Spc. Justin Ralph is about to go to Iraq and figured he knew all the right things to tell his wife, but she isn't buying his story.
"It hasn't hit me yet," said Julie Ralph, 22, of Fort Sam Houston. "I've just been kind of stressed-out. I don't want him to leave. I've (tried) to talk him out of it, but he has to.
"He really wants to."
A now all-too-familiar ritual played itself out Tuesday as Ralph and 80 other soldiers with the 418th Medical Logistics Company gathered at Fort Sam Houston's Roadrunner Community Center. Post spokesman Phil Reidinger said the Medlog Company's deployment on Thursday will be the 24th since 2002 for active-duty Army, National Guard and Reserve units from Texas.
They're headed to Iraq for the next year, marking the unit's third deployment there since the invasion, and they won't be the last to go. The Iraq war, contrary to popular opinion, isn't near over, and American troops won't be out until 2011 -- and maybe not for years after that.
That is the opening to Sig Christenson's "More GIs from S.A. deploy to Iraq" (San Antonio Express-News) and I'd already finished this entry and was almost done with the other when a friend called to advise there was a strong article that needed prominent attention. I agree it does and so I'm putting it at the top here and urge that you read the article in full. Now we'll continue onto VA issues.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said he learned long ago never to speak in absolutes, but on Tuesday he unveiled a bold new strategy to get every homeless veteran off the streets within five years.
"When I say a goal of zero homeless veterans in five years, it sure sounds like an absolute," Shinseki said at the start of a three-day gathering of service providers fighting homelessness. "But I do that with an understanding that unless we set ambitious targets for ourselves we would not, we all would not be giving this our best efforts. No one who has served this nation as veterans have should be living on the streets."
The above is from Megan McCloskey's "VA unveils strategy to end homelessness among veterans" (Stars and Stripes) and you may note that the 'star' of the piece is not veterans but Eric Shinseki and his own big ego. "I say," "I do" . . .
Of course most of us who were paying attention last month remember what Shinseki did: Dummied up. He knew from his first day as Secretary of the VA that the Post-9/11 GI Bill would not be implemented in the way it was being presented, that when informed of problems, he hired an outside analyst who examined the variables and came to the same conclusion. Despite the fact that he and people he supervises traisped before Congress repeatedly through the year, he never felt the need to inform Congress until after veterans were suffering, at risk of losing their homes, having to suddenly grab one or two or three jobs because those education checks weren't coming in.
He waited until October 14th to inform the US House Veterans Affairs Committee that the problems were always known by him:
A plan was written, very quickly put together, uh, very short timelines. I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August. A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment.
Adam Levine (CNN) doesn't completely forget veterans:
The department plans to expand the recently passed educational grants program for veterans who served after September 11, 2001, to include not just college but vocational programs as well, according to VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts.
"Not every veteran wants to spend four years pursuing a college degree, but they might be interested in learning a trade that would get them into the taxpaying work force sooner," Shinseki said.
Of course, not every veteran -- in fact, not one -- wants to wait weeks and weeks for a check that was supposed to arrive at the start of the semester. Meredith Simons (San Antonio Express-News) reports, "Shinseki's announcement comes the week before Veterans Day, amid a flurry of activity from lawmakers who are honoring veterans. On Monday, the U.S. House unanimously passed legislation that will allow for enhanced unemployment benefits and relocation assistance for veterans enrolled in job training programs. On Tuesday, the House also passed legislation to honor different groups of veterans, increase assistance to veteran-owned small businesses and create a National Veterans History Project to collect and archive the stories of men and women who have served in uniform." A Congress truly concerned about "honoring veterans" would demand accountability for the VA's huge screw up but instead everyone's going to fawn over the unqualified and incompetent Shinseki.
We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "CHOMSKY SAYS PRESIDENT OBAMA CONTINUES BUSH POLICY TO CONTROL MIDDLE EAST OIL" (Veterans Today):
Political activist Noam Chomsky says that although President Obama views the Iraq invasion merely as "a mistake" or "strategic blunder," it is, in fact, a "major crime" designed to enable America to control the Middle East oil reserves.
"It's ("strategic blunder") probably what the German general staff was telling Hitler after Stalingrad," Chomsky quipped, referring to the big Nazi defeat by the Soviet army in 1943.
"There is basically no significant change in the fundamental traditional conception that if we can control Middle East energy resources, then we can control the world," he said.
In a lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London Oct. 27th, Chomsky warned against expecting significant foreign policy changes from Obama, according to a report by Mamoon Alabbasi published on MWC News.net. Alabbasi is an editor at Middle East Online.
"As Obama came into office, (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice predicted he would follow the policies of Bush's second term, and that is pretty much what happened, apart from a different rhetorical style," Chomsky said.
Chomsky said the U.S. operates under the "Mafia principle," explaining "the Godfather does not tolerate ‘successful defiance" and must be stamped out "so that others understand that disobedience is not an option."
Despite pressure on the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Alabbasi reported, Chomsky said the U.S. continues to seek a long-term presence in the country and the huge U.S. embassy in Baghdad is to be expanded under Obama.
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