Thursday, March 31, 2011

Burn Pits and other veterans issues

The American Chemical Society is concluding their National Meeting & Exposition in Anaheim, California today. At the conference, a presentation was made on a research study which found that Iraq War service members and contractors have been exposed to air pollution which "could pose immediate and long-term health threats." The multi-year study was explained by the research team's Jennifer M. Bell, "Our preliminary results show that the fine particulate matter concentrations frequently exceed military exposure guidelines and those individual constituents, such as lead, exceed U.S. ambient air quality standards designed to protect human health. [. . .] Coarse particles are large enough to get trapped in the hair-like fibers that line the nasal passages and the trachea preventing them from entering the lungs. Fine and ultra fine particles are so small that they bypass the body's natural defenses. When we take a breath, they travel into the deepest part of the lung where oxygen exchange takse place." She also stressed, "We are especially concerned about fine airborne particles that originate from motor vehicles, factories, open burning of trash in pits, and other sources."

There's a summit planned for this issue later this month:

Burn Pit Summit
Monday, April 18 at 9:00am
Location: Washington D.C.

Slowly making our way to another issue, if you've dated in your life, you've encountered a guy (or gal) who, in the words of Diana Ross & the Supremes, "makes promises he doesn't keep." A lot of times with this type of person, they get off on the buzz of praise when they announce an intention. Maybe that they're going to buy flowers, maybe that they're going to do something of greater substance. But they never follow through. I have a friend who is a novelist and he never, ever discusses what he's writing while he's writing it. He waits until he has a completed first draft. He's afraid that if he were to "talk" his novel, he wouldn't write it; that the "Oh, that's interesting" and the "I would certainly read that" would derail the process. And I bring up those two incidents, one where a person seeks praise for what they never end up doing and another where a person waits for praise until after they've earned it, to yet again ask when are we, as a country, going to stop praising Barack Obama for announced intentions and start judging him by what he's actually doing?

As I understand it, he's over forty and both of his parents are dead so this "Come on, Barry, take one step, come on" babying is getting really damn old.

'He's ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell!'

No, he hasn't.

If he had, Derek Morado wouldn't be facing a hearing today.

Lewis Griswold (Fresno Bee) reports
the 26-year-old, Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morando faces a discharge hearing today from the Navy following someone outing him to the command.

B-b-but Barack ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell!!!!

Griswold explains, "Although the law repealing the longtime policy was signed by Obama three months ago, it won't go into effect until 60 days after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that lifting the ban won't hurt the military's ability to fight."

GetEQUAL notes:

Dear friends,

In December, when President Obama signed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010," I breathed a sigh of relief. Although there is still work to do to make repeal fully inclusive and get it implemented, my hope was that at least now we would not lose another servicemember because of that discriminatory law. After so many discharges even as late as last year [1], I thought we were finally out of the woods.

Sadly, I thought wrong.

A short time ago, we were contacted by an active-duty servicemember who -- despite the repeal of this horrible law -- is still going through the process of being discharged. The process started for him on November 8, 2009, when someone anonymously outed him after seeing his MySpace page.

Within weeks, his discharge process began -- but it limped along while the government waffled about what to do about repeal. A year went by before he got any kind of update, each day believing it was his last day to serve his country. After the repeal bill was signed into law, he believed his case to be over.

But Derek got bad news earlier this month. Despite DADT repeal, his case is still being pursued and his hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. With implementation still not in place, is this the Navy's attempt to slip in another discharge or bully him with a hearing...just because they still can?

Click here to show your support for Derek and to fight back against his discharge!

Derek joined the Navy right after high school -- here are his own words:

This lengthy matter has been tearing me up; it has destroyed relationships and displaced loved ones who were relying on me. But even after the U.S. Government has made it clear they don’t want this law in effect the Navy has said that, because the paperwork has been submitted and the policy is technically still active, they have no choice but to continue.

I have been in the U.S. Navy since I graduated high school. It’s all I know and all I want to do. I have dreams of grandeur, hopes of retiring a young, highly-decorated, respected senior enlisted sailor. My resolve is weakened but not broken. I just have to place my fate in the hands of three strangers -- strangers who I hope have strong moral convictions and like-minded sentiments to my own.

Click here to add your name to the list of supporters Derek will take into his hearing with him!

Get Out! Get Active! GetEQUAL!

Robin McGehee, Director


[1] "Servicemembers United: An 'unusually high' 261 discharges under DADT in FY 2010" --

Don't Ask, Don't Tell has yet to be repealed. The Iraq War has yet to be ended. It's amazing how he gets credit for 'ending' things that continue. Hugh Fisher (Salisbury Post) reports, "Soldiers from Salisbury's National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks. About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas."

While US troops remain stationed in Iraq, while deployments continue, the Iraq War has not ended. From yesterday's snapshot:

March 22nd DoD issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Cpl. Brandon S. Hocking, 24, of Seattle, Wash., died March 21 in As Samawah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. For more information, the media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9879 or after 4 p.m. call 912-767-8666." Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported, "He died just 10 days before his scheduled return home" and speaks with his sister Brianna and his grandmother Delores Pitts who says Hocking "enjoyed fixing up old cars, sketching and playing the acoustic and electric guitar." Washington Governor Chris Gregoire's office ordere flags to be flown at half-staff yesterday "in memory of U.S. Army Corporal Brandon S. Hocking of Seattle." Brandon Hocking's family spoke to Eric Wilkinson (KING 5 News) yesterday. His father Kevin Hocking said, "We were counting down the days not only for him to bet back but for him to be moved up here for his family to be around him." He worries that Iraq has become the forgotten war and stated, "I don't want him forgot. I don't want any of them to be forgot."

Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Scott Brown team up to produce a joint-column for POLITICO in which the two US Senator weigh in on the high unemployment rate facing young veterans of today's wars. This is the opening to the column:

The current operation in Libya is a reminder that American heroes are serving with courage and skill in every corner of the world.
As members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, we visit with our servicemen and -women regularly – in North Carolina and Massachusetts, but also in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are committed to working across party lines to ensure that our troops are treated with the dignity they have earned. Not just while they wear the uniform, but when they return stateside and throughout their lives.
Visiting our wounded warriors at Walter Reed Hospital here in Washington, we’ve listened to their stories and heard their determination to recover and contribute in the future.
But we remain concerned about the extremely high unemployment rate among our returning heroes. In February, unemployment among all veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan was 12.5 percent -almost four points higher than the national rate. It’s estimated to be as high as 21 percent among our Guard and Reserve members.

Unemployment's serious and Hagan and Brown have repeatedly raised this issue. There are other areas of concern including the administration's desire to slash benefits for veterans (and their families) as well as retired and activy duty service members (and their families). Another (of many) issues is the final resting place. The most vocal member of Congress on this issue was Steve Buyer (Republican in the House of Representatives from Indiana) who decided not to run for re-election in the 2010 mid-term elections. Anyone who watched him tear -- that's the only term for it -- into VA witnesses appearing before the Committee on Veterans Affairs over grave issues -- from 'mix ups' to failure to keep the grave sites well tended -- will likely wonder what he would say in an open hearing after reading Mark Benjamin's "Arlington's Grave Mix-Ups: Will the Army Ever Fix the Problem?" (Time magazine):

The Army has known for months that it may have a massive case of mistaken identity on its hands -- but has been reluctant either to admit it or to learn exactly how widespread the burial errors are. Through the Freedom of Information Act, TIME obtained the raw transcripts of interviews that cemetery workers gave in 2009 and 2010 to the inspector general. In contrast to the tepid report the IG released last June, the transcripts show how workers repeatedly found unidentified remains while digging in what were supposed to be empty graves. "We went into a grave site, which we assumed was empty," one worker recalls. "Dig down ...and, uh ... whoops! Another coffin." Another worker guessed that "one time out of 10," a headstone at Arlington sits above the wrong grave.

The following community sites -- plus War News Radio, Jane Fonda, The Diane Rehm Show and Military Families Speak Out -- updated last night and this morning:

Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends