Preserving Our Freedoms
October 13, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
We were sitting around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida talking about the latest submarine being commissioned and my curiosity got the better of me and this story emerged, so I thought I would share it with you. It is the freedoms of our Nation and prevention of war that makes our military strength so important. My personal opinion.
The year was 1841, and Oregon was still a ‘Territory’ and being explored by the United States Exploring Expedition, which included Brigs and Sloops of the US Navy. At that time there was a rather extensive naval and sea operation along and up the mouth of the Columbia River from Astoria to Fort Vancouver, which housed the Northwest Naval operations of the US Exploring Expeditions. In August of 1841 a Lt. Charles Wilkes purchased the American Brig ‘Thomas H. Perkins’ for US Naval service, in order to house the Officers and crew and equipment of the USS Peacock which had been wrecked on a sandbar in the Columbia River just a month before. The USS Peacock then became the 1st ship to be named ‘USS Oregon’.
There were actually three ships of the US Navy to be named USS OREGON. The aforementioned 1841 USS Oregon, a ‘never-launched’ monitor (small warship) that broke up when being launched, and the 3rd commissioned in 1896 the USS Oregon (BB-3), which was a battleship that saw action in the Spanish-American War.
And now the 4th USS Oregon (SSN-793) a Virginia Class Submarine and the Navy’s newest attack submarine that was christened October 5, 2019 in Groton, Connecticut at the General Dynamic Electric Boat Shipyard. Mrs. Dana Richardson (native of Corvallis, Oregon) and wife of Ret. Admiral John Richardson (past Chief of Naval Operations) christened the nuclear submarine with sparkling wine from Oregon and water from Crater Lake.
The keynote address was delivered by U. S. Rep. Greg Walden, who said the submarine, has the capability to prevent nuclear war. Construction began in 2014 and is the 20th Virginia-class Submarine. The USS Oregon will be joining the fleet in 2020 and the cost is expected to be around the $2.7 Billion dollar mark.
One of the features of this class of submarine is that according to Vice Admiral James Kilby, the Oregon is outfitted with the most modern weapons and sensors, will disappear beneath the waves and never be detected until a time and place of it’s choosing. It “truly represents naval combat power” said Vice Admiral Kilby. Also with the newest design changes this class of submarines will need one less period of maintenance in the shipyard thus they will be able to do more deployment time over their lifespan.
Interesting also to note that there were actually 8 more ships that had names referring to SS Oregon, one ship named USS Oregon City, one ship named USS Oregonian, also a SS Beaver State (T-ACS-10) and believe it or not, one ship of the Confederate States Navy named CSS Oregon.
By the way, Idaho also has a Virginia-Class Submarine named for the state, USS Idaho (SSN-799). Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the name on August 23, 2015 at a ceremony in Idaho.
Then during the War of 1812 the United States Navy purchased a Schooner in 1812 and placed it in service in 1813, named it the USS Ontario (though not named for us here in Ontario, Or) but for its service in the small squadron on Lake Ontario to protect upstate New York from a British and Canadian invasion. A short life for she was sold in 1815. And there was another USS Ontario (AT-13) which was launched in 1912 and served as part of the Atlantic Fleet during WWI, and also during WWII served in the Pacific Fleet. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1946 and sold to a private party.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Ronald Regan – 1911 – 2004, 40th U. S. President, 33rd Governor of California, Actor and Union leader
Congressional Members Booted From VA
September 29, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
“Yes Virginia, there is ‘help’ but sometimes they don’t want you to have it.” Seems an adequate paraphrase on a popular editorial in the New York Sun newspaper on September 21, 1897 which read “Yes Virginia there is a Santa Clause” in reply to her inquiry whether or not that was true. Virginias’ father suggested she write the ‘Sun’ newspaper, because their motto was “If you see it in the Sun, it’s so”. The rest is history!
Right now this ‘paraphrase’ deals with the VA’s commitment to offer assistance to our Veterans through their representatives in both the US Senate and the US House. The Congressional Liaison Services have been available since December 1922 for the Senate and February 1925 for the House and both were brought under administration by the VA in 1930, and remain so today. I will provide the ‘Congressional Liaison Service’ contact information at the bottom of this article.
The importance and urgency of sharing this information stems first of all for our nations veterans to be able to have an accessible contact for our advocacy regarding the services provided by the VA. Right now the Florida congressional delegation is trying to ‘thwart-off’ an ‘eviction’ move by the VA to not allow ‘liaison offices’ in VA hospitals. In 2017 Florida Rep. Brian Mast, an Afghanistan war veteran and former Army Ranger who lost both legs in a 2010 IED explosion, opened the first ever congressional field office inside a VA hospital and now shares that (closet sized) office with other Florida representatives in helping to serve the over 1.5 million Florida veterans using the VA services. The DVR (a division of the VA’s rehabilitation program) served a ‘notice-of-eviction’ to the Florida congressional delegation, to vacate their space by the end of the year. Rep. Mast attributed the ‘eviction’ notice to a very heated exchange between he and VA Secy. Wilkie during a hearing in April, when Rep. Mast was pressing about the three ( 3 ) veterans that took their lives in a five ( 5 ) day period at VA facilities. Rep. Mast later said in an interview “We need to flip that place upside down to change the whole climate of what’s going on there and if the people in charge aren’t willing to do that, then they’re NOT doing the right thing.” He continued saying “there are 435 representatives sitting in the Capitol. Every one of them should be begging to be in those doors and the VA should be begging them to be in there so that we make sure every veteran that walks in there is treated with compassion. Our job is oversight and if they don’t let us in there to do that, then there is a real problem”.
In a letter from the VA dated August 30, 2019, Ramsey Touchberry of Newsweek reported; “the congress members were advised that as of the end of 2019, their staff will no longer be afforded the office space to meet with any constituents, including veterans who seek help to receive proper VA benefits and treatment”
Mr. Touchberry continued to report; “VA Executive in Charge Richard Stone wrote that, because the “office space is for non-clinical purposes” and is “not authorized by law,” acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has determined that all of the departments medical facilities are “no longer to permit the use of those spaces by Members of Congress and their staff.” Rep. Mast, also a Purple Heart recipient and second term congressman said the office is shared between members of his staff and of other lawmakers, taking turns utilizing what is the size of a storage closet, thus allowing his staff to meet personally with more than 500 veterans since starting the outreach.
The assistance and concerns of our Federal representatives here in Oregon has been outstanding! I can personally say that Rep. Greg Walden (202-225-6730), Sen. Ron Wyden (202-224-5244), Sen. Jeff Merkley (202-224-3753) and their staff’s here in Oregon have maintained a consistent contact with the needs and concerns of our Oregon Veterans! To contact Rep. Brian Mast; 202-225-3026
To contact the US House Committee on Veteran Affairs; 202-225-9756,
“ I welcome a scrutiny of my entire record.” Robert Wilkie (see above- VA Secy.).
Ethics: Truth Versus Lies?
September 15, 2019, Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
As our country has just passed a milestone of 18 years of war and death, physical and mental injury, and is now entering into a unknown period of more of the same, many comments and observations from our local veterans around the ‘coffee table’ are becoming questions about “well just why did we used to go to war”, and “weren’t we commanded as troops a bit differently?”. Their answers and conversations often reflect upon the reporting of ‘war correspondents’ such as Ernie Pyle, Edward R. Murrow, Ernest Hemmingway and more recently mentioning Anderson Cooper, Daniel Pearl and James Foley. The reality of a war correspondent (a journalist who covers stories firsthand from a war zone) is certainly not new, for instance around about 400 BC during the Greek Peloponnesian Wars, Thucydides wrote a history of the events he observed as a commander during those wars. Many Generals often quoted the writings of other commanders and war correspondents, General Patton being probably the most famous for those references.
As a person who enlisted for our country and was deployed to a war zone and saw first hand many operations of how war was administered, I now frequently reflect on the comments, observations and meanings of not only the journalists, but those vocal politicians, those ‘think-tank’ analysts, TV and radio commentators, and am still ‘scratching my head’ over some of their perspectives!! I think Bill Moyers, a prominent journalist and former White House Press Secretary was one of a few reporters that had a very unique insight into an assessment of our current era. One of his statements I think sums up some of the problems that our nation is facing: “Terms like ‘Liberty’ and ‘individual freedom’ invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to’ promote the general welfare’ have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the state and the political class that runs it. Yes Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it”, from his “Help” speech in 2007.
Moyers often pointed out that Americas’ international ‘conflicts’ seemed to be based upon the: “failure to embrace a moral vision of America based on the transcendent faith that human beings are more than the sum of their material appetites, our Country is more than an economic machine, and freedom is not license but responsibility”. That quote was from his “For Americas Sake” speech in December 2006, and from his “Power of Democracy” speech in 2007: “Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don’t talk about what Democracy means – what it bestows upon us – the revolutionary idea that isn’t just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency”.
The role of the ‘boots on the ground’ war correspondent has proved to be quite different not only with the area of conflict, but with the progressive innovation of communication equipment and the promotion of various types of journalistic reporting depending on the ‘political/social agenda’ of the company hiring the journalist. What you as an individual read and interpret of a war correspondents’ writings, are generally formed from your own personal viewpoints. The general consensus of most veterans, especially those that were active in war zones, is that the reporting from WWII was probably the most unbiased though the newer concept of ‘embedding’ correspondents with units in the battle zones certainly gives the concerned public a taste of ‘what it is really like’.
By the way: I just read about another Marine imprisoned by ICE after two tours, a bomb blast, traumatic brain injury, trouble with the law and now after being in our country since 3 years old Jose Segovia is facing deportation to El Salvador, a country that he doesn’t know. What did we promise him?
“American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.” Edward R. Murrow, American Journalist, Broadcaster and War Correspondent; 1908 to 1965; attended WSU, Pullman, Wa.
A Local and National Dilemma…
September 1, 2019 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini
Every time I’m out at any of our local events or just going out to the grocery store, I usually stop a veteran I see wearing a military hat to ‘thank’ them for their service, and that usually leads to conversation, or I am stopped by veterans or their family members who have a question that’s on their mind. Those questions, 80 percent of the time, usually have to do with veteran benefits or the lack of knowing where to find assistance to their problems. What is also very interesting are the number of ‘non-military’ folks that stop me to ask why isn’t the VA or somebody, doing something about veteran suicide, homelessness or ‘in-home care’ or addiction problems that our veterans and their families are faced with?
There are so many circumstances that align themselves as to why something is not functioning properly, especially in federal or state Agencies. For instance the US Dept. of Veteran Affairs employs over 375,000 folks and has net program costs of somewhere around $275 Billion dollars, and the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs is supported by a 2 year budget of about $590 Million dollars. No matter how much money is spent or how programs are administered, there will always be some segment of that program that does not totally satisfy the ‘projected outcomes’ to every person enrolled in that program. It may be that ‘all possibilities’ to ensure a positive outcome were not thought of or could not be incorporated the benefit.
For instance, a study here in Oregon which was funded by Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs (ODVA) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), set out to inquire about the types and availability of ‘Behavioral Health Services’ that were offered to the 310,000 plus veterans in Oregon. The main reason for this new study, among others, was that a recent state study on veteran health, wrote Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick, a columnist at the “Register-Guard”, Eugene, Oregon, found “Oregon veterans may be at lower risk for depression or sadness, but they are more likely to die from suicide and opioid overdose than non-veterans”.
This study finds what I just mentioned above and that so many studies reveal, that no matter how ‘all encompassing’ a program is outlined, there are always those participants that will not reap the desired benefit of the ‘mission’ of the program. Ms. Talesnick went on to report; “some of the notable findings include: 1 out of 3 veterans surveyed who felt they needed behavioral health care didn’t seek services because they felt uncomfortable or unsafe. Oregon veterans ages 18 – 34 are at the highest risk for suicide. Lane County has the second highest rate of veteran suicide of all Oregon counties. Specific needs and expectations of veteran subgroups vary in ways that affect how those veterans seek care. Tribal representatives report a need for services that meet cultural needs with an emphasis on a preference for traditional healing methods and peer support as the most important factors in care-seeking behavior for tribal veterans. Sexual harassment and assault impacts service members of all genders, including at least 50% of female veterans. Interviewees reported a need for more community-based, gender-specific options in Oregon, particularly for military sexual trauma.”
Ms. Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick also reported on the studies recommendations to help improve veteran care being: “That OHA, ODVA, and the VA Health Care Systems in Oregon should collaborate to develop a cohesive, well-researched, and targeted education and outreach effort to de-stigmatize behavioral health issues and treatment, OHA and ODVA are taking a statewide tour to learn more from particular communities over the next several months.” To read Ms. Talesnicks’ article “Oregon study finds that number of providers a significant issue for veteran Health”, go to ‘Stars and Stripes’ and select ‘Veterans’, it was published August 24, 2019. Also on the subject of ‘Suicide’ please read the article “A difficult but needed Conversation” by Ms. Leslie Thompson, Editor, Argus Observer, printed August 25, 2019 on the Argus Opinion Page. I would here mention that the continuing progress being made by our ODVA and the VA are certainly improving the care and we hope this progress will continue.
“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.” Juliette Lewis.
Another Perspective on Suicide Prevention
August 18, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
I have personally known a few veterans that have taken their lives in the battle to overcome deep seeded personal emotional problems. Here in our western treasure valley, one young veteran who was so hopeful to help other vets, sadly ended his bright future under insurmountable emotional pressures.
Presented here is a very penetrating article discussing ‘veteran suicide’ by a military widow who lost her husband to suicide in 2005, a Marine Major who was preparing for a second Iraq deployment. Kim Ruocco now holds a master’s degree in clinical social work and has overseen the creation of the ‘TAPS Suicide Model of Support” program emphasizing the best approaches to care for survivors of military suicide.
“We see suicide in the headlines almost every day, most recently with another tragic veteran suicide on a VA medical campus in North Carolina. Recent CDC data shows national suicide rates are higher than they have been in several generations, and our military and veteran communities have suffered disproportionately. In a letter to commanders last week, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David. L. Goldfein reported that 78 airmen have died by suicide so far this year, a rate alarming enough to spur the service to order an Air Force-wide safety-focused “stand down”. Additionally, the far smaller Marine Corps lost 77 of its own to suicide in 2018. Marking a 10-year high. Meanwhile, the Department of Veteran Affairs has reported that veterans from all service branches continue to die by suicide at a rate of roughly 20 every day. What is going on? Allow me to attempt at least a partial response. “
Mrs. Ruocco continues, “One problem is that there is an excessive focus on suicide prevention. The standard response following death by suicide or increasing suicide rates is to double down on prevention efforts: reviewing risk factors, teaching warnings signs, and broadcasting crisis hotlines. Focusing solely on prevention may inadvertently stigmatize survivors, peers and providers with subtle messages of guilt, shame and blame. Highlighting what was missed, or should have been caught, may just reinforce the torment they are already wrestling with. Although prevention efforts are well meaning and part of the process, they do not take into account the devastating impact that suicide has on those exposed. A 2015 report issued by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention cited research that showed survivors of suicide loss are at increased risk of suicide themselves. A separate study conducted the same year by the National Institute of Mental Health found that soldiers belonging to Army Units with five or more suicide attempts in a year, faced double the suicide risk.”
The ‘TAPS” = Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, is a “Model of Support”, a non-profit, life-saving, best practices organization that Mrs. Ruocco helped found and is a vice president of, has assisted countless survivors of ‘military suicide loss’ and bases her recommendations on the compilation of data the organization has compiled, and she continues her article, “Taps is leading the way in a national call to action to do better in responding to suicide, in particular by codifying postvention as a standard industry practice. Postvention is a proactive intervention following a suicide that decreases risk and promotes healing for those exposed to the event.” “The most critical part of that model is the stabilization. Suicides are traumatic events for everyone, but especially for those who witness the deaths, discover the bodies, or provide cleanup at the scenes. According to the 2017 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (or DODSER), approximately 76 percent of military suicides occurred either in the home, the barracks, a friend’s house or the workplace. This statistic highlights how many of our family members and service members are exposed to significant trauma, which can complicate grief and exacerbate existing mental and behavioral health issues in survivors.” To read the full article by Kim Ruocco, log onto the article published in the Military Times: https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2019/08/09/we-can-do-more-suicide-prevention-cannot-be-the-only-strategy/.
“Battling for our Wounded Warriors to have a better tomorrow for what they battled for US yesterday.” Roxanne Ward.
Ways To Honor and Post 9/11 GI Bill
August 4, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
“I just wanted something that was going to be permanent and also wanted something that was going to honor our veterans in a unique and different way” said Oceanographer and scuba diving instructor Heyward Mathews in Florida. Mr. Mathews is referring to the “Circle of Heroes” monument which now is comprised of one dozen life-sized statues anchored by 2,000 pound bases underwater in the Gulf of Mexico. There will be 24 concrete statues when finished and those will represent service members of the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Army and the Air Force. The location is about 10 miles off the Florida Coast at Dunedin Beach and is at a depth of 40 feet, and is part of a 100-foot circle facing a ‘Pentagon’ shaped monument honoring the services with 5 ‘bronze emblems’ on each side of the monument.
Funding for this project was led by Mr. Mathews Uncle, former Congressman David Jolly, R-Fla. The memorial can be visited by either a scuba dive or one can snorkel to view the monument from above. It is also intended to benefit veterans struggling with PTSD, Trauma, TBI and depression. There are also plans for groups of ‘amputee’ veterans and civilians to be led on ‘diving ventures’ through the memorial.
And speaking of honoring our veterans, for those of you who yet were not aware of a local Museum and Library that honors our local and regional veterans, the ‘Sgt. Joshua Brennan Memorial Library and Museum’ is located at 180 W. Idaho Ave, Ontario, Or. And is open Tuesday & Thursday from 10:am to 3:00pm, or available for private viewing by appointment by calling 541-889-1978.
This last couple of weeks I have had not only some local veterans, but also a few calls from around our Northwest area from veterans asking if they qualified for the ‘Post-9/11 GI Bill’. One of the first important facts to know is that your service needs to have started on or after September 10, 2001. And that you needed to have served on ‘active duty’ for at least 90 days (whether or not you are separated now with an honorable discharge, or are still in the military). Important to be aware that the amount of dollars you receive will depend on the amount of time you were on active duty. For quick reference you can log onto this address: https://www.militarytimes.com/education-transition/2019/07/20/gi-bill-benefits-guide/ .
Also please note that in August of 2020 there will be some changes when other portions of the ‘Forever GI Bill will be put into effect. Children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty, on or after 9/11 ‘may’ also be eligible to use the GI Bill to further their education through the Marine Gunnery John David Fry Scholarship Program. These benefits are available at the 100% level to children between age 18 and 33, and spouses who have not remarried for 15 years after the service members death.
You can apply for GI Bill benefits online (online address: https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/apply.asp) or in person at a VA regional office, for us here in the Western Treasure Valley that would then be at the Boise VA. Or, you can call 1-888-GI BILL and ask the VA to mail an application to you directly. If you are at all nervous about filling out this application well you can also seek assistance at the Admissions office at the school/college that you plan to attend.
Once you apply and are accepted you will receive a certificate of eligibility that acts as proof that your payment will be coming. This is important because it means that your school cannot charge you ‘late charges’ because though the money may not arrive in time it is no fault of yours! This ‘Post-9/11 GI Bill includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for textbooks and supplies.
Also important to consider that this Bill covers all tuition and fees and in-state rates for public colleges and universities, not so for private and ‘for-profit’ schools. Hope this helps some of your questions.
“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.” Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US Army Retired – born 08/14/1954,
co-founder/Partner, McChrystal Group
Is the VA Health System Too Big?
July 21, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
I was stopped by one of our local Korean War veterans last week and asked why it was that there are always changes in the programs and policies at the VA (US Veterans Administration). Of course I couldn’t resist immediately quipping that ‘ if anybody had the real answer as to why our Federal Agencies and Politicians and Administrators made some of the decisions they make, well then they should win the Nobel Prize’. But that in my opinion the reality of the ‘consistent changes’ in the VA system, stem from needing to keep up with several factors. With the growth of our country comes the need to enlarge, alter, tweek, entice and retain a force of able bodied and minded men and women to ‘be there’ to protect, defend and maintain the values and principals and freedoms we enjoy as a free society. To do this most parts of a ‘Military Operation’ are continually changing. For example, the first ‘veteran benefits’ were offered to ‘soldier Pilgrims’ defending the settlements of Plymouth Colony in the 1630’s, when they passed a law that the Colony would ‘support’ those soldiers who became ‘disabled’ during battles with our Native Americans. From then on until the Continental Congress needed to encourage enlistments during the Revolution, it was the individual States and communities within those States that offered and provided medical care not only for the disabled veterans but all that needed care. If those services were not offered the communities and States would not have the degree of ‘protection’ that they needed. The first federal government hospital was established in the early 1800’s along with the expanded programs to include pensions and benefits not only just for the veterans, but also their dependents and widows.
So you can see that from this first 200 years that the need to alter, change, and grow the programs to ‘enlist’ and maintain a Military force was essential.
Following the Civil War States took care of their own veterans through establishing ‘veteran homes’ for medical and hospital treatment for all injuries and diseases (whether or not it was service oriented). These State homes also took care ‘regular discharged’ members of the Armed Forces.
Big changes when the U. S. entered the 1st World War. Disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation, insurance, etc, and it took 3 different Federal Agencies to administer all these additional and ‘revised’ programs.
So following WWI, Congress combined all these programs into one department, the Veterans Bureau, and that was in 1921. Just 9 years later in fact on this actual day July 21, 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398, which created the Veterans Administration and elevated it to a ‘Federal Administration’.
Following WWII, Congress enacted quite a few new benefits and programs for War Veterans, the most significant being the World War II GI Bill, and that alone elevated the VA into 2nd place for ‘funding’ just under the War and Navy Departments.
When you have an Government Agency with an annual budget between $198 Billion and $220 Billion dollars, and employees of about 377,000 people, human nature tells us that there are bound to be a few things that are going to need adjusting on a regular basis, and communicating and putting these adjustments into practice is not an easy task to do. On top of that put a group of elected people together (the US Congress) to make decisions about how to use that money, you then have a situation that many would call overwhelming.
The fact that every State in the Union that houses VA Facilities has a State office of Veterans Affairs, is a testament to the desire and hope and mission by all, to be able to service and accommodate the needs of our Nations Veterans to the utmost of their abilities. The number of Veterans in the US is approximately 20 Million with of course not all of them requiring the services and benefits of the VA system. However, with the onset of continuing physical and mental health problems affecting more and more veterans, the need for their care and wellbeing will always be the number-one priority.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy, Author/Writer 1828 to 1910
Hallmark in World History
July 7, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Well here we are today, some of us enjoying an extended ‘holiday’ even though the news is full of reports of conflicts, wars, demonstrations, civil unrest, worldwide disagreements etc. And just how many of us, who have not had some member of our family and past generations involved with the military, have actually paused and given some thought as to just exactly what it is that we are ‘celebrating’ and giving respect for on this holiday? Well to be definitive, on July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies together said well we’ve had enough of being told what we can and can’t do and what we have to do, so we are going to claim our own rights and tell Great Britain and the British Crown that henceforth we now claim our own Independence. There had been a lot of conflict between the Colonies and England for over a year now, and in June of 1776 the Colonies each sent a representative to Philadelphia to discuss this situation. That group became known as the ‘Continental Congress’ and the gentleman from Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, presented a resolution proclaiming that the Colonies should now be ‘Independent’. Well they all liked that and after a little bit of revising the Declaration, on July 4, 1776 it was officially adopted by 9 of the colonies, the guys from Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted No, the guy from Delaware was totally undecided, and the guy from New York didn’t even vote! As a result we celebrate our “Declaration of Independence” on July 4th of every year. So a “Hallmark” in World History was initiated that day, when we as citizens, proclaimed us to be “Free and Independent” as a people and as a Nation.
The cost of that has truly been extreme for the amount of lives lost fighting for this ‘Independence’ was enormous (as is any death and injury in battle). Figures estimate that 1 in 20 able-bodied males living in the Colonies died during the war. The youngest age known serving in the Continental Army was 10 years old and the oldest was 57 years old. The amount of United States Military casualties and thus families disrupted because of fighting and battling for these freedoms and independence are over 2,800,000.
Oregon was not even yet a territory at the time of the American Revolution, yet because of those forward thinking independent colonists, we have families here in our area that trace their family lineage to the original colonists. We have families here that have loved ones who have been involved in our nations military history since the Revolutionary War, and whose family members are still volunteering to take up arms to defend our rights to live in a ‘Free and Independent’ Nation. Just the other day I was talking with three (3) generations of US Army enlistees, and their family’s military history goes back to the Indian Wars. A few weeks ago, a family from Nyssa, Oregon came by with some memorabilia from their parent’s service during WWII, and also some documentation of a relative who was commissioned as an Army Officer in 1860, and in that documentation he spoke about being saddened by having to retire from the Army and service to our Country.
Want to thank the ‘anonymous donor’, who left a folder of pictures of the’ 1941 July 4th Celebration Parade’ in Vale, Oregon at the ‘Sgt. Joshua Brennan Memorial Hall Library & Museum”, I especially enjoyed the picture of the kids riding on the “Uncle Sam Float” in the Parade, and the picture of the family decorating their car with the “Buy U. S. Defense Bonds” banner. Too bad there were no names attributed in the pictures. Rest assured we will certainly display these pictures in the Museum. Thank You!
“Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” Thomas Jefferson, 1743 to 1826 – 3rd U. S. President
"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