeted at 2:15 p.m. that an active shooter had been reported in the basement of a building. The all clear came about an hour later, after security found "no indication" of an active shooter, according to NSA Bethesda.
After the all clear, the U.S. Navy tweeted that an “ad hoc drill” had been conducted at the base, but Brooks said there was no drill.
“It was a genuine false alarm and not intended to cause any harm,” said Naval Support Activity Bethesda spokesman Jeremy Brooks.
"It was a genuine false alarm and not intended to cause any harm," Brooks said.
U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, who had tweeted that he and about 40 other people were in a hospital conference room when the shooter was reported, said he’d be following up on the cause of the confusion.
"People were scared and upset. Drills are important and today was a valuable learning experience for me, but training exercises must be properly communicated," he wrote.
A nurse at Walter Reed, Mary Lock, said she and other employees remained locked down in a second-floor clinic for an hour after hearing this repeated announcement over a loudspeaker: “Active shooter, this is not a drill!”
Lock, 58, said they have had drills for events like this, so she didn’t panic.
"It is nerve-wracking as all get out," she said with a laugh as she left work to catch a bus.
The Montgomery County Police Department also responded to the call, sending units after a request for assistance in what seemed like a legitimate report of an active shooter, spokeswoman Lucille Baur said.
"There was no indication from the call that this could be a training exercise," she said.
Walter Reed is the nation’s largest military hospital and, according to its website, is among the first stops in the continental United States for troops wounded in combat.
NSAB oversees operational support for its major tenants at the base, including Walter Reed.
By CLAUDIA GRISALES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 27, 2018
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon, which is facing potential spending cuts next year, could see U.S. armed forces suffer and a possible national security crisis if the military’s budget is slashed, officials and lawmakers warned Tuesday.
The concerns were highlighted during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing focusing on a report issued by the National Defense Strategy Commission earlier this month.
The commission, which is directed by Congress to weigh the National Defense Strategy against global threats, has said an inadequately resourced military could struggle to win, or even risk losing, a confrontation with major powers such as China or Russia. Major powers competition is a central theme of the National Defense Strategy issued in January.
“The point that the report makes is that $733 billion for the next fiscal year should be considered a floor and that we should probably be more than that,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said during questioning of the commission’s co-chairmen during Tuesday’s hearing. “But what is especially alarming is… the administration may be considering cutting 5 percent from the Department of Defense all the way to $700 billion.”
In October, President Donald Trump surprised Pentagon officials with new plans to bring defense spending for the 2020 fiscal year to $700 billion, which is a 4.5 percent cut from a $733 billion plan that his administration previously proposed. The comments were part of a Trump meeting in October with cabinet secretaries who were asked to cut 5 percent in spending.
Pentagon officials have since said they will roll out two proposed budgets for 2020 in the coming months, one for $700 billion and another for $733 billion. Experts have said a $700 billion budget would undo many of the military gains made in the last two years.
While the 2018 and 2019 fiscal year "budgets moved us in the right direction, there is now a prospect, however, that we will be moving in the wrong direction,” testified Eric Edelman, co-chairman of National Defense Strategy Commission and a former U.S. ambassador.
There’s a misconception that increased defense funding in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years has solved all the military’s problems, said retired Adm. Gary Roughead, the other co-chairman of National Defense Strategy Commission.
“There’s a sense that the last two years of growth have fixed the problems,” Roughead testified.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, whether it’s in readiness, whether it’s in conventional modernization or nuclear modernization. But I think that’s kind of feeding this idea that it’s time to taper down.”
In February, congressional lawmakers reached a two-year spending deal to lift defense budget caps to $700 billion for fiscal year 2018 and $716 billion for 2019. In August, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which provides direction for the $716 billion budget, was passed, followed by an appropriations measure to provide the funds.
“Those last two years have been a down payment” to reverse spending cuts and address readiness and modernization failures, Cotton said.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s original $733 billion proposal for the 2020 fiscal year was only a 2.3 percent increase from spending a year earlier, “which is below inflation.”
Inhofe said he was especially alarmed at the report’s assessment that the United States is very near the point of “strategic insolvency.”
The commission’s report “makes clear that our nation confronts stark choices,” Inhofe said in recounting highlights from the report. “We got ourselves in this mess and we got to get ourselves out of this mess.”
However, there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome before lawmakers can reach a spending plan deal on the next defense budget.
When a new slate of lawmakers return for a new congressional session in January, they will need to address spending caps that are slated to return in 2020 under the Budget Control Act.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 installed spending limits for defense and non-defense spending until 2021. Though lawmakers lifted those spending caps for 2018 and 2019, defense spending will be limited to $576 billion for the 2020 fiscal year if no action is taken.
And if no deal is reached to lift the caps, it raises the threat of sequestration – automatic, across-the-board budget cuts.
“It is the duty of this committee to ensure the men and women we send into harm’s way have the resources necessary to complete their mission and return home safely,” said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, ranking Democrat for the Armed Services Committee.
Concerns about the return of the Budget Control Act’s fiscal constraints were also the subject of an afternoon Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel hearing on the Navy’s 30-year plan to expand to a 355-ship fleet.
“According to statue, we are supposed to revert back to the BCA caps,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Armed Services’ seapower subcommittee, said during his panel’s hearing Tuesday. “I view that as unthinkable and would view that as irresponsible on behalf of this Congress.”
For now, the Navy is on track to reach 327 ships by fiscal year 2023 and 355 ships by 2034, testified James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.
“Encouraging news,” Wicker responded.
However, the shipbuilding plans could come to a dramatic halt if the budget caps aren’t lifted next year, warned Vice Adm. William Merz, the Navy’s deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems.
“As far as the BCA, there would be immediate impact,” he said. And “depending on how it lasts, I think we can go from immediate to a devastating impact on the program.”
Medical Xpress: Veterans with multiple brain injuries twice as likely to consider suicide, compared with those with one or none
November 27, 2018 by Mike Richman, Veterans Affairs Research Communications
A new Veterans Affairs study finds that post-9-11 veterans with a history of repeated traumatic brain injuries—versus none—are at much greater risk for considering suicide.
The study, funded by VA’s Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), appeared online in the journal Psychological Services in November 2018.
The researchers found that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) were about twice as likely to report recent suicidal ideation—suicidal thoughts over the past week—compared with vets with one TBI or none at all.
Dr. Robert Shura, a neuropsychologist at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in North Carolina, led the study.
"Suicide is a major concern with veterans," he says. "Right now, the prime point of intervention is at the level of thinking about suicide. Therefore, identifying characteristics of veterans who are more likely to think about suicide is a high priority."
The findings stemmed from interviews with more than 800 veterans who held combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. The researchers were mainly interested in whether the vets had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past week. About half of the veterans reported at least one TBI. Of those, nearly 20 percent with a history of multiple TBIs told of recent suicidal ideation, compared with 11 percent with one TBI and 9 percent with no history of a traumatic brain injury.
The level of suicidal thinking was defined by the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation.
The veterans with at least one TBI were much younger and more likely to be white and male than those with no brain injuries. The TBI group also reported significantly poorer sleep quality and much higher rates of depression, both of which are risk factors for suicidal ideation. Of the veterans with at least one brain injury, 18 percent met the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD), which is intense feelings of sadness over long periods of time.
All the participants were enrolled in VHA benefits, but some were not using VA for care, Shura says. The researchers used specific items in the interviews, such as a positive response on the Beck Scale, to identify those who may need help. In those cases, a licensed mental health professional promptly completed a suicide risk assessment and proceeded based on clinical judgment, he explains.
Shura says the results were consistent with prior research that has found a link between multiple TBIs and suicide. "But we need to be careful not to oversimplify things," he adds. "There are folks with a single TBI in their past who have had suicidal ideation, and there are those with many TBIs who have not."
However, he found it "somewhat unexpected" that PTSD wasn’t consistently associated with suicidal ideation in veterans with TBI.
"There’s research suggesting a relationship between PTSD and suicidal ideation," he says. "Our results are only one piece of a complex puzzle and should not be taken to mean that veterans suffering PTSD do not have suicidal ideation. Suicidal ideation is not a defining symptom for PTSD, but it certainly is for major depressive disorder. Depression was consistently related to suicidal ideation in our sample, due to how we defined the diagnosis. A more interesting and clinically relevant result is that poor sleep quality was related to recent suicidal ideation. Providers probably need to pay more attention to returning veterans who continue to have sleep issues after re-adjustment from deployment."
The results in Shura’s study mirrored those in a civilian-based study that appeared in August 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study included more than 7 million people living in Denmark between 1980 and 2014, of which nearly 35,000 died by suicide.
Ten percent of those who killed themselves were diagnosed with some form of a TBI. Those people were nearly twice as likely to die by suicide, compared with those with no TBI diagnosis, according to the research. In addition, people with a severe TBI were at much higher risk of suicide than those with a mild brain injury.
Shura isn’t certain why traumatic brain injury may increase the possibility of suicide. His best guess is that the risk isn’t related primarily to the brain injury, but to the theory that a series of difficult life events can have a cumulative effect on someone.
"For example, during deployment, a service member is exposed to traumatic events, possible stressful situations at home, and chronic sleep deprivation," he says. "On returning home, the veteran may struggle with chronic pain, difficulty adjusting, continued sleep issues, depression, and heavy alcohol use. TBI may have little to do with all of that. But those with multiple TBIs may be more likely than others to have that cumulative trajectory and thus thoughts of suicide."
Another possibility is raised by a study published earlier this month in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, by a VA team in San Diego. Based on assessments of 282 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with a history of mild TBI, the researchers linked certain specific cognitive deficits that often occur in TBI to higher rates of suicidal thinking. They concluded, "Slowed processing speed and/or memory difficulties may make it challenging to access and use past experiences to solve current problems and imagine future outcomes, leading to increases in hopelessness and suicidal ideation in Veterans with three of more mTBIs."
A number of other VA studies to date have looked at TBI and suicidality, and Shura expects to see yet more research on the subject.
"One or two studies does not tell the whole story," he says. "Accumulating research from a variety of samples and methodologies is necessary to even begin to understand some of the complex relationships of this topic."
Omaha World Herald: Hundreds brave the cold to honor Vietnam veteran who died with few known family members
[Editor’s Note: Omaha Post 1 and American Legion Post 331 provided the blessing and the flag detail]
Hundreds of people stood in the chilly air of Omaha National Cemetery on Tuesday to honor a Vietnam veteran who died seemingly alone.
A line of cars stretched from the cemetery along Highway 50 to Interstate 80 at 2 p.m. Tuesday, the scheduled start time for the interment. People in military fatigues, Vietnam veteran jackets and civilian attire packed the hillside, waiting in near silence to honor a 73-year-old veteran they did not know.
Private First Class Stanley C. Stoltz was a private man. He served his country in Vietnam, but his military service record did not stand out among countless others. But when news spread that he might be buried alone and without family, a wave of support swelled, culminating in a crowd of more than 400 people at the two-year-old cemetery.
“This is the first time we’ve had this kind of crowd,” Chaplain Roy Edwards said before the ceremony. “Most get six to eight cars, 15 at most. This is hundreds.”
The rallying cry began with a funeral notice in The World-Herald. Good Shepherd Funeral Home director Mike Hoy said he was initially told that Stoltz had no living family when he died on Nov. 18. The notice went viral, drawing support nationwide, including from CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“There was some family that eventually came forward,” Hoy said. “The outpouring of support has been great. It’s just an honor.”
Stoltz’s brother Keith attended the funeral but declined to speak to the media. Members of Endless Journey Hospice also attended the service.
“He would definitely be touched,” said Amy Douglas, who works for Endless Journey and said she knew Stoltz.
Stoltz was born on May 29, 1945, and grew up on a farm in Curlew, Iowa. He had three brothers and a sister and friends in northwest Iowa and Bennington.
Those friends remember him as a hard worker and a typical farm boy.
“Stan was the kind of guy that could jump on any piece of equipment and run it,” said former Bennington Mayor Bill Bohn, who lived a quarter-mile from Stoltz as a child and employed him later as a bricklayer.
Stoltz was drafted into the Vietnam War. Friends don’t remember him speaking about his time overseas.
When he returned, he worked for an International Harvester dealer in Emmetsburg, Iowa. He lost an eye shortly after returning from Vietnam, Bohn said.
After that, Stoltz moved to Bennington, where he married Pamela Muhleka in 1974. Pam died in 1984 from cancer.
“It messed him up pretty bad when she died,” said Laurie Olsberg Shields, who grew up in Curlew with Stoltz and lived across the street from him in Bennington.
Stoltz moved back to Curlew, she said, remarried, then divorced. He never had any children.
While in Curlew, Stoltz looked after his mother until her death. He spent some time in a nursing home after that, Bohn said, then returned to Bennington. He moved around and was in and out of nursing homes before he died.
After reading his funeral notice in the paper, Shields talked with former classmates and encouraged them to attend the funeral.
“It’s too bad it didn’t happen sooner when he was living that people reached out to him,” she said. “It sounds like he could have used a friend.”
But on Tuesday, Stoltz made hundreds of new friends.
“There’s an old saying that nobody loves a veteran like another veteran,” cemetery representative Mark Macko said to the crowd. “That was certainly shown today.”
Dennis Schissel, president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said funerals for Vietnam veterans typically draw between 150 and 200 people, with crowds mostly made up of veterans.
“We come together for something like this,” he said. “He was one of us at this time.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the flag atop Stoltz’s casket was folded and given to Dick Harrington of the Final Salute Society. Stoltz’s family declined his flag on Tuesday, but they still have time to claim it. If the flag goes unclaimed, it will remain at the cemetery and be flown on Memorial Day, Harrington said.
“I was very moved,” Harrington said. “The fact that this many people cared about him, maybe three-quarters of them were vets, they just wanted to be here.”
One attendee, Mary Rosenthal, said she tries to attend the interment of every indigent veteran and those who have little to no known family. She began doing so in May 2017 when she attended the interment of U.S. Marine Donald Stark, a Vietnam veteran who died at 68 with no known family.
“It kind of got me thinking there’s got to be more than him out there,” she said. “So I got the list of veterans that the Omaha National Cemetery believes don’t have anybody in the area or anybody at all.”
Each Memorial Day, Rosenthal puts out a call on social media for locals to adopt the gravesites of those veterans. The first year, 2017, the list was nine people long. This year, it was 14.
“It’s just something I did because I thought it should be done,” she said. “If somebody can put flowers on somebody who doesn’t have anybody to do that, it’s a cool project.”
Visitors left flowers and gifts on Stoltz’s casket. They wiped away tears. And they thanked one another for being there to support a stranger who served.