Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Joseph Fortin's funeral and Veterans issues

Joseph Fortin, who died last month in Iraq, was buried yesterday. From the DoD release: "2nd Lt. Joseph D. Fortin, 22, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., died Aug. 23 in Hussaniyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas." Vermont's Governor Jim Douglas ordered flags be lowered to half-staff yesterday and declared, "Joseph took it upon himself to join with others in the cause of liberty, in defense of freedom and to help ensure that others be provided the rights that we enjoy as Americans. We thank him for his service and for the example he set for others." NECN's Anya Huneke (link has text and video) reports on the funeral service St. Johnsbury Acadamey and notes, "The 22-year-old with the big smile left his mark, through his dedication to others: his wife, Nicquelle, his family, his fellow soldiers and- his country. He also worked, Capt. Derek Droiun said, to improve the lives of Iraqis, by providing specialized training to farmers and bringing electricity and water to communities." Wilson Ring (AP) reports over 700 attended yesterday's funeral and quotes his father explaining, "He said 'Dad, because there's one thing worse than that [dying]. I know I'm going to have a unit underneath me . . . if I gave the wrong order or did the wrong thing and one man got maimed for life or died, I would never, never be able to live with myself.' And it's amazing, then he smiled and made me at peace with that." The Brattleboro Reformer notes that Joseph "Fortin was the 27th service member with Vermont connections to die in Iraq."

Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Leydi Mendoza is the subject of David Kocieniewski's "A Solider's Service in Iraq Leads to a Custody Battle at Home" in this morning's New York Times. Despite the custody agreement outlines, Daniel Llares is refusing to allow Mendoza to see her daughter claiming "more than a few hours" of a visit disrupts Elizabeth's schedule. Kocieniewski explains:

Custody disputes involving returning members of the service have long been an unpleasant fact of military life, but the increasing number of women involved in combat overseas has brought new wrinkles. The Pentagon does not keep statistics on such custody disputes, but military family counselors said they knew of at least five recent situations around the country like the struggle over Elizabeth, in which a mother who served overseas is fighting for more access to her child. Some advocates say an unspoken bias against mothers who leave their young children has heightened both legal barriers and social stigma when these women try to resume their role as active parents.
Advocates for military families are pushing to update custody laws because the Soldiers' and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act protects service members from losing their jobs or their homes, but not from losing access to their children. Several states have proposed laws to protect veterans' custody rights, and Congress has considered legislation -- some bills that would forbid judges from considering deployment or future deployment in determining custody, others that would automatically end a temporary custody arrangement once a service member returns -- but military officials have generally opposed them.

It's 2009 and this issue should have been dealt with a long time ago. From the Library of Congress:

Title: To amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to provide for the protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation.
Sponsor: Rep Turner, Michael R. [OH-3] (introduced 5/14/2008) Cosponsors (58)
Related Bills: S.1658
Latest Major Action: 5/21/2008 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

In June 2008, Rick Maze (Air Force Times) was reporting on the bill which was proposed by Republican Michael Turner and which Democrat Bob Filner stated "strikes the necessary balance". Turner and Filner both serve in the House and Bob Filner is chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

And no offense to state legislatures, but that's not the answer. For example, Republican state senator (in New York) John DeFrancisco has worked on this issue. But that's not helping. It needs to be federal and not state-by-state, the US is too mobile as a society.

"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.

Meanwhile husband and wife Chad Olson and Jessica Armstrong were found dead on Saturday. Brenda Starkey (Omak Chronicle) explains, "The shooting happened at Olson's parents' house. Olson's brother, who lives in a separate residence on the property, suspected something was amiss and discovered the doors to the home were barricaded from the inside, so he called authorities, [Ferry County Coroner Mike] Sandona said." KXLY reports that neighbor Lester "Godfrey says Chad served two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps and when he came back nearly five months ago he was struggling with what Lester calls demons." The station also adds that Olson reported suffered from PTSD and had sought out help for that at the Spokane VA Hospital. The Spokesman-Review reports:

Olson recently was charged with second-degree burglary, third-degree malicious mischief and third-degree theft after allegedly stealing a case of whiskey June 25 from the state liquor store in Republic, Sandona told the Chronicle. He and two other men were arraigned on those charges July 10 and a juvenile was arraigned July 24.
Lester Godfrey, a neighbor of the Olsons and chaplain for the local American Legion, said that Chad Olson came from a solid, well-respected family and had a normal small-town childhood.
"I've watched them grow up," he said of the three boys.
"He was very well-liked," Godfrey said. "The whole family is very well-liked."
He described Olson as strong, good-looking and charismatic. But he was apparently troubled with emotional problems caused by the violence he witnessed in Iraq, and had been drinking alcohol recently, Godfrey said.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends