Thursday, May 13, 2010

Memorial rides, homeless shelters, PTSD and other veterans issues

The Massachusetts Air National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment was celebrated Wednesday, during a send-off ceremony at Camp Edwards, with Gov. Deval Patrick and several hundred family members and friends in attendance. The guardsmen will mobilize for Operation Iraqi Freedom by the end of the week, said spokeswoman Maj. Lisa Ahaesy, and will provide aviation support to ground missions and senior leadership transportation in the area.

The above is from Heather Wysocki's "Loved ones, governor give Iraq-bound soldiers a send-off" (South Coast Today). The Iraq War continues . . . creating ever more veterans. Heidi Shaffer (Fargo's Inforum) reports that the Joe Biel Memorial Bike Ride (third annual) takes place this Saturday and starts out at Big Dog's Saloon in Surrey, North Dakota. Iraq War veteran Joe Biel took his own life in 2007 and his friends hold this motorcycle ride each year to remember him and to raise awareness on PTSD and military suicides. US House Rep Rush Holt's office issued the following Monday:

Sgt. Coleman S. Bean Individual Ready Reserve Suicide Prevention Act’ Would Honor Fallen New Jersey Iraq War Veteran
(Washington, D.C.) -- U.S. Rep. Rush Holt announced today he has introduced legislation to fill a void in the military’s suicide prevention efforts among members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and for other soldiers who are designated as Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMAs). Unlike their active duty counterparts or those normally assigned to existing Guard and Reserve units, members of the IRR and those designated as IMAs normally are only assigned to units upon mobilization. In between deployments, they lack direct, easy access to the kinds of suicide prevention services and support structures available to active duty troops - a deficiency Holt’s bill seeks to fix. Joining Holt in offering the bill were Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD).
The bipartisan bill is named in honor of the late Sergeant Coleman S. Bean of East Brunswick, New Jersey. In between and after two combat tours in Iraq, Bean sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because Sgt. Bean was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, he could not get treatment for his condition because the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs refused to take ownership of him and the thousands like him.
“Two federal agencies charged with helping prevent suicides among our returning troops utterly failed Sgt. Bean and his family”, said Holt. “We cannot allow another family to lose a son or daughter, a father or mother, a husband or a wife because of bureaucratic buck-passing.”
Holt’s bill would do the following:
Require the Secretary of Defense to ensure that members of the IRR who have served at least one tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan will receive a counseling call from properly trained personnel not less than once every 90 days so long as the servicemember remains a member of the IRR.
Require personnel conducting this call to determine the emotional, psychological, medical, and career needs and concerns of the IRR member. Any IRR member identified as being at risk of harming his or her self would be referred immediately to the nearest military treatment facility or accredited TRICARE provider for immediate evaluation and treatment by a qualified mental health care provider, and in those cases the Secretary would be required to confirm that the at-risk IRR member has received the evaluation, and if necessary treatment.
Require the Secretary of Defense, beginning in January 2011, to report to the Congress not less than yearly on the number of IRR members not assigned to units who have been referred for counseling or mental health treatment, as well as the health and career status of said servicemembers.
On June 25, 2009, a nearly identical version of the Holt bill passed the House on a voice vote as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2647). Unfortunately, an anonymous Senate conferee objected to the provision during the conference report negotiations, arguing it was too costly -- even though no member of the Senate ever requested that the Congressional Budget Office score the provision.
“How anyone could believe that our government can’t afford to make suicide prevention phone calls to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is as baffling as it is callous,” said Holt. “I urge all House and Senate members to join me in taking this simple step to help all our IRR and IMA servicemembers get access to the suicide prevention counseling and support that they need and deserve.”
Linda Bean, mother of Sgt. Bean, offered her support for the legislation.
“Through this legislation, Congressman Holt directly addresses the mental health needs of the more than 11,000 IRR soldiers and countless individual augmentees who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, a population that is underserved by both the military and VA mental health systems. We are grateful.
“Since Coleman’s death, we have come to know that one phone call – just one honest expression of compassion -- can help catch and hold someone who is at the edge of despair. For us, if the phone calls mandated by this legislation help save one life -- then that is blessing enough.”

Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. Andrea Thomas (The Paper) speaks with Yocum who explains, "The military fammilies are in dire need. Because of the economy, there's not enough money being donated to help them and they can't find jobs. Also, in the last few years, the suicide rate of veterans has gone up. In 2008, it was at an all-time high . . . and for 2010 the number is on track to break the record again. [. . .] I meet these families day to day, and they tell me their stories, and I feel so sorry for them that the country we have fought for has left them behind. We should be taking care of these people who fought for our freedom. There should never be a veteran who's homeless, there should never be a veteran working a minimum wage job." Curt Slyder (Journal and Courier) explain, "The former soldier is attempting to raise $5 million for military families by hiking 7,000 miles from Kentucky to California, then back to the east coast before ending back in Kentucky. The money will go to Soldiers' Angels, a non-profit organization working to provide comfort to soldiers and their families." Here's Troy's schedule for the rest of the month:

05/13/10 Outside Fowler, IN

05/14/10 Outside Morocco, IN

05/15/10 Lowell, IN

05/16/10 Munster, IN

05/17/10 Chicago, IL Firemen Union and Axe-men will join the walk into Chicago

Chicago Cubs Game 7:05pm Benefit Concert

White Sox Game 7:10pm Chicago Fire TailGate

05/20/10 Oak Forrest, IL

05/21/10 Joilet, IL

SSG William E. Hasenflu (09/28/08)

05/22/10 Braidwood, IL

05/23/10 Dwight, IL

05/24/10 Outside Pontiac, IL Young Marines from Peoria join hike County War Museum/Dal Estes Education Center

05/25/10 Towanda, IL

05/26/10 Heyworth, IL

In other veterans news, Mark Hare (Democrat and Chronicle) reports on a new facility for homeless female veterans:

The Zion Episcopal Church of Avon and the American Legion Post 294 have teamed up to open Zion House, a home for homeless or soon-to-be-homeless female veterans. The house is the former church rectory and sits behind the church, which is on the traffic circle on Routes 5 and 20. It will be the first transitional housing for female veterans in New York, and perhaps the first of its kind in the country, says the Rev. Mark Stiegler, rector of Zion Episcopal.
Stiegler, a former part-time chaplain for the Veterans Affairs Department, says the idea for Zion House came to him during a program he was part of several years ago. "There was a woman who was about to be homeless (after she left the V.A. residential program) and she said she wished they had a program for women like they do for men."

The following community sites -- and -- updated last night:

Turning to the issue of Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan, we'll note this from Sherwood Ross' "MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL OF LAW DEAN ASSAILS NOMINATION OF ELENA KAGAN TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT" (Christian Radical):

Massachusetts School of Law Dean Lawrence Velvel is of the opinion that Elena Kagan should not have been nominated to the Supreme Court.
Kagan is the former Dean of Harvard Law School and she was chosen to join the High Court by President Barack Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, despite the taint of having taken little or no action against two renowned Harvard law professors who plagiarized and/or, perhaps even worse, had parts or much of their books ghostwritten by students while taking sole credit for the works.
Dean Kagan and President Lawrence Summers (the former president of Harvard University when Kagan was dean of the law school) did little or nothing against two famous liberal Harvard Law professors who engaged in serious misconduct,” said Velvel, who is liberal himself. “Plagiarism and/or having your works ghostwritten is a major academic sin. It is a method of fraudulently taking all-important academic credit yourself for work done by others. This may be okay for politicians or corporate presidents, who use speech writers, but it is verboten in the academic world. And Harvard throws out students or other faculty members who engage in it.
“The actions -- or inactions -- by Kagan and Summers represented the kind of self protection and self aggrandizement of the east coast elite of the Boston-New York-Washington axis that began around 1960,” said Velvel. “Going to Harvard, Yale or Princeton became the method of advancement. Competence and honesty, especially honesty, took a back seat. When you look at the disasters of American life from Viet Nam through Iraq, Afghanistan and the recent economic meltdown, one form or another of dishonesty -- from outright lies to suppression of information -- always was a major facilitator.”

And we'll note this from Senator Patty Murray's office, "FAIRCHILD: Senator Murray Questions Air Force Brass on Critical Fairchild Base Improvements, Air Force Tankers :"

After Pentagon’s military construction budget leaves out Fairchild construction, Murray brings attention to needed upgrades to outdated facilities

May 12, 2010

Listen to the full exchange

(Washington D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, questioned the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force about needed improvements to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. Murray’s questioning sought answers to why Fairchild construction projects were left off the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2011 military construction budget. She also questioned the Air Force about making Fairchild a home to the next generation of aerial refueling tankers.

Despite needed upgrades to Fairchild facilities including base headquarters, Fairchild construction projects have largely been made possible through investments that Murray has prioritized through the appropriations process rather than being prioritized by the Pentagon in its annual budget.


“The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011 does not include any investment in military construction at Fairchild Air Force Base. I would like to know why. I was just at Fairchild in April and I heard directly from the base community that there are many facilities at Fairchild in need of upgrades, including some that aren’t sufficient to meet the needs of a 21st century Air Force,” said Senator Murray said. “Can you explain, Mr. Secretary, why there’s not military construction investment in Fairchild this year?”

“Very simply we have chosen to take risk in infrastructure. We have underfunded our MILCON [military construction] and facility infrastructure for several years running now,” said Secretary of Air Force Michael B. Donley.


“I also wanted to ask you about the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that Airbus has received illegal, trade-distorting subsidies for years. In particular, the WTO found that the A-330, the very airframe that Airbus plans to put forward in the tanker competition, has been built using illegal subsidies. I continue to be very troubled that the DoD is awarding this contract – a taxpayer funded $35 billion competition – without accounting for the billions of dollars in illegal subsidies received by Airbus,” said Senator Murray. “I want to know how can you assure American taxpayers that they won’t be spending money to support an illegally-subsidized company that one part of our Government – the USTR – has already declared harmful to American jobs?”

“The judgment inside the executive branch, not just the Air Force or the DoD, is that it would not be appropriate for the department of defense in a single contract action to take action representative of a WTO level decision,” said Secretary of Air Force Michael B. Donley.

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