"SHOULD WE KEEP THE PROMISES MADE?"
June 23, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Absolutely amazing the diversity of stories from not only our area veterans, but the stories, full of pride and honor, that the families of veterans are sharing about their relatives, their past generations that served in the military for our great Country! So many sons and daughters, great grandsons and great granddaughters that have brought in different ‘mementoes’, service medals and assorted pieces of military uniforms, but most importantly, that have brought with them the ‘emotions, the tears and smiles of the stories they remember either hearing or being told’ about their ‘loved ones’ time in the service. These certainly are the things that ‘bind families together’, that bring a certain presence of pride, dignity, honor, sense of belonging and purpose to all our lives. When one can identify through not only heritage, but relate to a sense of belonging because of a ‘family member’ giving actions to a ‘higher cause for all’, then, there is purpose and reason and a determination to nurture those values, share them and pass them along in the hopes of participating in ‘making them and the world better’.
This certainly however, does not mean that ‘all is rosy and sugar coated’ in military service to our country. Many of our ‘Sons and Daughters and family members’ never made it back home to their families and loved ones. Many were not able to even ‘honorably’ fulfill their duty to their Country. Many have not totally recovered from suffering physical and mental injury. And many have realized, and are realizing that what was promised them when ‘signing on to serve our country’ is not what they received or will wind up with.
Case in point in pursuing that last statement about not receiving what they were promised: ICE (a Department of Homeland Security) is deporting some of our vets before checking their military service. Affected, among others, are the ‘immigrant recruits’ that were part of the “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest” (MAVNI) recruitment program. This program offered ‘naturalization’ for recruits who served in essential positions such as medical or critical-language roles. (This reminds me of the many stories still circulating from just about any conflict that we have been engaged in, that we had and have ‘left behind’ many of the local population that really ‘helped us to navigate the language and geography of the country, with the promise we would protect them by taking them ‘home’ with us, only to leave them to their own fate.)
Other situations are the problems veterans have when they go to sign up for help at the VA Hospital. It is important to know that the larger majority of veterans who have served our country, do get the care and benefits they were told they would get.
However though, if a veteran has not registered with the VA immediately upon separation from the military he/she will experience the continually changing rules concerning the care and benefits. So, the care or benefits offered might not be the care or assistance originally promised. All I am saying is promises made should be promises kept: especially for those that we ask and those that volunteer to defend our country and our freedoms. If you have questions about your ‘eligibility’ for VA Health care, log onto https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/to start the process and find some answers.
If you served during the “Cold War Era” (1945 to 1991), you can now learn of the ‘health issues’ that you might be eligible for, which include Radiation, mustard gas, and herbicides among a few others. Just log onto https://www.va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/health-issues-related-to-service-era/cold-war/. This site will tell you the steps to take to see just what you should do.
“Promises mean everything, but after they are broken, sorry means nothing.” Unknown but righteous. "SHOULD WE KEEP THE PROMISES MADE?"
THE ‘MOVING TARGET’ OF OUR VA HEALTHCARE
June 9, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
There is an ‘Old Saying’ that goes like this: “this is about as clear as mud!”, and that sure applies to the continuing, never ending and always changing ‘rules & regulations’ of our VA healthcare system. Seems the only consistency of this Department is it’s ‘inconsistency’.
Most of you veterans that are registered with the U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs , the(VA), have recently received a letter from Richard Stone, M. D., Executive in Charge, Office of the Under Secretary for Health. The intent of the letter is to make you aware of “Your Enhanced Options for Care Through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)”. Dr. Stone refers to the “LANDMARK LAW” named the “MISSION ACT OF 2018”. The acronym ‘MISSION’ stands for “Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks” Act of 2018. The act is yet again another ‘thrust’ by the VA, to “strengthen the VA’s ability to deliver the best care and services at VA sites AND in the community”. And as further explained, “It helps VA deliver trusted, easy to access, high quality care at VA facilities, virtually through telehealth, and in your community. That means you get the care and services you need, where and when you need them”. Dr.Stones letter goes on to say, “This letter and the enclosed brochure are the first step in educating Veterans about the CHANGES VA is making under this NEW LAW”.
The letter continues: “Here is what you can expect: + A single, simple VA community care program, that puts YOU at the center of YOUR healthcare decisions, + Expanded eligibility criteria for community care, including new access standards, + Easier scheduling of appointments in VA’s community care network, + A new urgent/walk-in care benefit through a network of walk-in RETAIL HEALTH CLINICS and URGENT CARE facilities, + Continued strong relationships with VA providers and staff who provide your care and WILL FACILITATE ACCESS to the community care network.”
The brochure, “Enhanced VA Options Under the MISSION Act”, which was attached with the letter, covers 6 topics; 1-HEALTH CARE ELIGIBILITY, 2- COMMUNITY CARE ELIGIBILITY, 3- URGENT/WALK-IN CARE, 4- COPAYMENTS AND INSURANCE, 5- ACCESS STANCARDS AND STANDARDS FOR QUALITY, 6 – COMPLAINT AND APPEALS PROCESS. If you did not receive this letter and brochure, you may go into Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida and get a copy of the brochure, or you can log onto www.missionact.VA.gov
There are a couple of things to note about the topics covered in the brochure, one being that if you are needing to use the ‘URGENT/WALK-IN CARE’ benefit” for minor injuries and illnesses, such as pink eye or ear infections, you MUST HAVE BEEN ENROLLED IN THE VA HEALTHCARE SYSTEM AND HAVE RECEIVED CARE FROM THE VA WITHIN THE 24 MONTHS PRIOR TO SEEKING THIS CARE, TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR THIS BENEFIT”.
Regarding your ‘overall health care eligibility’, it is important to note that the VA provides a comprehensive medical benefits package to ALL Veterans who are ENROLLED, “through an annual patient enrollment system that CATAGORIZES Veterans BASED ON DIFFERENT PRIORITY GROUPS”. Thus, “eligible Veterans can use VA health care services NATIONWIDE, including through MOBILE HEALTH CLINICS THAT SERVE RURAL AREAS and via TELEHEALTH (CARE THROUGH A PHONE OR COMPUTER) in your home or on the go”.
Also, regarding ‘COPAYMENTS AND INSURANCE”, “like other health care providers, VA may charge a copayment for healthcare. The copayment amount may be BASED on YOUR ENROLLMENT PRIORITY GROUP, the type of healthcare service you receive, and your financial situation. If a VA copayment applies, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for that amount WHETHER YOUR CARE IS FURNISHED DIRECTLY BY THE VA OR THROUGH A COMMUNITY PROVIDER. VA may bill your health insurance for medical care, supplies, and prescriptions. As a result of the MISSION ACT, VA NO LONGER REQUIRES YOUR PERMISSION TO BILL YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE CARRIER FOR HEALTHCARE RELATED TO A SENSATIVE DIAGNOSIS. If you would like to submit a request to RESTRICT this process, please contact your local VA facility’s privacy officer.”
“No matter what safeguards you have, you really cannot replace ‘Virtue’.” John Adams, 1735 to 1826, 2nd President of the United States
SOME DOORS TO OPEN FOR THOSE MONEY PROBLEMS
May 26, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
“”Why is it that I always plan to pay my bills and never end up with any money left over and usually don’t even have enough to pay what I owe?” Most of us have asked that question all our lives, yet there seems to be a majority of veterans that are never quite able to make those‘ ends meet’. Several reasons for this pop to mind, and one is; when we are in the service the money we earn is pretty much available for any ‘enjoyment’ we want to pursue because all our necessities we don’t pay for! So we start forming a habit of not ‘saving for a rainy day’ and thus live paycheck to paycheck. Of course the military is not in the business of helping us plan on being prudent with our money, nor are they concerned about preparing us to think about all the stuff we need to pay for when we leave the military. As a result, this country has an abundance of not only ‘homeless’ vets (and for other reasons too) but veterans that are so far in debt that they cannot even pay the interest (and that is usually high double digit interest) on the loans they have entered into and promised to pay. There are so many ‘easy money loan’ businesses, that even some states outlaw them doing business in those states. There are also many non-profit organizations that offer ‘no-charge’ financial counseling and financial education. Most of those do not have ‘brick & mortar’ offices in our area and thus are ‘online’ services.
We do however, have here in our region, several financial institutions that offer ‘free’ education on financial management, how to make a budget, how to improve your credit score, and overall long term financial planning. So you might want to ask the folks where you do your banking, if they offer any education on financial planning. The following listed here I personally know they do offer ‘free’ education on how to work with your financial matters; Malheur Federal Credit Union, has available ‘online’ a free “Financial Education” resource and “Credit Score Builder”. They are easy to navigate online or you can call Ms. Vonnie Paul at MFCU at 541-823-4494. Columbia Bank also has free financial education services called “Financial Beginnings” You can call Columbia Bank at 541-889-8606 and ask to speak to one of the ladies that are knowledgeable on the Financial Beginnings program, or call Financial Beginnings direct at 1-800-406-1876. Also, our local Community In Action on SW 3rd Ave across from Lions Park, offers a “Financial Literacy” program for Individual Development Accounts which include pre & post purchase, energy assistance, and is flexible in cost depending on your financial health. Their phone contact is 541-889-9555.
And by the way, the VA’s Veterans Choice Program (VCP) will help you resolve ‘adverse’ credit reporting and debt collection issues as a RESULT OF USING THE VCP. Other obligations you have outside of the VCP services do not qualify for assistance. The VA Adverse Credit Helpline is 877-881-7618. For comprehensive information on the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) you can log onto the following site:
www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/index.asp If you are a Veteran who has not yet applied for VA Healthcare Benefits, you can apply online at the following site: www.va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction. Or you can contact your local Veteran Service Officer (VSO) in Malheur County, Mr Connie Tanaka, 316 Goodfellow, Ontario, OR 97914, phone 541-889-6649. In Idaho, Payetty County Veteran Service Officer, Marcia Morgensen, 1130 3rd Ave N, Room 106, Payette County Courthouse, Payette, ID 83661, phone 208-642-6010.
Interesting to note that on this day in 1948, the US Congress passed a Law that permanently established the ‘Civil Air Patrol’ as an auxiliary of the US Air Force. I found this of interest because as a youngster I was a member of the ‘CAP” in New Jersey. Two men who received their early training in the Civil Air Patrol were George Boyd and Wallace Higgins, who later were members of the ‘Tuskegee Airmen’.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin, 1706 to 1790, Inventor, Statesman, Author, Scientist, Humanitarian and ‘wise man’
A CHANCE TO PERSONALLY HONOR, LOCALLY
May 12, 2019 veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
For all of you veterans and veteran family members living here in Eastern Oregon, you will actually have the opportunity this coming Saturday May 18th, to meet and speak with the Executive Director of the Oregon State Department of Veteran Affairs, Ms. Kelly Fitzpatrick. She will be the ‘Keynote’ speaker at the Re-dedication and Grand Opening program at the Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida buildings at 180 W. Idaho Ave, Ontario, OR. The Malheur County Veteran Service Officer (VSO), Mr. Connie Tanaka, will introduce ODVA Ex. Director, Fitzpatrick. The State Department of Veteran Affairs administers the State of Oregon’s County Veteran Service Officer Program. Director Fitzpatrick joined the Army in 1980 through the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps), program at Boston University, and there worked in command positions through 1996. She also served as an assistant professor at West Point, as human resources director in South Korea and as a public affairs officer for an Infantry Division in Georgia. She also worked at the Pentagon in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and eventually became Director of that office. In her role as Director of Oregon’s Department of Veteran Affairs, she hopes to build strong connections with the many organizations that work to support our veterans and military here in our State.
Mr. Dan Nelson, with the Chief Joseph Chapter Military Order of the Purple Heart, will speak in ‘Honor’ of our local, regional and national ‘Purple Heart’ Recipients. Mr. Nelson is a former US Army Special Forces Officer (Green Beret) who deployed multiple times to Iraq, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. He received a Purple Heart for injuries inflicted in Afghanistan while fighting ISIS-K extremists in Southern Nangarhar. Dan also was the recipient of two Bronze Medals and the Silver Star, both awarded for meritorious achievement while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Also, on view for the 1st time in Eastern Oregon will be the “Oregon Memorial Traveling Wall”. This is a very unique ‘Memorial’ to the many Oregon men and women that lost their lives in Vietnam and the USS Pueblo. There are also panels that hold the names of those Oregonians that lost their lives in Panama, the bombing of Beirut, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Chapter #805 of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) in Roseburg, OR are bringing this ‘Memorial’ here to Ontario, OR for the dedication event at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida on Saturday May 18, 2019.
You may pay your respects and visit the ‘Memorial between 10am to 5pm.
We will also be honoring Army Sgt. Joshua Brennan, our local boy who was ‘Killed -in-Action’ Oct. 26, 2007 while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. For the re-dedication of the “Joshua Brennan Memorial Hall, Library and Museum”, Sgt. Brennan’s Mother will be here to speak, and a few family members will also be in attendance. A “Gold Star Family”, is the family and relatives of US Military members who died in battle. We are dedicating our front building at 180 W. Idaho Ave, to the Honor of Sgt. Brennan, having given his life for our Country. We are honored to have Joshua’s mother here to speak.
Many in our communities who have served our country with military service have returned home and continued to serve. One example of that are the many veterans that own businesses in our towns. Here in the Western Treasure Valley there is a very active group of Veteran Owned Business Owners, who through the sponsorship of the Treasure Valley Community College and their Small Business Development Center in Ontario, OR, meet on a monthly basis to share insights and management ideas of running their businesses. Advising that group is Mr. Michael Braden, MA, CPA, and also newly elected member of the City Council of Ontario, OR. Michael will speak of the diversity of the many Veteran Owned Businesses in our Region.
We are very proud to also have speaking Mr. Frank Yraguen, a Marine veteran, Senior Judge Oregon State, Chair/Officer Ontario Oregon Basque Club, Vale Mural Project supporter.
“We are hoping you will be able to come and take a tour of our facilities and enjoy meeting the guests of our special program. “
Ms. Tammy Bigelow, Ex. Director, Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida.
Solving Decades-old Problems One at a Time
April 28, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Well now, another obstacle and hurdle for military spouses has actually been dealt with here in Oregon! Imagine something actually accomplished that will make life and ‘family relationships’ even better! Representative E. Werner Reschke from Klamath Falls, Oregon sponsored HB 3030, which qualifies licensing for military spouses. HB 3030 provides for active military families, by allowing state professional licensing boards to issue temporary authorization for work if a person meets all four of the following criteria: Spouse of a U. S. Armed Forces member stationed in Oregon; Holds current authorization issued by another state; Provides board sufficient proof that person is in good standing with out-of-state licensing board; Has demonstrated competency.
“Many military spouses work as professionals across industries, from teaching and nursing to physical therapy and cosmetology. Frequent relocations of military families from one base to another causes a burden on the active members spouse. Certification does not automatically transfer to Oregon, said Rep. Reschke. However with HB 3030 a huge burden is lifted, by issuing a temporary license in order to begin work in a timely fashion!
Another decades old problem that just about every veteran faces when they transition from military life to a civilian lifestyle, is presently being addressed by many organizations and groups now. Imagine this: you are just starting a brand new job, and all at once you are ‘waking up to the fact’ that your life now, is not even close to what you had been use to! Because now not only did you sign up to protect each and every one of us in the USA, and protect all our Freedoms and Values, but, you now are going to be held to rules and structures in absolutely everything you do 24/7. And this includes what you can eat and when you can eat it, when you can and can’t go to the bathroom, how long you can sleep and when you can’t sleep, what clothes you can and can’t wear, well, you get the point. Your life now is structured and driven to be a “Team” effort, and how to be able to rely and trust your team mates’, and you get quick lessons in the consequences of not performing at top notch and working together. So this lifestyle becomes ‘you’ and ‘you’ become it. Granted as the years of enlistment run up, there is some slack, but not very much mainly because you have other people’s backs and they have yours. Then, your time is up, you are discharged. Not much help or advice in making that transition.
We at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida see so many veterans that became totally lost by not having the ‘mentors’ or friends to help instill a structure in and be a ‘guide’ for and during a period of transition. The ‘root’ of that problem however is that the military system has not yet designed a program or format to follow when exiting any branch of the armed forces. Logic observation certainly shows that there is an extreme difference between a structured ‘government service military life’ and the ‘social issues’ in civilian life Imagine at the same time on top of that transition, there are marital problems, emotional and PTSD problems, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) complications, much less other physical wounds to cope with and balance while opening doors to another new life. It is a no brainer then that over 25% of the ‘homeless in our country are veterans, and that there are now ‘Veterans Courts’ set up in at least 25 States, and no wonder that there is a very large ‘incarceration’ of veterans in State and Federal prisons.
Many organizations and groups in larger metropolitan areas have a corps of ‘Transition Mentors’ to help those beginning a new civilian life. In rural areas such as ours here in the Western Treasure Valley, we at least have many veterans that take it upon themselves to “Be There” for those veterans in need.
“Making it in life is a lot like busting Broncos, you’re going to get thrown a lot, the simple secret is to KEEP GETTING BACK ON.” A sign hanging in my office………..
Is There Really Help: This Time?
April 14, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
A while back I wrote in this column about the challenges of the VA and the Federal Government recognizing the health damages to our ‘brown and blue water’ Navy that were involved with the Vietnam War. The ‘Blue Water Navy’ especially has been shunned by our system in not being able to get the help needed from the VA Health System for these last 50 years or so, but all that is changing with the new House Bill and courts that have ruled that a 73 year old Blue Water veteran Alfred Procopio and the many Blue Water Veterans are entitled to benefits currently available to service members that were stationed on the ground in Vietnam. Guess they could have waited another few years and all would have been dead but at least our system is giving some of those that need the help a chance to get help with many of the diseases that come along with exposure to Agent Orange.
The new VA Secretary Robert Wilkie changed the stance of the VA after the court ruling in favor of the ‘Blue Water Navy and Marines’, by saying that the VA would not appeal the courts decision. Also, the VA had put the ‘cost’ of providing these benefits to the Blue Water Veterans at about $5.5 Billion, whereas the actual ‘Act’ proposed about $1.1 Billion over a 10 year period. Secretary Wilkie also told the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee that even though he has told the DoJ (Department of Justice) to drop the appeal, he did not know what ‘other’ Agencies would do.
On the heels of this progress to help our veterans, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee promised to bring again, a hearing on the horrible exposures to our Troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and that were exposed to the “Burn Pits” problems.
The idea of seeking new ways for people to kill one another is really quite prevalent from the beginnings of time. Chemical warfare is recorded as early as 600 years before Christ. In 600 BC the Athenian military taints the water supply of the besieged city of Kirrha with poisonous Hellebore plants. In 479 BC Peloponnesian forces used ‘sulfur fumes’ against the citizens of Plataea. In the 17th Century France and Germany (who always seem to be fighting each other), signed the first international agreement to ban chemical weapons and in this case it was banning the use of poisoned bullets. During the American Civil War the proposal to use chemical weapons was generated by both sides, though none were actually recorded as being used. Seems a NYC schoolteacher John Doughty recommended firing chlorine-gas projectiles at Confederate troops, and Confederate soldier Isham Walker suggested dropping canisters of poison gas from balloons on the Union troops. WWI was absolutely horrific in terms of chemical warfare, and by the end of the war there were 1.3 million casualties caused by chemical weapons! In the 1930’s the Italian Mussolini drops mustard gas bombs in Ethiopia to destroy Emperor Haile Selassie’s army.
Having all this in mind plus the extreme use of chemical weapons in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the subjects we mentioned at the beginning of this article, please give thanks and support to ALL the men and women serving our great country, who have volunteered to ‘be there and protect our freedoms’. They more than deserve our support!
“Our Flag does not fly because the wind moves it, it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.” As seen on reader boards throughout our Nation –
Author = The American People.
Honoring Our Veterans: Locally
March 31, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Really want to thank all the families, relatives and friends that sent information on their loved ones regarding their military service to this great country, as a result of reading my article that was published on March 3, 2019. The stories and information about the service of your loved will make their way into the ‘military archive, library and memorabilia’ display which we will house in the front building of our offices at 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, Oregon. We do hope to have some items and ‘reference library’ inventory on display for you to see by the time of our ‘Grand Re-Opening’ event on Armed Forces Day May 18, 2019.
Our Re-Opening event will be ‘honoring’ our regions Purple Heart recipients and bring to light the East/West U.S. Hwy 20, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean in Boston, Mass., to the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Oregon, the “Medal of Honor” (MOH Highway). Idaho just had a commemorative signing event with Governor Brad Little to officially name U. S. Hwy 20 in Idaho, the “Idaho Medal of Honor Highway”. Idaho’s Sen. Abby Lee and Representative Scott Syme sponsored the Bill HR89. The Idaho portion of US Hwy 20 begins near Parma, Idaho and ends at the Idaho State line at the Continental Divide/Targhee Pass, which enters Montana just west of West Yellowstone. Oregon has already, with the help of Bob Maxwell (MOH recipient) and Dick Tobiason with the Bend Heroes Foundation in Bend and support of the Oregon Legislature named our States portion of the US Hwy 20, “The Oregon Medal of Honor Highway”. Here in Oregon US Hwy 20 extends from the Idaho border at Nyssa, Or and runs concurrently with OR201 and US20/26 through Nyssa, Cairo Junction, Vale, Juntura, Burns, Hines, and then runs concurrently with US395 from Hines to Riley. It continues through Bend, Or over to intersect with US 101 in Newport, Oregon.
Our local Center for Business, Workforce and Community Learning at TVCC, hosted this last week a fantastic “Construction Combine 2019”, which engages ‘trainees’ who are interested in learning the construction trades, and pairs them with local contractors. The program here was coordinated and managed by Andrea Testi, director of the TVCC, CBWCL, Worksource Oregon, and the Idaho Dept. of Labor. The Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida wrote a ‘Grant’ through the Home Depot Foundation to provide funding for the needed construction materials for the participants to construct 4 sheds about 10’x10’ each. The ‘training’ for the applicants was offered at no cost, and also the possibility of being hired by one of the participating contractors. There were about 18 men and women that signed up for the training, and about 10 area contractors, who were coordinated by Mr. Owen Spurling, not only a contractor, but Commander of the VFW Post 9036, Leland Thomas Post, New Plymouth, Id. Mr. Spurling is also the Commander of VFW District 4, Idaho. Mr. Spurling coordinated the contractors to cover all aspects of the construction trades including framing, dry wall, roofing, electric, plumbing and general construction and how to read blueprints. The inaugural event was hosted last year by ISU in Pocatello, Idaho to a huge success!. The program was also geared to assisting veterans who wanted to learn and secure employment in the construction trades. Also the completed sheds were given at no charge, to veterans who could put the sheds to good work and who were nominated to receive a shed.
Mr. Travis Evenden of Payette, Id, nominated Kent Burns, a 21 year combat veteran of the Idaho National Guard, who ”decided to take his experiences, and instead of hiding them, he created a place for everyone to come to and share their story. His Barbershop has long been a place for men to go and shoot the breeze as well as get cleaned up”. “Kent created this space to invest in the community of Payette, and he takes that further by donating time as a Board Member of the Payette Community Alliance Network (PCAN) which bridges relationships with business and the local community”. We understand the shed will be used to secure the BBQ Grill and supplies for community events, etc. Thanks Kent for your service!!
The three other veterans that were selected from the nominations are: Mr. Lang, Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Mathews.
“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so ‘virtue’ appears from good deeds.” and
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha (approx. 483/400 BCE)
From Smiles to the Reality of War
March 17, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
When I think of “Green Eggs and Ham” I think not only of St. Patrick’s Day, but I think of the interesting meals I had when I was in Country with the Army and Marines, hopefully to again rejoin my Air Force Unit, and just maybe get back to ‘mail call’ and receive a ‘comic’ or two about one of my favorite characters, ‘Beetle Bailey’.
“G.I. Joe”, “Our Army at War”, “Star Spangled War Stories”, “Captain America”, “Frontline Combat”, “Sgt. Rock”, “Weird War Tales”, and “Don Lomax’s Vietnam Journal” are but just a few of the titles of “War Comic Books” that have been published since the mid-to late 1930’s. What started us all ‘reminiscing’ about the military/War Comic Books the other day over the ‘coffee and conversation’ table at Veteran Advocates, was a lady that came in and asked if we took donations of books and magazines for the veterans. Of course we said yes and asked if we could help her bring them in. When we were looking at the stack, there was an old “G.I. Joe” comic!
Fascinating is the history and popularity of the ‘War Comics’ genre, for even prior to the US involvement in WWII, comics such as the “Captain America Comics” depicted the ‘superheroes’ fighting Adolph Hitler and the Nazis among others. Marvel Comics with cartoonists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created that “Captain America” superhero series, featuring the alter ego of Steve Rogers, who was a frail young man enhanced to a peak-human perfection through an experimental serum administered to aid the governments success in the war. The first ‘Captain America Comic’ was published in March of 1941. Captain America was also the first Marvel Comics character to appear in the media outside of comic books. The character was a very successful movie series started in 1944.
Also interesting to note that the ‘Fictional’ character Steven Rogers was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1920, to poor Irish Immigrants, (we of course are struck by the apparent relationship to St. Patrick’s Day!).
Another famous series that appeared in ‘Military Comics #1, was first published in August 1941. The series was called “Blackhawk”, published by Quality Comics and then by DC Comics. Flying in Grumman XF5F Skyrocket Planes, the Blackhawk Squadron was led by a mysterious man known as Blackhawk and was a team of 8 WWII ace-pilots. They operated from a hidden Base known as ‘Blackhawk Island’ and fought against ‘tyranny and oppression’. During the height of their popularity in the early 1940’s the ‘Blackhawk’ titles were constantly second to Superman.
In 1987 Marvel debuted a new series based on the writers actual experiences while deployed to Vietnam. The series was called “the Nam”, and the writer, Doug Murray relayed his experiences through fictional character Ed Marks. Another Vietnam War comic book was from 1987 to 1991 and was “Don Lomax’s Vietnam Journal” published by Apple Comics.
Speaking of Vietnam, we had quite a few folks contact me from all around our western Treasure Valley area regarding our article in the Argus Observer on March 3, 2019 regarding the “Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial”. One contact I would like to mention here is about a local boy who still has family and friends here in our area. Major Joseph Ygnacio Echanis, United States Air Force. The location of his name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall is at: Panel W16, Line 33. Major Echanis was born in 1937, the incident date is Nov. 5, 1969 as follows: flying in the 497th Tactical Squadron at Ubon RTAFB was a pair of Navy strike aircraft against a target in Laos, Ban Kari pass area. A fireball was seen on the ground and contact was lost with the crew, Major Joseph Y. Echanis and Major Douglas LeFever, and they were classed MIA (Missing in Action). The Secretary of the Air Force approved ‘Presumptive findings’ and approved their Death as follows: Major Echanis 01/21/1975, Major LeFever 06/29/1978.
“We have long honored those who gave their lives during the unfortunate reality of War.” Michael Castle.
These 9 Men-Gave All…
March 3, 2019-2nd Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Surprising how quickly we and our friends and ‘loved ones’ can be affected by making a decision that resulted in producing a totally different effect upon us rather than what we expected. Even more baffling is the reality and self-belief that we made that decision ‘for the right reasons’, and for the ‘compassion’ of the circumstance. Case in point are the following 9 men from right here in Ontario, Oregon, who gave their lives for their Country and Family and ensuing generations, that their service would help to ensure the freedoms and values that all Americans respect and enjoy. Though, when either enlisting or having been drafted during a time of war, one senses that their life just might be given, but one clings to and pursues the idea that returning home and back to the life we left, the family, friends and hopes and aspirations will be the outcome of the decision we made when going into the military.
These 9 men ‘Gave All’. These 9 men are ALL ‘Casualties’ of the Vietnam War, and are listed on the ‘Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial’, and are from Ontario and Vale, Oregon.
Sgt. Frank James Mathews, US Army 60th Infantry, Born 09/12/1948 – Casualty date 02/26/1968
Pfc. Felipe Villanueva, US Army 1st Log CMD, Born 01/26 1944 –Casualty date 07/13/1966
Spec. 4 Robert Dawyne Fellows, US Army 26th Infantry, Born 05/16/1945 –Casualty date 09/25/1966
Capt. Derald Dean Swift, US Air Force, 3rd Tac Ftr Wing, Born 12/14/1937 –Casualty date 12/07/1966
Spec. 4 Joseph Leon Whitaker, Jr. US Army 1st Aviation BDE, Born11/10/1947-Casualty date 08/29/1967
GYST Robert Lee Sproul, US Marine Corps 1st MARDIV, Born 12/16/1933 – Casualty date 06/13/1968
Spec 4 Ted Leroy Sharp, US Army 173rd AHC 12th AVN GRP, Born 04/09/1948-Casualty date 11/19/1968
Pfc. Delos Richard Buxton, US Army 12th Cavalry, Born 08/28/1946 – Casualty date 07/12/1969
CWO Robert Junior Fishleigh, US Army 1st LOG CMD, Born 10/03/1915 – Casualty date 09/25/1970
All these 9 men made the ultimate sacrifice, as did the thousands of other men and women who have not only given their lives, but have come home scared and missing limbs, and scared from the ‘invisible wounds’ that the traumas of war and conflict inflict on the minds and souls of those have been through such horrific actions. So, please in your own way and manner, impart a few thoughts of ‘thankfulness, gratitude and understanding of the value of life and living’, to all those men and women who have, for us, given so much. Not that it will immediately change the course of war and conflict, but that it might touch the souls of those who bear the scars of that inhumanity, and bring them some degree of solace.
Whether or not we want to admit the fact that we are individually able to ‘sense and feel and react’ to unspoken thoughts and feelings from others (much less ourselves), we do know that unspoken thoughts have a very large impact on us. So, if we just send-out some good ole positive thoughts, they will certainly be appreciated one way or another!! Also if you are by chance just a ‘vocal’ person, it is always nice when you see a veteran wearing their cap or jacket, to give them a ‘handshake’ and a heartfelt ‘thank you for your service to our Country’. That will always put a sparkle in their eye and give them a feeling of appreciation!!
Though these above listed men are listed on the ’Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial’ at www.VIRTUALWALL.org, there may also be others from our local area here that I am not aware of yet. If one of your family members or friends is listed on the Wall but not mentioned here, please send me that information at www.veteranadvocates.org, I will reply to your effort with a thank you.
I think about this much when I write these columns and reflect what Plato said; “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” And what MacArthur said; “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
Why Do We Serve Our Country?
February 17, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Certainly was taken by surprise the other day when a mother and her two children stopped me when I was leaving a local restaurant and ‘thanked me for my service to our Country’! Actually had forgotten that I was wearing my US Air Force hat and of course that prompted her comments to me. What ensued then really did pull at my emotions and cause me to flash unexpectedly at a good portion of my life’s history. I thanked her for her thinking about our veterans and asked if she or her family had also served our country, and turns out that her father served during the Vietnam War and her grandfather served during WWII. It was then in this conversation that her son asked me why I joined the military, and how is it that one knows they want to join the military and serve our country! Well now, I paused a moment and collected a few thoughts and asked him if he ever felt that there were certain things, certain circumstances and certain people in his life that he would just about do anything to protect them, or to see that they would never not be there? He answered that he would always do anything to protect his mom and dad and his little brother. I replied that that was a very admirable attitude and that it reflects on the choices we have in making decisions about our life. Also that many people make those types of decisions regarding the freedoms and rights as an individual that we here in America are able to enjoy, (sometimes much more than other people around the world). So to answer his question I told him I joined primarily to work with other like-minded individuals who feel the desire to help ‘defend and guard’ the liberties and freedoms we have here in America, and that I wanted my family to be able to continue to enjoy those choices. He replied that he thought he understood that and thought that those were some pretty good ideas. That little boy and his family were all invited to VAOI and I sure do hope that they come on in because he will learn much from the men and women that have served in our military, and he’ll get the straight scoop from ‘the horses mouth’.
Back at the office sitting around the coffee and conversation table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida and jawing with some of the veterans, I was quickly reminded that definitely not everyone joined for the same reasons! Some were definitely not ‘joiners’ and did not want to go into the service at all, but were drafted during wartime and while in the service served for a very different reason….. and that reason was the ‘brothers’ that were on each side of them, especially in combat. Almost every one of them (to the man) were proud that they served and many would put on the uniform again if and when our Country needed their service. I have to admit that some definitely would not serve again, and knowing their stories, I certainly understand. As the saying goes, ‘there are always exceptions’.
An exception to note here is the last draftee of the Vietnam War. Jeffery Mellinger of Eugene, Oregon got his draft notice in the mail in 1972. Then, 39 years later, Command Sgt. Major Jeffery Mellinger in July of 2011 retired from the Army! He said he did not join willingly, but upon retiring says that he sure was surprised that he found his ‘calling’ in the Army!!
I get quite a bit out of the conversations around the coffee and conversation table, and one thing is, war is the most horrible thing a person can go through, and if there is a chance that it can be prevented, it should be prevented. If not, then we as a community, together as a Nation, need to pay the price of ‘caring’ for those that have served in those wars! We cannot do that by ‘playing politics’, and procrastinating making available the ‘help’ that is needed. We need to immediately take care of all those that have served us and that come home scared physically and emotionally!
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Also “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”.
Vince Lombardi, 1913 to 1970 – Football Coach
Valor and Our Community
February 3, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Extraordinary! Yes, the efforts and desire to ‘do for those we do not even know’. Yes, incredible, that so many people in our community take the ‘high Road’ of appreciation, to recognize and thank strangers and those individuals they more than likely will never meet. We at VAOI are absolutely amazed at the amount of folks in our area that because of this latest government ‘shutdown’, have come into our offices with all kinds of donations! Donations for not only those folks they feel will be directly impacted by the ‘shutdown’ but also for those veteran families they just sincerely want to thank and show their appreciation for! For instance, there was a very excited lady who came in the other day with a very large stack of newspapers from a neighboring State, that she had been saving for about 30 years. All these newspapers were filled with front page articles about the War in Iraq, and she just so deeply felt that by bringing them in that more veterans would know that their efforts were ‘genuinely’ and deeply appreciated by our citizens for whose liberties and freedoms they fought for. Then there was the nice couple who stopped me in the market the other day to ask me about how the services offered by the Veterans Administration, especially the counseling for PTSD was being affected. When I told them that we were still getting the counselors coming to our offices and that there was no stopping of that so far, they were very happy and handed me a donation to help those families facing those sometimes unseen ‘mental wounds’. The strength in caring for others does seem to have a propensity to propel all your energy from yourself to the goals you pursue for the benefit of those you wish to help. Not only does that draw comparison to those ‘helpers’ I am referring to above, but also to four men who 76 years ago on this very day, actually gave their lives assisting and helping others.
On February 3, 1943 at about 12:55am, a periscope broke the very cold waters of the Atlantic ocean. The periscope was that of a German submarine the U-223, and it spotted the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, which was carrying 902 military service men, merchant seaman and civilian workers. The Dorchester was on its way to a base in Greenland, escorted by three Coast Guard Cutters. One of the torpedoes fired from the German submarine hit the starboard side, mid-ship and in 20 minutes the Dorchester would slip beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic. The CGC Comanche saw the explosion and rescued 97 survivors. The CGC Escanaba circled round and rescued 132 survivors, and the third CGC Tampa continued escorting the two ships.
According to many eyewitnesses, four Army Chaplains brought ‘hope and comfort’ in the despair of the nights catastrophe. The Chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. The four chaplains spread out quickly amongst the soldiers offering prayers for the dying and encouragement for those who would live. “One witness, Pvt. William B. Bender, found himself floating in oil-smeared water surrounded by dead bodies and debris. I could hear men crying, pleading, praying, Bender recalls. I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.” When there were no more lifejackets to hand out the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men. “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” said John Ladd, another survivor who saw the chaplains’ selfless act. ‘Ladd’s response is understandable. The altruistic action of the four chaplains constitutes one of the purest spiritual and ethical acts a person can make. When giving their lifejackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did the Reverends Fox and Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their lifejackets to the next man in line.’ As the ship went down the survivors could see the four chaplains, arms linked and braced against a slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers. Of the 902 men, 230 survived.
“Valor is a gift. Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes.”
Carl Sandburg, American poet, writer, editor, Pulitzer Prize recipient. 1878 to 1967
Local Nightingales Deliver Love…
January 20, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
By asking any veteran or any person serving in the military about the validity of the saying “an Army travels on it’s stomach”, you will discover that an overwhelming percentage (probably 95% at least) will agree with that quote. Regardless of who is attributed (for both Napoleon Bonaparte and Frederick the Great are attributed to that saying) the reality that ‘food warms the heart and the soul’ and generally emboldens man to ‘overcome all odds’, is an absolute reality throughout military history.
To further give credence to that axiom, there are a few local supporters of our area veterans and military, who on a consistent basis, bring into the offices at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, ‘delectable, incredible mouth watering, absolutely ‘can’t imagine life without it’, preparations of homemade goodies which run the gambit from sweet to savory! These ‘goodies’ not only enfold the Heart & Soul of the person making them, but bring a ‘warming’ acknowledgement and gratitude and thankful appreciation from the many veterans who are the ‘beneficiaries’ of said goodies! And who after consumption, feel that they then can continue their day in absolute untethered contentment. Amazing how one can feel so good when one knows that there is someone who truly, truly cares about them, and who, through a piece of cake, or a cookie, or a bowl of soup or a simple casserole, can be ‘transformed’. Truly there are times when the power of experiencing ‘Deeds’ and ‘actions’ can far outweigh the deliverance of words. And also to the many of you that bring by those extra grocery bags of staples that you have purchased for our many veterans in need of a little extra assistance, if you could see the gratitude and thanks they truly show and express, I know it would also warm your ‘heart and soul’ as it has theirs.
So I want to personally thank all those ‘supportive and caring’ folks who may not truly realize the very deep impact that the ‘actions of their thoughts and deeds’ have on our local veterans and military and their families. Thank you also to those of you in our community that choose to share the ‘bounty of your labor’ through financially supporting those veterans and military that need temporary assistance over the rough times in their lives. These gifts have and do really make a difference in sometimes being able to keep a family together.
So now, back to our quote about “an Army travels on it’s stomach”. According to many historians, this saying has been ascribed to three people; Frederick the Great (also known as Frederick the Second), Napoleon Bonaparte, and Thomas Carlyle. Seems the earliest reference to this was in 1858 in a work by Thomas Carlyle about Frederick the Great. The saying occurred in a description of an unsuccessful military endeavor: “they were stronger than Turk and Saracen, but not than Hunger and Disease. Leaders did not know then, as our little Friend in Berlin came to know that ‘an Army, like a serpent, goes upon its belly”, and the ‘little Friend in Berlin’ referred to Frederick the Great. Then, an entry dated in 1816 in a book by Count de Las Cases, “Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena”, described a conversation Napoleon had with a eight year old child, Tristan: “Tristan is very idle. He confessed to the Emperor that he did not work every day. ‘Do you eat every day? Said the Emperor to him; Yes Sire. Well then, you ought to work every day; no one should eat who does not work. Oh, said Tristan, if that be the case, I will work every day. Such is the influence of the belly, said the Emperor, tapping the belly of Tristan. It is hunger that makes the world move”. Then in a later volume of the Counts book, Napoleon considered that every soldier be given a supply of corn to grind and make bread, from which he was quoted as saying; “there is no subordination with empty stomachs”. Interesting to note that Frederick died in 1786 and Napoleon died in 1858, you might then draw your own conclusion.
“The greatest and noblest pleasure which we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices.” Frederick the Great, King of Prussia 1740 to 1786
Our Greatest Generation
January 6, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
A main topic these last few days around the ‘coffee table’ is one regarding our nations oldest WWII veteran Richard Overton. Mr. Overton was not only the oldest ‘verified’ WWII veteran but the oldest man in the United States! He was enlisted in the US Army in 1940 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and served through 1945 in the 187th Engineer Aviation Battalion and was a Technician fifth grade upon leaving the Army. Mr. Overton passed to his Maker Thursday December 27th, 2018, at the age of 112 years old.
The conversations regarding WWII vets is so very personal and local for so many of us, because most of our own dads’ and granddads saw active duty in one of the Armed Forces during the Second World War, and most of our moms’ and grandmas either served in the ‘Women’s Army Corps’ (WACS), the ‘WAVES” which stood for ‘Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services’, and the ‘Women Airforce Service Pilots’ (WASP), or were employed in companies that made parts and supplies for the US Military. Many here locally in the Japanese community served in the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment which still maintains the distinction of being the most decorated Unit in U. S. Military history. The 442nd was composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry. They were primarily engaged in the European Theatre in Italy, Germany and southern France, and the Units Motto was “Go For Broke”. The Unit was activated in early 1943 and grew to a compliment of 4,000 men, many of whom their families were in ‘internment camps’ here in the United States. The Unit was ‘inactivated’ in 1946 but was again ‘activated’ in 1947 as a Reserve Unit and garrisoned at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
There were approximately 16,100,000 Americans that served during WWII, and it is estimated that about 490,000 are still living. The number of surviving WWII veterans here in the western Treasure Valley region is unknown, but I know of about 3 or 4 who come into the Veteran Advocates for coffee and conversation periodically, and are still doing fairly well, and we have lost another 4 or 5 within the last few years. We do still have a number of Korean War veterans that are still pretty active and come in quite regularly and have some amazing stories to tell of their incredible experiences in that War. One topic they quite frequently speak about is the possibility that they may actually see the re-unification of the two Koreas in their lifetime. Before this last year and a half there seemed to be no possibility of that happening, whereas the reunification of the European theatre and Eastern Europe was a reality to the majority of the WWII veterans who were actually there during the battles or were stationed there after the war.
One of our local WWII vets told the story of when he was captured and a ‘POW’ (prisoner of War) and the horrific death march the prisoners had to endure. Yet with that experience, was liberated and returned home and pursued a bountiful life and family. Another WWII local veterans spoke of flying the planes during the battles of War and then the stories of the ‘Berlin Airlift’ crisis after the war when the Russians cut off access from the Allied Zones to West Berlin in Western Germany, truly an international crisis. I am also impressed with the personal responsibility, humility, work ethic, their need for prudent saving and faithful commitment that these individuals have shown as a group. They have taught us much because of the time they lived was during the Great Depression and WWII.
No matter what War or Conflict or International crisis, there will always be those men and women that ‘step-up’ to help overcome the odds and uphold the values and principals that we as Americans hold so dear in our souls and hearts and that reflect the human dignity and rights to Freedom. These are our Veterans and our present day Military and we ‘Thank You’ for being there and taking on this selfless heroism in our Countries’ behalf.
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” Bob Dylan
From ‘55’ to Afghanistan
November 25, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
A group of Veterans sitting around the coffee table the other day at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida reflected back when 55 MPH was the law of the day. So, do you remember “I Can’t Drive 55”? Yes, it was 1973 and the US plus a major portion of the Western World were in a Major Oil Crisis and ‘Chaos ruled’. And on this very day in 1973 President Richard Nixon announced there would be a “Sunday ban on the sale of gasoline to customers”, and the top speed limit of 55 miles per hour was extended indefinitely, (thus the basis of Sammy Hagar’s hit song “I Can’t Drive 55”).
Our veterans were also very much involved with this ‘crisis’ because of “Operation Nickel Grass” and the events that led up to that operation. (Now I don’t want any of you ‘old-timers’ to confuse this ‘Nickel Grass’ with the cost of an illegal product very popular at that time), for Operation Nickel Grass was a United States Military strategic airlift operation to deliver weapons and supplies to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The U. S. Air Force shipped over 22,000 tons of Tanks, Artillery, Ammunition and supplies in C-5 Galaxy and C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft to Israel to help ‘hold-off’ attacks by the Soviet-backed Arab Republic of Egypt and Syrian Arab Republic forces. “And why ?” do you ask were we involved in this war? The roots were based in the 1948 formation of the state of Israel when the Arab countries rebelled against the 1947 United Nations Resolution 181, dividing land between Arab and Jewish States. The US desired a Jewish State even though the British (who controlled the area at the time) were against it, and finally the Arab States said ‘enough’ and we are not going to give you any more oil. So Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Cuba, all supported by the Soviet Union, attacked Israel.
In May of 1973 gas prices averaged .385 cents per gallon and by the end of the year they were averaging .555 cents per gallon (for those stations that were able to get gas).
Interesting to note the actual first act to control our consumption of gasoline was in 1942 when President Roosevelt ordered a “Nationwide Gasoline Rationing” to begin on December 1, 1942 because of the need of gas for the war effort.
Also on this 25th day of November in 2001, the US Marines were the first ‘major’ use of ground troops to land in Afghanistan. Members of the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units based in Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton were set down in CH-53 and CH-46 transport helicopters securing an airstrip that was about 12 miles southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Department of Defense spokesmen said there would be additional troops, armored vehicles and supplies dispatched to the Kandahar airstrip within 24 hours. The Marine Units had been aboard amphibious assault ships in the Arabian Sea where there were a total of about 4,000 troops. Previous to this Marine landing, there had been only a few hundred ‘Special Ops’ forces on the ground advising local rebel militias and harassing Taliban and al Qaeda groups.
Having just celebrated our National Day of Thanksgiving, it is interesting to note that our first Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, on November 26th of 1789, proclaimed that this day was a “National Thanksgiving Day” in honor of the ‘New Constitution’. This date was then later used to set a date for the ‘Thanksgiving’ we are all use to. And that was in 1863 when our Commander-in-Chief and President, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as the official day for Thanksgiving celebrations. Then in 1941 to add yet another name to those acknowledging this day of ‘Thanks’, our Commander-in-Chief and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill ‘officially’ establishing the fourth Thursday in November as ‘Thanksgiving Day’. Just maybe unbeknownst to the preceding three listed Presidents, it was an occasion in 1621 when the Governor of Plymouth, Mr. William Bradford, invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day festival to give ‘gratitude’ for the ‘bounty of the season’, and before this event, Colonists set aside a weekday called ‘Lecture Day’ to celebrate post-harvest successes. Then, yes again, in 1777 our Continental Congress declared the ‘First American Thanksgiving’ following the Patriot victory at Saratoga.
“There’s likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that’s your mission.” Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
HONORING OUR NATIONS VETERANS
November 11, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
For most veterans, the idea of serving our country, satisfies our own mind and souls’ desire of fulfilling that sense of “Duty, Honor and Service” to our fellow Countrymen and the “Values” that our Country represents. Most of us would also take up arms at anytime should our Nation again call us for our service. And we as Veterans, respect all those ‘future veterans’, all our men and women that are now serving our Country, that they too may feel the power and inner strength that service to our Nation affords. And I’d say most of us veterans today have a respect and gratitude to all those who have served before us, having built a strong secure foundation of the cost of Patriotism and love of our country.
Some of the earliest references to military and veterans, here in America, were noted in the chronicles of the early colonial settlements, such as Jamestown and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These dated from the early 1600’s to the American Revolution in 1775. Colonial governments employed ‘full time soldiers’ to patrol between fixed ‘frontier fortifications’ to quell Native American tribes, for the ‘imported British regulars’ were not accustomed to the methods of Indian fighting. There from began the incredible history of the ‘United States Army Rangers’. The Plymouth Colony commissioned Colonel Benjamin Church who at the time was the Captain of the first Ranger Force in America, to form a Ranger Company to engage the Indian inhabitants of New England in the 1675 King Philip’s War. What made Colonel Church attractive for this was his ability to train soldiers in the Native American patterns of war. These Colonial military units hired and/or enrolled nearly all ‘free white men’ as ‘citizen soldiers’, from around 1610 to the 1750’s. Low pay for soldiers reflected the ‘historical reality’ that if you were going to survive you had to serve your community. Also most colonies did not have money to pay their citizens for their service. As a result the average pay for a soldier was about $5.00 a month, and officers about $20.00 a month, and some had to pay for their food and supplies out of their pay. As time progressed there became a more formal contracting in recruiting men to ‘take up arms’ and fight for their Country, some promised pay for periods of time and some promised parcels of land for their time served. There were some colonies that did arrange and offer financial assistance for ‘veterans disabled during conflict’ and this began in Virginia around the 1620’s.
Because of the many desertions from our Continental Army, Congress, in 1776, enacted the “National Pension Law” act that provided ½ pay for life for disabled veterans, and ensuing acts that covered pensions, bonuses and widow eligibility. This was a plan for veterans that was derived from the plan the British Parliament enacted for its’ veterans in 1592, which provided medical care and disabled veteran assistance and ‘bonuses’ for those soldiers actively serving.
Before WWI, a soldiers military service bonus was land and money, ex: a Continental Army private received 100 acres and $80.00, while a Major General received 1,100 acres and approximately $200.00. An amazing 73.5 Million acres had been issued to veterans through this program by 1860! This system was somehow stopped when Spanish-American War veterans did not receive a bonus until after WWI when they each got only $60.00. This didn’t go over too well and Pres Calvin Coolidge vetoed a bill in 1924 saying:” Patriotism, bought and paid for is not patriotism”. Congress overrode his veto and enacted the ‘World War Adjusted Compensation Act’ where each veteran received a dollar for each day of domestic service served (to a $500.00 max) and a $1.25 for each day of overseas service (to a $625.00 max). The catch was that cash was immediately paid up to $50.00 and all other amounts were issued ‘certificates of Service’ maturing in 20 years!!. Well, those certificates totaled up to over $3.5 Billion Dollars, and that’s when the ‘the walls started tumbling down’, and “Pay the Bonus Army” became a public outcry and was devastating to all!
As of 2017 the approximate count of US Veterans is 18.2 million. Oregon is home to approximately 276,000, Idaho 111,000, Nevada 201,000, Washington 523,000.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” President George Washington – 1732/1799
GULF WAR SYNDROME AND THE BURN PITS
October 28, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Since the last ‘Veterans Corner’ article dealing with Agent Orange, I have had quite a few inquiries from veterans and their relatives, about “what is happening with the VA on ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ and the ‘Burn Pits”. For those of you unfamiliar with these terms, they are names that identify ‘mental and physical disorders’ amongst our military veterans who served while deployed to the Gulf Wars from 1990/91 through today.
According to reports from the US National Academy of Sciences and the US Department of Veteran Affairs, of the 700,000 US Military that served during the Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm, there are now over 250,000 that (even over 20 years after) suffer from the ‘symptoms’ associated with Gulf War Syndrome. These figures are also comparative to those military veterans from our coalition partners, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Denmark who also served ‘in-country’ at the same times.
Symptoms of ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ include the following: Terminal Tumors, Birth Defects, Neurological problems, Memory problems, Fatigue, Skin conditions, Muscle/joint pain, Respiratory problems, Gastro-intestinal problems, Headaches, and PTSD among others.
The US Congress ‘mandated’ the VA and NAS to continue to provide reports on what have been the probable causes of these symptoms/conditions, and the general consensus has been linked to exposure to ‘neurotoxins’. Sources of these include: 1-‘Depleted uranium’ which was widely used in tank kinetic energy penetrator and ‘autocannon rounds. 2- ‘Pyridostigmine Bromide Pills’, which were pills taken to protect our troops against exposure to nerve gas agents such as ‘Sarin and Soman’. 3-‘Organophosphate poisoning’ which caused the destruction of ‘neurons’ in the central nervous system, and was widely used in insect repellents which were distributed to decrease pest-borne diseases. 4- ‘Anthrax Vaccine’, used to vaccinate troops from anthrax that Iraq loaded into many of their artillery shells. 5- Direct contact with Sarin and Soman nerve gas. 6- All the continuing ‘Oil well Fires’.
In May of 2018 a Department of Defense publication noted that “research suggests that the ‘Gulf War Illness’ symptomology experienced by Veterans has not improved over the last 25 years”. “The effect that aging will have on this unique and vulnerable population remains a matter of significant concern, and population-based research to obtain a better understanding of mortality, morbitity, and symptomology over time is needed.”The VA refers to all these Gulf War symptoms as “Chronic Multisymptom Illness” and “Undiagnosed Illnesses”, and presumes that certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause. The “presumptive” illness must have appeared during ‘active duty’ in the Southwest Asia Theater of military operations, or by December 31, 2021, and to be at least 10 % disabling. For a list of “Presumptive Service Connected Disability Benefits” please copy and paste the following in the web search bar, then scroll down to section that pertains to you:
https://benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/serviceconnected/presumption.pdf, and for information about Gulf War ‘Eligibility Requirements and Compensation’ log onto the following link for the VA:
I would like you to know my gratitude, being a Vietnam War veteran, for all the positive actions the VA is doing for us, however it is the ‘delay and constant research’ that the VA does in determining just ‘what is or is not’ acceptable, that undermines the desperate conditions so many of our War Vets have. Those delaying tactics contribute to seeing too much more suffering and crippling and even death, from those impacted by “War produced” illnesses. When our country sends us into war, those of us who ‘volunteered’ to fight for our Freedoms should be covered by the “cost of conflict that has to include covering the damage & wounds to our men and women in service by supporting their claims of damage suffered”.
I have not here been able to address those impacted by the “Burn Pits”, because I found those ‘symptoms’ to be too extensive to elaborate in this article, therefore I will address this at a future date.
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” General Douglas MacArthur
Agent Orange Awareness Month
October 14, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
October has been designated as a month to become more aware and informed about ‘Agent Orange’, its’ development, history and use as a defoliant and a product used in chemical warfare and thus its’ long term effect on the human body.
Most of you are aware of Agent Orange through its’ use during the Vietnam War, and the devastation it caused to thousands of US Troops stationed there and also thousands of civilians living in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the millions of acres of agriculture and forests that were destroyed, defoliated.
It is estimated the between 1962 and 1971 there were approximately 20, 000,000 (that’s million) gallons of Dioxin-like compounds (DLCs), chemicals, herbicides and defoliants sprayed over that region! He__ its’ no wonder so many of our troops and area civilians died and or became infected with cancer, birth defects, skin diseases, infected lungs etc, etc, and continued having these problems because of that lingering contamination and food sources growing in that contaminated soil. These DLCs are chemical compounds that are ‘highly toxic’ POPs, that meaning ‘environmental persistent organic pollutants’ that cause major health problems to individuals who were exposed.
Seems that Britain was the first nation to use ‘herbicides’ to destroy food crops and natural tree and bush and undergrowth, which was used as cover for the opposing forces. For during WWII, the British and us Americans were attempting to develop ‘herbicidal weapons’ for use during the war. As a result two phenoxy herbicides were discovered, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, which when both of those are put together in equal parts, one then has created ‘Agent Orange’. The British started using this Agent Orange during the ‘Malayan Emergency Conflict’ in the mid to late 1940’s, after which in 1960 our US Secretary of State Dean Rusk advised President Kennedy that the British had established a ‘precedent for warfare with herbicides’.
Then in late 1961 the South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, asked the United States to conduct aerial herbicide spraying in his country. This started a rather heated ‘policy’ debate in Washington DC, and ended in November of 1961 by approving our (US) herbicide spraying program named ‘Operation Ranch Hand’. As the British did in Malaya, the goal of the US was to defoliate the land thus depriving the guerrillas of food and concealment and clearing sensitive areas around our (US) base perimeters. The other goals of the program was ’forced draft urbanization’, which aimed to destroy the ability of peasants to support themselves, forcing them to flee to the US dominated cities thus depriving the guerrillas of their rural support base.
Agent Orange was most usually sprayed from helicopters or low-flying C-123 Provider aircraft, though they were also conducting ‘spray-runs’ from trucks, boats and backpack sprayers. The first batches of Agent Orange were unloaded at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in January 1962. The Air Force ‘Official’ record shows at least 6,542 spraying missions during ‘Operation Ranch Hand’. And by 1971, 12 % of South Vietnams’ land had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals.
Many veterans in our immediate area of Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho, have had ‘in country’ exposure to Agent Orange while serving in/around Vietnam. Many of you still have not checked with the VA regarding the many diseases that the VA acknowledges are associated with Agent Orange. For a complete list of these diseases and evidence needed for the VA to consider these potential claims, log onto this VA site: www.benefits.va.govthen search Agent Orange. - or you can visit your County Veteran Service Officer. Malheur County Mr. Connie Tanaka, 541-889-6649: Payette County Ms. Marcia Morgensen 208-642-6000 Ext 116. The VA also has an Agent Orange help line, 1-800-749-8387 and an email address: GW/AOHelpline@vba.va.gov
We pretended there was no problem with Agent Orange after Vietnam and later the Pentagon recanted, after untold suffering by Veterans. – Jim McDermott
Last Draftee in the Vietnam War
September 2, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
The date was September 2, 1945, (73 years ago today) and in just a matter of hours after the formal surrender of Japan on the USS Missouri, an ‘ominous’ event took place back in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, paraphrasing our own Declaration of Independence, declared in a speech to a huge crowd that “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!”. As Japanese forces withdrew from Vietnam in 1945, Ho Chi Minh’s forces known as the ‘Viet Minh’, (which he organized after being expelled from China in 1941), seized the northern city of Hanoi and declared a Democratic State of Vietnam (more commonly known as ‘North Vietnam’), and of course was named President. At this same time the French military troops took control of Saigon and the southern regions of Vietnam while Chiang Kai-Shek’s Chinese forces moved into North Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh then took up negotiating with the French to get 2 things: 1st, the Chinese out of North Vietnam and 2nd, to get France to recognize a Vietnam independence and reunify the North and South Vietnams’. However for one reason or another, in 1946 a French Cruiser opened fire on the town of Haiphong and eventually war broke out in December of that year. Armed conflict between the North and South Vietnams’ was continuous through 1956 when the United States became more strongly present in South Vietnam with economic aid and then in 1961 with the addition of military troops. U. S. air strikes to North Vietnam began in 1965-1966.
I suppose an ‘irony’ of this accounting from Ho Chi Minh’s Hanoi speech on September 2, 1945, is that he also died on September 2, in 1969, from a heart attack in Hanoi. The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, though all US Forces personnel were reportedly withdrawn by March 1973.
Now this is about 30 years after the official ending of WWII, and within that time, the ‘American Conscience’ has shifted immensely in many aspects, one of which was the idea of ‘Conscription’ (military draft). There had been a huge ‘anti-war, anti-draft’ movement in the U. S. which turned a great percentage of our citizens against everything military including the people in the military. Even Nixon’s 1968 presidential election, campaigned to end the draft, but that wouldn’t happen until December of 1972 which saw the last men conscripted who were born in 1952 and reported for duty in June of 1973. Also in early 1973 Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced that ‘no further draft notices would be issued’.
(Of special note, Jeff Mellinger is believed to have been the last drafted enlisted ranked soldier, drafted in 1972, and actually retired in 2011 as a Command Sergeant Major!! And the last Vietnam War –era soldier drafted of Warrant Officer rank, Chief Warrant Officer5, Ralph Rigby, retired after a 42-year career in November of 2014. Thanks guys for your service to our great Country!!).
To many, the idea that we as a collective American society, have been relegating the Defense of our Democracy to an ‘All Volunteer’ force, weakens and diminishes our ‘moral responsibility’ to equally contribute to its’ preservation. This attitude has also diminished our respect for those who do volunteer, through, if for no other reason than, the number of times we have committed our men and women into harms way and conflicts (since abolishing the draft) to the number of times we committed them into ‘harms way’ and conflicts when the draft was active. Since using an all-volunteer force for over 40 years, we committed our men and women 134 times; the 40 years before that, with the draft, we committed our men and women 24 times. So also, as Dr. Mike Haynie, a veteran and Ex. Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University relates in his TEDx talks, the ‘Moral Outrage’ is that we have made it too easy to leverage ‘Military Conflict’ as not only an instrument of public policy, but that now that ‘policy’ and practice runs counter to the idea that ‘war is to be avoided at all costs’.
“A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society”. Thomas Jefferson (1792)